July 2005


I was trying to get a shot of a dragonfly next to the river when I spotted this grey heron sitting awkwardly in a bush. Everytime it moved it seemed like it was going to fall out. The poor thing was really hot too, so it kept sticking its head out of the bush, opening its beak and panting its throat in an effort to get cool. All very comical really. Still more comical (for anyone watching) was the sight of me crawling through the mud and plants at the river’s edge, trying to get as close to the heron as possible. Needless to say I got covered in mud! Fortunately, however, I managed to sneak into a really good position, so when the heron jumped out of the bush I was ready to get some pretty good photos.

Grey Heron: Ardea cinerea: aosagi

heronheronheronheron

Dragonflies (tombo) are so numerous in Japan that the country used to be known as “Dragonfly Islands” (akitsushima). There are more than 200 species (compared to around 40 in the UK). It is wonderful to see swarms of them flying above the rice fields in the summer, their legs held like tiny baskets under their bodies as they hunt for prey on the wing. Dragonflies are regarded as a sign of summer and, together with cicadas (semi), rhinocerous beetles (kabutomushi), and stag beetles (kuwagatamushi), these insects are favorites with Japanese children.

Pantala flavescens swarms

I went out yesterday specifically trying to get photos of as many species as I could find. I managed to get a few, but was feeling frustrated because I couldn’t get a photo of the huge “ogre drangonflies” (oniyanma) because they wouldn’t keep still long enough. Then, lo and behold, one arrived in the garden this afternoon! This is a superb insect, with a 10cm-long body and a wingspan of about 12cm. It’s the biggest species of dragonfly in Japan.

Here are the species I photographed this weekend. I hope that my identification is correct. Please let me know if anything is wrong.

Odonata: Anisoptera (true dragonflies)

Anotogaster sieboldiiAnotogaster sieboldii
Anotogaster sieboldii = oni yanma = “ogre dragonfly”

Pantala flavescensPantala flavescens
Pantala flavescens = usubaki tombo

Pseudothemis zonataPseudothemis zonata
Pseudothemis zonata = koshiaki tombo

Orthetrum triangulare melaniaOrthetrum triangulare melania
Orthetrum triangulare melania = ooshiokara tombo

Crocothemis serviliaCrocothemis servilia
Crocothemis servilia = shoujou tombo

I haven't identifiedI haven't identifiedI haven't identified
(I haven’t identified these ones yet)

a big meal for a small spider!
A big meal for a small spider!

Went snorkelling again today – the third time in three days! The tide was out and I managed to hold onto a rock so that I could take some reasonable photos of fish. The best experience was meeting a little yellow and black ishidai who just couldn’t keep himself away from me! I scratched the surface of the rock to release a few morsels and he went crazy, trying as hard as possible to snap up the cloud of bits. I assumed that this was an adult fish but later found out that this species grows up to 80cm long and changes colour completely (see this picture). The young fish are famous for their curiosity.

[As usual I’m not very confident with fish identification, but hopefully these are correct.]

ishidaiishidaiishidaiishidai
Barred knifejaw (or Striped Beakperch) = Oplegnathus fasciatus = ishidai

takanohadaitakanohadai
Spottedtail Morwong = Goniistius zonatus = takanohadai

honberahonbera
A kind of wrasse = Halichoeres bleekeri (?) = honbera (?)

sunsetsunset
Beautiful sunset today!!

We went to a restaurant near the sea last night and, when we came out, we saw several red-clawed crabs (akate-gani ) scavenging in the garbage area of the restaurant. The kids wanted to see them up close so I chased around for about 20 minutes and managed to catch a couple of them. We took these home and took some photographs this morning, then released them on the beach.

Chiromantes haematocheirChiromantes haematocheir

Crustacea: Decapoda: Grapsidae
Chiromantes haematocheir = akate-gani (Red-clawed crab)

This longhorn beetle was one of several beetles (mainly chafers) attracted by the lights of a local signboard at night.

Aeolesthes chrysothrixAeolesthes chrysothrixAeolesthes chrysothrixAeolesthes chrysothrix

Coleoptera: Cerambycidae
Aeolesthes chrysothrix = kimadarayama-kamikiri

I came across this big octopus (tako) while snorkelling today. It was the biggest octopus I’ve seen – at least 50cm from outstretched arm to arm. It was a bit deep (4m) for me to get a decent picture and it also slipped under a rock as soon as it spotted me. The amazing thing was that it changed not only its colour but also it’s shape/texture. When it was sitting on top of the rock it had white spiny bumps all over it’s body, but then it became smooth and reddish brown when it was under the rock. I wanted to catch it but there was no way it was going to allow itself to be pulled from under that rock!
octopusoctopus

Aya came with me snorkelling at Kanezaki today. It was her very first time and she did really well (especially considering she’s only nine). We swam out about 200m from the shore and snorkelled for about one and a half hours. There was so much to see and Aya couldn’t get enough! She wants to go again tomorrow!

Aya snorkelling (first time) Aya snorkelling (first time)bora (I think!)bora (I think!)
We had some excitement when a huge shoal of 40/50cm-long fish (bora) suddenly engulfed us. They were swimming really fast and a few of them actually bumped into me. I’ve never experienced anything like it before!

ohaguroberaohagurobera
The fish above is called ohagurobera in Japanese. Cocktail Wrasse = Pteragogus flagellifer.
[I hope this identification is correct – it looks very different on some fish web sites.]

moon jellymoon jelly
Moon jellyfish = mizukurage

Can you see the flatfish?sponge
Can you see the flatfish in the picture on the left? This was a tiny flatfish and it was incredibly well-camouflaged. I only knew it was there because I’d seen it move. The picture on the right shows a pretty little sponge.

I noticed another species of hummingbird hawkmoth in the garden this afternoon. It’s a bit bigger than the kind I photographed yesterday. It also seems to fly a little bit slower, so I was able to get some pretty nice shots.

[Info in Japanese here.]

Lepidoptera: Sphingidae
Pellucid hawk moth = oosukashiba = Cephonodes hylas

oosukashibaoosukashibaoosukashibaoosukashiba

My first time to see one of these! I don’t think we have any owlflies in the UK, so it was exciting to find one.

Owlflies look a bit like dragonflies but have long clubbed antennae, hence the name tsuno-tombo (= “horned dragonfly”) in Japanese. The name owlfly comes from the large eyes these insects have. Similarly to dragonflies, they hunt other insects on the wing.

Hybris subjacensHybris subjacensHybris subjacensHybris subjacens

Neuroptera: Ascalaphidae
Hybris subjacens = tsuno-tombo

There are more than 800 species of longhorn beetles (kamikiri) in Japan. It’s a remarkable number!

This species is beautifully camouflaged with a kind of feathery pattern on its elytra.

COLEOPTERA: CERAMBYCIDAE:
Longhorn = nagagomafu kamikiri = Mesosa longipennis

Mesosa longipennisMesosa longipennis

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