Friday, November 30, 2012

Travel Agent Academy Round Three

What a way to spend a Saturday morning.

It started off with some sunshine so, the dogs got an early walk on the beach.

The weather took a turn for the worse by the time I got to the office.

So, there wouldn't be any excursions in to the wilderness today.

There are still plenty of goat fight and wildlife photos waiting development.

But, I decided to take a peek at the Travel Agent Academy, instead.

They already certified me as a Japan and Asia Specialist.

Cruise Lines International Association had something, just right, for me.

For round three, I went and took the tests to become a Cruise Specialist.

Gotterdun !

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Photo Essay: See Cherry Blossoms (桜) in Winter

Japan's Blossoms Open First on Okinawa

The cherry trees on the island of Okinawa begin blooming in January each year. 

The pink blossoms brighten up the hillsides through the month of February.

The flowers hang like bells from the branches, unlike those of northern regions in Japan, which

 open facing the sky. Okinawa'a cherry trees come from Taiwan.

Scientists may agree, or not, local legend says, the coldest day of winter activates the flower buds.

Having witnessed decades of Sakura (桜), or Cherry Blossom Seasons, I believe legendary reasoning. 

 Though it is winter, once the hills come alive with the flowers, the weather gets warmer.

Cherry Blossom Festivals Begin

Flower lovers, from around the globe, and especially Japan, stay tuned to the Sakura Forecast.

Planning travel can be tricky. 

Mother Nature orchestrates the viewing of such delicate things as flowers.

The first Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) usually occurs on Mt.Yaedake in northern

 Okinawa.  Normally, it is held around mid-January and lasts for two weeks.

The next festival is held on Nago Mountain, over the course of a weekend, late January.

 Both events are popular with families and, there are no entrance fees. 

Food, beverage and game booths, as well as, live entertainment are available. 

Sturdy walking shoes, jackets, cameras and an umbrella are recommended. 

Visitors come by the thousands.

These, first two, festivals are on mountains and can give the legs a good workout.

 It is best to go at a leisurely pace and enjoy the scenery. 

The routes are lighted, with paper lanterns. 

 Often, it is worth the wait, to stay until after the crowds thin out, at night. 

You can catch some dramatic photos and avoid sitting in traffic jams when leaving.

UNESCO Nakijin-jo (gusuku) Castle

Late January, through early February, the Nakijin-gusuku Sakura Matsuri takes place. 

In recent years, the castle has been lighted, at night, during Cherry Blossom Season.

 A sight to see during daylight, it turns into a magical dreamland when the lights shine on the

 blossoms, trees, and stone walls of the fortress during darkness. 

It is imperative, to check the links provided for dates and closing times, as they may vary from

 year to year.

 The terrain at Nakijin would be less foot and stroller-friendly than previously mentioned festivals.

 A flashlight might be handy for those wandering off the stone stairs, or pathways, to take photos.

More Sakura Matsuri

Moving farther south on Okinawa, there are more festivals as the season progresses.

 The Town of Yaese, Naha City, and Kumejima Island, all have Cherry Blossom Festivals.


Can't Get Away During Winter?

The Japan Meteorological Agency has something for you. 

They post cherry blossom opening dates and, in full bloom dates, for all of Japan.

 Sakura Season (Cherry Blossom Season) lasts from March through May

as the blossoms spread from the southern tip of mainland Japan, to the northernmost regions.

 Don't miss out on one of the beauties of Japan: The Sakura Matsuri.

See more photos from Cherry Blossom Season in Festivals

Editor's Picks for Month of November 2012

The Honors All Went to the Birds

Grey Face in Flight

On the Prowl

Raptor in Flight

Rock Thrush on the Rocks

To view these photos at higher resolution and see camera specs click on the titles.

All my Editor's Picks, this month were taken with a Sigma 50-500mm Lens

Location: Okinawa, Japan.

November: Full Beaver Moon Month !

Don't ask me where I find this stuff.

The full moon came through the clouds, outside my office, tonight.

So, I grabbed a camera and tripod to shoot it.

