With so much food available locally and the milkweed along the route being less frequent, it is a high possibility that Migrating Monarchs may be more Local Los Angeles or Southern California Monarchs. But they would not be the first animal to stop its migration because of the climate. Canadian Geese have been observed to remain year round instead of migrating because of the available resources and the warm weather, and certainly many people feel the same, considering the population of California!
What does a flash of orange and black wings in the sky, a chubby white and black and yellow lump on a leaf, a delicate light green translucent jade container with flecks of iridescent gold trim, and a microscopic light green cone on the underside of leaves have to do with one another? If you have ever seen any one of the three then, you have seen one of the unique life stages of a Monarch Butterfly, an intricate and
fragile California Native Insect. While the different life stages of a Monarch are fascinating, it is the endurance and incredible distances that this lightweight insect travels that is truly astonishing.
This past weekend I was able to see an American icon! It wasn’t at the Superbowl or on the streets of Los Angeles, but at a frozen and snow-covered Big Bear Lake I saw the famous bald eagle.
The San Bernadino Mountains were perfect that weekend. I was there for a retreat and the snow had built up perfectly. In the early mornings, you could hear the sounds of the ice cracking on the lake and as the day went on little miniature streams broke open in the ice on the lake and flocks of geese and ducks could be seen far off in the distance paddling around in the frigid water. These birds have amazing insulation and feathers which help to keep them warm and allow the water to roll right off their backs. When I stepped outside to get a closer look, I went downward up to my knees suddenly finding myself in three feet of snow! Continue Reading →
This past week we received a call from some friends who had a nature story to share with us–they had discovered an entire stump full of mushrooms just outside their home! The mushrooms were crowded together, varying in size and stages of growth. While their tan color wasn’t particularly impressive, their sheer number and clustering was fascinating. Seemingly overnight these brown umbrellas had popped up for the world to see.
While mushrooms appear to pop up out of thin air, they actually have really unique ways of becoming a full grown mushroom. Many mushrooms start out underground and pop to the surface only after the “fleshy-fruiting body” is fully developed from the spore. That sounds like a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo, so what exactly is a mushroom and how do they work?
First we will have to break it down a bit, a mushroom is a fungus. That means a mushroom is neither a plant nor an animal–it is it’s own unique creature. Scientists commonly describe mushrooms as being composed of a “fleshy body” that spreads spores. What that essentially means is that the mushroom is capable of making more mushrooms without another mushroom (spores = baby mushrooms or mushroom “seeds” if you will). Continue Reading →
We are back! Happy New Year everyone, we hope you have been having many nature adventures in our absence. In the past few weeks I know I certainly have had all kinds of nature adventures: being followed by a coyote, stumbling upon some skunks, being buzzed by some hummingbirds and much more. . . But the joy of nature walks and nature stories truly lies in sharing them! Please feel free to share your nature stories with us. You can submit your stories to facebook at: Havasi Wilderness Foundation.
Recently a friend of Havasi Wilderness Foundation observed that where she lived (up north in Oregon) hummingbirds are spotted all year round, much like in our California climate, however these hummingbirds stay even in the winter. Hummingbirds can be spotted even during the snowy months–buzzing about in spite of the frigid temperatures. Now we know that the postal service runs rain or shine, but apparently even certain types of hummingbirds tough it out. But how do they do it? Hummingbirds have such a high metabolism and are so small it seems impossible that they would be able to survive. They don’t have blubber, they don’t have fur, they don’t have those warm downy feathers that many other bird species use to survive winters. They couldn’t possibly hibernate like bears. . . If we see them they must be awake and active. Continue Reading →
From the park bench, I could easily watch the two Eastern gray squirrels fake fighting and playing. These squirrels tend to be more solitary and less playful than ground squirrels but these two squirrels were bouncing around as if they could defy gravity. Eastern gray squirrels are actually quite impressive jumpers, and can easily leap up to fifteen feet horizontally and free-fall twenty feet or more. These squirrels have especially thrived in human environments where they have easy access to food (including many decorative plants) and where people feed them.
