Ryukyu Long tailed Giant Rat – Ryukyu Islands

The Ryukyu Long-Tailed Giant Rat (Diplothrix legata) is an endangered species found on Amami, Tokuno and Okinawa Island. This rare species is currently listed as endangered on the IUCN red list of threatened species.  It’s biggest threats are deforestation, feral cats, dogs and the introduced mongoose. I often see it crossing the road during the night in the Yanbaru forest. Please pay attention to crossing wildlife and drive at a safe speed.

Ryukyu Long-tailed giant rat

Ryukyu Long-tailed giant rat

Natural habitat -Yanbaru

Yanbaru  - balancing on a power line

searching for food

Searching for food – Natural habitat

The Yanbaru forest is designated as a wildlife protection area by the Okinawan prefecture, It extends from Nago to Kunigami village.

Yanbaru forest

Yanbaru forest

Lets protect the wildlife of Okinawa!

Nudibranchs – Colorful sea slugs of Okinawa

Nudibranchs are shell-less gastropods. They are some the most bizarre looking underwater animals found in our oceans. They can be challenging to to find due to their small size and confusing patterns. Nudibranchs are slow moving, delicate and lack a protective shell. Some are extremely distasteful and bright colors warn predators that they are toxic. Some even have the ability to ingest stinging cells and use them as a form of protection.

The best way to find sea slugs:    Move slow!  Search around sponges, hydroids, sea squirts, anemones, soft coral, rocks and reef ledges.

Train the eye:  They can be challenging to find, I recommend tagging along with experienced divers that already have an eye for finding them.

Below are some of my favorite images of sea slugs. Photography by Shawn M Miller.

Chromodoris willani

Chromodoris willani

Phestilla melanobranchis

Phestilla melanobranchis

Phyllidia varicosa

Phyllidia varicosa

Roboasta gracillis

Roboasta gracillis

Chromodoris aureopurpurea

Chromodoris aureopurpurea

 

Aldisa albatrossae

Aldisa albatrossae

Tritonospsilla alba

Tritonospsilla alba

Phyllidia elegans

Phyllidia elegans

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Gymnodoris nigrocolor – parasite

Chromodoris kuniei

Chromodoris kuniei

Chromodoris annae

Chromodoris annae

Chromodoris sp

Chromodoris sp -space odyssey

Janolus sp

Janolus sp

Noumea angstolutea

Noumea angstolutea

Chromodoris coi

Chromodoris coi

Phyllidia coelestis

Phyllidia coelestis

Flabellina rubrolineata

Flabellina rubrolineata

Glossodoris cruenta

Glossodoris cruenta

Chromodoris annae -Ryukyu flare

Chromodoris annae -Ryukyu flare

Learn more about the beautiful sea slugs of Okinawa.  Check out Dr. Bolland’s Website!

http://rfbolland.com/okislugs/

Thousands of Blue button jellyfish washed ashore Okinawa

Thousands of Blue button jellyfish ( Porpita porpita ) washed ashore on a local beach today.  These beautiful animals have stinging cells called nematocysts.  They can cause skin irritation but generally are not a threat.

Blue button  jellyfish

Blue button jellyfish

Blue button  jellyfish

Blue button jellyfish 

Washed ashore

Washed ashore

Button Jellyfish

Button Jellyfish -Gobe 700

Button Jellyfish

Button Jellyfish – Gobe 700

I collected a few specimens to photograph in the studio. I was curious to see if this animal would fluoresce under blue light. I used my underwater setup as my lighting studio.  I took a few photos using the Light & Motion Nightsea Blue light.

Studio setup

DTM -Studio setup

The round disc fluoresced bright orange under blue light.

fluorescence

fluorescence

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!

The hunt for the habu – Izena Island

Izena Island is known for not having any venomous snakes on the Island. I always thought this was impossible since the surrounding islands all have venomous snakes. After five trips we finally found a Habu.

The Princess habu was found resting on a rock above a fresh water source.

