Why do birds of a feather tend to flock together?

| Jan 3, 2002

Why do birds of a feather tend to flock together?

“Flocks” read the sign outside the onsen, or so I thought. My bird brain immediately clicked into “Hey, an onsen for birders.” But why in remote Higashi Mokoto, Hokkaido? Surely it wasn’t “Frocks?” A women-only onsen? But no, men were most definitely welcome. So ...

| Dec 20, 2001

People may fear it, but many trees thrive on fire

In the melange of pagan midwinter mythology and religion that we now call “Christmas,” trees, particularly evergreens, have come to occupy a prominent place in the festivities. In times gone by, mistletoe and holly were most common, but since the 17th century the Christmas ...

Dec 9, 2001

The heat's on nature in Japan

Think of Japan 100 years from now. The average global temperature has risen by up to 6 degrees, and here is no exception. Just as the cherry blossom wave passes up the country each spring, the frontier of many species, both plant and animal, ...

Nature allows for few winners in the face of fire

| Dec 6, 2001

Nature allows for few winners in the face of fire

Fire! It’s a word that strikes terror. Images of leaping, roaring, scorching flames spring to mind; images of billowing smoke and suffocating fumes; of people and other creatures great and small fleeing for their lives. Within seconds, the awful, fearful unreality of a major ...

Alien killers revel in 'cute pet' role

| Nov 22, 2001

Alien killers revel in 'cute pet' role

As a family, cats have successfully colonized the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia, with only Australia among the larger landmasses lacking native species. They range in size from the immense Siberian tiger to the diminutive black-footed cat of southern Africa, and take an equally ...

| Oct 25, 2001

Serendipity in Hokkaido's autumnal air

It was just a bridge, not even a special bridge. The Heiwa Bridge spans the eastern end of Lake Tofutsu in northeastern Hokkaido. To the north there is a narrow neck of wooded land and then the Okhotsk Sea. To the south lies more ...

| Oct 18, 2001

Rare hybrids on evolution's way to where?

Humans like rules as a way of ordering the world into familiar and comfortable patterns. For naturalists, one of the basic rules is the concept of biological species, which forms the basis of modern biodiversity and conservation studies. An iguana unlike any other, being ...

| Oct 4, 2001

Marveling at mammalian masters of flight

I have dreamed of flying since childhood, and perhaps that is why I am obsessed with flying creatures. As ground-hugging humans, we readily identify with our fellow terrestrial mammals, assuming, easily enough, that being earthbound is a natural state for life on earth. But, ...

Sep 30, 2001

Alien invaders

They arrive in bunches of bananas; they turn up in containers of vegetables; they sneak in hidden inside rattan and wooden furniture; they disembark from among shipped household possessions, industrial and military equipment. They are as pervasive as the computer server virus Nimda, but, ...