Thursday, November 17, 2016

How Can Conservationists Move Forward Following the 2016 Election?

The World Turned Upside Down - I think that is how most of us are feeling. This photo sums it all up for me. Do you know what it is?

This summer a wildfire roared through the hillsides west of our house. This is a coast live oak. It's trunk burned completely through and the whole tree tumbled onto its crown. It flipped upside-down. Destruction prevailed.

Unexpectedly, however, the downed part of the tree did not burn. The skeleton remains, an alien looking structure.

Destruction is a natural process and regeneration is its second chapter. Look in the left lower corner–green shoots sprouting. Ashes can provide nutrients and reinvigorate. 

If we believe in nature, then let's take heart in it's lessons. Let's listen, examine closely, and use the ashes to reinvigorate support for clean air, clean water, safe habitats, and action to limit climate change. 

And if you need a little uplift, try A Romp On The Beach

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Young Alligator Lizard

It's small, it squiggles across the floor, and it makes you jump back.

Wait! Before you do something drastic ! Take a closer look.

That strange creature that has wandered into your kitchen, laundry room or garage could be an important member of the local ecosystem. Don't panic just help it get outside.

This juvenile southern alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) was trapped in our garage. It was looking for a quiet safe place, but instead found a food desert. Alligator lizards are important predators in the yard. Let them help you with insects and other garden pests. All you have to do is help them get back outside.

This guy was very docile in-hand. 
Watch for yourself: Rescuing an Alligator

Too many ants and other bugs in your yard? Embrace your lizard and amphibian neighbors. 

Western fence lizard - Backyard Superhero 
CA Amphibians

Friday, May 06, 2016

What's That Butterfly?

This butterfly was recently in our Southern California garden. Do you know what it is?

Look at the general size and shape of the wings. It is resting on a lemon leaf. Look for unusual markings. Note the color, but remember color can fade with age or vary regionally. Pay more attention to pattern.

Check your answer:

How to bring more butterflies into your yard.

Watch a variety of butterflies in Illinois on a summer day and butterflies in the tall grass prairie.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Baby Birds and Protective Parents

The California towhee is one of my favorite birds. They are the first bird we hear in the morning and the last species to stop for a nightcap each evening.

Watch a CA towhee vocalizing and guarding its chick.


CA towhee parents move their chicks out of the nest early to avoid snakes and other bird predators that might easily find their low-built nests. Baby CA towhee on the ground. Tiny Towhee in the grass. I've had numerous calls from people thinking that these chicks were abandoned. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. Most birds are excellent parents. Birds leave young chicks in a protected place and come back to feed them. From hummingbirds to hawks, I've had youngsters hanging out during the day while their parents are off looking for food. Before you try to "help," wait and let the avian parents do their job. You might even be rewarded with seeing a private moment between bird parents and offspring.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Science and Art Celebrating Birds

Here's a great combination of science and art. Spend a few moments experiencing the creation of the Wall of Birds at Cornell University's Dept. of Ornithology. It will bring a smile to your day.

I count birds for Cornell's eBird and Project FeederWatch. You should too. When you document the birds you see, you watch with greater detail and it opens your world to include your wild neighbors. Band-tail pigeons at the feeder.

This year my visiting ruby-crowned kinglet and hermit thrush left two weeks earlier than in the past. Do they know something about the weather that we don't?

Cornell's Global Big Day, where people all over the world count birds, is coming up May 14th. Join in and help document bird population dynamics on a global scale.

Monday, January 25, 2016

New Book On Women in American History

The role of women in history, science, and culture often goes unheralded. I'm proud to announce that I contributed to a new four-volume reference book now available from ABC-CLIO Publishing.

Women in American History: A Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia and Document Collection 
edited by Peg Lamphier and Rosanne Welch
Available in the Spring 2016 catalog:

More than a standard encyclopedia, it brings together the women, movements and original documents connected with social change, court cases, science and culture. You might know the role Rachel Carson played in alerting the public to chemical toxins and inspiring the modern conservation movement, but did you know her earlier work The Sea Around Us sold more copies than Catcher in the Rye in 1951? She encouraged average people to be interested in science.

Did you know that your cell phone depends on science developed by Hedy Lamarr, a woman most known for starring as a sex kitten in Hollywood movies from the 1940s. Her beauty made it difficult for her to be taken seriously as an inventor.  

It's time to peel back the misconception of "women's roles" and understand the influential positions women held in pre-Revolutionary America, the true social status of Native American women prior to the erosion of their original cultures, and the influence of female French colonists in North America. How did women of all race contribute to politics, business, culture, and science help to build modern society? What can we learn from them and use to build a better future?