Saturday, May 7, 2011

Friday Field Notes-- Keep Your Eyes Open

Ayame?.... or Hanashobu?

The kids had school, but my husband was off for the last day of Golden Week.  So, since the weather was fine, we took a walk (bike ride) up to Maioka Park, something we rarely get to do by ourselves:-))

Tsubame... Hirunda rustica, Barn Swallows, nesting under the Karate Dojo
We weren't even up to the stoplight before I jumped off my bike and motioned for Shun to follow me.  The swallows have been darting aerodynamically around for a couple of weeks now, and I was sure I'd seen them ducking under the eaves of the building where Koshi and Teddy used to go for karate practice.

Sure enough!  Papa zipped out and Mama zipped in just as I walked up.  I dragged Shun over to have a look-- we could just see tiny beaks gaping for a meal.  Looking around, we saw three other nests left from previous years, which seemed not to be in use (at least, not yet). 

Back to the bicycles, Shun ahead, me following along behind somewhat slowly.  I tend to be slow this time of year.  Between the birds, the flowers, the trees, the bushes, the butterflies, the spiders, the ladybugs... well, there are just a goodly number of things to be getting on with checking.  I need more eyes.

Kintaro with Konobori and wearing a folded Kabuto

In the post office (ostensibly the purpose of our going out), I admired the hand-drawn postcards while he put something in the mail.  Several were Kodomo no Hi-themed (like the detailed drawing of a Kabuto helmet I posted yesterday). 

Whenever I look at these postcards, I wish I had my sister's drawing skills...

There's a pig farm not too far from the post office, and, since it's a warm day, we could smell it... so we stop at the little shop that sells fresh ham products.  Tonkatsu sandwiches for lunch.  We sit outside, and I feed my bread to a pair of sparrows who are flying in and out of a nook in the triangular roof of the building next door.  There's a narrow stream--part of Maioka River, in fact, that goes right in front of the school and by our house--and we follow it toward Maioka Park.

Kobanaonigumo (Araneus marmoreus... the Marbled Orb Weaver)
I can see lots of spider webs strung across the stream, so I check to see if anybody's home while we pedal along.  I trust that Shun will notice whether a car is coming...

Stop!  A big one!  Well, a pretty big one --nowhere near the size of Jorougumo or Argiope, but bigger than the Diadem Spider I found a week or two ago.  In fact, I stopped to look more closely at this one, because I think at first that it *is* the same species of Araneus that I found before, only bigger.  Since her web is strung across the stream, and her abdomen is facing me, I can't get a good look at her markings...  maybe if I sort of... turn half upside down.. but without falling into the water...?  By this time, Shun has noticed that I am not behind him and has turned around and come back to where I am.

"Wow!  You have stuff all over you!"  And so I do, since I'm standing practically inside a large Spirea gone to seed.  "Look!  A big pretty spider!  See?"...but he's more concerned about the stuff all over my jacket, my jeans, my hair.  I try to gently pull the web toward me so I can see her back, but without damaging her work.  At this, she scrambles to the bush I'm standing in--good!  Now I can see her better--well enough to think that yes, this is probably another Araneus, but *not* the little Garden Spider (or Diadem Spider, I like that name better) I'd found before.  This one is a good deal bigger, for one thing, and has much more intricate markings, for another.  After we got home, Google Image search revealed-- the Marbled Orb Weaver!  Araneus (hah!  I was right about that!) marmoreus, Kobanaonigumo (Little Flower Ogre Spider).  I managed to get one photo, half upside down and without falling into the stream, then stepped out and let Shun brush me off.

Back to the bicycles.  I see yellow irises blooming in the stream that I want to take a picture of, but since we're only fifty feet from the last place we stopped, I decide to wait to take a photo when we come back this way to go home.  Shun is generally very patient with my stopping to look at things, but I'm pretty sure he has his limits...

