Seagulls on Okinawa -

Every winter, I see a few Black-tailed gulls (Larus crassirostris) on our shorelines. They generally do not stay for longer than two weeks. In January 2016,  I photographed eight Black-tailed gulls on Nagahama beach. Four gulls had oil residue stuck on their feathers. The birds were constantly bathing in the sea water and preening. The Black-tailed gulls are abundant on the mainland, but on Okinawa they are a rare sight.

Juvenile Black-tailed gull

Possible reasons why there are no seagulls living on Okinawa.  

  • Warm water temperatures – too warm ( 68F- 88F)
  • Not enough food (fish, worms, mollusks)
  • Competition with other birds ( osprey, terns and crows )
  • Small land mass

A mature Black-tailed gull bathing and preening. It was working hard trying to get the oil residue off its feathers.

Black-tailed gull bathing

Black-tailed gull drying off

Shaking off

Shaking off

Black-tailed gull preening

Black-tailed gull preening

Black-tailed gull

Black-tailed gull

Black-tailed gull

Mature gulls feeding on fish scraps

Black-tailed gull feeding

Black-tailed gull feeding

Have a great day !    

Meet Your Neighbours project – Okinawa, Japan

Founded in 2009, Meet Your Neighbours is a worldwide photographic initiative created by Niall Benvie and Clay Bolt. The project is dedicated to reconnecting people with the wildlife on their own doorsteps and enriching their lives in the process. These creatures and plants are vital to people: they represent the first, and for some, the only contact with wild nature we have. Yet too often they are overlooked, undervalued.

There are seventy-five worldwide contributors to this powerful project. I am currently  the Japan contributor to this project. All images are used for conservation awareness and educational purposes.  Below are some of my favorite images.

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Okinawan green tree frog

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Percnon planissimum – crab

Cherry blossom  -Mt Yaedake

Cherry blossom -Mt Yaedake

Crabs with beach trash homes

Crabs with beach trash homes

Kuroiwa's Ground Gecko -MYN

Kuroiwa’s Ground Gecko -MYN

Porcelain crab ( Petrolisthes hastatus ) -Okinawa

Porcelain crab ( Petrolisthes hastatus ) -Okinawa

Ryukyu odd-tooth snake ( Dinodon semicarinatum )

Ryukyu odd-tooth snake ( Dinodon semicarinatum )

Scopimera ryukyuensis - Ryukyu Islands

Scopimera ryukyuensis – Ryukyu Islands

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Fern – Ryukyu Islands

 

Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Gray faced buzzard eagle

Gray faced buzzard eagle

Princess habu -MYN technique

Princess habu -MYN technique

Charybdis japonica -Yagaji Island

Charybdis japonica -Yagaji Island

American bullfrog - Izena Island

American bullfrog – Izena Island

Chinese cowrie

Chinese cowrie

Okinawan Habu- MYN field studio technique

Okinawan Habu- MYN field studio technique

Okinawan mud lobster

Okinawan mud lobster

Sesarmops intermedius

Sesarmops intermedius

Air breathing marine slug

Air breathing marine slug

Unidentified earthworm -  MYN and under Blue light Kume Island

Unidentified earthworm – MYN and under Blue light Kume Island

Geograpsus grayi

Geograpsus grayi

Anderson's crocodile newt

Anderson’s crocodile newt

Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Have a great day !

Invasive species of Okinawa

Invasive species are introduced animals, plants and fungus that cause damage to the natural environment. Non-native species have a tendency of dominating the habitat and eventually wiping out native wildlife.  They have been deliberately or accidentally introduced and generally do more harm than good.

The mongoose was introduced to Okinawa in 1910 in attempt to control the population of venomous snakes. The problem is the habu snake is nocturnal and the mongoose is diurnal, so they rarely meet.

Mongoose ( Hepestes javanicus )

Mongoose ( Hepestes javanicus ) -Nagahama, Okinawa

The pheasant was introduced in the 1900′s as a food source. The bird is also know to feed on small snakes and insects that feed on local crops.

