Mostly Butterflies, Yokohama, Japan

Yokohama isn’t a particularly green city. It’s a concrete desert much like Tokyo, only on a smaller scale. There are numerous tiny parks though, and while many are merely paved over or concrete playgrounds for children with maybe a few small trees or shrubs around, some (hills, usually) are tiny forests. There is also the middle ground of “vast lawn interspersed with shrubs and trees” kind of park. In some parts of Yokohama these small and often very different parks are connected, forming a few kilometre-long trails frequented by joggers and dog walkers, which also have the added benefit of making it easier for urban wildlife to move around.

Another nice aspect of parks in that city is the abundance of water – every slightly larger park seems to have a pond or stream, or a river nearby. Little egrets patrolling the streams have learned to ignore passers-by, as long as they keep to the paths, grey herons and kingfishers share fishing ponds with elderly fishing hobbyists who sometimes offer their smaller catch to the expectant birds. Parks aren’t closed at night and it’s not unusual to see joggers well past midnight, with their eyes fixed on the path and paying no attention to black-crowned night herons concealed as best they can among the sparse stream bank foliage, with bats catching insects overhead, geckoes looking on from walls, crayfish crawling out from the muddy shallows where they hide during the day, and the multitude of toads, frogs and crickets filling the night air with their songs.

During the day the most eye-catching and easiest to photograph creatures are the butterflies which come to feast on wildflowers in the brief time they are allowed to bloom in between mowings. Ornamental flowers do also attract them, but to a lesser extent. I suspect they produce less nectar.

Below: male Indian fritillary.


And the same butterfly with wings closed…


The female of the species:


Below is some species of skipper. These furry btterflies are often confused with moths.


Below: nettle tree butterfly. The long “nose” of this species earned it the Japanese name “tengu butterfly”. Tengu are mythical crow-winged creatures with comically long noses.

Libythea celtis_nettle tree butterfly

Common bluebottle butterflies love red clover.

Graphium sarpedon_common_bluebottle_buttefly.png

And here are some butterflies licking the pavement. Moisture from the ground provides them with minerals. The first one is some kind of a hair-streak.


Red ring skirt, with its banana-yellow proboscis.


A sleeping moth on a tree trunk, conveniently at eye-level. It was a true beast, at least 8 centimetres long.


Overall, there were more butterflies along not-yet-mowed road and stream verges than on the main park grounds. I’m not sure why park authorities consider bare ground or grass cut so low it resembles a spiky fitted carpet to be neat and tidy, while delicate, colourful wildflowers which grow without any special care, offering food for insects including many eye-candy species appealing to the general public are written off as undesirable “weeds” to be removed as soon as possible. Mowing a little less frequently would save the city some money, reduce noise pollution, and make the parks more vibrant with life. Maybe they will warm up to the idea if more park users express their fondness of common flowers?




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