Nature Observations from Naoshima

I recently spent three days on the island of Naoshima, one of the thousands of islands in the Seto Inland Sea. Naoshima is only 3 miles square (14 kilometers square) and a 20-minute ferry ride from the mainland city of Tamano. I was not impressed with the variety of birds, most of the same birds I see in my neighborhood. We did find many beautiful insects however and they are featured in this blog post.


Japanese Luna Moth at the Benesse House Museum 

My daughter spotted this Actias artemis (luna moth) on one of the pieces of modern art in the Benesse House Museum. Actias genus moths are known luna moths and this species which is found in Japan, Korea and China is very similar to the North American Luna Moth. As you can see in the photo, they are named “luna” or moon moths because of the moon-like shapes on the wings. To me it looks like an elephant with the long tail acting as the trunk. In the adult stage, they only live a few days/weeks. With the damaged wing, it looks to be on its way to dying.


I finally captured a photo of the Pied Skimmer (Pseudothemis zonata). I see them all the time around ponds throughout the city in the summer. They are found all over Asia,


On a walking trail on an undeveloped part of the island, there were hundreds of spiderwebs I kept walking through. I stopeed to take this photo of the Cucumber Green Spider (Araniella cucurbitina). 


On Gotanji swimming beach there were many moon jellyfish (Araniella cucurbitina) washed up on the beach. In the harbor I noticed thousands of them as our ferry was leaving for the mainland. The four circles are gonads. It is difficult to identify the different species of Araniella and we’ve seen them on Awaji Island.


Sea Roach (Ligia exotica)

On the rocks near the sea I saw hundreds of these “cockroach-like invertebrates. They turned out to be sea roaches, an isopod that is common around wharfs and rocks near the ocean around the world.

Of course I couldn’t let a nature blog post go by without a bird photo. This Japanese White-eye surprised me on the trail and posed momentarily for this photo. It is native to Japan and was a common cage bird species here.



Firefly Moth – Spring Is Ending!

After a long, cold winter I am enjoying the hints of heat and humidity that come with a Japanese summer. I would rather be uncomfortably hot than uncomfortably cold. Sweating is a nuisance, but the cold weather is painful at times.

I took a break from my nature website this school year. My camera broke and it was a busy year. Recently I repaired the camera and am back to noticing the natural world around me. Today I saw this beautiful firefly moth (Pidorus atratus) at school. It was fluttering around the bicycles outside of the cafeteria. It is often seen in the daytime and gets its name from the small bright red head with black body, which to some people, resembles a firefly.


A firefly moth against the wall of the school. 


Last month I spotted this (Neptis pryeri) on the way to school. We have a tranquil walking path between houses in our neighborhood and residents have planted flower gardens along both sides. It is a rich environment for nectar, hence, lots of butterflies.


Neptis pryeri (Sailor Butterfly) 

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly


I photographed a Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio troilus) last night in the Nescopeck State Park. My family was doing a formal photographic portrait, photos to come later on the family blog, and in the garden near the ranger station, several swallowtails were feeding on nectar. This spicebush female is identified by the blue color in the tail, while males are a bit more green. The photograph captures their unique characteristic of fluttering while feeding. Most butterflies are still while drinking nectar.


The name Spicebush comes from one of the host plants associated with it. However, the swallowtail does lay eggs and feed on many members of the Lauraceae family. They are found only in eastern North America, from Florida to southern Ontario. The species does not make it to my home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.


Queen Anne’s Lace 

I also captured this Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), or Wild Carrot. This is the wild version of the domesticated carrot. Like its cousin, the root can be eaten, but only when young. The leaves can be eaten as well in small quantities. It is native to Europe and is naturalized here in North America. Several states have labeled it a noxious, invasive weed.

Starry Sky Beetle


Nadia’s kindergarten students have been catching these Asian long-horned beetles (Anoplophora glabripennison our school’s playground recently. We have a terrarium in the school and since beetles are popular pets in Japan, it is easy to find beetle food (left of the beetle in the photo) Nadia is keeping three of them. The class is studying living things and so it is so it is great for the kids to have living things in school.

They are an invasive species in the US where the larvae kill many trees. They do not do so much damage here in East Asia, its native range, as there must be natural predators, which are lacking in the USA and Europe.

It is a big beetle and very beautiful. I like it’s other name, the starry sky beetle. It does look like stars shining in the dark night sky. It also has a gorgeous blue coloring on its appendages.


Black Pine Beach on Awaji Island

catching moon jellyfish

Numerous moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) were floating near the Keino Matsubara beach on Awaji island yesterday. In the video, Oliver is holding one. The four purple circles are the gonads. The tentacles of the moon jellyfish are so fine that they cannot penetrate human skin so as you can see, they are safe to touch. They are found all over the world and I’ve seen them in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and now the Seto Inland Sea.


One of my favorite trees in Japan is the black pine (Pinus thunbergii). They can grow in the harsh region of a beach and provide a stark contrast to the sun, sand and sea. The Keino matsubara beach features a stand of 50,000 trees, planted as a wind break and beach preserver against erosion. The light is so beautiful under the trees and Ocean, Oliver and I spent a delightful afternoon among them. We noticed the long needles are in bundles of two.


There was a small group of Oriental Greenfinches (Carduelis sinica) feeding on the ground underneath the trees. They were quite active and looked to be feasting up some type of seed.


How do they do it? Transformation to a Butterfly


A parent in my wife’s kindergarten class (she is a teacher) brought in several chrysalides (plural of chrysalis) she found in her garden. The students watched the emergence of this female Indian fritillary (Argynnis hyperbius). I arrived late but was able to see it first few minutes as a butterfly. The underside has a leopard-like print and the upper side of the wings, below, completely different.


It almost looks like two different butterflies. The species is also different in that it has a huge range, from India to Japan and the males and females have different coloring. Thinking about it, what an amazing process to go from a caterpillar to a butterfly! That is such a radical change of shape and lifestyle.



Rainy Season Nature Observations


June in Osaka is warm and rainy. It rains about 1/3 to 1/2 of the time, humidity is usually over the 80% and average temperatures are in the 80s F. On my bike ride today I photographed this pied skimmer dragonfly (Pseudothemis zonata) . They were numerous and flying above the pond in the Senri Chuo central park.


The most unusual feature of my ride today was spotting two Reeves’ Turtles (Mauremys reevesiion sidewalks in two different parks. I notice a lot of the exotic red-eared slider, but not many of the Reeves, or Chinese pond turtles. I was able to catch them quite easily so I see why they are threatened in the pet trade. In China they are disappearing from the wild, but are raised extensively on farms for medicinal and culinary uses. They were bigger than my hand and quite docile, not clawing or snapping at me.


I also spotted (photo above) a family of  “swamp chickens” (love the name) or common moorhens (Gallinula chloropus). The colorful beaked male above was with two females and three chicks. My final observation (photo below) was this Japanese Wagtail (Motacilla grandis) “Seguro sekirei” in Japanese. They are endemic to Japan but have been feeling pressure from the white wagtail, a species that thrives in human habitat and has expanded its range throughout Japan. The Japanese wagtail prefers feeding along the river, like this one was when I photographed it. I see more white wagtails in parks and a pair in our school. The Japanese wagtails are hanging tough, maintaining their numbers and range, but the white wagtails are becoming more numerous, especially in the past 20 years. I hope the Japanese wagtail can continue to survive as it is truly Japanese.