Japanese White-Eye

February 8th, 2019      The Japanese White-Eye is one of my favorite birds here in Japan. Also known as the Warbling White-Eye, for it’s beautiful voice, it is a very  common native species here in Japan. This time of year, when the plum blossoms are blooming, you can often find these colorful birds among the flowers. They sip the nectar and eat the insects they find among the petals and twigs. This double duty of pollination and pest control is very beneficial to the plum trees and other flowering trees and bushes they forage upon, such as cherry trees and camellias, for example.

  These particular photos were taken at Kanzeonji Temple; a great place for viewing flowers and watching birds. The Meijiro, (Japanese for White-Eye) were not shy at all this day, and little by little came closer to me. It was thrilling to view them within an arm’s length on occasion. When they are that close to you, you can hear a very soft twittering coming from them. I wonder if it is for letting other White-Eyes know exactly where they are, or could it be they are thanking the tree for the delicious nectar?  Thank you for visiting my site, and have a great Spring.

               (Please click on images for a larger view)

 

 

 

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Moon set from Tateishi Mountain

January 23, 2019

 I spent some time on Google Maps deciding on where to take a time lapse of the moon set. I decided to check out  Mt. Tateishi, in Itoshima, on the eastern coast of Kyushu. I wanted to do some reconnaissance  there the day before. The reason being to find the correct location to photograph the setting moon, and also to become familiar with the trail. This would make it easier to set up my gear and also be safer on the following night. And besides, I wanted to enjoy the hike and the views in the daylight.

 Here are a few photos from the day hike and a link to information on Mt. Tateishi.

https://www.welcomekyushu.com/event/?mode=detail&id=9999900052406&isSpot=1&isEvent=

   The following day, I returned in the early morning hours to capture beautiful Luna at about 99% full. She was so bright that I was able to walk the trail without the headlamp on. Breath-taking views were around every curve in the trail, and I must say, I felt as if I was in a dream.
I recommend turning off the lights when you watch the video below, and set to HD 1080p if your computer or cellphone has it.

Some of the stills from that night, taken with a Panasonic FZ200 bridge camera. The Canon 80D was busy taking the time lapse. I chose not to do any post processing with the time lapse photos this time. Just a little brightening on a few of the frames.

I enjoyed this time with Mt. Tateishi and the serene ocean and incredible moon. I hope you enjoyed this little taste of what I experienced. Get out of your house and be one with nature as often as you can. Thank you for visiting my site!

 

Karanno Falls

December 22, 2018  Last weekend I finally managed to get to Karanno Falls after two failed attempts. This time, I used my cell phone navigation app, and I was surprised at how well it worked. Karanno Falls is an isolated area of  Ishigawa, Sawara-ku to be exact, and the road became extremely narrow and rocky as I neared the falls. As a matter of fact, about one kilometer from my destination, the road was blocked off and I had to walk the remainder of the way. After I had walked about 500 meters, I came upon a landslide, which was the reason the road was closed. There was a path around the landslide, and I continued on to the falls. It was still dark, because I wanted to photograph the waterfall in dawn light, as I have no filters for my camera yet. Filters are necessary in daylight if you want to take long exposures to achieve the soft focus effect. Here I was, in the middle of the woods, in the black of night, and I jumped a bit when suddenly my cell phone said, “You have reached your destination.” and sure enough I had.  That amazed me. I descended a path for about 50 meters, all the while the sound of the falls becoming louder and louder. I set up the camera, and waited for the light to increase.

Karanno Falls is also known as Karan Waterfall. The name Karan translates as the beauty of the plummeting waters resembling swirling petals. One other possibility for the name is a legend saying that a holy man called Karan undertook ascetic training by standing beneath the falls.  The falls are 15 meters high and 3.5 meters wide. “Chikuzen no Kuni Zoku Fudoki” (a description of the land of Chikuzen), written by a Confucian scholar of the Fukuoka domain, says that it is the most beautiful waterfall. 

 

 

 

 

                Please click on photos

for a larger view.

The Geminids

December 16, 2018

I had been looking forward to the Geminid meteor, shower, (my favorite) for some months. As usual, I checked the weather report every day. On the peak night, cloudy conditions were predicted, so I decided to go the night before, on the 13th. I drove to Hoshinomura, (Village of the Stars) where the skies a quite dark, and set up the camera on the edge of a large  green tea field up on the side of a mountain with a clear view of the eastern skies. It was a windless night, and quite cold with frost on the ground. There were a few clouds floating by, but for the most part, the skies were good for photography. At around 4 am, after 3 hours of photography, I was thinking about packing up and leaving.  But then the stars Spica and Arcturus suddenly appeared on the horizon, with Venus following close behind, so I decided to leave the camera going another 30 minutes. Occasionally, clouds would pass in front of Venus, making the planet appear larger, like a small moon. Up to that point, I had seen a few good meteors, and suspected I had captured some of them with the camera. Then, a rather large meteor, perhaps a small fireball you could say, shot by Venus, and the camera caught the close encounter!

