I spent a few days exploring Kagoshima Prefecture of Japan. Started from Yakushima, the most scenic of the Ryukyu Islands, reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest in the US. It took me 24 hours to see all endemic bird, mammal and frog subspecies plus the endemic Yaku gecko. Yaku macaques were common along interior roads; Yaku sika deer (very small), lesser Japanese mice, and introduced Japanese raccoon dogs were most abundant along the coastal road on the W side. Found greater Japanese mice and a Japanese weasel of rare subspecies shu in Hirauchi Marsh (30.312707, 130.510570), a few Japanese horseshoe bats flying around at Shiratani Ursuni Gorge (trailhead at 30.380033, 130.57413), a greater Japanese mole (foraging on the surface at night) and Japanese white-toothed shrew of dark subsp. umbrina in Yakutsugi Land (trailhead at 30.316976, 130.586291), and an Ussuri tube-nosed bat in a hollow in Kigensugi Cedar (trailhead at 30.302642, 130.545769). Looked for Ryukyu fruit bats but didn’t see any.
On Tanegashima I spent just a few hours and found only one mammal, a sika deer of small mageshimae subspecies along the road from the port to the airport. On Kuchinoerabu I saw a Ryukyu fruit bat of rare subsp. dasymallus flying over the treetops in broad daylight about 200 m NW of the ferry terminal, so I returned to the ferry and to the mainland. Ferry crossings were uneventful, except for a small group of narrow-ridged finless porpoises in Kagoshima Bay and a huge shark (copper I think, but could be dusky) N of Yakushima.
Back on Kyushu I climbed Takachihonomine (trailhead at 31.885379, 130.895970) and caught the very end of azalea bloom at the summit. Smith’s red-backed voles were abundant along the part of the trail where it goes through shrubs 2-4 m tall. Saw a pair of Japanese badgers along the access road at night (at 31.866940, 130.888130).
I found a few Eurasian harvest mice (the first ones I ever found in Japan) in tallgrass meadows on the S side of the road around 31.851959, 130.917414. By the time I got to Lake Mi-ike it started raining. The forest was full of leeches, so I saved about a hundred thousand yen on hirudotherapy for my leg (hurt it last week). The only mammals at the campground were sika deer, boars, lesser Japanese mice, a Japanese hare (on the access road), and a Japanese weasel. At the forest hut there were two roosting Japanese horseshoe bats. At 7 am the rain turned into deluge and I left for the airport; checked out Old Kumaso Cave along the way but there were no bats in it.
But the best was yet to come. My flight to Okinawa was late and we had to make a few circles over the sea waiting for landing; I looked down and saw two Omura’s whales – could clearly see the asymmetrical coloration of the lower jaws. My camera was in my bag overhead, but at least I got GPS location, 10 km W of Cape Zanpa.
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