Serendipities abound in a wintery wonderland

| Dec 16, 2004

Serendipities abound in a wintery wonderland

Recently I spotted a Quetzal from Central America, a Snowy Owl from the Arctic, a Short-tailed Albatross from a remote Pacific island — and a hovering Skylark. Amazingly they were all together, along with woodpeckers and barbets, thrushes and flycatchers, finches, frigate birds, other ...

On the woodland trail of sprites and fungal delight

| Oct 21, 2004

On the woodland trail of sprites and fungal delight

Common sounds in the hill forests of northern Japan these days are the thin “tsiping” calls of Black-faced Buntings elusively flitting through the dwarf bamboo, as enormous numbers of them head south to milder climes. Meanwhile, higher up in the canopy, amid the calls ...

The changes that come what may

| Sep 16, 2004

The changes that come what may

The arrival of just one dramatic, even devastating, typhoon, storming to the center of the seasonal stage like a massively overblown diva with a case of bad timing, is enough to signal autumn is on its way. This year the global signs of the ...

Down in the grim intertidal zone

| Aug 19, 2004

Down in the grim intertidal zone

A coffee-shop friend of mine recently summed up his appreciation of our local lowland forest just outside Sapporo, saying: “You know, it’s wonderful here; every season is the best season.” And, you know, he has a powerful point. I believe, though, that it is ...

'Hideous alien' had an exotic past

| Jul 15, 2004

'Hideous alien' had an exotic past

Sometimes accidentally, sometimes to order, we humans transport a bewildering array of species about the world. Many of them wither under the regimens of their new environments; alas, some thrive to the detriment of the locals. A beloved native in one part of the ...

| Jun 17, 2004

Some pictures worth 1,000 words

I take my hat off to those folk who can draw and paint. What a wonderfully inspiring skill. And when they can illustrate living creatures in lifelike form then I am in awe. What has prompted this outpouring is the fact that I am ...

| Apr 15, 2004

Fungal alchemists snatch bodies to live

Step back in time a mere 1,000 million years and the three great domains of the Plantae, Animalia and Fungi shared a common ancestor. What’s even more surprising, though, is that fungi are more closely related to animals than they are to plants. That ...

The wonder that is winter

| Mar 18, 2004

The wonder that is winter

The seasons have a powerful effect on me, which perhaps explains my need to anthropomorphize and personify them. Temperate Japan’s six distinct seasons roll on inexorably: spring, rainy, summer, typhoon, autumn and winter. Though battered and bruised by the perceptible effects of global climate ...

Distance lends enchantment

| Feb 19, 2004

Distance lends enchantment

Take a look at a map of the west side of the Pacific and you’ll find a fractured scatter of islands from the Kuriles south of Kamchatka, through Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, New Guinea and New Caledonia all the way to New Zealand and ...