Ryukyu Brown Frog – Amphibians of Okinawa by Shawn Miller

The Ryukyu Brown frog (Rana ulma) is found throughout the Ryukyu Islands. It is listed as an endangered species on the IUCN list of threatened species. Some of the most beautiful frogs are found on Kume Island.

  • Scientific name: Rana ulma - Synonym Babina okinavana
  • Common name: Ryukyu Brown Frog
  • Distribution: Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat: Forests, mountain slopes, drainage ditches and farm fields.
  • Diet: Insects
  • Average size: 45mm-65mm
  • Color: brown

The Ryukyu Brown Frog is found in northern Okinawa. The Yanbaru forest is a wildlife protected area.

Wildlife protection area -Yanbaru forest

Wildlife protection area -Yanbaru forest

They blend in very well with the leaf litter, rocks, and the surrounding grass.

Rana ulma Ryukyu brown frog

Rana ulma Ryukyu brown frog

Mating season is during the winter months.

Ryukyu Brown frog mating

Ryukyu Brown frog mating -Kume, Island

Photographed on white for the Meet Your Neighbours project.

Rana ulma -Meet your neighbours

Rana ulma -Meet your neighbours

A wide-angle perspective of the small brown frog.

Rana ulma - Wide angle macro

Rana ulma – Wide angle macro

Pay attention to crossing wildlife. Frogs are often found on the road searching for insects

Rana ulma - crossing the road

Rana ulma – crossing the road

Let’s protect the animals of Okinawa.

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!


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.


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!

Exploring Iejima (Ie Island) Okinawa, Japan

Every year I take a trip to IeJima.  Ie island is a thirty minute ferry ride from Motobu port. The small beautiful Island is famous for the Wajii lookout point, The Lilly festival and Mt Gusuku. The main crops are sugarcane, peanuts and tobacco.  The island does have venomous snakes (Habu), so be careful when exploring at night.

The beautiful Wajii lookout point is my favorite viewpoint on the north side of the Island.

Wajii lookout point

Wajii lookout point

Ie Island offers some of the best diving in the world – Beautiful blues!

Wajii- on top of the world

Wajii- on top of the world

Conditions can change quickly at this location, check the weather forecast and sea conditions before diving.

Entry point to Wajii

Entry point to Wajii -GoPo hero 4

Every year photograph the large Porites coral formation. This year I used the GoPro Hero4.

Massive Porites lutea coral

Massive Porites lutea coral -GoPr0 hero 4

The top view massive Porites lutea coral.

Massive Porites lutea coral

Massive Porites coral – GoPro hero 4

Some of the most beautiful Acropora corals can be found in shallow water.

Coral closup

Coral -macro photography

The lily festival takes place every year in late April. If you like flowers this is the place to go.

Lily festival Ie Island

Lily festival -Ie Island

One of the best views is on top of Mt Gusuku. I was lucky to find a large stag beetle (Dorcus titanus okinawanus) in the parking lot two years in a row.

Mt Gusuku -wide angle macro

The Kuroiwas ground gecko ( Goniurosaurus kuroiwae orientalis) Is and endangered species found on the Island. Pay attention to crossing wildlife !

Kuroiwa's ground gecko

Kuroiwa’s ground gecko

Have a great day!

The King of the Yanbaru forest – Holst’s frog

The Holst’s frog ( Babina holsti ) is a rare species found  in northern Okinawa. It is currently listed endangered on the IUCN red list. It is designated as a natural monument by the Okinawa Prefecture.  This large amphibian is decreasing in numbers due to habitat loss.

  • Scientific name: Babina holsti (Boulenger, 1892)
  • Distribution:  Northern Okinawa-Japan
  • Habitat:  Forest streams 
  • Diet:  Insects, worms, snails and small reptiles
  • Average Size:  100mm -125mm
Rana holsti - Yanbaru forest

Rana holsti – Yanbaru forest

King of the Jungle

King of the Jungle

The Holst’s frog is the largest frog found on Okinawa. It hides in holes, crevices and small caves in the day.

Searching for food

Searching for food

This is a size comparison photograph taken with the iPhone 6s. This is a good size frog but they do get larger than this.

Comparison - Iphone6s

Comparison – Iphone6s

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

MYN technique -Holst's frog

MYN technique -Holst’s frog

The juveniles have a dark brown patch on the top section of the body. They blend in very well with their habitat.

Juvenile Holst's frog

Juvenile Holst’s frog

They are sometimes found searching for food on the back roads of Northern Okinawa.

Juvenile Holst's frog - Yanbaru

Juvenile Holst’s frog – Yanbaru

Be careful and pay close attention to crossing wildlife! 

Crossing wildlife

Crossing wildlife

Lets protect the wildlife of Okinawa!

Facing extinction – Ishikawa’s Frog (Odorrana ishikawae)

Ishikawa’s frog (Odorrana ishikawae) is the most beautiful frog found in Japan. It is only found in northern Okinawa and currently on the endangered species list. It is one of the many endemic species facing extinction due to habitat loss. Ishikawa’s frog is a designated national monument of Okinawa.

This is my favorite frog on Okinawa. I have only seen about a dozen in the last three years.

shikawa's Frog (Odorrana ishikawae) Yanbaru forest ,Okinawa

Ishikawa’s Frog (Odorrana ishikawae)  Night dwelling in the Yanbaru forest, Okinawa

Ishikawa's Frog (Odorrana ishikawae)

Ishikawa’s Frog (Odorrana ishikawae)

They live around mountain streams in the Yanbaru forest. They hide in cracks and crevices in the rocks making it hard to photograph them at times.

Ishikawa's Frog (Odorrana ishikawae) Yanbaru forest ,Okinawa

Adult Ishikawa’s Frog (Odorrana ishikawae)   ” out of the den “

They are also masters of camouflage. The unique pattern helps them blend into the moss and leaves on the riverside.

ishikawa's Frog (Odorrana ishikawae) Yanbaru forest ,Okinawa

Ishikawa’s Frog (Odorrana ishikawae)       ” blending into the surrounding  “

If your lucky you might see a frog with blue skin

Blue Ishikawa's  Frog (Odorrana ishikawae)

Blue Ishikawa’s Frog (Odorrana ishikawae)


Iskikawa's frog searching for a meal

Iskikawa’s frog searching for a meal

Photographing the frog on white ( MYN technique ) isolates the subject without any distractions. The images are used for conversation awareness and educational purposes.

ishikawa's Frog (Odorrana ishikawae) Yanbaru forest ,Okinawa

Ishikawa’s Frog (Odorrana ishikawae)     MYN  - Isolation Technique

A juvenile Ishikawa’s frog searching for food.  (Wide angle perspective)

herpetologists dream come true - the find

herpetologists dream come true – the find

Sometimes they can bee seen crossing the road !

Crossing the road - Kunigami Village

Crossing the road – Kunigami Village

Ishikawa's Frog

Ishikawa’s Frog – Photographed using the L&M Stella 2000

Top view- Ishikawa's frog

Top view- Ishikawa’s frog

Be careful and pay close attention to crossing wildlife.

Ishikawas frog - Roadkill

Ishikawas frog – Roadkill

Ishikawa's Frog

Ishikawa’s Frog -Wide angle macro photography

Let’s protect the wildlife of Okinawa!