Kuroiwa’s Ground Gecko, Endangered species!

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Kuroiwa’s Ground Gecko is a beautiful lizard found throughout the Ryukyu Islands. It is currently listed endangered on the IUCN red list of threatened species.  This lizard is decreasing in numbers due to poaching, deforestation, and the threat of feral cats. The lizard is high valued in the illegal pet trade market and needs to protected. This is one of my favorite reptiles to photograph on my night adventures in Okinawa.

  • Scientific name: Goniurosaurus kuroiwae
  • Distribution:  Okinawa Islands
  • Habitat:  Leaf littered forests 
  • Diet:  Worms and insects
  • Average Size:  110mm -130mm
Featured- Wildlife As Canon Sees.  National Geographic October 2017

Shawn Miller Featured- Wildlife As Canon Sees. National Geographic October 2017

Kuroiwa's Ground Gecko

Kuroiwa’s Ground Gecko

This is the first ground gecko I photographed in 2010. I found it under a piece of carpet in Onna Village. Illegal dumping is a huge problem in Okinawa.

1st Ground Gecko

1st Ground Gecko

In the daytime they live in caves, crevices and holes in the ground

Kuroiwa's Ground Gecko

Kuroiwa’s Ground Gecko

They come out to feed at night.  

Kuroiwa's Ground Gecko

Kuroiwa’s Ground Gecko

When they feel threatened they will stand up on all fours and try to intimate you with a stare down.

Kuroiwa's Ground Gecko

Kuroiwa’s Ground Gecko

Photographed on white for the Meet your neighbours global biodiversity project. All images are used for conservation awareness and educational purposes.

Kuroiwa's Ground Gecko -MYN

Goniurosaurus kuroiwae orientalis – Ie Island

A wide angle macro perspective .

Ground gecko -WAM

Ground gecko -Wide angle macro

Pay attention to crossing wildlife!

Kuroiwa's ground gecko -endangered

Kuroiwa’s ground gecko -endangered

Kuroiwa's ground gecko

Kuroiwa’s ground gecko top view

 

Let’s protect the beautiful animals of Okinawa!

Have a great day!

 

Patterns, textures and colors ! Underwater Macro Photography by Shawn Miller

Okinawa offers some of the best Scuba-Diving in the world. I really enjoy the Art of Underwater Macro Photography.  Macro subjects can always be found, it just takes some imagination and good framing to create beautiful underwater abstracts.  Pattern’s, textures and vibrant colors generally stand out in underwater photography.

Equipment used 

  • Camera: Canon 70d with Canon 100mm&60mm
  • Housing: Ikelite underwater housing
  • Stobes: Ikelite DS160 & DS 200
  • Modeling lights: Light&Motion Gobe 800, Sola 3800 and Sola 1200
  • Specialized lights: Light&Motion Sola Nightsea

All images were taken in the beautiful waters of the Ryukyu Islands. Underwater Photography by Shawn Miller.

Cushion starfish (Culcita novaeguineae) 100mm

Cushion starfish (Culcita novaeguineae) © Shawn Miller

Coral (Favia sp)

Coral (Favia sp) © Shawn Miller

Deep water coral (Tubastrea micrantha)

Deep water coral (Tubastrea micrantha) © Shawn Miller

Pedum spondyloidum- coral scallop

Pedum spondyloidum- coral scallop © Shawn Miller

Feather star

Feather star © Shawn Miller

Stichopus variegatus sea cucumber- 100mm

(Stichopus variegatus) sea cucumber © Shawn Miller

Sea fan (Annella mollis )

Sea fan (Annella mollis ) © Shawn Miller

Favia sp coral closeup

Favia sp coral closeup © Shawn Miller

Feather duster worm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)

Feather duster worm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi) © Shawn Miller

granulated sea star (Choriaster granulatus)

granulated sea star (Choriaster granulatus) © Shawn Miller

Crocea clam (Tridacna Crocea)

Crocea clam (Tridacna Crocea) © Shawn Miller

(Pachyseris speciosa) Ringed plate coral

(Pachyseris speciosa) Ringed plate coral © Shawn Miller

Razor coral

Razor coral © Shawn Miller

striped triplefin (Helcogramma striata) on coral

Striped triplefin (Helcogramma striata) on coral © Shawn Miller

coral of okinawa

coral of okinawa © Shawn Miller

bubble coral (Plerogyra sinuosa

Bubble coral (Plerogyra sinuosa) © Shawn Miller

Dive safe and have a great day!

