Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bird Photo: Ruddy-breasted Crake -- Ryukyuhikuina

bird, Porzana fusca, red eyes and legs

Scientific Name: Porzana fusca



This little bird with red eyes and legs was spotted in Kin Town wetlands.

Omnivores, they eat vegetation, bugs, snails and whatever else they can find in the mud.

Slender bodies, allow them to pass quickly between the plants they hide among.

So, I was thinking, if the wife slimmed down, she could move faster, too.

More about this bird and additional photos:

Wildlife Okinawa  




Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cinnamon Bittern AKA Ryukyu Yoshigoi (リュウキュウヨシゴイ)

bird looking upward in rice field

Scientific Name: Ixobrychus cinnamomeus



This bird is a master of deception, blending in vegetation with its camouflaged coloring.

They hunt for food in fresh water areas such as mangroves and rice fields.

The birds don't hangout in flocks. They prefer going out alone.

If it hadn't flown and landed directly in front of me, I would never have noticed the bird.

The nests of these birds are difficult to find, as well.

In Malaysia they say,if you wear this bird's nest on your head, you will become invisible !


A Guide to the Wild Birds of Okinawa P.26 ISBN4-916224-11-6

NOTE:  Some may want to follow Wild Birds of Japan on Facebook

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Flower Photo: White Trumpet Lily -- AKA Easter Lily

A Wildflower in the Ryukyu Islands



Returning from an uneventful morning, chasing birds, I spotted this lily.

This year, I skipped the Lily Festival on Iejima.

And, Easter passed by, before I realized the holiday had occurred.

Easter Lily, flower, buds

Teppouyuri (テッポウユリ) in Japanese



An American soldier took bulbs from this plant, in Okinawa, to Oregon in 1919.

Soon, they were being produced and sold commercially in North America.

The Easter Lily capital of the world is now on the west coast of the USA.

Over 90% of the potted Easter lilies are started on just 10 farms from California to Oregon.

People in Hawaii, figured out how to save the plants and, grow their own.

The scientific name for this flower is Lilum longiflorum.

If you are a cat person: Caution These Plants Are Poisonous to Cats !

In Australia, they tell you how doctors treat cats who ate these flowers.

In Japan, we just say,  sayonara !

For those who managed to read this far, a bonus:

Japanese readers visit Wildlife Okinawa

Monday, April 27, 2015

Bird Photo: Chinese Pond Heron

Akagashirasagi (アカガシラサギ) in Japan

heron, rice field




The Latin name for this one is Ardeola bacchus.

It is a native bird of Asia but some have been spotted of the coast of Alaska.

They feed on small creatures such as insects, worms, shells and frogs.

This one has been seen near rice paddies and wet farmlands for taro imo (water potato).


 A Guide to the Wild Birds of Okinawa p. 32   ISBN4-916224-11-6

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cultural Event: Abushibare (畦払い) Getting Fields Rid of Vermin

toy boats going out to sea, snails

Send the Varmints Out to Sea



It was a few years in the making but, I finally attended an Abushibare, today.

The animated GIF above was the grand finale, you could say.

The toy boats are loaded with some snails that eat local crops.

Bon Voyage, little suckers !

Rituals started at this red shrine called a Kamiya or House of Spirits.

It is a special building located near the Igei community center.

Years ago, a woman priestess (Noro) led the prayers at all community events.

And, the house of the Noro is right next door to this building.

There is no longer a Noro in the village so, staff from the district office do the praying.

The District Chief, you could call him, leads in making offerings and prayers.

There are other people in this room praying but, I stayed outside the front door.

Having permission to photograph is one thing, being disruptive is another.

This is the kind of place, I don't want to be an annoyance at.

The white building is the house of the Noro.

Inside, at another altar similar prayers and offerings take place, led by a district official.

Once ceremonies at the shrine and Noro's house are complete, everyone goes to the ocean.

Look closely and, you can see men carrying small boats.

The tray contains a plate of uncooked rice.

There is an incense stick burning and a cup of awamori (sake) next to the rice.

