Archive for the ‘spring’ Tag

SunSpecial: Re-membering   Leave a comment

Memorial Day was created as a time to show recognition and respect for men and women who had given up everything to help work toward a better world. Now, Memorial Weekend has become a time for vacations, sports, cook-outs and much of the remembering isn’t about those who sacrificed to make our lives better, but remembering to buy the kinds of sodas everyone likes. As we sit down at our campground, picnic site, or dinner table with family and friends it’s easy to forget why we have this day of remembrance, and the world we often take for granted. Just don’t forget to check that everyone at the table is really on the invitation list.

Bear picnic public domain

Posted May 29, 2016 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SunSpecial

Tagged with , ,

SciSun: Good Mom Bad Mom   Leave a comment

Mothers have quite the responsibility. Wildlife mothers, in particular (mothers of animals that are wildlife. Not necessarily mothers of children that act wild) have to make decisions and choices based upon the safety, protection, health and well-being of their children, while constantly aware of dangers from field and sky: From predators looking for an easy meal; to other members of the group who may not want babies around; to, now more than ever, pressures of a human world where cars, poisons, unsafe discarded food, backyard dogs and cats, and even other children (of the human type) are constant concerns that to wildlife are just more threats in a world already threatening. And animal mothers have to deal with all of it, without the help of a minivan, take out dinners, synched schedules, self-help books or even a convenient coffee bistro on every corner.

On our hikes, nature walks or even in own back yard we might come across young animals such as baby birds; rabbits; even deer who look so small and lonely and vulnerable and abandoned, we just want to help. What kind of mother would leave her babies alone, anyway? These modern wildlife mothers just have no idea how to care for a family. But temporarily leaving their young alone is not only the best way for many wild animals to care for their offspring; it’s the way generations of these species have lived and succeeded in a world that was dangerous long before they had to contend with human development and urban and suburban environments and people who want to help ‘abandoned’ babies yet are doing more harm, than good.

Although clearly told by her mother to 'Not move from where I left you', Fionna the Fawn couldn't help sneaking into the neighbors' pool.

Although clearly told by her mother to ‘Not move from where I left you’, Fionna the Fawn couldn’t help sneaking into the neighbors’ pool.


While by our standards mothers who leave their children might be considered as poor role models (“Do what I say, not what I do!”), this ‘bad’ mothering is a wildlife adaptation that helps hide young animals from predators and draw attention away from the newly-born and toward the adult parents who are better equipped to evade, outrun, or outfox a fox or other predator. Wildlife mothers can leave their babies, safely hidden in tall grass, among shrubbery, or in other thick vegetation for hours or even a day, but always return to feed, care for, and check on the children. Young that seem abandoned and lonely are actually sitting quietly waiting for mothers’ (and sometimes fathers’) return, acting upon thousands of years of evolution and possibly doing just what mother tells them to. (Why human children don’t naturally sit quietly and do what their parents tell them to do, we don’t know.). Many wildlife young even have specialized camouflaged fur and feather patterns, make only soft sounds, and lack any strong odor which helps them hide. Again, just the opposite of human children.

So while any ‘abandoned’ wild baby is cause for our notice; it’s not necessarily cause for our attention. An animal that has been left for more than a day may require assistance from a qualified wildlife rehabilitator; and a baby bird, fallen from its nest, would need a helping hand to place it back in its home (the baby won’t be neglected because a human has touched it. That’s an old wives tale, probably told by an old wife who wasn’t a mother). Generally, the best way to help wildlife young is to leave them alone; keep a respective watch for return of the parents; and enjoy the sight of wild nature overcoming the challenges of living a wild life in a human-centered world. Because while a good wildlife mother might seem to ignore her children; only a bad human mother will interfere with the wildness that surrounds us all.,4669,7-192-71992_71993-378915–,00.html


Michonne Says: My mother always watched us to be certain we didn’t get in trouble and If we went too far way she’d call us back and then we’d never hear the end of it. When I was a baby I didn’t think the world was all that dangerous but now that I am older I see you have to be very careful and always watch for trouble, no matter where adventure takes you.