 

Ornate narrow mouth frog – Amphibians of Okinawa by Shawn Miller

The Ornate narrow-mouth frog (Microhyla ornata) is found throughout the Ryukyu Islands. It is one of the smallest frogs found on Okinawa. It can be extremely hard to find due to its small size.

  • Scientific name: Microhyla ornata
  • Common name: Ornate narrow mouth frog, ant frog and ornate pygmy frog
  • Distribution: Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat: Forests, mountain slopes, drainage ditches and farm fields.
  • Diet: Ants, termites and small insects
  • Average size: 15mm-25mm
  • Color: brown
Ornate narrow mouth frog -Okinawa

Ornate narrow mouth frog -Okinawa

I have found this beautiful frog in the Yanbaru forest, local parks, drainage ditches and even common walking trails in central Okinawa.

Yanbaru forest  -Northern Okinawa

Yanbaru forest -Tokina magic

This small frog is a master of camouflage. I often find it on rocks, plants and leaves during my night walks.

Ornate rice frog -Ryukyu Islands

Ornate rice frog -Ryukyu Islands

 

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Ornate rice frog -Onna village

Photographed on a white portable studio for the Meet your neighbours project                 - dedicated to connecting people worldwide with the wildlife in their community -

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Meet your neighbours project by Shawn Miller

Have a great day!

Ryukyu flying fox – Bats of Okinawa

The Ryukyu flying fox is the largest bat found throughout the Ryukyu Islands. This large bat often startles people on night walks. No need to worry, it is not a threat to humans. This large fruit bat feeds on fruit, seeds and nectar. It is currently listed as vulnerable on the IUCN list of Threatened species.

  • Scientific name: Pteropus dasymallus
  • Common name: Ryukyu flying fox and fruit bat
  • Distribution: Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat: Dense forests and neighborhood parks 
  • Diet: Fruit, seeds and nectar
  • Average size: 300-350mm
  • Color: Brown and orange

These large fruit bats are nocturnal and feed during the night.

Ryukyu flying fox

Ryukyu flying fox

They can also be found during the day hiding high up in trees.

Ryukyu flying fox

Ryukyu flying fox

Fruit bat in Ryukyu pine tree

Fruit bat in Ryukyu pine tree

On rare occasions they can be found feeding on the cherry blossoms in daylight.

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Ryukyu flying fox

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Ryukyu flying fox feeding on cherry blossoms

A mother and young found in a secluded part of the Yanbaru forest.

Ryukyu flying fox with young

Ryukyu flying fox feeding

Have a great day!

 

The Good, the Bad or the Evil – The Crow’s of Okinawa

The Jungle crow (Corvus macrorhynchos) is found throughout the Ryukyu Islands. They are abundant here and can be found all over Okinawa. Populations have increased due to the readily available food, left on the side of the road and in dumpsters. Its important to keep your trash enclosed in cages to prevent the crows from getting to it.

  • Scientific name: Corvus macrorhynchos
  • Local name: Jungle crow
  • Distribution:  Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat:  Farms,cities ,forests and grasslands.
  • Diet:  Eats almost everything
  • Average size:  50cm  body length 
  • Color:  Black
Jungle crow -Okinawa Japan

Jungle crow -Okinawa Japan

The farmers in Onna village put up this deterant to keep the crows from coming back.

