Wild Watch

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...

Japan's Ubiquitous Scavenger – The Black-eared Kite

Jun 30, 2016

It is summer in Hokkaido. At last the air feels warm, warm enough to tempt up the sailplanes and the gliders over the Ishikari River plain, and to waft dandelion seeds, willow fluff and spiderlings high into the air.

Overhead, silent as a spiderling’s gossamer thread adrift on the breeze, a spread-winged kite tips it...

Oriental Storks Making a Come Back in Japan

May 31, 2016

Each year I am reminded of the ceaseless change that sums up life as yet one more friend fades into oblivion. Predeceasing human friends leave behind one facet of loneliness, but the losses of familiar elements of the natural world tear at the tapestry of being, leaving gaping holes in the broader matrix, in the backdrop to our human lives, ...

Daijugarami: Stepping Stone to the Arctic

Apr 27, 2016

It was the middle of the night and I was miserably cold; it was after all still March, and in the darkness the loneliness of the long-distance hitchhiker had descended upon me again, this time in northern Kyushu, Japan. That lonely night brought back to mind haunting memories of yet earlier nights, nights when as an undergraduate studen...

Whale Watching Japan-style: Zamami

Mar 23, 2016

At long last I have made my pilgrimage to the tiny cluster of islands scattered in the sea to the west of Okinawa.

The Kerama Islands have been beckoning me for years, but at last, in early March this year, a brief personal window of opportunity, a few days between projects, and a very special invitation, coincided with a very crucial ...

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