Tune in to nature's sounds

| Jul 19, 2009

Tune in to nature's sounds

by Mark Brazil

The phenomenal diversity of Japan, in its landscapes, climates, ecosystems, fauna and flora, has enthralled me for more than a quarter of a century. For part of each year I am extremely fortunate to be able to travel the length and breadth of the ...

'Spotted snakes, with double tongue'

| Jun 21, 2009

'Spotted snakes, with double tongue'

by Mark Brazil

In ages past we humans relied on natural phenomena and omens from nature to guide us in our understanding of seasonal events and our attempts to make predictions about the uncertain future. There can have been few greater mysteries affecting us then than the ...

Mayhem, madness and bumps in the night

| May 17, 2009

Mayhem, madness and bumps in the night

by Mark Brazil

Picture this: Darkness; a strong wind blowing; fog thickening and swirling; the ceaseless crashing of waves against a rocky shore. Not a night for nature observation you may think, but think again. My companions, Angus Macindoe and Mayumi Kanamura, and I — veterans now ...

A rip and a burp and the land is ours

| Apr 19, 2009

A rip and a burp and the land is ours

by Mark Brazil

It’s that time of year when Japan’s media are meticulously monitoring the iconic cherry-blossom front as it passes up through the archipelago in a wave of warming temperatures and bursting buds. But have you ever imagined what it might be like to see Japan ...

Celebrating a life with cranes

| Feb 15, 2009

Celebrating a life with cranes

by Mark Brazil

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'

by Mark Brazil

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

by Mark Brazil

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!

by Mark Brazil

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

by Mark Brazil

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

by Mark Brazil

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 ...