Posted May 8, 2016 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

Tagged with , ,

SciSun: The South has Risen. Again.   Leave a comment

It’s (almost) Spring! When flowers are in bloom; birds busy themselves seeking out the best nest materials; groundhogs emerge from their dens (not because they do or do not see their shadow but because they’re hungry); and it’s neither too hot nor too cold to enjoy carefree days of picnicking, walks in the country; and enjoying lively green plants rustling in a gentle wind. But just when you thought it was safe to go outside, yet another ecological intruder raises its trespassing head: The invasive ‘superweed’ Johnsongrass (Sorghum halapense) – but cleverly disguised as a harmless, and to many observers, welcome and hearty ornamental plant.

Humans generally have a love/hate relationship with grass. Some types – like the luxurious Bluegrass (a favored type for lawns, even though it’s not really blue); thick Fescue (often used for playing fields and other well-used areas); and Bermuda (you don’t have to live in the tropics to enjoy this variety!) are sought out by park planners, landscapers, and homeowners who will, inevitably, yell at kids to get off their grass. But other types of turf: Zoysia, unwelcome for lawns due to it’s prickly feel; and Crabgrass, a generic name for many types of uneven, clumpy, quickly spreading grass (which even crabs themselves don’t particularly like), are despised by most acreage activists and considered unwelcome or even ripped out of the ground as that most unwelcome of all plant types, the lowly ‘weed’. (Although by researching native plants in your area, many ‘weeds’ are actually valuable – but maybe not pretty – important parts of the natural ecosystem).

Fallstaff, as a representative of AGHH! (Associated Goat and Herbivore Hotline), knows Johnsongrass could make him sick. That's why he eats a balanced diet of weeds, bark, and shrubs.

Fallstaff, as a representative of AGHH! (Associated Goat and Herbivore Hotline), knows Johnsongrass could make him sick. That’s why he eats a balanced diet of weeds, bark, and shrubs.

Still, humans seem to like ‘nice’ grasses, particularly those that show unique features such as a tall profile or unusual seed stalks; that gently sway in a breeze; or with varying shades of green that can be highlighted in a landscape as ‘specimen’, ‘border’ or ‘foundation’ examples. And in its clever plan to invade our yards and parks, Johnsongrass fits many of these qualities. Along with, unfortunately, the ability to quickly out-compete native grasses and plants; crowd out cultivated plants in agricultural fields; and even produce toxins that poison livestock who eat the grass. Of course Johnsongrass itself isn’t purposely undertaking the invasion of our lands on its own; as a species out-of-place, the plant is well-adapted to its native environment among fields, forest edges and streambanks of the Mediterranean, half a world away from North America; but as an introduced species, the plant becomes a formidable competitor which can unbalance entire ecosystems.

Maybe the real origin of this invasion is the man who’s credited with naming – and encouraging the spread of Johnsongrass – Colonel William Johnson. About a decade before the Civil War (‘War Between the States’; or, for Col. Johnson and other Southerners, the ‘War of Northern Aggression’), Johnson brought seeds of the newly-introduced plant back to his Alabama plantation to stabilize the loose soils around riverbanks. Being a fine Southern gentleman, the good Colonel distributed seeds of the grass to his friends and neighbors, recommending the plant as a fine example of the variety of ‘useful and ornamental’ plants produced by the Southern states. While some sources claim the grass had already begun to establish itself in other areas of the US as early as the 1840’s, it’s curious that Col. Johnson, by 1860 too old to serve in the Army yet with a distinguished record during the War of 1812, chose to inspire the proliferation of a plant that flourished in the South, and in many ways was at the time viewed as a symbol of Southern prosperity. Today the battles of that terrible time may be over; but the war against an invader continues on.


Michonne Says: I’ve seen all types of grass and I don’t think any of them were named Johnson. But I never really thought about it. Besides I don’t have much use for any plants that don’t have flowers or berries.

Posted April 17, 2016 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

Tagged with , ,

The Hare Minimum: Rain, man   Leave a comment

Following five years of critical drought in most of the Western US, strong snowfalls this past winter – following up with heavy rain in the Spring (it’s El Niño! Or, due to it’s strength, maybe this year it’s El Hombre!!) – is now resulting in above-average water levels in most man-made and natural reservoirs; and higher-than-usual amount of river stage (the amount of water in a flowing body, such as a river or stream); and streamflow (how fast that water is moving). So, while all this water is welcome and needed, this could now lead to floods as some types of soil have become too parched to absorb the same amount of water they held years ago and rather than water soaking in and being held like a sponge, excess water could lead to mud-slides and dangerous water levels.