Crow cross -Onna village

Crow cross -Onna village

Crows can be viscous predators. They often harass other birds, showing off their strength.

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These intelligent birds work as a team to get what they want. I have personally seen them raid baby birds from the nest. I have seen them fly away with juvenile woodpeckers, rails and swallows.

Crow taking the okinawa woodpecker from the nest

Crow taking the okinawa woodpecker from the nest

To control the population of jungle crows in northern Okinawa, they use large traps to catch them in. One way in and no way out !

Crow trap - Northern Okinawa

Crow trap – Northern Okinawa

Possibly a strange growth that occurred from an injury (broken beak). Could this be one of the few crows that made a successful escape from a trap.

A crow with a hook beak

A crow with a extended hook beak

As much as we dislike the crow, they do have a purpose in the ecosystem. They clean the dead animals (road kill) off the road, keeping our environment clean from rotting carcasses. I often see them feeding on cats, snakes, lizards, birds and rats dead in the road.

Mongoose -roadkill

Mongoose -roadkill

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Crows eating roadkill -Okinawa

They also feed on the large green caterpillars that destroy the farmers taro (Taanmu) crops in Kin village

Crows of Okinawa

Crows of Okinawa -The Regulators

Have a great day!

 

Sea Turtle Art Show – Okinawa, Japan

Please come out to the Sea Turtle Art show on August 12th 2017. The event will take place at the Okinawa Brewing Company at 2:00-6:00 pm. We will have original art work, prints and postcards for sale.  This is a collaboration with local artists to bring awareness to sea turtle conservation and what you can do to save our oceans. Part of the profits will be donated to sea turtle conservation and related causes.

* CJ and friends will be performing live music for the event.

Turtle art show

Turtle art show

Baby sea turtle making the journey to the ocean. Okinawa, Japan.

Baby sea turtles leaving the nest

Baby sea turtles leaving the nest – Photography by Shawn Miller

The beautiful sea turtles of the Ryukyu Islands

Green Sea Turtle

Green Sea Turtle -Photography by Shawn Miller

Our trash is becoming a serious problem on our shorelines. All of us can do better to reduce our waste and protect out natural environment.

Trash on our shorelines

Trash on our shorelines -Photography by Shawn Miller

I often find single use items washed on our shorelines. Plastic bags, forks, spoons, pet bottles,straws, razors, medicine prescription containers, flip flops, hair combs, tooth brushes, bento boxes, Styrofoam, shotgun shells, and rope are the common items washed ashore.

Beach trash -hermit crabs

Beach trash - Crabs with beach trash homes by Shawn Miller

The event turnout was better than expected. A big thanks to all that supported the event and to the contributors and local artists.

A few photographs of the event  -

Turtle art show -Okinawa, Japan

Turtle art show   “The wall of art “

Turtle art show -Okinawa, Japan

Turtle art show -Okinawa, Japan

Turtle art show –  Pollution print

Turtle art show – Laowa 12mm F2.8 D dreamer perspective

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Good times at Okinawa brewing company-

Have a great day !

 

Ryukyu green snake – Reptiles of Okinawa by Shawn Miller

The Ryukyu Green snake (Cyclophiops semicaricartus) is a non-venomous snake found throughout the Ryukyu Islands. They are fairly common here on Okinawa. I often find them in the Yanbaru forest. They are harmless and pose no threat to your safety.

  • Scientific name: Cyclophiops semicaricartus
  • Local name: Ryukyu Ao Hebi - Ryukyu Green snake
  • Distribution:  Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat:  Forests and grasslands
  • Diet:  Earth worms
  • Average size:  60cm -80cm
  • Color:  Olive green with a yellow belly
 Ryukyu Green snake (Cyclophiops semicaricartus)

Ryukyu Green snake (Cyclophiops semicaricartus)

There’s a snake on my snake boot! I highly recommend wearing snake boots while herping in northern Okinawa.  Check out my post on venomous snakes of Okinawa for more info.