The toy boats are loaded with Tanishi (mud snails) that eat our rice plants.

The senior village official leads prayers one last time.

And, everybody in attendance wishes for a good harvest of crops.

Things moved along fairly quickly here.

Whether he drank the alcohol or, gave some to the snails, I don't know.

They grabbed the boats and sent them off to see the world.

Revival of an Old Ritual





Abushibare hadn't been performed in Kin for many years, maybe centuries.

The custom was revived in 2011 due to destruction of crops by the pesky snails.

Abushi, translates as, the ridges of rice paddies.

The clearing and cutting of weeds, on these ridges was believed to ward off pests and plagues.

In Igei district of Kin, the pests were snails so, they were sent out to sea.

Other villages have mice problems. They get sent away on boats, too.

For arranging my visit to this event and, help with translation, I owe special thanks to:

 Kin Town Office, Koji Tamamoto

Kin Town Board of Education: Yoko Nakama 

Visit YouTube to view a video of this event:

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ryukyu Robin or Akahige (アカヒゲ) Animated GIF

bird,male, Ryukyu Robin

A series of five images were combined to make this GIF.

This bird had its mouth full of what appeared to be worms and spiders.

It was located about halfway up the trail leading to Hiji waterfall.

Now is the time of year these birds stay close to the nests.

They are guarding the little ones and,  gathering grub to feed them. 

For the serious birding audience, I found an interesting link.

The Ryukyu Robin is called Erithacus komadori by many scientists.

Japan's researchers call it Luscinia komadori.

As if the world doesn't already have enough problems now, we have this rare bird.

The scientific community can resolve this without going to war, I hope.

Just keep calling it Akahige, is what I plan on doing.




Friday, April 24, 2015

Hiji Waterfall (比地大滝) A Most Refreshing Climb

waterfall, GIF

Nature Lovers Don't Pass This One Up



The plan today was to photograph some birds at the falls.

There are hundreds of steps going up and down along the trail leading to the waterfall.

stairway, rope railings

They say it's about an hour and a half hike, round trip.

It's probably best to do this before you turn 60 or, you will feel the burn in your legs.

Hiji River, rocks, flowing water

The complete tour take me about three hours.

Remember, I'm a cameraman and, looking for rare birds to shoot.

So, I move more slowly than most people.

Inhaling the scents of the forest and listening to the roar of the stream, I climb slowly.

Hiji Waterfall, view from end of trail

Waterfalls are always relaxing and invigorating at the same time.

Somehow, it makes you feel like air-conditioning never needed to be invented.

Several different compositions of this scene were photographed.

Up to this point, not one bird was ever seen. Not a good day.

white caterpillar, GIF

This caterpillar was starting to look like the only wildlife subject, I'd see today.

Being out in the woods, soaking up some nature was fun.

But, I wanted to go home with some bird photos not, caterpillars and waterfalls.

Erithacus komadori, Ryukyu Robin

Halfway back down the trail, my dreams came true.

Here's a Ryukyu Robin, the bird that just made my day.

More about this species at Avibase

Trip Advisor:Hiji Waterfall in Kunigami Okinawa Japan 

Google Maps 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Unidentified Baby Turtle Gets Put Back in the Mud

small turtle, freshly plowed rice field

The Little Amphibian Could Have Been Crushed



It was out on a newly paved stretch of road down by the rice paddies.

This morning, I was in the fields before any farmers showed up, with the camera.

turtle, paved road

Initially, it just looked like a clump of mud that had flown off a tractor tire.

And, I walked on past it.

When I stopped to have a can of iced coffee, the dirt ball was watching me.

After a few snaps of the shutter, I decided we should get off the road.

baby turtle, mud

Down a slippery bank of clay, into the rice paddy we went.

Trying to get closer to the turtle's eye level, I wound up sitting in the mud.

turtle crawling, field

The little creature must have been camera shy and, decided it was time to go.

turtle enters rice paddy

A few seconds of crawling in the dirt and, it disappeared into the freshly planted rice field.

Now that I'm back in the office, I realize what I should have done.

