Gray Wagtail

34581081333_596d10a921_cOn my bike ride Saturday in the Minoh National Park I spotted a group of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea). It was a picture perfect day, literally, and from my bike, I photographed the bird on the telephone wire above the road. The gray wagtails are found in Europe and Asia with distinct populations.

The Asia subspecies, race robusta, breeds in Korea and Japan and winters in South East Asia. They nest near running water and have a diet of insects. They are called gray because of the color of the wings and back, despite the strong yellow on the belly. There are two species of similar birds called yellow wagtails (east and west) which have yellow on the throat.

This is the first time I’ve spotted the gray wagtail, both in the Europe and Japan and I am pleased to add it to my life list.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Spring Insects

I snapped some photos of various insects the past couple of weeks. We are in mid-spring (late April – early May) and there are many more bugs out and about. The photo above is of an assassin bug which we saw in the evening at a friend’s house. It was about the size of my thumbnail. The assassin bugs are a large, cosmopolitan family (7,000) of the order of “true bugs” or hemiptera.  They are terrestrial, ambush predators that are known for a painful sting with a long probiscus (underneath this specimen and cannot be seen). They also can be identified by the striped flanges on the abdomen.  The most famous assassin bug is the vinchuca a South American bug that is a vector for Chagas’ disease.

I spotted this flower chafer beetle in a park in Nishi Suita, a suburb next to hills of Minoh. Flower chafers are a 4000-species family of scarab beetles that are known for diurnal visits to flowers to eat pollen and nectar. When I tapped the stalk of the flower, the beetle quickly flew away.

Finally, due to my work in the Eco Club Junior at school, students always point out insects and creatures they see at school. Above is a hawk moth that I photographed in the courtyard of the school. There are over 1,700 species of hawk moths in the Sphingidae family. They are large moths best known for rapid and sustained flying ability due to their thin wings and streamlined bodies.

Cicadas – Symbol of the Japanese Summer

One of our initial impressions of Japan were the loud sounds of the cicadas. Our first couple of days were in the Senri Hankyu Hotel in the suburb of Senri Chuo. It is next to a long bike/running path and the sound was almost deafening. They were all over as well and the kids and I were catching them often and I can see why children here like to hunt them and keep them as temporary pets. In doing some research, I found this highly informative website. It is Japanese here also,. The cicada is known as the semi and they are very common all throughout the country, even in the cities.

There are 35 different species of cicadas in Japan, out of the 2000 worldwide and 650 in south east Asia. If would have known there was such a great website, I would have looked more closely at the cicadas and see how many we could have identified. I will definitely do this next summer and for the rest of the month.