The Migration of the Monarch Butterfly

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The monarch butterfly. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

The lovely orange-and-black monarch butterflies have begun their fall migration to Mexico. It takes them about two months.  They ride cold fronts, soaring on currents. As it does for birds, soaring saves the butterflies the energy they would expend flapping their wings.

They often traveling 20-30 miles per hour, covering 80 miles a day. Think about that. A flimsy little thing like a butterfly flies for two months straight with speed and intention. What excuse do you, a large strong mammal, have for not getting things done? Like, oh, for instance, not pressing your children’s school uniforms to a crease?

From Maryland they fly in pairs or small groups. Look for them. As they journey south the groups grow larger. One of the five so-called “Super Stops” for migrating monarchs is on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia. At Black Walnut Point on Tilghman Island, Maryland, the innkeepers at Black Walnut Inn have planted an acre of chrysanthemums to attract hundreds of monarch butterflies each fall. The butterflies need to refuel on nectar. Their favorite food is milkweed. And it is on milkweed that monarchs lay their eggs. You get the idea: milkweed is vitally important to the species for growing and reproducing. Continue reading

Lovely, and Alarming, Canada Geese

 

Photo via allaboutbirds.org

Photo via allaboutbirds.org

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

The Cornell Lab or Ornithology’s website describes the Canada goose as “a familiar and widespread goose with a black head and neck, white chinstrap, light tan to cream breast and brown back.” Yep. That’s a good description, last I looked out my living room window at a gaggle of them. The site goes on to note that the goose has “increased in urban and suburban areas in recent years.” Increased? That’s putting it lightly. They’re freakin’ takin’ over the place. 

I was happy this past spring when they left Owings Mills for points north for their summer feeding grounds in Canada. I spent the summer thinking, Gee, I don’t miss that honking cacophony at all. I liked also not being spun around by my dog, a Bichon, who would invariably lunge after one of them when I took her for a walk. I’d tell her, as if bursting the bubble of a small child’s wish to fly, “You couldn’t take one of them if you tried.” She looked at me like, “But Mama I’d be so happy trying!” My dog is the embodiment of the Winston Churchill quote, “Success is going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.” By that account, Sugar leads a wildly successful life. Continue reading

It’s Shark Week: Appreciating and Fearing the Great White

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This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

It’s been Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. I hope all you shark lovers (and who isn’t, especially when viewed from the safety of your couch?) have been raising your goblet of rock. The creatures are television gold, and so popular there have been numerous retail tie-ins including ice cream flavors at Cold Stone, the favorite of my son, 9. Of course his favorite shark is the Great White. Second favorite shark? The mako. Third favorite? The basking. Distant last favorite: the whale shark.

My daughter, 7, says she wishes there were such a thing as a pink cupcake shark with sparkles, because, if there were, that would be her favorite. Failing the evolution of such an animal (Dare to dream? There is a Pink Amazonian River Dolphin, after all), she says her favorite shark is also the Great White.

The Great White is everyone’s favorite sea-scare. My what great big teeth you have!  Who hasn’t had a spine tingle while swimming in the waters off Ocean City, thinking as you paddle, what if? What if you saw a cresting ominous fin? Here’s what happened when Woods Hole Oceanographic scientists caught a Great White on film: the thing attacked their camera.

Continue reading

That Nature Show: Going Batty for Bats

 

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This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

If it’s bats to like bats, I don’t want to be right.

I mean, c’mon, these are little flying mammals! Adorbs!  Tiny mouselike paws, fur, wings…and echolocation? Meaning they can “see” at night by sending out sound waves? Totally sci-fi! Am I right?

If I told you there were mole-ish or mouse-ish creatures in my world (in fact, the German word for bat is fledermaus) that could fly at night because they could see through sound waves, you would look at me and you’d make the “screw is loose” hand gesture. But there you have it. They exist. The world has magic in it. Continue reading

That Nature Show: The Song of the Cicadas

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This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.

The soundtrack of late summer is the call of the cicada. It is such a bittersweet sound, signaling Back-to-School shopping and the end of seemingly endless days dockside or pool side sipping drinks served in coconuts in which umbrellas have been placed by men in shorts. Oh, sadness.

Late summer is the season of voluptuous anxiety. When the days are still warm, and the apples still-ripening on the apple trees, but the cicadas cry like little buggy sentinels for us to make plans for whose house we’re going for Thanksgiving. Continue reading