 

  Note:

 The origin of the Geminids was unknown until 1983, when it was discovered that an unusual asteroid was their mother. All other meteor showers originated from comets. This makes the Geminids rather special, as they are composed of harder and more durable material, thus causing more fireballs and Earth Grazers. They also move more slowly compared to meteors in other showers. The asteroid/comet is called Phaethon, named after the son of the sun god Helios in Greek mythology. I have included a link if you are interested in learning more about this unusual asteroid.

https://www.space.com/42236-weird-blue-asteroid-phaethon.html

Night Clouds & Meteors

November 18, 2018

 I wanted to share a few time lapses I put together over the past few weeks. Both of them were taken at Hoshinomura, in southwest Japan. I had hoped to capture some meteors, but good photos proved to be rather elusive. The night sky is always beautiful and entertaining, with or without shooting stars. For me, it is always a magical and spiritual experience. Thanks for visiting my site.

 

 

 

Black-faced Spoonbills

November 4th, 2018

I returned to a favorite spot of mine to see if the Black-faced Spoonbills were there. In the early morning, just as the sun rose over the horizon, a Black-faced spoonbill flew by just after I had set up the blind! Later, as I was returning to the car, I saw a group of ten Black-faced spoonbills roosting and feeding. I am very happy they continue to use this estuary as a stopover on their migration.

 There were three osprey that were actively fishing. I always enjoy watching these beautiful and dynamic birds of prey. I saw them dive into the water quite a few times. Once, one caught two fish in both talons on one dive!

  Later that day I walked with my dog along a river near my place. The sunset was especially nice. A fitting end to a fulfilling day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chenzeimachi Hado Peninsula

October 14, 2018

It is the evening of October 13th, and I decide to head to a place I have never been to, where the skies are quite dark, according to Dark Site Finder. It is about a three-hour drive, and I arrive there at close to midnight. I set up the camera on a prominent point looking out over the Genkai Sea. At midnight, my birthday arrives and I celebrate it with a cup of coffee and some chocolate. Then I sit and watch the heavens unfold all around me. This is about as good as it gets.

My brother wrote me recently and said “Nature is a part of us. There is nothing more! Keep exploring and sharing-all that wealth. For future generations-our planet’s health.”  I heartily agree!

 

 

A link to an article on Sirius the dog star. Did you know it has a puppy?

https://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-resources/meet-sirius-brightest-star/

 

Bozugataki (Monk Falls)

September 27, 2018

Last weekend I had planned to drive to Karanno Falls, but I ended up going to Bozu Falls instead, because I misread the kanji and entered it into my car navigation system.  Bozu Falls is quite near Karanno Falls on the map, and that is one reason I thought I was heading to Karanno Falls. Anyway, it turned out to be a good mistake, and an interesting morning.

   I parked the car along a narrow road at the foot of Kaneyama mountain. On the way up, I passed a small temple with a house nearby where the local monk resided. There I found a small signboard that read, ‘ Bozu Waterfall, 400 meters’ and realized I was not where I thought I was. Hmm, this could be interesting I thought.

   When I arrived at the falls, I set up the camera and began shooting. I guess about 5 minutes had passed, when I saw a couple approaching  out of the corner of my eye. It was a monk and a female companion. As they passed by, we greeted each other with good mornings. They made their offerings to the local god(s) by sprinkling salt and lighting a candle. The monk then removed all his clothes from under his robe, and then put on a fundoshi, (a type of loincloth). Then he took of the robe and walked into the pool and stood under the cascading water all the while chanting sutras for maybe about 15 minutes. In the meantime, the woman was filling up  a few plastic jugs with water that was emerging from a small spring next to the falls. After they left, I continued working with the camera. I suspect he was the monk who lived next to the temple down the path.

   I was not so surprised to see the ritual, as a sign near the falls said monks used to perform such rituals in the past. I too, found the water and falls too inviting to resist, and  spent some time beneath the falling water. Invigorated by the cooling water and minus ions, I dressed and headed back down the trail, but not before giving thanks to the local deities. I wonder if I will ever get to Karanno Falls?

Morning atop a mountain

September 18, 2018

    Last weekend, I was up early in order to drive to Karanno Falls in Sawaraku. I had planned to photograph the falls in the early morning, when light is at it’s best. As I was driving through Nakagawa, I noticed that the shapes and shadows of the clouds were quite interesting, so I suddenly turned  left and headed to the top of Kusenbu. Karanno Falls could wait another day, but these clouds would not. (Just the week before, I had been up on Kusenbu to take a cloud time lapse.) I always love it up there because of the peace and solitude, and the sunrises are never the same. I will include the sunrise time lapse in my next post, and maybe some photos of Karanno Falls.

  Now that Autumn is upon us, birds are becoming more vocal and active in anticipation of their migration. I am looking forward to going out in search of my feathered friends, and perhaps, a good photo or two?

   One of the harbingers of Autumn is the red spider lily, or higanbana as it is called here in Japan. It has a slightly sinister reputation here in Japan. It is used for funerals, and should not be given as a gift. It is a very poisonous plant, and can often be seen planted around the borders of rice fields to keep out pests, though I suspect wild boar are too smart to even consider eating it. See if you can spot the spider.

red spider lily

Until the next post then.  Tom