Singing the praises of sparrows

| Feb 21, 2010

Singing the praises of sparrows

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In a rush of small wings, a fluttering, chirruping, congregation of familiar birds — Eurasian tree sparrows — descended on the bush in front of me. They chattered noisily among themselves, each shifting its position almost constantly as if unsure whether it had the ...

Tuning in to Alaskan bears

| Dec 20, 2009

Tuning in to Alaskan bears

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With temperatures falling steadily, amazing things are happening in the natural world. Among plants, insects, birds and mammals there are so many different strategies for coping with the cold season that my head spins trying to grasp them all as wildlife sightings change week ...

Notable memories and ones forgotten

| Nov 15, 2009

Notable memories and ones forgotten

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On my most recent journey overseas, to southern Brazil, a fellow traveler gave me a large Moleskine-brand notebook. Though grateful for the present, at first I was uncertain what to do with it. I generally use a particular-size pocket notebook to write up all ...

Wildlife on your doorstep

| Oct 18, 2009

Wildlife on your doorstep

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To be brutally honest, wildlife photography is mostly about having the means to get to amazing places, where wildlife still abounds. Then it takes heaps of patience. And the final ingredient is a good eye to capture the moment. Oh, yes, and a camera. ...

Back where they belong

| Aug 16, 2009

Back where they belong

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High in the fork of a tall tree on a wooded slope close to narrow rice paddies on Sado Island in the Sea of Japan off Nigata Prefecture was a flimsy, ragged nest made of twigs. It didn’t look like anything special, but its ...

Tune in to nature's sounds

| Jul 19, 2009

Tune in to nature's sounds

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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'

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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

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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

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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 ...