I have been living in Western Japan now for some time now, where I own and operate an English school. I am an amateur bird photographer, and this site is primarily for sharing my photos and love of birds with others. I also enjoy cycling, playing the piano, and woodworking. May the wind always be at your back and below your wings.
This September has had an unseasonable amount of rain, and a typhoon, so I haven’t been able to get out as much as I wanted. Last week, the weather took a turn for the better, so I spent a few days at a pond where I was able to observe and photograph some of the inhabitants. Also, last night there was a gorgeous, waxing crescent moon.
August 16, 2020 The Perseid meteor shower is one of the best shows that the night skies put on every August. For me, there are few things as enjoyable as lying back on a reclining chair or blanket and watching for meteors. The excitement of not knowing when or where a meteor will flash into view is what keeps me up late into the night, along with the hope of capturing a fireball or bolide (exploding meteor with a super bright flash) with my camera.
This summer, I drove to Makinoto Pass situated on the north slope of Mt. Kuju. At an elevation of 1330 meters, it provides a commanding view, and also clearer skies and cooler temperatures. I went on the night of the 13-14th as the previous night (the peak) was partly cloudy. Makinoto Pass has two observation points. I first set up my gear at the more popular higher point , but people would come and go with their bright lanterns or headlamps on their way to the top of Mt. Kuju, so I moved to the lower platform. Here, there was no one; just a cute fox who poked it’s head out of the underbrush for a brief moment to check me out. I stayed until around 2:30, when mountain fog came rolling in from the southwest ending the show, but not before I saw and captured some incredible shooting stars!
July 24, 2020 It has been an extremely rainy rainy season, especially for the island of Kyushu in southwest Japan. We have had continuous cloud cover for practically two weeks it seems. This has prevented me from seeing or filming the beautiful comet Neowise. I did manage to make a short time lapse of the Moon and Venus rising together when the clouds parted for a few hours. This was before Neowise was to become so prominent in the skies. https://youtu.be/ZCI7gUio1WQ?t=5
Yesterday I was thinking, if you can’t beat the constant rainfall, why not join it? So this morning I drove to Gotono Falls, figuring the cataracts must be humongous, and I was not disappointed. I wanted to film the falls in the early morning hours without any artificial light. The video only hints at the awesome power of the water. I could feel the vibrations through the big boulder I was standing on.
June 29, 2020 I drove to the easternmost point of Kyushu last weekend to take advantage of the (almost) new moon and the dark skies. That point happens to be at the end of the Tsurumi peninsula that juts into the Pacific Ocean. Here, there is the Tsurumisaki Lighthouse and an observation deck with a 360 degree view. It was here that I wanted to take a panorama shot of the Milky Way.
I arrived after a five hour drive at around 4:00 pm, giving me plenty of time to explore the Lighthouse and observation deck area and compose the shot before night set in. I decided on the observation deck, and it was here that the short sunset time lapse was taken. As I was waiting for the stars to appear, a raccoon dog, or tanuki as it is called here, appeared below. It obligingly looked up at me when it heard the shutter click, and then vanished into the trees at the edge of the clearing. As darkness began to settle over the landscape, the wind began to pick up, so I walked down to the road that went to the lighthouse. It was here that I found shelter from the wind, along with a clear view of the lighthouse. Most importantly of all, the location would allow full view of the complete Milky Way, whose arch stretched over the horizon from north to south.
In the panorama of the Milky Way, there is a green glow to the clouds off in the distance. After searching the internet, I was unable to come up with a clear explanation for the phenomenon.
The panorama is composed of 16 individual frames edited and then stitched together in Lightroom.
I hope you get out to enjoy the summer nights and see the Milky Way for yourself. Now is the best time to see the core of the Milky Way in the northern hemisphere. Check out DarkSiteFinder (link below) to learn more, and also to locate dark skies in your area. Be safe and thanks for checking out my site.
You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns.” – Henry David Thoreau
I again followed Thoreau’s advice yesterday morning, and sat myself down on a convenient cement seat, next to a pond. Ponds are a great place to observe the creatures that either reside there, or visit for food, water, and rest. Citizen’s Forest Pond, nestled at the foot of Shioji mountain, was created when a small stream was blocked by a dirt embankment. Cement blocks were stacked on both sides, but the rear of the pond was left unimpeded. Here, various water plants grow, creating a safe haven and food source. Birds, mammals, frogs, snakes, fish, and insects have taken to Citizen’s Forest Pond, even though it is of modest size. It is nestled up against woods on one side, and a walking path on the other. A two meter high hedge separates the path from the pond, providing privacy for the animals. Here, I noticed a small gap where I sidled through. Low and behold, I found the aforementioned seat. Here, I sat undetected for hours as the people passed by on the other side of the hedge, oblivious of my presence. Leaving some hours later, Thoreau’s observation was again confirmed. Sit for even one hour quietly. Inhabitants will emerge from hiding.