Common Pheasant

Common Pheasant – Yomitan, Okinawa

The Red eared turtle was Introduced in the the 1960′s.  Pet owners generally release these turtles when they get too big.

Red-eared slider

Red-eared slider -Nagahama, Okinawa

The White jawed frog was introduced in the the 1960′s. It was brought in by the pet trade or hitchhiking on shipping supplies.

White lipped tree frog

White lipped tree frog – Ie Island

The Taiwanese habu was introduced in the 1970s for zoo exibitions and medicine.  They are fairly common in Onna village.

Taiwanes habu- Onna village

Taiwanes habu- Onna village

The Apple snail was introduced as a food source in the 1980s.  They are commonly found in rice fields. It’s not recommended to handle or eat these snails raw. They sometimes carry parasites that cause disease.

Apple snail

Apple snail -Kunigami, Okinawa

Feral cats are master hunters. They are responsible for killing native species such as birds, lizards and mice.  Some countries have implemented programs to reduce the killing of wildlife. If you own a cat that spends it time outdoors, it is recommended to place a brightly colored collar with a bell on it.  This warns the native wildlife and gives them a chance to escape.

Feral cats

Feral cats – Kin, Okinawa

The american bullfrog was introduced in 1918 as a food source. Bullfrogs eat anything they can fit into their mouth. They are larger and overpower the native frogs of the Ryukyu Islands.

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American bullfrog – Izena Island

The Giant African snail was Introduced as a food source in the 1930′s . It’s not recommended to handle or eat these snails raw. They sometimes  carry parasites that cause disease.

Giant African snail

Giant African snail -Kin, Okinawa

The Coconut rhinoceros was introduced with the importation of palm trees.

Coconut rhinoceros beetle

Coconut rhinoceros beetle

The Snapping turtle was introduced by pet owners. They buy them when they are very small and fail to realize they can live for over forty years.

Snapping turtle

Snapping turtle – introduced to okinawa

The Taiwanese beauty snake was introduced in the 1970s for zoo exhibitions.

Taiwanese beauty snake

Taiwanese beauty snake – Yomitan, Okinawa

The Brown rat was possibly introduced by lumber transportation ships.

Brown rat (Rattus norvegicus)

Brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) -Yomitan, Okinawa

Talapia were brought to the Ryukyu islands in the 1960s as a food source. They eat the eggs of amphibians and compete with native fish.

Tiliapia introduced food source

Tiliapia introduced food source – Itoman, Okinawa

Let’s protect the wildlife of Okinawa!

Protecting Okinawa’s endangered beetles – Yanbaru forest

Poaching has been a big problem in northern Okinawa. The endemic animals of the Yanbaru forest are highly valued in the exotic pet trade market.  The Okinawan Ministry of the Environment and the wildlife protection center are working hard this year to prevent the poaching of these endangered species. The Okinawan’s are spreading the word in the news, local papers, flyers and even monitoring the forest roads at night.

Poaching flyer - Yanbaru

Poaching flyer -Yanbaru

August through September is when people search the forest for the rare Yanbaru long-armed scarab beetle (Cheirotonus jambar). If you see anyone taking this protected species please contact the authorities.  I have yet to photograph a live animal. It is one of the rarest beetles in the world.

Rarest beetle in Japan -Yanbaru long-armed scarab beetle

Rarest beetle in Japan -Yanbaru long armed scarab beetle, wildlife center

The giant Okinawan stag beetle (Dorcus titanus okinawanus) is also a high prized specimen in the pet trade.

Giant okinawan stag beetles

Giant okinawan stag beetles

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Giant okinawan stag beetle 

Beetle collectors use fruit filled net traps to lure in the beetles.

Yanbaru beetle trap

Yanbaru beetle trap    (Dorcus titanus okinawanus)

The beetles hooked shaped arms get caught in the netting.

Giant stag beetle ( Dorcus titanus okinawanus )

Giant stag beetle (Dorcus titanus okinawanus)

Over the years, I have found a few traps with dead beetles attached.

dead beetle

Female okinawan stag beetle

Beetle collecting is popular in Okinawa. Its important to be familiar with the specific beetles that are protected species. Let’s protect the wildlife of the Yanbaru forest for future generations.

