Wild Watch

Snow Monkeys & Cranes of Japan: Spectacular Winter Wildlife

Feb 29, 2016

A deep, sonorous hoot reverberates through the frigid night air, echoing through riverine forest. A pair of Blakiston’s Fish Owl has been calling in their traditional territory for over an hour. They began unusually early, while it was still daylight, when their cryptic plumage almost hid them against the bark of forest elms. Their enormou...

Amami Night Safari

Jan 31, 2016

After several windless days of hard frosts and heavy snows the forests of Hokkaido, Japan's northern isle, seem overwhelmed with snow. It rims and coats twigs, branches and trunks alike; it has accumulated in the canopy in ribbons, rich clumps, bolsters and heavy pillows until boughs and branches are bowed down beneath the smothering weight....

Life at the Water's Edge

Dec 31, 2015

An Anhinga, a lanky relative of the ungainly cormorants, lounges in a riverside tree with its wings spread broadly catching the morning sunshine. When the fishing urge takes it, it unhinges itself from the overhanging branches, belly flops down into the river with a splash as if on its first day at the pool, but it submerges instantly more impre...

The Bird that Saved Me from Death

Nov 30, 2015

Cattle Egrets strike me as practical and workmanlike water birds. They are cowboys of the avian world; they stomp about and indelicately poke around in search of food and they think nothing about hopping up onto the back of either a docile domestic beast or a wilder creature and riding it until it scares up the next meal from swamp, marsh o...

Crowing about Ireland

Oct 26, 2015

Most of us know the land of hurling, folk music, Gaelic football and Guinness as Eire or Ireland. As I travelled through that country’s southern counties last month, I couldn’t help thinking of it as Corvidland. It seemed that everywhere I went I encountered members of this widespre...

Silk-winged Emperors

Sep 25, 2015

I watched as something fell; it was twisting, turning and descending slowly on a gentle morning breeze. It seemed at first sight to be a leaf, one that was leaving its summer home a good month earlier than one would expect. It fell lightly to the ground almost at my feet. Even before it had reached its final resting place I had perceiv...

Northern Hobby: the Scythe-winged Hunter

Aug 25, 2015

My symbol of summer is a falcon, one that arrives late each year. The Northern Hobby rides in on warm southerly winds during the dying days of April or early May’s Golden Week. The fresh arrivals are lithe and vigorous after a long carefree winter in warmer climes. Their chattering kew kew kew kew calls, boldly announcing their re...

Kamuy Mintara: Hokkaido, Garden of the Gods

Jul 17, 2015

Summer is a wonderful time to explore Hokkaido; so much to see; so much to learn.

Today, Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, seems as modern as the rest of the country, yet despite its population of nearly five million it somehow still retains a little of its Japanese frontier feel.

Delve a little deeper below the...

Down: More than feather light and oh so warm!

Jun 10, 2015

I recall backpacking around Kenya as a student in the late 1970s being reduced to living so cheaply that dry chapattis and bananas seemed to me to be a good meal.

On one occasion though I remember cracking. I entered a cheap restaurant and ordered meat (goat) and ugali. That was a meal I can never forget.

Now uga...

Rattan: Reaching for the Light

May 10, 2015

Being photophobic is not too bad during the long dark nights of winter, but in summer it is the pits. In my case, it is not so much a response to the light per se, as to shifting light levels that causes my sleep havoc. It is the subtle change from nighttime Stygian blackness to a mere hint of pre-dawn greyness that is sufficient to trigger my w...

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