Japanese Striped Snake, Shima hebi
Little Egret, Kosagi
Asian Softshell Turtle, Suppon
The Asian Softshell Turtle photo was taken at a different location, (Mikasa River). This is an invasive species, but due to it’s popularity as a food delicacy throughout Asia, and reduction of habitat, it was put on the ICUN ‘vulnerable’ list of endangered species in 2016.
May 23, 2020 Yasukougen is a great place to observe birds and wildlife. It is nestled in a shallow and wide valley at an elevation of about 300 meters. It is about a 30 minute drive from my home, and I have been there 8 times in the past 2 weeks. Reason being, to TRY to photograph the Ruddy Kingfisher (Aka Shoubin) that has seemingly taken up residence there. The territory it has chosen is about 40,000 square meters, and therefore, each time I have arrived there early in the morning, it’s call invariably comes to my ears. For me, it is high on the list of birds I want to see and photograph. So far, I have glimpsed it a number of times, but it has always flown before I can capture it’s image. It’s call, which drew me to it in the first place, is mysterious and beautiful. I couldn’t believe my ears, as they are somewhat rare and extremely difficult to spot, let alone capture on film, which I have yet to do, except for one blurry image.
Each day I returned to Yasukougen, I expected it to have departed for one of it’s known breeding, grounds in Miyazaki, or Shikoku for example. I shall continue my quest to capture it on film, hopefully before it leaves Yasukougen.
In the meantime, there have been other creatures to catch my interest in the area. Yesterday, a raccoon, and this morning a fawn. Both of them were photographed and or filmed on my way to a hole in a tree newly excavated by a pair of courting Japanese Green Woodpeckers (Aogera). As I was observing them from a blind, they suddenly became agitated. I was worried it was because of my presence, but it was actually a young raccoon that had climbed into their tree to check out their hole. Afterwards it nonchalantly began grooming itself on a nearby branch for a few minutes. Then it calmly climbed into a neighboring tree, descended to the forest floor, and vanished into the early morning gloom.
May 5, 2020 About this time of year, you might find me walking around Yamagami Dam Lake in search of birds arriving from their wintering grounds. On this particular day, I was looking and listening for the Narcissus Flycatcher (Kibitaki) as well as the Blue and White Flycatcher (Oruri). As soon as I got out of the car, I could hear a Narcissus Flycatcher singing from within the cedar forests that surround Yamagami Lake, and this male, as it turned out, happened to be in the exact same location and on the same perch as a male I had photographed last year. Of course there was no way I could tell if it was the same exact bird, but I would not be surprised. Speaking of flycathers, I have also seen the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, with it’s extremely long tail at Yamagami Lake. That was just for an instant, and I was only able to get it’s tail in a fuzzy photo.
A few days ago, I was on the other side of the lake with the camera set up, and a male Blue and White Flycatcher landed on a branch right in front of me. I was only able to get off a few frames before he flew off right over my head. I was back in the hopes of finding him still in the area. I did hear him, but I was not able to see him. A Red-billed Leiothrix also popped out of the bushes for a moment, flashing it’s bright epaulettes. Each of these gems of the forest has a beautiful voice.
Narcissus Flycatcher, Kibitaki
Blue and White Flycatcher, Oruri
Red-billed Leiothrix, Soushichou
Earlier this week, I went out to photograph the night sky. After the Moon set, taking with it it’s shining silver coat, the Milky Way began to stand out more as it rose up from the horizon. Glorious as always, it still takes my breath away.
April 23, 2020 Last night was the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower. I went out to a somewhat dark location where I set up the camera in the middle of a green tea field. this shower averages 10 to 15 meteors at it’s peak. It also produces the occasional fireball.
The night was cloudy half of the time, so the stars and the Milky Way were still visible through the clouds. After spotting around ten shooting stars, I climbed into the car and took a nap, hoping that the camera would capture a good meteor or two. After returning home, I attached the camera to the TV, and went through the exposures one by one. Besides the enjoyment astrophotographers get from looking for shooting stars, there is also the excitement we get when finding a good meteor in even one frame.
A couple of birds that are common to Japan are the Little Egret and the Common Kingfisher. I more often than not spot them at nearby Homan River.
April 11, 2020 In this time of social distancing, I find myself in the great outdoors even more than before. Walking around my favorite lake with blooming cherry trees, or strolling through the wooded paths of a nearby mountain, I always find peace of mind. I hope all of you find solace in nature’s healing and soothing powers in these trying times.
March is one of the best months for watching and photographing birds. Many birds are on the move migrating north to their nesting grounds. Along with the increase in species, the lack of foliage makes spotting them easier. Here are some of the birds I enjoyed observing in the month of March.