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A Sunday stroll

January 5th, 2020     Late Sunday afternoon, I grabbed my camera and leash with the aim to walk along the local Homan River with my dog, Tabi. A modest river that is home to a multitude of bird species, I wanted to see how many I could  get decent photographs of within a few hours.

  The day was fair with just a few  wisps of cirrus clouds high up in the atmosphere. As I entered the rice fields along a small road that led to the river, I tied Tabi’s leash to my belt in order to have my hands free for the camera. Tabi has learned to keep still when I pause to take a photo. She will sit quietly by my side, sometimes for minutes as I wait for the bird to strike the right position. I suspect this is largely due to the small dog treats I keep in my pocket, which I give to her after each stop.

  I saw over 25 species, but I only include the ones I was able to photograph decently. Other species seen were Mallard, Cormorant, Tree Sparrow, Magpie, Bulbul, Pigeon, Greenfinch, Japanese White-eye, Bush Warbler, Siskin, Pygmy Woodpecker, and Little Egret. I always seem to spot a Common Kingfisher, but one did not appear until the very end of our walk. I thought to myself, “Not this day…” and then an immature male landed just across the river from us. The tiny Common Kingfisher is always around to make me smile, and is on my business card too!

Thanks for visiting!

 

   

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2019   

  These past few weeks have found me out in the middle of the night twice, once for the Geminid meteor shower, and the other for the Ursids. For the Geminids, the moon was pretty much full, so only the bright ones were visible. For the Ursids, named after their radiant from the Ursa Minor constellation, the crescent moon did not rise until 4 am, plus the clouds cleared as I was setting up my camera! Even though the Ursids were rather few and far between, I did manage to see a few nice ones. The location for the Ursids was on Kabeshima Island, with minimal light pollution. Not a soul in sight, except for a few cattle I occasionally heard in a barn nearby. My head was constantly looking up and down as I walked to a good location near a lighthouse. Trying to watch shooting stars while avoiding cow paddies really keeps one on their toes. 

 Merry Christmas to you all!


 

Secret Cove

November 3, 2019

  Yesterday I had planned on going to Duck Pond in Shikanoshima, but I arose too late to arrive there for the early morning sun. Instead I went to Yamagami Dam again, this time hoping to photograph water birds. As I was walking along the road that surrounds the lake, I decided to drop down a steep embankment covered in bamboo. The bamboo provided good handholds and when I reached the bottom I discovered a thick tangle of brambles. I had brought some pruning shears with me enabling me to get through without too many scratches. Here, I found a little cove with overhanging branches. It seemed a great place to get under the camouflage cloth I had with me. Right away, a Winter Wren, Misosazai, started scolding me, but it was too close to get focus on. Eventually it tired of it’s tirade and left me in peace.

   After about half an hour had passed, the birds I had probably scared away as I cut through the brambles, started to return. As you can probably imagine, birds behave differently, depending on if they know you are there, or if they don’t. It is quite fascinating and a privilege observing creatures when they don’t know you are there. I was able to see a Little Grebe, Kaitsuburi,diving for and catching fish, along with two of it’s competitors, the Common Kingfisher, Kawasemi, and the Great Cormorant, Kawa-u. Before I realized it, the sun had risen quite high in the sky and the light was becoming too harsh for good photography. I packed up my gear and reascended to the road, naming this new place ‘Secret Cove’ and I intend on keeping it so.

       (click on any image below for a larger view)

 

 

 

 

 

I have seen Little Grebes swallowing even larger fish than the one in the video below. They maneuver the fish into a headfirst position under the water which also provides lubrication, helping it slide down the throat. They then tilt back their heads and let gravity assist in swallowing.

Thanks for visiting my site, and enjoy the autumn outdoors.

 

 

Autumn Images

 

October 13, 2019       These past few weeks, I went to an estuary near Hakata Bay in Fukuoka four different mornings. I wanted to try and capture different images of Osprey, especially diving for fish. 

 The Osprey, or Misago in Japanese, is an especially photogenic bird. Nothing is more beautiful to me than an Osprey, wings spread in flight in the light of the early morning sunrise.

 In the enlarged photo of the Osprey’s head, you can see the clear membrane partly covering the eye of the Osprey. This is called the nictitating membrane, and it fully covers the eyes when the Osprey is diving at high speed and also underwater. There is more information about this membrane in the link below.

 Other various photos of birds  taken around the estuary on those four days.

  Two photos from one morning at Yamagami Dam. A Grey-Spotted Flycatcher, Ezo-bitaki, and one photo of two flowers.The small, white flowers are a species of Knotweed, Mizosoba, and the purplish red flowers are called touch-me-nots, Turifunesou. They are called Touch-me-nots because the seed pods burst open and scatter their seeds when they are touched. Thanks go to Unakunisan, my student, and his wife for helping me in identifying the flowers.

Please get out of the house and away from the TV and commune with Mother Nature.

https://www.audubon.org/news/birds-have-built-goggles

   

 

Cloud Warp

September 18, 2019 

This is a time lapse from the top of Kusenbu Mountain. On this day, it was extremely windy, so I could not set up the camera on the observation deck. I had to set it up on a picnic table down on the ground. Some of the Dazaifu and Chikushino areas are visible through the gap in the trees.  At the end, the moon starts rising from the clouds. I didn’t have time to continue the time lapse, so I took a few pictures with the long lens and inserted one of them at the end of the video. The colors of the clouds that evening were magical.