It's easier to identify a turtle if, you look at it from all angles.

Next time, I find a turtle I'll remember to turn the thing upside down.

That way, I can take a picture of its belly.
And, it won't be able to escape so quickly !

Update: Turtle Identified



Alert Reader and Friend of Nature, Shawn Miller provided this information:

Black-breasted Leaf Turtle

Geoemyda japonica is an Endangered Species.

Ryukyuyamagame (リュウキュウヤマガメ) is the Japanese title for this animal.


Okinawa Kearu Net

ICUN Red List of Threatened Species

The Turtle Room

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

This Cool Cat Showed Up on the Trail So I Shot a GIF of It

cat with blue eyes

Not the Sort of Creature You See Everyday



There is probably some fancy name for this mongrel-looking cat.

It was spotted along the edge of a field as I was heading back to town today.

There was a 300mm lens on the camera.

The cat filled the frame, faster than I would have liked it to, composition wise.

About a dozen images were made before the cat turned and ran.

If anybody is missing a cat like this, I know where to find it again.

Er, do you think it's some kind of wild thing ?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ladder Fern -- Some Photos and Facts

Cordifolia auriculata, ferns

A Plant with Several Common Names



Farmers grow acres of these bright green plants, in Okinawa.

They are used primarily in landscaping and, flower arrangements, known as ikebana.

Tamashida (タマシダ) is what the locals would call the fern.

Sword Fern, Herringbone Fern and Fishbone Fern are some other names you could use.

field of ferns

Research gave me two Latin names.

Nephrolepis auriculata and Nephrolepis cordifolia, are synonyms for this fern.

ferns accent other plants

The plants don't produce any flowers.

They spread by way of underground tubers and, reproductive spoors under the leafs.

Native to Australia and Asia, the plants are pests in New Zealand and Florida.

close-up of ferns

Experience has taught me something about vegetation.

When a plant becomes a pest, humans usually had something to do with the situation.

Ferns don't go around disrupting the earth; people might, though.

Pros and Cons from the gardeners, with this plant, are worth reading.

They probably couldn't escape from planters, too easily, if you keep an eye on them.

fern field

In Hawaii this plant is called Kupukupu.

It can grow on trees and stone walls.  It makes a good ground cover and controls weeds.

One Man's Weed Is Another Man's Treasure



It looks to me like some folks let this plant get out of control.

Just look at the green in these images and, relax your tired eyes for a few minutes.

Some gal in Japan, figured out how to decorate her hair with these fern.

People calling these ferns weeds, need to get educated ! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Bright Colored Koinobori (鯉のぼり) Flying in the Wind

Carp Streamers or Windsocks



Today was the first time I spotted them floating overhead in the breeze.

It's a reminder, that Golden Week isn't too far away.

banners, carp streamers, motion gif

One source, I discovered says these originated with the samurai.

Some of them carried banners with carp painted on them when they went to fight.

They sure do brighten up the sky on a cloudy day.

These streamers will be flying throughout the rest of April and the month of May.

Learn all about the history and customs of Koinobori in Japan.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

This Little Bird Whacks a Fish to Death

Common Kingfisher, fish,gif

The Kingfisher Takes Its Prey Back to a Perch



Here's one smacking a little fish on a rock to kill it before gulping it down.

If the fish were alive, it might spread its fins to keep from being swallowed.

The bird doesn't want to choke on a live fish, refusing to be eaten.

Once the fish stops fighting and is sort of pulverized, down the hatch it goes.

 This is the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis).

It is also known as a River Kingfisher or, Eurasian Kingfisher.

In Japanese, it is called a Kawasemi (カワセミ).

Learn more about this bird at the following sites:

A wetland wildlife site in Singapore gave me this information, deserving of a quote:

"Before eating a fish, the bird will hold it by its tail and whack it to death against the perch,

 particularly fishes with poky fins.

Otherwise, the live fish may extend its fins in the bird's throat, choking it, sometimes to death."

Japanese readers may wish to visit Okinawa-kaeru 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Watch the Blue Rock Thrush Looking for a Mate

bird, animation gif

Sure Sign of Spring



Normally, I don't waste my time taking photos of birds in the city limits.