The princess habu -

The Princess habu – Photo by David Orr

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Hime habu – Izena Island

Hime habu  - Izena Island

Hime habu – Izena Island

Hime habu  - Izena Island

Hime habu – Izena Island

The Hime habu was found October 9th 2016 on Izena Island.  It was located at the Izena castle site.

Izena castle

Izena castle -Iphone 6s

A sign at the port welcomes visitors to to the beautiful Island.  It states – no habu on the Island.

Izena Island welcome sign- No Habu

Izena Island welcome sign- No Habu

Be safe exploring the beautiful Islands of Okinawa.

Learn more about the venomous snakes of Okinawa in my previous blog post. http://okinawanaturephotography.com/venomous-snakes-of-okinawa-japan/

 

 

Sword-tailed newt – Endangered species

The Sword-tailed newt (Cynops ensicauda) is an endangered species found on the main islands of Okinawa an Amami. It is currently listed endangered on the IUCN red list of threatened species. This amphibian is decreasing in numbers due to deforestation and road kill.

  • Scientific name: Cynops ensicauda
  • Distribution: Okinawa and Anami Islands
  • Habitat: Forests, wetlands and fresh water streams
  • Diet: Amphibian eggs, tadpoles, snails, worms and insects
  • Average size: 100-180mm
Sword tailed newt with stripes

Sword tailed newt with stripes

They all have bright orange bellies, which serve as a warning sign to predators that they are poisonous. When threatened they produce a transparent skin toxin.

  •  Poisonous animals are toxic if you eat them or ingest their secretions.  Irritations may occur after handling these newts if you have open wounds. Avoid rubbing your eyes or placing your hands in your mouth.

Photographed on a white field studio board for the Meet your neighbours global biodiversity project (MYN).  All images are used for conservation awareness and educational purposes.

MYN technique - Sword tailed newt

MYN technique – Sword tailed newt

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Sword-tailed newt- Okinawa, Japan

The newt photographed in its natural habitat.

Sword-tailed newt in natural habitat

Sword-tailed newt in natural habitat

Sword tailed newt

Sword tailed newt -Onna village

Sword tailed newt

Sword tailed newt – Onna village


An average looking sword-tailed newt with a blood sucking leech

Sword-tailed newt with leech

Sword-tailed newt with leech

The Sword- tailed newt is often found crossing the road on rainy days in northern Okinawa. The government has designed specialized wildlife steps for animals that get trapped in road side drainage ditches. These steps allow the newts to crawl out safely.

Wildlife steps

Wildlife steps

Lets 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.

 

 

 

The Art of Underwater Motion by Shawn Miller

As an underwater photographer there will be a time when you feel all your photographs look similar and you might lose interest for a while. Creating motion in still photographs will definitely give you a new challenge and purpose. The goal is to try to show some type of motion in a still photograph. The photographs emphasize the energy, power and or speed of the subject moving. Dramatic motion images will provide depth and variety to your portfolio.

Try panning or dragging the shutter underwater 

  • Move the camera in sync with the moving subject while the shutter stays open. A slow shutter speed will be necessary to achieve this.
  • Once you understand this technique try adding flash at the end of the exposure to freeze the motion of the subject (Rear curtain sync).
  • Get creative and add a spin the camera
Striped surgeonfish on the move (Rear curtain sync)

Striped surgeonfish on the move (Rear curtain sync)

Anemone fish with a spin ( RCS )

Anemone fish with a spin ( RCS )

Sea whip - feel the flow

Sea whip – feel the flow

Ocean art ( slow shutter with a spin )

Ocean art ( slow shutter with a spin )

Angelfish on the move ( Rear curtain sync )

Angelfish on the move ( Rear curtain sync )

Striped surgeonfish and coral reef (RCS)

Striped surgeonfish and coral reef (RCS)

Indian mackerel feeding

Indian mackerel feeding

Sunset wrasse reef racing ( RSC )

Sunset wrasse reef racing ( RSC )

Ctenochaetus striatus on the move

Ctenochaetus striatus on the move

Coral with a spin -Ie Island

Coral with a spin -Ie Island

Masked bannerfish on the move ( RCS )

Masked bannerfish on the move ( RCS )

Motion sickness (In camera triple exposure)

Motion sickness (In camera triple exposure)

Scuba-diving with a spin (RCS)

Scuba-diving with a spin (RCS)

Hopefully these images will inspire you to try something new underwater!