 

 

 

Nature Therapy – Photo Exhibition by Shawn Miller

The Exhibition will be held at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST)  January 14th through February 29th.  The free photo exhibition is open from 9:00 to 17:00 every day. The exhibition will feature forty inspiring images of underwater animals, crabs with beach trash homes and the endangered species of Okinawa.  Photography By Shawn Miller. The wonderful people at OIST were kind enough to make this exhibition  take place and produce beautiful advertisement posters.

Nature Therapy poster 2016

Nature Therapy Poster 2016 – Shawn Miller

Some of my favorite images are featured below.  I photographed the gallery with a fish eye lens to give it a unique perspective.

Blueberry hermit crab

Blueberry hermit crab – Meet your neighbours project

Surgeon on the move

Surgeon fish on the move – Motion

Crabs with trash homes

Crabs with trash homes – Meet your neighbours project

Kuroiwas ground gecko -Endangered

Kuroiwas ground gecko -Endangered

a Blenny playing Peek a Boo

A Blenny playing Peek a Boo

Typhoon swirl -

Typhoon swirl – The art of motion

Ryukyu black breasted leaf turtle  -endangered

Ryukyu black breasted leaf turtle -endangered

Boxer crab

Boxer crab – Marine life of Okinawa

Okinawa rail

Okinawa rail- endemic to northern Okinawa

Video by Gary Hughes. FrontPageOkinawa – Hughes Media Technologies

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More information about Shawn Miller and Nature Therapy - http://www.japanupdate.com/2016/01/oist-hosts-nature-photo-exhibition/

Crabs With Beach Trash Homes – Okinawa, Japan

Featured

Crabs with beach trash homes is a series I am currently working on. I photograph Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus) that have begun to use beach trash as their home. The crabs are photographed in their nature environment and also on white for the Meet Your Neighbours global biodiversity project. The images are used for environmental awareness and educational purposes.
Hermit crabs with beach trash homes

Hermit crabs with beach trash homes

 Blueberry hermit crabs are commonly found on local beaches in Okinawa. Most crabs are blue but occasionally have color variations of purple, pink, orange and or gray. They prefer to have a seashell as a protective home but when no shell is available they adapt.

Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Blueberry hermit crab (Coenobita purpureus) with a seashell

Before plastic caps filled our shorelines, hermit crabs adapted using tree nuts if no shells were available.

Hermit crab and tree nut

Hermit crab and tree nut

It’s becoming more common to find crabs with beach trash homes.  I have friends combing local beaches in search of more crabs for my series. While these are cute images, our trash is becoming a serious problem to the ocean and the animals that call the shoreline home. I often find hermit crabs using a variety of plastic caps from twist top pet bottles, laundry detergent containers, small propane tanks, sports water bottles and beauty supplies.

Possible reason why Blueberry crabs adapt with beach trash
  • Limited number of available shells causing them to make due with the best homes they can find. This is a good example of adaptive behavior.

Hermit crabs are very social animals and often fight over shells. Having a protective lightweight shell that covers the abdomen (soft parts of the animal) is crucial for survival.

Hermit crabs fighting

Hermit crabs fighting over prime real estate

 

The battle -

The battle -

A close-up of the sensitive abdomen (photographed using the MYN technique)

Naked hermit crab

Naked hermit crab

Below are some of my favorite images photographed on a portable field studio board (MYN Technique). The crabs are safely placed on a white studio board, photographed and released back into the natural environment (MYN Technique).

 Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Blueberry hermit crab (Coenobita purpureus) with cap

 Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Blueberry hermit crab (Coenobita purpureus) in plastic tube

 Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Blueberry hermit crab (Coenobita purpureus) in plastic top cap

 Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Blueberry hermit crab (Coenobita purpureus) in plastic

 Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus) in plastic cap

 Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)
Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus) in plastic top cap
Blueberry hermit crab- Ryukyu Islands.

