Category Archives: nature writing

Summer casualties

Everything colorful was gone from the woman’s flower beds, despite all her ardent work. The summer just wouldn’t allow anything other than perennial green now.

Listening to Chopin’s tender Nocturnes as dusk descended, I gazed into her yard at a wheelbarrow holding slender planks of oak she had acquired for a trellis. A large ceramic pot sat hollow inside the wheelbarrow belly, along with smaller plastic pots — summer casualties, all lumped together and parked in the shadow of an awning.

An uptick in butterflies

The butterfly was not a butterfly but two fallen leaves.

I had been seeing butterflies a lot lately, and so I thought this was yet another encounter.

Recently my local Cooperative Extension made an announcement on Facebook that there was an uptick in the insects’ numbers in the Las Vegas area. Now I wish I had read it.

I wondered if it had something to do with climate change, although the Extension had an optimistic tone in sharing the news. Continue reading An uptick in butterflies

Birds, eggs & other journal notes

Mourning Doves:
  • Their brains register the task of parenting
  • Together they build a sloppy nest
  • The eggs are laid — typically two
  • After the eggs hatch, the father and mother alike feed their nestlings with milk
  • They eventually offer plant seeds from their beaks (mourning doves eat mostly seeds)
  • The hatchlings grow strong and go on to sing more distinctively than most other birds
  • Their calls evoke a few simple woodwind notes
  • Ancient woodwinds were used to mimic animal calls
  • The Northern Paiute word for wind instrument is te-mo’-yaga-ke-no
Misc:
  • Rock doves, like drunks, walk precariously close to moving car tires
  • Great-tailed grackles — house guests behaving badly
  • A Northern mockingbird — inexhaustible in his spry April song
  • Darwin acquired various types of pigeons, breeding them to help him build evidence for his theory of natural selection, which he would present in On the Origin of Species
  • He became uncharacteristically smitten with his pigeons, science writer Courtney Humphries stated in her book Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan … and the World

2 great-tailed grackles

Illustration by Laszlo Layton.

Lately I’ve become quite the nature aficionado, specifically regarding the flora & fauna in my community. The other day I spotted 2 great-tailed grackles trading courtship calls from polar opposite ends of a Washoe pine. I thought it quite amusing since these are raucous birds with shrill cries, obscenely long beaks for their body size & all-around abrupt behavior. Yet here was this would-be couple acting like reticent teenagers at a high school prom, having eyes for each other from across the gym floor, wondering if they’d be able to share a dance before the final song.