 

 

The Light & Motion Stella 2000 rocks part 1 – Okinawa, Japan

The Stella 2000 offers lightweight professional lighting for photographers and videographers. It delivers 2000 lumens of beautiful wide light on high power. It is waterproof to a depth of 100 meters and extremely durable.

Stella 2000 waterproof lighting

Stella 2000 waterproof lighting

My favorite features of the Stella 2000

  • Waterproof to 100 meters
  • Can be mounted on the camera hot-shoe, light stand,  loc-line arms or ball mounts.
  • Quick adjustable power output control
  • Fast charging and the ability to use the light when it’s charging

I tested the Stella 2000 in the humid jungle and on the shorelines of northern Okinawa. I used it as a spotting light, hiking light, camera modeling light and video light. I tested the light with the 120-beam angle with no modifiers, with custom made soft-boxes attached, studio umbrellas and with the combination of on-off camera flash.

I concentrated on the reptiles, amphibians and land crabs of northern Okinawa. Below are some of my favorite photographs.

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

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

Okinawa green tree frog -Stella 2000 diffused on hotshoe

Okinawa green tree frog -Stella 2000 diffused on the hot-shoe’

Holst's frog (endangered)  Stella 2000 bare with back lighting from headlights

Holst’s frog (endangered) Stella 2000 bare with back lighting from headlights

Namie's frog, threatened species

Namie’s frog, threatened species – Stella 2000 diffused through an umbrella

Ryukyu Tip nosed frog ( Endangered ) Stella 2000 diffused through an umbrella

Ryukyu Tip nosed frog ( Endangered ) Stella 2000 diffused through an umbrella

Ishikawa's frog (endangered) Stella 2000 diffused with fill flash

Ishikawa’s frog (endangered) Stella 2000 diffused with fill flash

Princess habu - Diffused through an umbrella

Princess habu – Stella 2000 diffused through an umbrella

Namie' frog -Backlighting with Gobe 700

Namie’s  frog – Stella 2000 modeling light – back-lighting with the Gobe 700 wide

Kuroiwa's ground gecko (Endangered) Stella 2000 with fill flash

Kuroiwa’s ground gecko (Endangered) Stella 2000 with fill flash

IHallowell's tree frog -Stella 2000 with fill flash

IHallowell’s tree frog -Stella 2000 with fill flash

 

Pryer's keelback feeding on a white jawed frog

Pryer’s keelback feeding on a white jawed frog – Stella 2000 diffused with fill flash

No need to worry about dropping the light in the salt water or placing it on the sand. The Stella 2000 is extremely durable.

Ghost crab - Fill flash and back-lighting Stella 200

Ghost crab – Fill flash and back-lighting Stella 2000

Crabs with trash homes -Stella 2000 and fill flash

Crabs with trash homes -Stella 2000 and fill flash

Making the journey (Geograpsus grayi) Stella 2000 with fill flash

Making the journey (Geograpsus grayi) Stella 2000 with fill flash

Hermit crab and plastic- Stella 2000 with fill flash

Hermit crab and plastic- Stella 2000 with fill flash

Ghost crab feeding- Stella 2000 with fill flash

Ghost crab feeding- Stella 2000 with fill flash

Crabs with trash homes -Stella 2000 and fill flash

Crabs with trash homes -Stella 2000 and fill flash

yukyu kajika frog Stella 2000 and fill flash

Geograpsus grayi feeding on the Ryukyu kajika frog – Stella 2000 and fill flash

Solid as a rock- Stella 2000

Solid as a rock- Stella 2000

 

I have been using Light & Motion lights for over four years now and they keep getting better! Stayed tuned for testing the Stella 2000 underwater !