Blueberry hermit crab- Ryukyu Islands

Blueberry hermit crab

Blueberry hermit crab – Okuma, Okinawa

It’s important to photograph the hermit crabs in their natural habitat.  I prefer to photograph them using a wide angle lens to achieve a unique perspective.

Meet zori -Wide angle macro

Meet zori -Wide angle macro

Hermit crab- Plastic pollution

Hermit crab- Plastic pollution

Blueberry hermit crab, Hedo-Okinawa

Blueberry hermit crab,  Wide angle macro

Meet scoop- Quaker

Meet scoop- Quaker

Meet shady

Meet shady – Worldwide trash problem

Hermit crab in a glass bottle

Hermit crab in a glass bottle- Yomitan, Okinawa.

Meet cassette -CWBTH

Meet cassette -CWBTH

Airplane -Senaga Island ,Okinawa

Airplane -Senaga Island ,Okinawa

Blueberry hermit crab, Onna-Okinawa

Land hermit crab, Onna-Okinawa

Meet sparky- using a plastic cap from a cassette gas tank

Meet sparky- using a plastic cap from a cassette gas tank

Energy drink home- Trash homes

Energy drink home- Trash homes

 

The rock climber -Okinawa

The rock climber -Northern Okinawa

Sunset - Yomitan ,Okinawa

Sunset Time – Yomitan ,Okinawa

Beach pollution- CWBTH

Beach pollution- CWBTH

Tree climber-

Tree climber-

Plastic pollution - beach trash

Plastic pollution – beach trash

Crabs and plastic

Crabs and plastic – WAM

Got Meds -Beach trash

Got Meds -Beach trash

Get off the road jack -

Get off the road jack -

Crabs and plastic -Onna Village

Crabs and plastic -Onna Village

I also photograph the hermit crabs using a dedicated macro lens. I mainly use the Canon 60 mm or 100 mm macro lens to concentrate on the subject. These crabs are fairly small and  it’s important to have a lens that will focus close and deliver high quality sharpness.

Meet Edison- Gobe700

Meet Edison- Gobe700

Meet hand -toy end cap

Meet hand -toy end cap

Beach trash -hermit crabs

Beach trash -hermit crabs

 

erry hermit crab, Okuma-Okinawa

Blueberry hermit crab, Okuma-Okinawa

Laundry detergent cap - Northern Okinawa

Laundry detergent cap – Northern Okinawa

Cassette gas tank cap - bbq beach party

Cassette gas tank cap – bbq beach party

White cap on drift wood

White cap on drift wood

Meet scoop-

Meet scoop-

Blueberry hermit crab, Hedo-Okinawa

Blueberry hermit crab, Hedo-Okinawa

 

Meet Edison -Gobe700

Meet Edison -Gobe700

Blueberry hermit crab, Onna-Okinawa

Blueberry hermit crab, Onna-Okinawa

erry hermit crab, Hedo-Okinawa

Blueberry hermit crab, Hedo-Okinawa

School project  ” Crabs with beach trash homes ”  My family and I collected trash on a  local beach in Onna village. This is just a small portion of our beach trash findings.  The kids did a great job creating a project with impact.

Kirana's school project

Kirana’s school project

Kyle's school project

Kyle’s school project

Behind the scenes photograph  ” Crabs with beach trash homes ” I have documented over sixty crabs with beach trash homes. If you would like to see more images check out my Flickr account.

Shawn Miller - Crabs with beach trash homes.  photographed by David Orr

Shawn Miller – Crabs with beach trash homes.    Photographed by David Orr

 

June 10th 2010 was my first experience seeing a hermit crab with a trash home.  
 Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Land hermit crab  climbing a tree

My series ” Crabs with beach trash homes ” has been featured on Petapixel, Business Insider, National Geographic (Belgium), Atlas Obscura, Global citizen, Plethorist, Daily telegraph, Littlethings, 15minutenews, Roaring earth, Hyperdojo, News.com.au, Follownews, Neotorama, Boingboing, Insider, Additivist, Now100fm and varies Scientific websites.

Our trash is becoming a serous problem on our shorelines! Let’s keep our shorelines clean!

Have a great day!