This is why, in fact, I like to go walking with my mother-- she likes to look at every damn thing, too:-))  Much to the consternation of my dear, long-suffering dad;-)

photo taken back in February-- Koi swimming in... the Maioka River?  Or in the trees?
Riding on the sidewalk along the river, I can see the beautiful tri-color Koi swimming below.. and I remind myself that I've already taken several photos of them, and so don't need to take more this time, and besides, the water isn't as clear today.

 I continue pedaling, feeling virtuously good that I haven't made Shun stop for a while... and then we turned down a narrow side street with mountain on one side and  farm houses on the other.

My favorite...

Irises!  Loads of them in front of an old farm house!  I can't not stop... I *know* my mother would stop.  These photos are for you, mom.  Happy Mother's Day:-))

what's this one, mom?
I'm not sure how far Shun went up the street before noticing that I wasn't with him, but by the time I looked up, he had doubled back and was getting off his bike to see what I was looking at.

They had quite a number of varieties planted, several cultivars of Bearded Iris as well as a couple of species of which I remain ignorant (just go have a look at the list of Iris species-- species, not including hybrid cultivars!-- over at Wiki).

Mostly, though, I was determined this time to find out once and for all...

...a Hanashobu or an Ayame?

...whether this dark purple iris was what the Japanese call...

I *always* get them mixed up...

...And I've never been able to get a clear explanation of the difference out of anyone, a source of endless frustration.  My friends just seem to 'know', and assume that the difference must be clear to anyone with eyes in their head.

Ayame... Iris sanguinea, Blood Iris
Wiki to the rescue this time--there's no doubt that this is an Ayame.  The sepals (the three bottom petals that droop down--the "falls") are narrow near the stem and are mottled yellow-brown ending in white, rounding out.

Hanashoubu... Iris ensata, the Japanese Iris
temporarily borrowing a Wiki photo 'til our Hanashobu bloom over at the Crawdad Pond
Hanashobu's sepals are shaped differently--see?  They're not narrow near the stem.  They're almost triangular, with the long side near the stem and the apex pointing out.  I show Shun after we get home, but I don't expect he'll remember.

We continue, and Shun points up.  I squint to see what he's pointing at (now he's getting into the spirit of noticing things!)....

...a pretty kitty in a second-floor window who reminds me of Koshi's kitty.  Awww-- he knows I like to notice kitties:-))

As soon as we get into Maioka Park, I notice two grandmotherly ladies squatting on the ground taking photos of something on the hillside with their phone cameras...

A chrysalis!

Akahoshigomadara...Hestina assimilis

I ask whether they know what it will be, and one of the ladies kindly tells me it will be Akahoshigomadara.  Ooh!  I know that one!  The Red Ring Skirt that I saw last fall while out walking.  I thank them and tell them I'm impressed with their ability to notice that one of those leaves was not a leaf...

Shioya Tombo-- Orthetrum japonica, the post-coital female
Walking by rice paddies and wet, marshy fields, we find dragonflies mating in the warm sun, their copulating bodies forming a flying ring.  The male is a beautiful blue, but he flies off before I can get his photo.  Looking through Koshi's bug encyclopedia at home, I find that this one is  Shioya Tombo-- one of the genus Orthetrum, and so what we might call a Blue Skimmer (or Japanese Blue Skimmer, in this case).

Graphium sarpedon... the Blue Triangle
One of my favorite butterflies lands nearby... a male Aosujiageha, the Common Bluebottle or Blue Triangle, the male of which likes to 'mud-puddle' (feed by the edge of puddles).

Acer palmatum var. dissectum

Near one of the buildings in the Old Village of the park (more about that another time), we both stop to admire a spectacular Japanese Momiji (maple).

This particular cultivar has deeply dissected, feathery leaves that might be red all year in this cultivar.  Really spectacular!

Isn't this pretty, mom!
 It's time to go home before the kids come home from school, but Shun waits while I take a picture or two of a lovely blue flower I've never seen before and that I know my mom will like. 
Buglossoides zollingeri... "Firefly Vine"

Thumbing through my field guide at home... atta!  Found it-- Hotarukazura.  Hunting online for the English common name, I find that there isn't one.  In Japanese, though, it's called "Firefly Vine".  I put a satisfying check in my field guide...

