Our Window on Nature

. . . exploring the world around us

Uninvited Guest

Filed under: Mammals — Lowell Christie -- September 11, 2014 @ 2:40 pm

Wood RatWe think we’ve finally trapped the right pack rat – the one who’s taken up residence atop our gray-water tank after building its granary in the engine compartment. Other than the fact that it has chewed through several spark plug cables, the problem is the critter’s nocturnal habits.

The trouble starts when, along about 2:00 a.m., “PR” scratches and scrapes out bits and pieces of insulation with which to line his nest. Our Doberman, Sassy, mutters under her breath in protest, and then Lowell growls at the dog. Hoping to ignore all three, Kaye pulls her pillow over her head.

Trap it, you say. That’s easily suggested, but not so easily accomplished. We bought a live trap and armed it with a gourmet spread of peanut butter and birdseed, but with the abundance of seeds scattered about the desert at the time, our offering held no attraction. (Read the rest …)

Fabulous Fungi

Filed under: Plants — Lowell Christie -- September 5, 2014 @ 10:50 am

MushroomThere are fungus among us; we call them mushrooms. Just what season they arrive depends upon the arrival of the rainy season, but they will pop up just about anywhere, even in the desert. You can imagine our amazement when a botanist held up a sample of a mushroom of the Sonoran desert. It appears only during the monsoon season and that means July and August. Of course, they look pretty desiccated even in their prime.

Awareness of the fungus, and of its curious properties, stretches far back into antiquity. The Bible refers to these strange plants. Ancient Greeks and Romans harvested them for food, and for their poisons for although many are quite edible, the wrong ones can be deadly.

(Read the rest …)

Gulls: Anything But Gullible

Filed under: Birds — Lowell Christie -- August 30, 2014 @ 6:36 pm


Jonathan Livingston Seagull, eat your heart out. The best browsing isn’t at the beach anymore; it’s at your local landfill. You’d better hurry, though. Word spreads fast, and almost every city dump in gull country already has a resident flock.

This doesn’t mean RVers won’t see these birds along the shoreline, however. A great many landfill gulls join their coastal cousins at the beach, snoozing until the rising tide laps at their feet. But when the dinner bell rings, they turn their backs on the beach and fly inland, swirling across cities large and small on their way to the local dump. In fact, the very presence of the steady supply of human refuse that is found at landfills has contributed to a burgeoning population of certain species of gulls. (Read the rest …)

Insect Architecture

Filed under: Bugs — Lowell Christie -- August 27, 2014 @ 6:41 pm

Think small. We’ve observed many insect architects lately and have been astounded by their diligence. Many of them slave away in campgrounds and in parking lots, oblivious to lazy humans who idle in the shade while they watch others work.

Most insect architects belong to the order Hymenoptera (which includes bees, ants, and wasps), but there are significant exceptions. For example, the praying mantis (a fairly primitive insect), is related to the cockroach, and ant lions are related to lacewings and dobsonflies.

(Read the rest …)

You Little Stinker

Filed under: Mammals — Lowell Christie -- June 15, 2008 @ 11:15 am

Skunk Not long ago we were out for a walk and we smelled a skunk — a very ripe, very dead skunk. When we finally located the source of the odor it proved to be a dried out, thoroughly dismembered carcass that had obviously been lying beside the road for months. Unseasonably warm weather had activated its pungent scent, proving that the odor of wood pussy certainly lingers. Long ago it had tangled with a car, lost, and ended up on the grassy bank.

That brings up the question of why in some areas skunks are exceeded only by rabbits and opossums in numbers of road kills. We all know how numerous rabbits are and how stupid opossums are, but skunks? They aren’t that numerous and they certainly aren’t dumb. Just overly confident.

(Read the rest …)

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