To me, wildlife images should be made somewhere out in nature.

This bird was hooting, hollering and dancing on that wire, just begging to be shot.

So, that's what I did, on my way out of the city today.

More about Blue rock-thrush (Monticola solitarius) at ARKive.

Related Post:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Bird Called Munaguro (ムナグロ) in Japan

Pacific Golden Plover



These birds are natives of the Tundra which migrate to the Pacific islands.

They are similar to the American Golden Plover but, don't interbreed.

Pluvialis fulva is the species Latin name.

Pacific Golden Plover in field

Today's travels convinced me, longer lenses need to be ordered.

This series of photos was captured using a 300mm.

Golden-Plover, bird

The birds move around the fields in flocks.

It seems that one of them is always watching for approaching strangers.

golden-colored birds, pair

Move any closer than a few hundred yards and, the whole flock takes to the skies.

Male, Pacific Golden Plover, water potato field

A good part of the day was spent chasing these birds.

They kept moving from rice paddies to taro imo (water potato) fields. 

bird, Golden Plover, field

They are pretty fancy birds, with all that black and gold coloring.

It makes finding them a challenge when they hit the wetlands.

Learn more about these migratory birds at:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Butterfly: Papilio helenus -- The Oriental Red Helen

butterfly, gif

A Genuine Eye-catcher



Ten hours were spent with the camera on the roads today.

Close to 1,000 images of nature in Springtime were captured and, this was a favorite.

The Red Helen butterfly, I have seen before but, none like this one.

It had a lot more white patterns on it than any, I've photographed before.

The Indian Foundation for Butterflies convinced me this is a Red Helen.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bird Images: Streaked Fantail Warbler (Cisticola juncidis)

Also Called Zitting Cisticola



The zitting nomenclature comes from the sound this bird makes.

Somebody thinks its the same noise made by a pair if scissors, going snip, snip, snip.

Maybe, I should get my ears fixed and, maybe, I won't.

Sometimes, I think I've heard enough already.

Bird perched on tall grass

These little feathered rascals, don't sit still for photographers.

This morning, I started walking before 6AM, planning on finding some of them.

They like to flit around in the wetlands.

Kin Town has these taro imo (water potato) fields that are almost always flooded.

Fan-tailed Warbler, perched

The fan-tailed demons fly around, buzzing the rice paddies and potato fields.

They eat insects and seem to like tall grasses surrounding the farmlands.

After about three hours of walking, it was time to head back to town for some lunch.

Plenty of other bird photos had been taken but, none of this species.

This bird landed in front of me as I was leaving the area.

The light couldn't have been better, even if I was paying for it.

With the Pentax K3 and Sigma 50-500 at 500mm, I fired away.

Exposure:  f/7.1  1/1000   ISO200


A Guide to the Wild Birds of Okinawa P 262
ISBN 4-916224-11-6

Monday, April 13, 2015

Culture Photos: Picnic at a Family Tomb in Okinawa

Springtime Ritual -- Shimi



Some sources call it a Tomb Sweeping Festival.

It's an event held at family tombs, throughout the Ryukyu Islands in the beginning of Spring.

The traditional event was held on the 15th day of the third month by the Lunar Calendar.

These days, it may be any Sunday during April, convenient for family gathering.

prayer and offerings, tomb

Male members of the family clean the grave site area days in advance.

Women, in Okinawan culture, take the lead in speaking to ancestral spirits.

Assorted foods, fruits, juices and alcoholic spirits are presented in front of the tomb.

There is even paper money, known as uchikabi, presented to the departed.

Sticks of incense are lighted and passed around to each family member.

Wishes for health, happiness and good fortune, drift into the air, greeting the spirits.

The incense sticks are placed in a burner above the offerings and, everyone prays.

 Once the spirits have had their fill, the picnic begins.

Food, drink and good conversations are shared by all members of the extended family.

 The family tomb is left spotless, until the next ritual gathering.

More About Okinawa Tombs at Okinawaology Blog