Then, got online and searched Full Moon NOV 2012.

The good Old Farmer's Almanac taught me all about it.

They say it was the Beaver Moon or, Full Frost Moon.

If you were a fur trapper, you had to get your traps out before the water froze over.

We are lucky.  The water in Okinawa, Japan never freezes over.

And, I never knew there were any fur trappers here, until one day the wife complained.

She was yapping at the landlord about what women were saying in the bar.

Visit my homepage for today's Feature Photo

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Animal Photo of the Week: Let's Get It On !

Some hilarious things happened at the Sesoko Island goat fights Sunday.

There will be a story about goat fights in Okinawa, Japan one of these days.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd share this photo.

One goat leaped, like a kangaroo, while the other one just shook his beard.

All I could imagine was, he must have been thinking, "Let's get it on, Bubba" !

Monday, November 26, 2012

Travel Photo: Tachigaa Waterfall A New Angle

Still swamped with goat fight and kayaking photos, from the weekend, here's a waterfall.

The idea was, to give you a view, from a new angle.

The weather is a little bit too chilly for me to run up there so, here's what I did.

From my files, I pulled-up an old photo.

Then, I flipped it horizontally.

It saved me from traveling up the east coast of Okinawa.

And, it kept my feet dry, too !

More about Tachigaa and directions to reach the falls, may be seen in

or at

Bird Photo: A Sea-hawk in Okinawa, Japan

This Sea-hawk flew over the Tomigusuku wetlands Nov 21, 2012.

That's the same day I was looking for Spoonbills which just arrived on Okinawa, Japan recently.

Photo taken with a Sigma 50-500 at 500mm.

Visit my homepage for today's Feature Photo

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Old Goat Back from Long Weekend (Photos)

These photos are just a quick preview of this old goat's weekend.

It started, sometime Saturday at a place nicknamed The Shark's Fin.

Some world class kayakers invited me to hangout with them.

We fooled around on the beach until sunset.

After sunset, the kayak people were celebrating the end of the day.

Now, I want to be a kayaker, too.

See the dude sitting in the kayak ?

He made that thing, himself.

All that's wrapped around the frame, to make the contraption float is Plastic Wrap !

He put the kayak in the ocean and paddled-away.

 After the kayakers passed out awards and certificates we found a karaoke bar.

And, sort of, took over the place.

We were singing karaoke, drinking and having a great time, well into the night.

When they ran out of Orion Beer, we went back to our campsite.

 This is a photo of the Sharks Fin taken at 5:33 this morning.

I was up at sunrise because I had to go to another island.

They had goat fights.

It was a long, and busy weekend, for this old goat, and I had a blast.

It's time to shut these computers down, go home, shower and get some sleep.

Sometimes, I forget.  I ain't exactly a kid, anymore. I just have fun until I pass out.

That's the best way to enjoy being an old goat.  More later.....

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Photo: Ducking Out for the Weekend

To all those who celebrate Thanksgiving, have a happy and safe weekend.

This one will be a busy one, for me.

There are things like, a kayak event, some camping, karaoke singing, beer drinking and

Goat Fights, I have to attend !

So, I'm ducking out for the weekend, early today.

Visit my homepage for today's Feature Photo

Who Fouled-up the Tomigusuku Wetlands ?

This series of photos is not what I usually show the world.

My goal, with photography and travel writing, is to show you the beauty of Okinawa.

The Tomigusuku wetlands is where these photos were taken, yesterday.

We were searching for Black-faced Spoonbills, a bird I had never photographed before.

The birds are an endangered species that visits Okinawa, about this time, every year.

 Not wanting to scare them, I walked around the marsh with a 50-500mm Sigma lens.

That way, I could shoot wide angle, or zoom from a distance.

 One of the rules in photography, is to eliminate distractions in the photo.

The viewer's eyes should be attracted to the subject, not anything else.

The best way to get great wildlife photos, is to take plenty of shots.

Then, you may be able to crop out any distractions when you process the photos, later.

At the end of the day, I had plenty of Spoonbill photos and, other birds, as well.

