A Little Ringed Plover at Vermont Pan


Having spent over an hour searching for the Little Ringed Plover at Vermont Pan yesterday without any success, we were thrilled this morning to find this very rare little bird.  It has attracted huge attention, being the only specimen ever seen in South Africa (it is believed to be the same bird as that was recently seen in Port Elizabeth) and there were birders from near and far in constant attention.

Besides the Plover, it was good to see the many pairs of Grey Herons breeding on rocky islands within the pan

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Waders with Faansie Peacock

Hermanus Bird Club

Around 40 birders attended the course on Waders presented by Faansie Peacock at the Fernkloof hall today.  He used illustrations from his book as well as many excellent photographs to highlight the diagnostic features which distinguish these often cryptic birds.  By the end of the day everyone present was no doubt full of new knowledge and could not wait to get into the field and put their new skills to the test.

Faansie is an outstanding birder, author, artist and teacher and it was a privilege to be able to spend time with him.  Those who did not attend have missed a wonderful opportunity to expand their birding knowledge.

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Discover Shikoku! The Journey Within– Part 1

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


I was invited to Shikoku Island in Japan by Kohei Kubota (Discover Shikoku!) and Takahiro Miyazaki (International Tourism Division for Shikoku) to visit and report on interesting sites for bonsai tourists. I arrived on Tuesday evening and we began our exploration in the city of Kochi on early Wednesday morning. Although I’ve been visiting Shikoku Island since 1970, I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Kochi and looked forward to the adventure.


Shikoku Island is comprised of four prefectures (Shikoku means four provinces), Kagawa, Ehime, Tokushima and Kochi which is the largest most southern prefecture. It is a popular stop for the Shikoku Pilgrimage which visits 88 important official temples.


Chikurin-Ji Temple

Founded by Gyoki, a Buddhist high priest in 724, this temple is a treasure to experienced, not to be missed. Monk Yamada showed us around highlighting the important and interesting sights. In the main hall we saw…

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Discover Shikoku! The Journey Within– Part 2

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


Yesterday we traveled in our large comfortable van from Kochi in southern Shikoku Island to Kagawa in the north. Even with the light, sometimes heavy rain the drive was beautiful going through mountain passes and in many tunnels. Mist was rising from the mountains and some spectacular views of waterfalls and native trees were enjoyed.

The City of Takamatsu is the capital of Kagawa Prefecture and home to the largest bonsai pine production in Japan. According to 2014 figures, 219 bonsai nurseries shipped 75,000 bonsai valued at approximately US $2,400,000. There are two major production areas, Kinishi Bonsai Village and Kokubunji Bonsai Village. Each has their own bonsai festival in April and October, this weekend and I’ll report on them in the next blog entry.

6P4A4219Kandaka Shoju-en Bonsai Nursery

This is one of the oldest and most respected bonsai nurseries on Shikoku Island and now operated by fifth generation bonsai…

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Discover Shikoku! The Journey Begins– Part 3

Valavanis Bonsai Blog

6P4A451530th Anniversary Kokubunji Bonsai Green Festival

The 30th anniversary of the Kokubunji Bonsai Green Festival is being held on October 20-22, 2017, in the town of Kokubunji. This is one of the two bonsai production towns or areas of Takamatsu. The other bonsai area is Kinashi, more on that festival in a future blog.


Hiro Yamaji and Koji Hiramatsu are the main organizers and leaders of this large and important festival which attracts thousands of bonsai hobbyists. The exhibition is comprised of both armature, professional and invited bonsai.


I was honored to participate in the Opening Ceremony and Ribbon Cutting, yes, complete with white gloves standing on a red carpet. Sound familiar? They also had a Taiko Drum Presentation, which is missing and will not be part of our US National Bonsai Exhibitions… .


Mr. Saito, a bonsai collector from Okayama and Director of the Nippon Bonsai Association…

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Discover Shikoku! The Journey Within– Part 4

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


35th Kinashi Bonsai & Garden Tree Festival

The 35th Kinishi Bonsai & Garden Tree Festival was also held on October 20-22, 2017 a short ride from the Kokubuji Bonsai Green Festival in the town of Takamatsu.


Although the formal display was not as large, all the bonsai were stunning. The main emphasis of this festival seemed to be both the indoor and outdoor sales areas with some unbelievable prices.


Japanese black pine, US$115.


Japanese black pine, US$ 158. Really!!



Nakazu Bansho Garden


Nakazu Bansho Garden was built by the second feudal lord of Marugame, who lived in a castle up high on a hill, but wanted to enjoy the beautiful scenic Seto Inland Sea close up. So, he constructed a large stroll garden next to the sea. The area has now been built up over the past several centuries, but a wall has been built to indicate…

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Discover Shikoku! The Journey Within– Part 5 (Final Part)

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


A Rainy Visit to Ritsurin Park



It rained on and off during most of my five-day visit to Shikoku which preceded Typhoon Luca packing 142mph winds and heavy rains. I left just before it was forecast to hit Tokyo on Monday, and had difficulties connecting on line on my last day in Japan. On Saturday morning we were treated to a special treat, a private traditional breakfast featuring delicious local vegetables in an old teahouse in Ritsurin Park. The tokonoma alcove had a beautiful ikebana flower arrangement which was a refreshing change from the TV displayed in the alcove the night before in my hotel room. Only fine treasured items are usually displayed in this special area. I guess some value TVs more than art.



Ritsurin Park took on a misty feeling during the pouring rain as we strolled through the garden with umbrellas and my camera wrapped in a…

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