• chaetura_pelagica_flap_20120511

    New backyard bird: Chimney Swift

    By / May 11, 2012

    A bird that’s probably familiar to many of you is Chaetura pelagica (Linnaeus, 1758), more commonly known as Chimney Swift. It’s been described by Alexander Sprunt (1954) as “resembl[ing] in appearance a cigar on wings” because of its tubular body and long, long wings. Most of the time you see it on the wing, flying overhead… Read more

  • ischnura_posita__diag_20120510

    New backyard bug: Ischnura posita

    By / May 10, 2012

    One thing that I’m really enjoying about the new place is that I’ve seen several species of damselfly in the backyard in the little more than a year that we’ve been here. The old place had lots of dragon- and butterflies but, perhaps because there was no backyard pool, there were no damselflies, at least… grasshopper111410_2

    A grasshopper on a leaf is not a leafhopper

    By / April 11, 2011

    After you’ve seen them a few times, you stop being surprised at where you’ll find grasshoppers: crushed gravel roads, up in palmettos, on your pipevines. Still, when they let you approach closely, there’s no denying that they’re handsome beasts: But no matter where you find them (trees, leaves, gravel), they’re still grasshoppers, not treehoppers, leafhoppers,… Read more

  • Small Owls

    By / July 31, 2010

    I’m preparing a slide show for an upcoming talk on the Birds of India, and one of the most charming ones is Athene brama, the Spotted Owlet: Tiny little birds (hence the diminutive “owlet”), they are nonetheless mobbed mercilessly if they don’t choose their daytime hiding place carefully. At the Okhla Bird Sanctuary where I… Read more

  • Frogs by the garden hose

    By / May 19, 2010

    Introduced species play conspicuous roles in any ecosystem, particularly here in south Florida, the gateway to the Caribbean and most of Latin America. Every few years we hear of the potential for ecological harm posed by the latest introduction, either those that have escaped from captivity, like the walking catfish, Burmese python, or Purple Swamphen; the Everglades ecosystem… Read more

  • Florida’s marine terraces

    By / May 4, 2010

    In an article last year about Montana de Oro state park in California, I discussed how the land there includes a series of uplifted marine terraces. Those terraces are formed by a combination of geologic uplift at periodic intervals and the eroding action of the shoreline. Well, here in Florida we’re pretty conversant with the… Read more

  • Camouflage

    By / March 16, 2010

    The other day I was talking about spines on palm trees and got to thinking about defensive strategies of plants in general. It seems like there’s a general arms race going on between primary producers (organisms that convert sunlight into energy that sustains them) and primary consumers (organisms that capture that energy by feeding on… Read more

  • How low are the clouds?

    By / January 6, 2010

    I first set foot in Florida back in 1984, on spring break from my sophomore year of high school. I was accompanying my dad on a plane trip that was to take us from our home in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, located in a basin between the San Gabriel and the Santa Monica mountains, all… Read more

  • When is fall in South Florida?

    By / November 5, 2009

    I mean, really! The leaves of our tropical and subtropical trees aren’t really deciduous, so we can’t rely on the glorious fall defoliation as an indicator. This defoliation, which some people like because it’s preceded by a change in color from healthy chlorophyll green to less healthy oranges, browns, and reds, is caused by hormonal… Read more

  • It’s raining cats and…frogs?

    By / May 22, 2009

    Unfortunately, given the precipitous worldwide population crash among frog populations over the last few years*, even though the rainy season has kicked into high gear here in Florida, I’m not hearing a lot of calling frogs. Anecdotal evidence is mounting as well. When we first moved into our house in Florida,

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