Yet a return to normal water amounts means it’s time to celebrate, but not necessarily by having a pool party; water’s a finite resource, and while there may be more of it now for us to use there’s definite limits when millions of people are depending upon a limited amount of water. So rather than washing our cars every week or watering the lawn while it’s raining (really?!), maybe the best way to celebrate is by drinking a large glass of water as we enjoy the new Spring greenness. Because humans aren’t the only species that depend on water.

At ValleyHill middle school, PE instructor Mr. Lapstead believes that drought or no drought, nothing will interfere with his 'safety swimming with a buddy' class.

At ValleyHill middle school, PE instructor Mr. Lapstead believes that drought or no drought, nothing will interfere with his ‘safety swimming with a buddy’ class.

Posted April 10, 2016 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in The Hare minimum

Tagged with , ,

The Hare Minimum: Springing into Action   Leave a comment

In celebration of Easter when flowers bloom and birds build nests and rabbits paint and hide eggs (never understood that one), here’s some exclusive hidden-camera video of what challenges the Easter Bunny and his friends encounter while actually trying to collect those eggs. Because geese are never in a good mood. And rabbits still don’t understand how they got stuck with this job.


Posted March 27, 2016 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in The Hare minimum

Tagged with ,

SciSun: Ya’ Gotta Know the Territory   Leave a comment

Everybody’s got to be someplace. And for most wildlife (and domesticated animals, and plants, and people, too, for that matter), some-place is a territory. While our ‘territory’ – or personal space – might be our room, house, or yard (‘You kids get off my grass!), the territories of most other species might not seem so well-defined – at least not to us, who rely more upon fences and concrete and walls to identify who lives where. Yet unseen, ‘open’ areas to us are actually carefully-defined and patrolled spaces to those ‘in the know’, where individuals or even groups guard and protect what they’ve claimed as their own.

And of all species, Elephant Seals (Mirounga angustirostris and M. leonina) need a lot of space. Maybe not in terms of overall area claimed, where a pack of Grey Wolves (Canis lupus) can range over 1000 square miles, or the Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) claims hundreds of square miles as its own; but big just in size, because Elephant Seals are, well, elephantine-big. At up to 20 feet long and weighing almost 9000 pounds, males of of the Southern species (M. leonina), living along the coasts of South America (as well as New Zealand and South Africa) are larger than any other American animal that spends any time on land, and throughout the world surpassed only by a few giants like actual elephant-Elephants; Hippopotamus; and White Rhinoceros. The Northern species (M. angustirostris) – that are found along the coasts of Mexico, California, Oregon and Washington – are slightly smaller but still formidable at 15 or so feet and 5000 pounds, again, for the males. Females of both species are much smaller but still outclass any other seal, sea lion, surfer, or beach-goer along the shore. Of course, most any of the great whales populating the oceans are larger than the largest Elephant Seal – even though both are closely related.

Thinking the informative signs about elephant seals actually identify this overlook as the best place for elephant seals,  Angus Sealingford tries to claim his territory.  Fortunately animal experts were able to steer him away equipped with the latest technology in seal control, thin sheets of plywood.

Thinking the informative signs about elephant seals actually identify this overlook as the best place for elephant seals, Angus Sealingford tries to claim his territory. Fortunately animal experts were able to steer him away equipped with the latest technology in seal control, thin sheets of plywood.

Because all seals; sea lions; dolphins; whales; porpoises; and, some classify, polar bears are Marine Mammals, very similar to dogs and horses and rabbits and raccoons and mice and you and I and thousands of other species in that we are all warm-blooded (endothermic – relying on physiology, rather than environment, to maintain body temperature); have a vertebrae (or ‘backbone’); give birth to live babies (rather than laying eggs) and feed those babies milk; and have hair on our bodies. Yes, even whales have hair, although not that much and it’s hard to see. Like that guy we all know that combs his hair from the back to the front and thinks no one notices. But what is most distinctive about Marine Mammals is all make their homes in the ocean. Whales (including dolphins and porpoises which are small whales), obviously, live their entire lives in the water; while seals and sea lions prefer to rest on land. Which brings us back to territory; because each season of late Winter through Spring, these animals crowd beaches, during this time known as pup rookeries, looking for the best places to claim as they search for mates and protect the patch of sand they’ve selected as their own. (Hint: Halfway between the rocks and the water is the best location. The commute might be a little longer, but can’t beat the view!).