It was a pleasant little scene and I looked down to check my phone. When I looked up, the scene had changed. The bouncing squirrels had disappeared. Where did they go? I saw one motionless in the dirt and one had scurried even further away from the tree. What had changed? Had it been a territory battle? Continue Reading →
Happy Holidays! We have entered into the season of thankfulness and lots of sweet treats; which means I need to get out more. Not just because being outdoors is amazing but if I want to be able to stay healthy and enjoy the winter wildlife I need to make an effort to be outdoors. Thanksgiving was wonderful but with all the heavy and delicious food eaten I really needed to get outside and walk some of those calories off.
A good friend of mine (who also loves getting outdoors) joined me for a late night nature walk. We started out sometime after 7 pm for a night walk in the neighborhoods near the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. It was quite dark and damp–the air was misty and cold from the ocean and the oncoming winter, as we walked we kept an eye out for nocturnal animals. Most of the nocturnal creatures I’ve seen lately have been spiders but we saw none that evening as we walked. Occasionally we have seen a racoon or a coyote on this same walk, but they must have been nice and warm inside sleeping off their Thanksgiving left-overs because we didn’t see any. Not even a single rabbit was out on their front porches. . . It seemed like we were in for a quiet and uneventful nature walk.
We were chatting away when we were interrupted by a call. Four who who whoooos and then silence. We froze and looked at each other grinning. . . Had we imagined it? Just when we were beginning to think we were hearing things we heard it again! And looking up on the top of a chimney three stories up we saw a silhouette of an owl. We called back to it. “Whoo whoo whoo whooooo!”
I don’t know about you but the fact that the sun sets so early has been confusing my internal clock. I’ve been taking longer to adjust, so several days ago when I got home from work in the dark and clicked on the light switch in the
kitchen, it took me several minutes to realize something wasn’t right. There was a fluttering and a movement that I don’t normally see inside my house. . . Moths. The kitchen had moths fluttering around, walking on cabinets and sitting on the walls and fridge. I was horrified. I love animals, insects, moths. . . but I really do not like it when they are in my house. And I especially do not like to be surprised.
“Before the Flood” is more than just another film on climate change. Leonardo DiCaprio guides the viewers through his own personal experience as UN Ambassador of Peace discovering the science behind climate change and its impact on everyday people across the globe. For me, having studied Environmental Science in college the drama of climate change was so commonly talked about that watching this film did not have the sense of novelty that many of the viewers would feel. However, because of my familiarity with the topic I can say that “Before the Flood” addresses many of the issues with climate change that others have avoided and as a whole it provides the most complete and positive collection of science, policy and personal stories I have seen outside of in-class/in-depth discussions between climate scientists.
Climate change is complicated, and that is one of the first things we learned as Environmental Scientists. Our world is a huge web of cause and effects that we really don’t fully understand. From food chains that exist in our own backyards to the ocean currents and El Nino, our world is so incredibly beautiful, fragile and complex that scientists are still discovering things! And this is true of climate change, there are many factors that can directly speed up climate change. But just because there are so many factors in this incredibly complex system does not mean that humans have no impact on the environment. It also does not mean that we won’t be able to change anything for better (or worse). “Before the Flood” presents this idea by following Leonardo DiCaprio’s travels through Florida, Sumatra, Greenland, Canada, Paris and many other important areas in the world to climate change. For me as a scientist, it was especially powerful to see him visit Greenland and talk with the scientists who work there about the receding ice sheets. It was so extreme of a difference in just five years and was such a first hand glimpse of the changing climate.
While attending an event in Agoura Hills,
California, I sat next to Karen Kent and we began conversing. I learned that she has a son, Grayson Kent, who has had a passion for reptiles since he was a little boy. His parents encouraged this interest and eventually he graduated from UC Santa Barbara as a paleontologist. Kathy invited us to attend one of his upcoming presentations for the Southwestern Herpetologists Society – Los Angeles Chapter meeting. Little did we know that it would be the most interesting, entertaining, and educational presentation that we have attended with lots of fun and interaction with exotic reptilians. The title of his presentation was “Anthropophagy: The Science of Man-Eaters.”
There were over 30 members and guests attending and you could hear a pin drop during Grayson’s lecture. Before he got started, everyone walked around and interacted with the various exotic reptiles and snakes. This was definitely a
reptile friendly group of people who love these creatures. My husband, Alex Havasi, briskly walked the room to take photographs of each creature with their owners and guests handling and petting them.