Autumn in Japan

The weather this month has been glorious, with warm sunny days and cool nights, a typical “indian summer”. We have been outdoors a lot because of this and yesterday on my bike ride I spotted this common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). The light was fading in the late afternoon and I didn’t notice the bright blue colors which showed up when I uploaded the photo to my computer. It almost looks like a tie from the 80s! The kingfisher is a resident of Japan and is found all over Eurasia.

The Japan Times “Animal Tracker” describes the kingfisher’s natural history below.

Special features: Males start courting females from February onward, with a trilling, repetitive whistling song. Like males of many species, they will bring gifts to the female they fancy — in this case a fish carried in the bill, which in no way interferes with the clarity of his love serenade. Females will listen coquettishly from the comfort of a hole in the riverbank, and may fly out to meet him, accept the fish, and return to the hole. Once mated, both sexes excavate a tunnel in a riverbank, and when the eggs are laid in April, the male will bring fish to his female while she looks after the brood. Housekeeping is not a chore female kingfishers concern themselves with: the eggs are placed on fish bones and disgorged undigestible pellets. A second brood is laid in July/August. For efficient hunting, the eyes have polarizing filters to remove water reflection, but underwater they are kept shut and prey is detected by touch sensors that tell the bird when to spring the trap of its jaws.

I will try to record the call of the male this winter. I tried to get closer to take a better photo, but it took off when I moved.

Jogging with Nadia has also brought the delicious, perfume-like scents of the sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans) – mokusei in Japanese. I was surprised at such a late blooming flower. The sweet olive are large bushes, almost trees, and they are common garden and park plants. It has a long association with humans in China, India and Japan, and is known to help with irregular menstruation when ingested in tea form.

The intense reds of the Japanese maples have not started yet, but some of the trees are starting to turn color. Peak color season is probably a couple of weeks away.

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