Along the central California coast, for a few weeks thousands of seals can be seen – and heard – as they threaten perceived trespassers and challenge their neighbors for getting just a little too close to their space; because this is the only time of the year that seals and sea lions are unusually territorial; during much of their lives most of these pinniped species are content to live and let live, sometimes even working together as they fish. But on land, particularly during the Spring (when it seems all animals are hurrying to find the best nest sites and secure the most favored areas), it’s best to enjoy seals and sea lions from a distance. And, if at any time of year you are exploring a beach and should come across one of these two-ton Elephants, just back away slowly. While we, as people, have a choice of where we go, no seal or sea lion is ever really all that willing to share his personal space.


Michonne Says: Everybody knows there are all sorts of strange things living in the water so nothing in this story surprises me at all, even though I’m not sure what an ‘ocean’ is. Or a ‘sea’, either. But if sea lions are anything like mountain lions, I bet they hide behind rocks and jump out at you, but IN THE WATER!!

Posted March 6, 2016 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

Tagged with , ,

SciSun: Love in Boom   Leave a comment

Cupid, a god of ancient Rome (the Romans believed in two types of gods: Major gods, who controlled things like weather, the ocean, and destiny itself – and could cause a lot of trouble if they didn’t like you – and Minor gods, who were more concerned with human day-to-day life, such as the Goddess of bread-baking and the God of weeding), was revered among that Classical Civilization as the powerful god of love and attraction. Only though the help of Cupid could one find and hold love. Online dating sites hadn’t caught on yet. (Cupid started out as a single being, but later became multiple Cupids as best fit whatever story was being told at the time, resulting in the numerous little winged baby cuipids, with bow and arrow in hand, now seen as symbols of the occasion). Today, on Valentines Day (which may itself be the remaining fragment of a Roman holiday), we’re not concerned about what Cupid, the matchmaker, might mean to us; but, how that name became associated with, of all things, a medium-size prairie-living bird.

Tympanuchus cupido is the Greater Prairie Chicken. A member of the Grouse family (along with Sage Grouse and Ptarmigan), the Prairie Chicken is not a chicken, but was named after its size, shape, and somewhat similar coloration to the typical farm chicken known to many pioneers of the 1800’s. Once numbering in the hundreds of thousands across America’s Midwest, from northern Texas to Minnesota, by the 1930’s the species was nearly extinct due to loss of habitat, environmental pressures, previously unknown predators (dogs and cats), and, of course, that unfortunate resemblance to chickens when a typical Midwestern Sunday dinner was chicken with all the fixens’.

The species is now slowly recovering, but how was a weekends’ dinner named for the Roman god of love? Particularly as these birds aren’t normally associated with Valentines; like the Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur); or sweethearts, such as Lovebirds (genus Agapornis); nor do Prairie Chiks make any appearances at weddings, or on the covers of Valentines day cards. The name probably refers to booming, a behavior not supporting a college football team but rather an annual Spring event where male Chiks gather together at booming grounds – called leks – and perform elaborate dances for females, who are observing nearby. While none of the birds are known to break out into any of the latest dances, they do have the tried-and-true moves of stomping their feet while walking in small circles; fanning and un-fanning their tail and head feathers; inflating and deflating colorful air sacks on their necks; and making deep ‘booming’ and ‘chucking’ sounds. Very similar to what many guys do at the club every Saturday night.

While this behavior might not necessarily be what’s expected of a Cupid, it does fall into the category of attraction and love – whenever a female chick decides that one special sac-inflating circle-walking tail-snapping male is the one for her. And because of this, scientists (who often name discoveries based upon classical figures; or location; or themselves); decided to title the bird after an ancient Roman deity representing love. Which, for a Prairie Chicken, is a much better name than ‘dinner’.


Michonne Says: Anyone who walks in circles stomping their feet and shakes their tail and makes strange deep sounds and worse of all, inflates pouches on their neck doesn’t sound right. I think these chickies need to take a long rest until they feel better and don’t want to do these strange things any more.

Posted February 14, 2016 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

Tagged with , , ,