More Japanese Urban Wildlife

In summer the only garden birds which visit seed feeders in Yokohama seem to be the ever-present tree sparrows, Japanese tits (Parus minor) and oriental turtle doves. While sparrows flee at the slightest movement of the curtain, turties don’t mind being looked at through a window. Sometimes they even sit at the balcony rail and peek inside the house curiously. Below is one of the three regulars, surveying the garden from the feeding station before descending onto the feeding table with racing pigeon seed mix that it likes very much.

oriental turtle dove.JPG

Turtle doves show amorous behaviour throughout much of the year. Their courtship display is quite amusing to watch and listen to. The male first makes a sound resembling someone breaking wind to grab their mate’s attention (yes, you read that right), then proceeds to bow while purring: trrr-trrr-trrr. Turtle dove males seem very insistent, displaying for a long time while following their female, stepping on food trays from which she’s eating, hopping into water dishes from which she’s drinking. I’m not sure if there is a difference between courting an unmated female or displaying to a mate hoping for some intimate moments. All the turties I’ve watched seemed to already be couples.

Japanese tits come to the garden for sunflower seeds, adding some variety to their mostly invertebrate-based summer diet.


An unusual find on the porch one day was this cuddly death’s head hawk-moth. I moved it away from the street, as Japanese children like to pick up creepy crawlies and take them home to keep as pets. It’s usually mantises and large beetles (rhino, stag) that fall prey to children, but a moth of this size might also attract attention and end up in a plastic tub…

death's head hawkmoth.JPG

Despite their scary-sounding name, these moths are prime candidates for the cutest moths out there. When disturbed, such as when picked up, they squeak. It’s the most adorable squeak ever. There are youtube videos of squeaking moths, so you can hear what it’s like without the need to go around poking sleepy death’s head hawkmoths.

Around this time of the year the city parks become very noisy – with the chirps and droning of insects. The day shift of cicadas hasn’t yet fully started but crickets are making quite a racket. Soon insect song will drown out the traffic noise. To me, that’s a wonderful thing. Most of the exciting large invertebrates stay out of sight during the day and taking photos at night just doesn’t work for me, so here are some day-time easy-to-photo highlights. First, an Orthetrum melania dragonfly (male; the females are yellow), the most common dragonfly at this time in Yokohama, or at least the parks I’ve been to.


One day hiking in a larger park I was cursing my luck for having seen not a single reptile, amphibian nor bird that I could’ve seen in any residential district in Yokohama. I was feeling quite dispirited and decided to put away the binoculars and change the focus of the trip to smaller critters. As soon as I had a closer look at leaves of the nearest shrub, I noticed a beautiful tiny animal, a Mesorhaga nebulosus fly with a colourful, metallic shine to its body. It belongs to the long-legged flies family and likes sunny spots on the edges of groves and forests.


And this is a parasitic wasp, I think the giant ichneumon. The long ovipositor is used to lay eggs deep in the branches or trunks of living trees.


Finally, a bird! It’s a Chinese Hwamei, a non-native species in Japan. The wild-living population originated with escaped pets. I didn’t get close enough for a good shot, but you can see the white “spectacles” which make identifying this species very easy.


Lastly, some fungus, growing in a soil-filled hole where a tree trunk split into two, as if in its own pot. I don’t have a book on Japanese fungi, so I cannot say much about it. It makes me think of four cap-wearing individuals having a secret meeting in a secluded spot, with a fifth one eavesdropping at the back. The two spots of dirt on one of the fruiting bodies even look like eyes…



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