Wild Watch

Japan’s Mythical Beasts and Where to Find Them

Apr 20, 2017

From water shrews to whiskered bats and tree-climbing long-haired rats, and from sea otters and stoats to bears, macaques and boars, Japan has a wonderful mammalian bestiary. Amphibians and reptiles abound too, from diminutive tree frogs to giant salamanders – enough to keep any mammal watcher or herpetologist busy from Okinawa...

Chasing Mysterious Giants in the Mountains of Honshu

Mar 31, 2017

The heavily overcast sky delivered first a light rain then a wet snow that thickened, whitened and eventually coated trees and grass alike. Mercifully the road did not turn any more treacherous than indicated by its many winding curves, despite the falling snow. The weather was a surprise for the end of March in Hyogo Prefecture, as ...

Mandarin: the Hooded Love Bird of the East

Feb 28, 2017

Almost like phantoms, or moving shadows, silent shapes jump into the air, take wing and flee along a densely wooded river valley and are soon out of sight upstream. The Mandarin is a shy shade-loving bird, but catch a clear glimpse of one though and its colours shout – Oshidori.

Secretive an...

Red-crowned Crane Sarurun Kamuy: Our Home Grown Winter Spectacle, an Abundant Future and the End of the “Battle”.

Jan 31, 2017

Renowned as the bird of long life and happiness, and believed to live for a thousand years (in folklore at least), the Red-crowned Crane is a study in exquisite beauty. To encounter this avian dancer is to create a lasting memory as they exude agility, charm and grace. How can one fail to smile on sighting such a living god – S...

Searching for the Grey Ghost: Kamoshika

Dec 31, 2016

Japan is a ghostly country, as readers of Lafcadio Hearn's “In Ghostly Japan” know full well. Ghosts may await us near temples, shrines and graveyards here, but one ghost, the Grey Ghost, haunts the mountains of Japan. Searching for the Grey Ghost requires a sharp eye, patience and persistence – or perhaps...

Dancing With The Birds of Happiness

Nov 30, 2016

Cranes are quintessentially elegant and inspiring creatures that never fail to make me smile. Renowned as “Birds of Happiness” and believed to live for a thousand years (in folklore at least), cranes provide a study in exquisite beauty. How could one fail to smile on sighting such an avian charmer?

Japan’s ga...

Duck Anyone? Mallard or Muscovite?

Oct 31, 2016

Winter is arriving in Japan and with it come enormous numbers of water birds. They have spent the summer raising their young at taiga and tundra pools across a broad swathe of northeastern Asia and now swans, geese and ducks and their families are seeking refuge from the chilling effects of an approaching northern winter. 

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Damsels and Dragons: Aerial Dancers

Sep 30, 2016

Although there were only four at first, soon a round dozen devil birds were careering around the summit of Mt Fuppushi. Silently turning, twisting and scything their way through the still air they moved so rapidly that I could barely follow them with my binoculars.

Their top-speed banking turns were so swiftly executed that i...

Halcyon Days

Aug 31, 2016

The hunter and the hunted play out the ancient pattern of life all around us, evoking the nightmare scenarios of science fiction thrillers. You just need to know where to look.

Pairs of Autumn Darter dragonflies drift lazily past my window in their tandem, pre-mating flights. Day by day during August their numbers become more ...

Isolated in the Izu Islands

Jul 30, 2016

The beautiful subtropical Seven Isles of Izu (Izu Shichito) attract walkers and wanderers, divers, snorkelers, dolphin swimmers, whale watchers and bird watchers, yet they present a strange and fascinating conundrum: Why are they called the seven isles of Izu? 

Peruse a map of the ocean south of central Honshu and the con...

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