Our Window on Nature

. . . exploring the world around us

A Flash of Green

Filed under: Sky — Lowell Christie -- July 15, 2016 @ 11:12 am

Green_flashJules Verne, among others, wrote about the “green flash,” but the first time we read about it, we concluded that it seemed about as likely as traveling 20,000 leagues under the sea. It was called “an intense spark of colored light visible at sunrise or sunset” – sure, with Nessie rising to greet it, no doubt. However, after considerable research we decided that if the green flash does not exist, it is a hoax that has survived for a couple thousand years.

Assuming that the right atmospheric conditions are present, along with a view of a distant horizon, and the sun sinking toward its nighttime rest, scientists explain the phenomenon as follows. Consider a prism and the way it splits light into its component colors. The green color comes from a leftover ray of sunlight still hanging in the sky after the red, orange, and yellow have dropped below the horizon. The blue and violet rays are scattered invisibly in the atmosphere, leaving a clear emerald green just at the edge of the sun – the same green rim we’ve seen many times when ignoring parental admonitions to “Stop looking at the sun. It will ruin your eyes! ”

(Read the rest …)

Chipmunk Chatter

Filed under: Mammals — Lowell Christie -- July 11, 2016 @ 7:34 am

ChipmonkChock, chock, chock, chock …. A metronomelike chirp resounded through the forest in Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains. The sound was so similar to a bird call that it puzzled us at first. What is it, we wondered. Doesn’t it ever shut up? For several minutes we peered into the gloom, watching and shifting position until we were far enough apart to triangulate on the sound.

We finally located the critter; it was a chipmunk perched next to the trunk of a tree. Chock, chock … you would have thought that its vocal cords were connected to its rear end, because – without fail – every repeat of its call was accompanied by a sharp jerk of its tail. (Read the rest …)

A Tale of Dragons and Damsels

Filed under: Bugs — Lowell Christie -- June 25, 2016 @ 10:03 am

DragonflyThese dragons don’t chase damsels in distress. As a matter of fact, they don’t chase much of anything except small flying insects acceptable as food.  Oh yes, and other dragonflies.

At a length of two to five inches, dragonflies are the modern world’s largest insects, but they’re puny by ancient standards. A dragonfly imprint dated to the time of dinosaurs boasts a wing span of 30 inches. That’s appropriate when you consider the size of the dinosaurs that frequented the same rivers and ponds, but imagine one flying into your hair. (Read the rest …)

Leave It To Beavers

Filed under: Mammals — Lowell Christie -- May 28, 2016 @ 8:24 pm

BeaverNature lovers can’t easily watch beaver behavior, because the animals are, for the most part, creatures of the night. Yet we needn’t crouch on a stream bank swatting mosquitoes to know beavers are around. A dam reveals their presence.

No matter how large this dam might be, a typical beaver pond supports just one family grouping: the parents (monogamous while both parties live), one or two yearlings, and the current year’s offspring. In addition to this core family group, older siblings occasionally return to their natal surroundings if they are unable to secure, or are evicted from, a homesite. Apparently, the group identity persists even after a long absence, because there have been cases when a familiar individual is welcomed back after several years. (Read the rest …)

Watching Doodlebugs

Filed under: Bugs — Lowell Christie -- May 7, 2016 @ 8:16 pm

DoodlebugIt’s often much easier to find the tracks or marks a critter leaves than to discover the track maker. But sometimes you’re just not looking closely enough. Take the case of the doodlebug.

We had seen doodlebug holes and trails long before we knew who made them. They usually occur in sandy locations, and the holes are perfectly symmetrical cone-shaped depressions an inch or two deep. They look as though someone had poked a stick into the sand while strolling by. Often you will see multiple holes in an appropriate area. And hidden at the bottom of the hole is the doodlebug. (Read the rest …)

 
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