Sunday, July 25, 2010

Considering Food Mileage

It is a little embarrassing to make my personal life public, but I decided to do so, because I gave a little thought about how we are eating.

This is our yesterday's breakfast. Ingredients are:

Pancakes: Locally-grown low-pesticide flour, locally- & organically-grown eggs, sugar grown in Okinawa, & milk and butter from locally-raised cows
Syrup: Locally-grown & endemic black currant preserve, & maple syrup from Canada
Coffee: Coffee beans from various countries including Guatemala, Kenya and Brazil. & milk from locally-raised cows.

From time to time, we switch between Locally-grown beet sugar and cane sugar from Okinawa, and use our garden-grown cherry, mulberry or blueberry preserves when we can.

We try to obtain our food from local farmers or from within the country whenever possible. We are not too fussy about organics but try to stick to "safer" food. We also try to avoid the apparently "mass-produced" food items. I believe we should be able to keep the food mileage down that way, thus cutting fossil fuel used in transporting food from far away.

But then, I cannot do away without coffee and maple syrup imported from Canada is irresistiblly delicious.

Morning Haze

The mountains I see every day look different from day to day, and from season to season. We begin to see morning haze more often from the end of July on. "It is beginning to happen already," I say to myself. Early morning temperatures especially in mountains are getting suffciently low to create haze as shown in this photo. Yes. Morning Haze is a sign of rapid approach of the autumn.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cicada (3)

And finally, metamorphosis complete!


He has just been out of the skin, having spread out the wings in perfect shape, and waiting for the body to color and harden. He is clinging tightly to its old skin. His life probably depends solely on how firm he anchored the forelimbs, which is now a lifeless skeleton.

The color of the newly emerged body was so similar to those of the surrounding green leaves that it took me a while to find him.


This year, I've been lucky. I saw all three stages of this cicada (Tibicen bihamatus): the larval stage just before emerging(photo), the stage in which the adult cicada has just been out & still green and the adult stage which is usually difficult to see because they eventually climb so high up to the canopy of the forest.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Not a satisfying shot

I could photograph this female Mandarin Duck with such an ease. But I am not really happy about it. Why? Because she was lazily lying on the grass just 5 ft away from me. She's become so tame as the result of repeated feeding by people. She's lost her wild instincts, which makes me sad. Mandarin Ducks are usually really shy and wary of humans. That's how they should be.

Excessive feeding by man often causes epidemics among the birds attracted to feeding sites. We should think twice about feeding wild animals in general. It is best not to artificially attract them to human food and not to rob them of the chance to explore their natural and thus healthier food.

What humans have done to the environment(3)

Another traffic accident involving a teal. Feathers were scattering because the body was being eaten by kites and crows. Humans aren't the only ones that travel across the road. We should drive with more care and at reduced speeds. That way, we should be able to enjoy the scenery also.

What humans have done to the environment(2)

Not a pleasant sight to see, but it is happening all over especially in the areas where automobiles go by at the speed birds cannot cope with. If the automobile that hit this juvenile stonechat had been moving 10km/h more slowly, she wouldn't have to lose her life which had lasted for only 20 days or so. It is so important to drive safe & slow not just for humans but for other animals.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What humans have done to the environment (1)

I often come across snails, snakes, slugs, earthworms, caterpillars or other slow-moving animals on paved roads. They are trying desparately to "run back" to safety , but their speed is not fast enough so they won't get hit by cars, or even by bicycles. While there are a number of more serious environmental problems, our daily ordinary & convenient lifestyles are also posing threats to many living things --they are often unnoticed.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The sun is moving away from us

I took this photo on July 5th 2009, exactly one year ago.

More than 2 weeks have passed since the Summer Solstice now. The sun is moving away from us slowly but steadily. It is not strong enough to illuminate the forest floor even at the hours it comes in from sideways.

Song birds are almost all gone by now. Even resident birds, particularly the small-sized ones, leave the area temporarily to find food in the areas where there's more light and thus more food.

Now the forest is the realm of woodpeckers, squirrels, wasps and summer butterflies.

Evening Event (1)

When I'd seen this couple several minutes before, the male was dancing in front of the female, the one with a larger and plump abdomen. When I came back, the male took her under control and was ready to insert the sperm capsule which looks like a red droplet beneath the red fangs. The courtship of carnivorous arthropods is really a life-or-death event. Males have to pay extra caution not to get eaten by the prospective mate.
It was beginning to get dark. I don't know if the male could successfully flee after mating.

The Pupae

This photo is of another pupa found on the same day. Found only half a meter from the previous one. It seems to be a different species. I can't wait till they come out.

The pupae

I visited the woods a few days later to find it turning into a nice-looking pupa.

I felt really happy for him. But on the other hand, there is no guarantee it can metamorphose to a butterfly. It might be infested with parasites. No one knows. And I only have to wait & see.

Observing caterpillars pupating, I came to realize that there are certain things that you must do absolutely by yourself. We can help each other in other things like washing dishes and carrying heavy loads.

But when it comes to something that takes place within you, you have to metamorphose alone. Or rather, help may hinder the metamorphosis. Of course, we can help indirectly along the way. But in the case of pupating caterpillars, you should not touch them directly even if you want to help them shed their skin more quickly.

Pupating Caterpillers

This time of the year, I don't have time during the day to take pictures of the living things I love. After my work is over, I rush to the woods while it is still light to manage taking several photos.
I only have about one hour to stroll around and find out how the creatures are doing. It is sometimes too dark for photographing, but very often I can encounter exciting events and animals that I can never see under the hot and bright sunlight.
One of such encounters was pupating caterpillars. They hung upsidedown from a fense surrounding a pond. They waited for the metamorphosis within their body to take place, slowly shedding the skin.
It was getting dark and the forest was becoming silent, which meant that predators were becoming inactive.
I found four of such pupating caterpillars almost in synchrony. The photo is a pupating Argynnis paphia.