September 2004


This was the first day out with my new telephoto converter (Raynox 2.2x converter for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10 digital camera). The little egret (kosagi) was in a field and had its back to me when I first saw it from a distance (about 100m away), so I dived into a ditch and crawled in the mud a few meters until I was able to find some tall weeds growing at the side of the field. Poked my new lens through the weeds and zoomed in on the egret. Wow! I’m very pleased with the teleconverter and these shots.

Little Egret: Egretta garzetta: kosagi

Little EgretLittle EgretLittle EgretLittle Egret

I was looking for snakes in the straw alongside the stream, but it still came as a shock to see this long black “crow snake” (karasuhebi) moving rapidly across the path. I’d estimate it at about 150cm, perhaps bigger. There were so many frogs on the path too, so I’m sure the snake was not going hungry! This species looks scary because of its size and colour, but it is not venomous at all. It is actually the melanic form of the four-lined ratsnake (shimahebi).

Elaphe quadrivirgata

Reptilia: Squamata: Colubridae
Elaphe quadrivirgata (karashuhebi) = black Japanese four-lined ratsnake

Scorpion flies (shiriagemushi) are pretty weird-looking creatures! They have curled up tails (hence the name) and very distinctive “beaks.” Despite their appearance, they are harmless insects. They are also a very ancient group of insects, some 25o million years old, and some species are known as living fossils.

Mecoptera: Panorpidae
Scorpion fly: Panorpa japonica: shiriagemushi

scorpion flyscorpion flyscorpion fly

I saw the eye spots and black body of this caterpillar in the weeds and thought it was a snake! Sneaking up closer to get a picture, I realized that it was an enormous caterpillar (about 12cm long), but I had no idea what butterfly/moth it would turn into. Eventually I found out on Internet that it’s the larva of an Impatiens Hawk Moth or sesujisuzume.

Lepidoptera: Sphingidae
Impatiens Hawk Moth = sesujisuzume = Theretra oldenlandiae

hawk moth caterpillarhawk moth caterpillar

Information (and pictures of adult moth): http://tpittaway.tripod.com/china/t_old.htm

Information in Japanese on the different species of mantis in Japan: here at Wikipedia

Statilia maculataStatilia maculata

Order: Mantodea; Family: Mantidae
Statilia maculata = ko-kamakiri (Small Mantis)

During the summer months I see five or more lizards every time I step into the garden. I never get tired of watching them. This one was very tame and let me get really close before escaping, so I managed to get a pretty good photo of its head.

Takydromus tachydromoidesTakydromus tachydromoidesTakydromus tachydromoides

Reptilia: Squamata (scaled reptiles): Lacertilia (lizards): Lacertidae (wall lizards)
Japanese Grass Lizard: Takydromus tachydromoides (nihon kanahebi)

Lema diversa

Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae (leaf beetles)
Lema diversa = akakubi-boso-hamushi

We took a group of kids out to Ohshima Island, which is a 30-minute boat trip from our nearest port. Everyone was playing in the shallow sea and on the beach when one of the kids called me over because she had found a hermit crab (yadokari). She said it was a big one, but I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it. The thing was enormous. I didn’t even know hermit crabs grew that big. In fact, we don’t often see shells that size, so this crab must have drifted from someplace else (in a storm maybe). Anyway, the Japanese people in our group wanted to eat it (typical!!), but I waded out into the sea and released it in what looked like a suitable location. I hope that it survives and gets even bigger!

Ohshima IslandOhshima Islandgiant hermit crabgiant hermit crab

Aya (my daughter) called me into the garden to watch a praying mantis (hirabiro kamakiri) stalking an adult cicada (abura-semi) on the trunk of a tree. We watched for a while, but it didn’t seem possible that the mantis could catch such a large prey, which probably weighed as much as the mantis. After about ten minutes I gave up and went inside. Half an hour later, however, Aya called me again because the mantis had actually succeeded in catching the cicada! The cicada had put up quite a fight, but the mantis had clung on and, in a superb demonstration of brute strength and skill, she had managed to subdue the cicada by biting through its wing muscles. Very impressive!

Hierodula patelliferaHierodula patelliferaHierodula patellifera

Indo-Pacific Mantis (hirabiro kamakiri)
Class: Insecta; Order: Mantodea; Family: Mantidae;
Hierodula patellifera

Large Brown Cicada (abura-semi)
Class: Insecta; Order: Hemiptera; Family: Cicadidae ;
Graptopsaltria nigrofuscata