It's a good thing I was tired and didn't delete this series of photos.

People need to see where these endangered birds are living.

Suppose, some school decided to take the children for a field trip.

Teach kids all about nature and wildlife.

That way, maybe, they will become responsible, nature-loving citizens when they grow up.

Do you have any idea, who fouled up Tomigusuku's wetlands?

Me neither but, I bet, it wasn't the birds!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wildlife Photos: Black-faced Spoonbill

The Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor) is an endangered species.

These photos were taken at Tomigusuku Okinawa, Japan, today.

Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper, reported that four of the birds arrived on Okinawa Nov 8, 2012.

So, Doc and I went looking for them and snapped a few hundred pictures.

They eat small fish, crabs and anything else they can find in tidal flats.

Younger birds have pinkish-colored bills. Mature ones black.

I don't know if this guy was yawning, or just stretching his jaws.

The bird is protected in China, Japan, Taiwan, North and South Korea.

This Black-faced Spoonbill, I decided to call K96 because that's what his tag says.

The Wild Bird Society of Japan is supposed to be helping these birds.

Somebody needs to tell the people of Tomigusuku.

The place these Black-faced Spoonbills are living in, looks pretty polluted, to me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wildlife Photo and a Question

Is it just my imagination; is that a goose flying with seven ducks ?

Visit my homepage for today's Feature Photo

Monday, November 19, 2012

Travel Photo: Just a Couple of Climbers

This photo was taken today at Mt. Katsu in Okinawa, Japan.

The couple came along while I was hanging out shooting some wild critters.

They are heading up the trail to the top of the mountain.

A fairly good climb, it takes young folks about an hour to reach the peak they are headed for.

We made some small talk and, somehow the guy's age slipped out. He's in his eighties.

So, I let him know I'm 60 something.

The gal just laughed and called me a youngster.

Do you ever meet couples like this in your travels ?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mystery of the Flowering Tree Solved

The Tree in Okinawa, Japan Came from Brazil

Tokkuri Kiwata (トックリキワタ) was what the lady kept telling me.

Twice, I went to the village office and asked her what the name of that flowering tree might be.

Not so good at hearing, I watch her lips so I can figure out what she's saying.

Then, I pronounce the words and see if she corrects me.

When I think I've got it, I write the stuff down on a scrap of paper.

Back at the office, I research online, to get an English name. No luck.

 Every time I put the word Tokkuri in a search engine, I got sake bottles.


On my second visit, Kyoko tells me it's a Tokkuri Kiwata tree.

We even walked across the highway and talked to some local men about the trees.

They said the plants originally came from Brazil.

With all the information I gathered in the field, I figured the mystery would be solved.

The search engines kept giving me sake bottles and flower shops.  Groan, again.

People Like to See Okinawa's Trees and Flowers

So, when I'm not shooting wildlife or tourist attractions, I look for them.

Taking photos is the easy part. Finding common names, in English is a bit tougher.

This Tokkuri Kiwata thing was driving me crazy and, I was about to give up on it.

The answer came to me this morning from a great resource.  Where?

Believe it, or not, they have a forum for trees, flowers, plants, fungi, and shrubs.

Last night, I uploaded some photos and a description, along with the location.

This morning the mystery was solved.

Tokkuri Kiwata (Ceiba speciosa) is called a Silk-floss Tree, in English.

The Spanish name would be Palo Borracho, which translates to, drunken stick.

Learn more about this mystery tree flowering in Okinawa, Japan at:


Friday, November 16, 2012

Wildlife Photo: Striated Heron (Butorides striata)

This bird had me stumped for awhile but, we gotterdun.

It's a Striated Heron, sometimes called Little Heron (Butorides striata).

They eat fish, bugs, frogs, snakes and when they're really hungry, other birds.

Learn more about them at ARKIVE 

 Whenever I get stuck trying to identify wildlife I post a few photos in the ID Forums at

They have experts on everything, not just birds.

You can find snakes, turtles, bats, butterflies, trees, flowers and plants over there.

So what are you waiting for ?

Visit my website for today's Feature Photo