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Snake boot – Ryukyu Green snake (Cyclophiops semicaricartus)

A juvenile Ryukyu green snake interested in the Canon 100mm 2.8 lens.

Ryukyu snake on the Canon 100mm macro lens

Ryukyu snake on the Canon 100mm macro lens

The snakes are sometimes found crossing the road a night.

 Ryukyu Green snake (Cyclophiops semicaricartus)

Ryukyu Green snake (Cyclophiops semicaricartus)

The  Ryukyu Green snake feeds on earth worms, no need to kill it.

Road Kill - Ryukyu Green snake (Cyclophiops semicaricartus)

Road Kill – Ryukyu Green snake and beetles

Have a great day – Shawn Miller

The Coconut Crab – Terrestrial hermit crabs of the Ryukyu Islands

Coconut crabs are the largest terrestrial hermit crabs of the Ryukyu Islands. They are scarce on the Island of Okinawa due to over-hunting. They are sold in local fish markets for high prices. The meat of the the coconut crab is sought after and considered a delicacy.  No conservation programs are set in place to protect this native crab. It is currently listed as data deficient on the IUCN list of Threatened species.

  • Scientific name: Birgus latro
  • Common name: Coconut crab, robber crab and palm thief
  • Distribution: Majority of the Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat: Coastal forest
  • Diet: Seeds, fruit and carrion
  • Average size: 20-40 centimeters
  • Color: Purple, blue or orange
Coconut crab- Okinawa

Coconut crab- Okinawa

How to tell the difference between a coconut crab and a hermit crab. They look very similar to the blueberry hermit crab at first, but the coconut crab has protective spines near its eyes. Hermit crabs do not have these spines since they have adapted to retreat into a shell to protect their eyes. The coconut crab does not depend on a seashell as it gets larger. I still have yet to find a juvenile coconut crab adapting with a seashell.

spines that protect the eyes

spines that protect the eyes

Terrestrial hermit crabs live in the coastal forest where the treeline and coastline meet. They are the caretakers of the coastal forest. They mainly feed on plants, flowers, fruits and seeds in the treeline. They also help disperse seeds in the forest, specifically the screw pine tree seeds.

The Climber- robber crab

The Climber- Adult coconut crab

Pandanus trees with spiky sword shaped leaves provide a perfect environment for the Coconut crabs to thrive.

Pandus odifer

Pandus odifer – favorite food

A juvenile climbing on Pandanus tree

Juvenile coconut crab - Okinawa

Juvenile coconut crab – Okinawa

Okinawa’s harsh limestone coastline. The female must make the journey over this rough terrain to lay her eggs in the ocean.

Coconut crab - Onna village

Coconut crab – Onna village

Photographed on on a white portable outdoor studio for the Meet Your neighbours project. ( Connecting people worldwide with the wildlife in their community )

Coconut crab- MYN technique

Coconut crab- MYN technique

Meet Crabzilla! – The most aggressive crab I have encountered on Okinawa.   Coconut crabs are fearless and have bone crushing power. You do not want to get caught by the claw, You play you will Pay!!

Crabzilla -Okinawa

Crabzilla -Okinawa

Coconut crabs spend their day hiding in burrows.  They venture out searching for food late at night.  This juvenile was found crossing the road.

Let's dance- Coconut crab

Let’s dance- Coconut crab

Have a great day!

 

 

Akamata – Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

The Ryukyu odd-tooth snake (Dinodon semicarinatum) is a non-venomous snake found throughout the Ryukyu Islands. They are fairly common here on Okinawa and are usually found at night. The Akamata is a natural enemy of the venomous Habu snake. They are one of the few snakes capable of feeding on venomous pit vipers.  More effort should be focused on conserving this native snake for this specific reason. This beautiful snake has been overlooked and needs to be protected. Sadly I see more dead in the road than alive.

