Our Window on Nature

. . . exploring the world around us

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 …)

John Muir Was Here

Filed under: Others — Lowell Christie -- April 21, 2016 @ 3:55 pm

John MuirWriter and naturalist John Muir is one of our favorites. He’s been called a “Wilderness Prophet,” as well as “Father of our National Parks.” Although most closely associated with Yosemite National Park, we’ve found traces of his travels from Florida to Alaska. Here’s a Baker’s Dozen of his favorite locations as he described them in his many articles, letters, and books. (Read the rest …)

Avian Behavior

Filed under: Birds — Lowell Christie -- April 9, 2016 @ 6:33 pm

W-GrebesWhat is bird-watching? If we limit our definition to the identification of new birds in order to lengthen one’s “life list,” birders who cannot afford to travel ’round the world chasing different species would soon check themselves right out of the sport. After you reach the point where nothing but rarities interests you, what’s left?

Fortunately, only a few birders take that narrow an attitude; most of us find watching a bird’s behavior every bit as entertaining as identifying its family lineage. Waves of warblers and kettles of raptors appear only several times each year, but the patterns of courtship and territorial and feeding behaviors are constantly occurring around us. (Read the rest …)

Those 0l’ Devil Winds

Filed under: Weather — Lowell Christie -- April 1, 2016 @ 5:42 pm

DustDevil-3Prodigious pillars of sand … stalking with majestic slowness … their tops reaching to the very clouds.” So wrote Swiss adventurer John Burchardt when describing the swirling phenomena that he saw while exploring the deserts of northern Africa. The Native Americans of the Southwest called this sort of manifestation a “devil wind” when it occurred in their land. Today, we’re most likely to refer to it as a whirlwind or a “dust devil.”

But don’t give Satan the credit. A dust devil is actually a special type of dust storm. Instead of sweeping across the terrain as a broad sheet of blowing dust and debris, it is made up of dust that whirls in the form of a spinning column. (Read the rest …)

Searching for Spring

Filed under: Plants — Lowell Christie -- March 24, 2016 @ 7:59 pm

Columbine-LTwo thirds of the way through March is the beginning of the season we call spring. Often those in the colder parts of the country celebrate with snow shovels, digging out from a late winter storm.

[Originally written in 2009] Headlines such as last year’s are not unusual: March 21, 2008 – EARLY SPRING SNOWSTORM SOCKS MIDWEST; March 21, 2008 – NASTY SPRING SNOWSTORM AFFECTING FLIGHTS IN AND OUT OF CHICAGO; March 22, 2008 – SNOW SUSPENDS SPRING.

What is this thing called spring? Can we really pin its beginning to a particular date? Or does the date depend on specific plants – when they bloom, or when your particular locality turns green instead of white? Like many things in nature, spring seems to be a process, a gradual transition that doesn’t really have a beginning or an end.

Let’s start by examining why, on this year’s calendar, March 20th is marked as the beginning of spring. Then we’ll show how you can take part in a project to help define the other spring – the one that doesn’t have a date. (Read the rest …)

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