We make it back about half an hour before the kids got home from school.  What a lovely morning we've had, just the two of us-- kimochi yokatta, ne!, we tell each other as we start up the stairs.  And if you think I'm not going to notice anything else because I'm walking up a flight of concrete steps, well, you don't know me very well:-))

I glance over to my right... and see something dark on top of the concrete piece over the first floor windows.  Has somebody dropped something?  I step over to the rail for a closer look...

Pipistrellus abramus... the Japanese House Bat, or Japanese Pipistrelle

A bat!  A tiny, soft, furry little bat sitting there in the middle of the day!  What are you doing, Little Bat?  It's the middle of the night!  Or...well... you know what I mean.

He doesn't move at all and I think he might be dead or badly injured.  I watch, and wait... and finally he lifts his head, opening and shutting his mouth a few times.  Maybe because we recently rescued a kitten, this little member of the Chiroptera order looked distinctly kitten-like to me.  The ears, the soft fur, the helplessness of his pose.  I shoot a minute of video, then go reluctantly upstairs.

 Five minutes later I head right back downstairs, determined to crawl out there and help him if I can...

...but he is gone.  Goodbye, Pippa-- mata asobou, ne!

(p.s.-- I didn't fall off my bike at *all* today)


  1. Hi Yoko!
    I really loved all these pics, especially the one with the bat. Poor bat! I just looked through your old posts about the kitten and it looked soo adorable! Happy late kodomono-hi. In nihongo class we all ate's really chewy. I think it was Hawaiian mochi because the person who made it had Japanese relatives who lived in Hawaii, and the treats there are usually very chewy.

    Have an awesome Saturday!


  2. "I trust that Shun will notice whether a car is coming..."
    *shakes head in wonder/horror*

    Loved the whole thing, but the bat is amazing. Daylight footage of a bat! Just, wow! Kinda reminded me of a labrador we had when I was a kid. She used to lie there half awake like that, sticking her tongue in and out.

    Oh and the marbled orb weaver got me googling for clearer pictures. There really should be an equivalent of Rule 34 for tattoos.

  3. Hi Ez! Happy Kodomo no Hi to you, too! Mochi *is* really chewy--take really small bites and chew well. Every year a couple of old people die by choking to death on mochi. It's tasty, though! How did you eat yours? With ki na ko, or azuki? Or shoyu and nori? I like it just about any way:-))

    I hope we can go see our kitty soon at o-baasan's...

  4. Hi Daz! I know, I know.... my bike-riding skillz leave a very great deal to be desired. And a very great deal to chance.

    Isn't Little Bat cool! I couldn't believe my luck! It's so easy to forget that bats are *mammals*, but watching him move, looking at his fur, his ears--it all just fairly shouted "Mammal!" Kitten, even. He looked *so* soft. I just stood there going "wow!", too:-))

    Sorry about the not-very-clear spider photo. I get much clearer shots of things when I'm by myself and I can take eleven shots and delete all the bad ones. If you only get one shot because somebody's waiting for you, well... *sigh* And that tattoo-- *mercy!*, where do you find that stuff!

  5. What an amazing bike ride. I made Niek stop twice yesterday during our run just so I could look at the first irises of the year. I also made him stop to look at some buildings. I make him stop a lot. :) Not good for the cardio, but I feel it's good for my soul to notice the little things.
    That bat is amazing. I'm so glad that he was able to fly. Hope he made it back to his home safely.

  6. You made him stop to look at the first irises? A girl after my own heart:-)) You make him stop as much as you want--it's *very* good to notice little things! Just as good as cardio, maybe better. And Little Bat--I was...beyond amazed to get to see one that close during the day (when you can, you know, actually *see*). About a week earlier I saw a bat out flying around near the river at noon, and thought it was weird. I wonder if it's the same bat... which is slightly worrisome if it is. Worrisome in a rabies sort of way. I was glad to see him and all, but really, little bats are supposed to be sleeping at noon...