Icy white 'blossoms' and a flourish of deep pink

| Mar 15, 2009

Icy white 'blossoms' and a flourish of deep pink

Each day last week I strapped on cross-country skis to patrol some trails quartering the primeval, 2,050-hectare Nopporo Forest adjoining Sapporo. I could feel the steady ticking away of the winter season as daytime temperatures topped freezing, though the nights were still below zero. ...

Celebrating a life with cranes

| Feb 15, 2009

Celebrating a life with cranes

In the dim gray light just before a winter’s dawn, a wash of sound emanates from some 12,000 tall, long-necked and long-legged birds as they awake in the fields of rural Kyushu. The bugling morning hubbub of massed ranks of cranes about to depart ...

In praise of 'Ice Birds'

| Dec 17, 2008

In praise of 'Ice Birds'

The rush, chatter and babble of a stream on a summer’s day is a great delight; the constantly shifting sounds make entrancing music and provide a wonderful source of entertainment for the wait-and-see naturalist. In autumn, drifting foliage brings flashes of color as the ...

Sweet dreams in the forest

| Nov 19, 2008

Sweet dreams in the forest

A gray wall of cloud is sweeping away my view, and the color is being leached from the mountains beyond Sapporo as the drabness of an early winter evening descends. A week of falling mercury, winds from the north and rainfall have whisked away ...

Let them eat whales!

| Oct 15, 2008

Let them eat whales!

Whales once fueled the industrialized world. First there was wood, then coal fired its steam engines alongside seal oil and whale oil that powered and lit the age of “dark satanic mills.” Once, too, whale meat fed coastal communities, while baleen provided strong flexible ...

Przewalski's Horses running free in Mongolia

| Sep 17, 2008

Przewalski's Horses running free in Mongolia

Imagine, if you can, the prehistoric cave-wall images of Lascaux in France springing to life, the animal likenesses breaking free of their multimillennia entrapment in pigment and rock. Imagine the blurred world of those days snapping back into focus and those ancient creatures reclaiming ...

Birds' heaven and hell

| Aug 20, 2008

Birds' heaven and hell

It is August already, and it’s a matter of life and death for certain seabirds. While southern species will already have run the gauntlet of the gulls, in the north it’s happening now. On clifftops and rock stacks, great pyriform eggs, patterned and blotched ...

Lives and a death

| Jul 16, 2008

Lives and a death

CHUKOTKA, Russia — This month, instead of writing this column as usual at my desk in Hokkaido, I am writing from a desk on board the Clipper Odyssey as we cross the Gulf of Anadyr in Russia’s far northeastern Chukotka region. Our voyage began ...

Aloft with ospreys, ultimate Fisher Kings

| Jun 18, 2008

Aloft with ospreys, ultimate Fisher Kings

There is a moment of commitment; a glint of scales just beneath the water’s surface is perhaps the trigger. As the bright-yellow eyes register the rippled light patterns, the brain is already identifying them as potential food, computing distance, assessing direction, considering depth. The ...