Our Window on Nature

. . . exploring the world around us

Shades of Gold

Filed under: Trees — Lowell Christie -- July 30, 2015 @ 8:11 pm

AspenOn one of our favorite walks, the slightest breeze brings the sounds of a flowing mountain spring. But thirsty as we may be, we no longer bother looking for moving water. It’s actually the flutter of aspen leaves set trembling by air currents passing by.

Depending upon the speed of the air, the sound can range from the almost inaudible hiss of soft rainfall (some call it the music from thousands of butterfly wings) to the rush of a mighty mountain stream. If there is any air movement at all there will be some sound, accompanied by a shimmering light show as the aspen leaves flutter in the breeze. (Read the rest …)

Summer’s Flashing Fireflies

Filed under: Bugs — Lowell Christie -- July 24, 2015 @ 3:22 pm

firefliesPinpoints of light danced the minuet across our darkened lawn, a visual counterpoint to the dozens of chirping crickets and the distant drum roll of thunder. Such are the memories of hot, muggy Midwestern summer evenings.

Miles away and decades later, we paused in our drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The air was heavy with the scent of white and red and pink roses, so we close the windows  of our motorhome (proving that even amid such beauty, allergies take precedence over aromas).

As night draws near, the roses and the grasses are clothed with flashing lights, this time of a slightly different flashing pattern and a somewhat different color. (Read the rest …)

Desert Rip Van Winkle

Filed under: Critters — Lowell Christie -- July 17, 2015 @ 11:52 am

SpadefootA desert in early July is no place for tourists. The sun parches the soil with 110-degree temperatures – desiccating the plants and bleaching the mountains to a drab and uniform beige. You’d like to keep driving until you find someplace cooler, but it’s been a long day; reluctantly, you stop for the night.

In no more time than it takes to settle into your campsite, puffy white clouds grow from mere wisps into a black, towering mass. There’s a thunderstorm in the making, and it’s headed your way. You welcome the relief of a good, hard rain washing over your motorhome, pounding on your roof, and massaging the heat out of the air. Then, a couple of hours later, after dark, you hear the most ungodly racket. An entire herd of sheep? Right there in the campground? Heat-induced madness or minor miracle? (Read the rest …)

Sundogs and Moonbows

Filed under: Sky — Lowell Christie -- July 7, 2015 @ 12:34 pm

LightPillar-YeahsooWe spend a lot of time watching the sky. It helps us forecast weather conditions as we travel, exercises our imagination with fanciful cloud formations, and provides habitat for the soaring birds we like to observe. But add some distant raindrops, or cirrus clouds full of tiny ice crystals, and you have the setting for some spectacular events in the outdoors.

Everyone pauses to look at rainbows as the air clears after a storm, but few realize how much is going on in the atmosphere the rest of the time. If you know where and when to look you can see sundogs, light pillars, brilliant halos, and colorful arcs in the sky. They’re all related to light reflected or refracted by moisture, either liquid or frozen. (Read the rest …)

It’s An Acorn Tree

Filed under: Trees — Lowell Christie -- July 2, 2015 @ 12:42 pm

AcornsAccording to our seven-year-old neighbor, the correct name for an oak is acorn tree. After all, he reasons, if the parent of a peach is a peach tree, of a lemon is a lemon tree, why would the parent of an acorn be called an oak? He has a point.

We wouldn’t even attempt to explain to him why acorns are technically fruit.  He, and we, tend to think of the word fruit as applying only to such things as apples, plums, and cherries. But walnuts, almonds, and filberts are fruits, for, according to my dictionary and any botany instructor, the definition of a fruit is the riped ovary, or ovaries, of a seed-bearing plant. Fleshy fruits, often edible, may be more familiar to us, but there are many more dry fruits than fleshy ones, especially in the wild. (Read the rest …)

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