  • Scientific name:  Dinodon semicarinatum
  • Local name:  Akamata – Ryukyu odd-tooth snake
  • Distribution:  Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat:  Forests, drainage ditches and housing areas
  • Diet:  Snakes, lizards, frogs, snakes, birds, baby sea turtles and rodents.
  • Average size:  100cm -180cm
  • Color:  Black, orange with a yellow belly.

They are often found crossing the road at night.

Akamata - Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

Akamata – Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

Ready to strike ! A example of what the Akamata looks like when it is threatened.

Akamata - Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

Akamata – Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

Photographed on a white for the Meet Your Neighbours Project. (Connecting People Worldwide with the Wildlife in their Community)

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Ryukyu odd-tooth snake -MYN

Slow and low perspective -

Crossing the road - Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

Crossing the road – Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

A juvenile Akamata feeding on a common gecko tail first.

Akamata feeding on a gecko - tail first

Akamata feeding on a gecko – tail first

A large Akamata feeding on a Okinawa tree frog.  Kume Island.

Ryukyu odd-tooth snake feeding

Ryukyu odd-tooth snake feeding

A juvenile Akamata feeding on a Okinawa tree lizard .Okinawa

Ryukyu odd-tooth feeding

Ryukyu odd-tooth feeding

This My fist time seeing a juvenile Akamata pull back and puff out its head to resemble the diamond shape of a venomous pit viper. Is the Coincidence or mimicry. I know this is common occurrence with other non-venomous snakes around the world. I believe this juvenile snake saw me as a threat.

Ryukyu odd-tooth snake puffing its head

Ryukyu odd-tooth snake puffing its head

Have a great day!

 

Seashells of Okinawa

The beautiful seashells of the Ryukyu Islands.

It all started in 1989,  I went to a friend’s house and saw some beautiful seashells displayed on a counter-top.  My first thought was that they were fake or man-made. The intricate design of the Venus comb Murex shell caught my eye.  I was fascinated by the design and wanted to learn more about the animal that produced this beautiful shell.

Murex spicatus -Venus comb murex

Murex spicatus -Venus comb murex

I continued to collect,  photograph and read more about marine mollusks from the Ryukyu Islands. I eventually started contributing my collection samples to worldwide museums, scientists, specialists and images for various scientific publications. I currently do not collect shells anymore but enjoy photographing the marine snails in their natural habitat.

General rules to shell collecting

  • Be respectful to the environment.
  • Only collect dead specimens
  • Avoid over collecting sea-shells
  • If you turn over rocks, place them back in the original position

Below are some of my favorite shells found on Okinawa.

Semipallium dianae - scallop

Semipallium dianae – scallop

Neocancilla takiisaoi

Neocancilla takiisaoi

Cardium victor - Heart shell

Cardium victor – Heart shell

Lambis scorpius - scorpion conch

Lambis scorpius – scorpion conch

Morum ponderosum

Morum ponderosum

Annachlamys reevei

Annachlamys reevei – MYN technique

Chicoreus ryukyuensis

Chicoreus ryukyuensis -Okinawa, Japan

Cypraea (Blasicrura) luchuana (Kuroda,1960) Okinawa

Cypraea (Blasicrura) luchuana  -  Okinawa, Japan

Gloripallium speciosum

Gloripallium speciosum – sunray scallop

Avoid handling the venomous cone shells.  They are often found reef walking during low tide.

Venomous cones shells of Okinawa

Venomous cones shells of Okinawa

Sinezona milleri (Geiger & Sasaki , 2009) – Named for the collector of the type specimens, Shawn Miller of Nagahama, Okinawa, for his continued support in malacological research by providing marine sediment samples of Okinawa.

Sinezona milleri (Geiger & Sasaki , 2009)

Sinezona milleri (Geiger & Sasaki , 2009)

Hemilienardia shawnmilleri.  A new species named after naturalist and underwater photographer Shawn Miller. Described by Shawn Wiedrick.

Hemilienardia shawnmilleri

Hemilienardia shawnmilleri

Have a great day!