Noisy bulbuls change with the seasons

| Mar 8, 2014

Noisy bulbuls change with the seasons

On cold winter mornings the bulbuls come squawking their full-throated calls as they swoop onto bird-feeders, their white-tipped gray breast feathers appearing frosted by the chill. There, they will eat bread crusts and seeds — or halved mikans given a chance — but in ...

Weather in Japan: from balmy to barmy

| Feb 8, 2014

Weather in Japan: from balmy to barmy

The division of Japan into distinct climatic zones means that anyone traveling around the country will normally encounter quite predictable demands in terms of clothing requirements; while for those in any one area the local weather forecast will be correct more often than not. ...

Seasons come and go — but when?

| Jan 11, 2014

Seasons come and go — but when?

Another new year has arrived and a Hokkaido blizzard is tearing past my window, drifting snow onto every surface as if it means to drown out the world in whiteness. Thankfully it also brings a muffling silence into which thoughts pop and crackle. As ...

Mammals choose when to reward my quest

| Nov 9, 2013

Mammals choose when to reward my quest

My thoughts were miles away as I crossed the parking lot outside my Hokkaido home. Then a nagging doubt intruded: Had there — or had there not — just been a formless blur of movement on the ground beyond my car? I had certainly ...

Just picture that — and know how to

| Oct 12, 2013

Just picture that — and know how to

A sleek, black anchor shape, etched against the blue sky, hurtles in pursuit of prey. A Northern Hobby, a flashy falcon, is chasing dragonflies. Sighting one alone speaks to me of summer in Hokkaido, especially with its mate brooding or feeding a growing fledgling ...

Building a case for birds

| Jul 20, 2013

Building a case for birds

Many people would consider Stonehenge in southwest England or the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt — which both date from around 4,600 years ago — among the crowning glories of human achievement. In Japan, Kyoto’s 14th-century Rokuon-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion) or ...

Cycads: 'living fossils' with a deadly twist

| Jun 16, 2013

Cycads: 'living fossils' with a deadly twist

Almost two months after revelers in most of Japan began partying beneath cherry blossoms in mid-March this year, we hardy northerners in Hokkaido were still waiting patiently for warm zephyrs to waft in with a late promise of spring. When I returned home on ...