Bells & Birds

September 10, 2019

  I for one, am happy the hot summer days are coming to a close. It means autumn is not too far away now. Cooler weather and trees losing their leaves goes hand in hand with birds becoming more active and  more visible.  Her in Japan, we have been getting more rain than usual, and also typhoons, but these past few days, the skies have turned blue. I took the opportunity to go out in the early morning with my new lens in hand; the Canon 400mm f5.6 prime. A great lens for bird photography because it is very sharp and focuses quickly. It’s only drawback (for me) is that it has no image stabilization. All of the following bird photos were taken with it, except for the flowers, which were taken with the Rokinon 16mm f2.0 prime, which is my go to lens for astrophotography, but also takes pretty good macro (close up) photos too.

                          Please click on photos for a larger view.

 

This video time lapse and the landscape photo above were taken on Kusenbu Mt. with the Canon 18-135 mm is usm nano lens.


 

Thank you for visiting my site!

 

 

 

Homeward Bound?

August 17, 2019   Last Wednesday, Fukuoka was sideswiped by a large typhoon named Krosa. Luckily, there wasn’t much damage by wind or rain in the area.  I decided to go to the top of a mountain near my home and do a cloud time lapse from late afternoon passing into night. The clouds just after a typhoon passes, are often of varied shapes and sizes, that are good subjects for photography.

  Before the sun could slip behind the mountains, the clouds descended upon me and the camera. I let the camera click away for about thirty minutes in hopes that the clouds would lift again, but it was not to be.

 Occasionally in the video, there are black specks. These were swifts flashing by just as the shutter clicked. I envy them their mastery of the air, flying just below and even among the clouds at times.    

Here is a video I uploaded to YouTube after Typhoon Jongdari passed over Fukuoka last July. It was never posted on this site.

  Thanks for visiting, and please come again.  Tom

Alps of the Sea at Omijima

August 11, 2019   I went to Omijima in Nagatomachi, Yamaguchi prefecture on the nights of August 9th and 11th to watch and photograph the night seas and skies. I went there last year for the same reason. Though it wasn’t the peak of the  annual Perseid meteors, you can still see quite a few, especially at a location that has dark skies, like Nagatomachi. I was able to see around 50 or so, though none of them appeared in any of the camera frames. Here is the time lapse of those two unforgettable nights.

Thanks for visiting!

Link to Nagatomachi     https://visit-nagato.com/en/sightseeing/naturalwonders/omijima/

Alpha Capricornid? Not!

  August 3, 2019        The dog days are upon us with a vengeance this year. If you think the phrase originates from the suffering of dogs in the heat of the summer, then you would be wrong. The phrase actually comes from the ancient Greeks and Romans. It correlates to the rising of the ‘Dog Star’ Sirius in the summer. Sirius is the brightest star in the heavens, and is located in the constellation Canis Major. It is so bright that the Greeks and Romans believed it increased the heat during summer months, among other things.

  Partly to escape the scorching heat during the daylight hours, but mostly to see and photograph the night skies and hopefully a meteor or two, I took the opportunity to drive to the aptly named Hoshinomura (Village of the Stars) at the end of July. Two meteor showers, the Delta Aquariids and the Alpha Capricornids would be active.

  After I set up the camera, it began to cloud up with low clouds rolling in from the south. Maybe no meteors tonight, I thought, but I like clouds too, so let the camera roll and see what happens. Lo and behold; out of the 600 plus frames taken that night, the 10th frame had caught a meteor streaking along the Milky Way. It turned out not to have originated from either the Aquariids or the Capricornids according to the IMO, International Meteor Organization which I recently registered with. (see link below)

Thanks for visiting!

https://www.imo.net/

Amanogawa, River of Heaven

July 7th, 2019     We are in the middle of the rainy season here in Japan. It can be cloudy and rainy everyday, sometimes for weeks. For an outdoor amateur photographer, it can be frustrating at times. So when last weekend had clear skies, I jumped in the car and headed to Hoshinomura, in the mood to photograph the Milky Way. Here, it is called Amanogawa, or River of Heaven. I set up my gear on the side of  a very small country road,  which looked out over a big valley with mountains in the distance. It was quite humid, and the dew point was quite high, (the temperature at which dew forms on surfaces colder than the air temperature). This means I had to apply heat pads (kairo) to the lens to prevent it from fogging up. I then sat in a camping chair and watched the heavens while the camera did it’s job. The following time lapse is the end result.

  I recently acquired a lens I had been wanting to get for a long time. I got it used through a local camera store. It is the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM prime. A telephoto lens ideally suited to photographing birds, especially in flight. I only had one day of sunny weather, so I took the opportunity to try the lens out on the swift-moving Common Kingfisher. The photo  was taken using a tripod as the kingfisher was rising from the water about 30 meters from my position. I really like this lens, and am looking forward to becoming familiar with it. The other birds are the Siberian Meadow Bunting, (Houjiro), and the Narcissus Flycatcher, (Kibitaki).

Thank you for visiting!