Tag Archives: nature

Bats on the Brain

Perhaps since I still had bats on the brain, I ran across a children’s/YA book on bats. It’s called The Bat Scientists. The author is Mary Carson and the photographer is Tom Uhlman.


I was really impressed with both its information and photography. The updated edition came out just this month and has the latest information on WNS and conservation.


Even though it’s a children’s book, it seems like a great quick introduction for adults and teenagers, and has materials in the back for further research.


A few facts from the book, some I knew, some were new to me.


Batty Facts


  • Bats aren’t blind-they see fairly well.
  • They aren’t going to get tangled in your hair-bats avoid people and fly too well to get in hair.
  • Bats are often called flying rats or mice, but they aren’t rodents. Some scientists think they’re primitive primate relatives.
  • They’re the only mammal capable of true flight. (As opposed to gliding.)
  • For their size, bats are the longest lived mammals on earth-even the small ones can live for 40 years! (With mammals generally the larger the size the longer the life span.)
  • Since people associate them with the short lived and fast breeding mouse, they assume bats work the same way, but bats breed very slowly-most have at most one offspring a year. The author quotes biologist Barbara French “One lost baby bat is a lost generation.”
  • Less than one half of one percent have rabies-they’re not crazy flying animals out to get you.


It also mentioned an interesting project I’d not heard about. The Bellamy Cave Project. Apparently Bellamy Cave in Tennessee is a major hibernation cave for the endangered gray bat. Last year the Nature Conservancy is mad a concrete cave nearby. The idea was that a concrete cave could be cleaned out and disinfected come spring, hopefully slowing the spread of WNS.


They had limited time last year and finished construction after hibernation started, but they did have a few guests. They’re hoping to see more visitors this year since the precast/prefabricated concrete cave will be ready and the proper temperature in time for hibernation season.


Filed under Books, Natural Science


Stumbled on a collection of Earth Day themed poetry. A lovely compilation of thoughtful pieces, some new to me, some not.


I hadn’t seen this one before and really liked it.


By Scott Edward Anderson
“Healing, not saving.” ~ Gary Snyder

“Healing, not saving,” for healing
indicates corrective, reclaiming

restoring the earth to its bounty,
to right placement and meaning–

Forward thinking, making things new
or better or, at least, bringing back

from the edge. The way
bulbs are nestled in earth,

starting to heal again–
the way a wound heals.

Keep warm. Sun following
rain; rain following drought.

Perhaps we have come far enough
along in this world to start

healing, protecting from harm,
from our disjunctive lives.

The way the skin repairs with a scab,
injury mediated by mindfulness.

The bark of the “tree of blood”
heals wounds we cannot see.

Deliver us from the time of trial
and save us from ourselves.



Walt Kelly’s classic Pogo.

And what’s Earth day poetry without a nod to Dr. Seuss? A Seussical Earth Day Treasury!



“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

— Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

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Hints of Green

Copper Seraphinite Wrapshadows,

wind and rain


a semblance of life.

false starts.

hope rises before sap



the world begins to grow.


Spring wire wrap and spring poem. The season’s been a long time coming. (Still waiting actually…) The crocuses are finally out, but pretty much everything else is still gray.


This started out as a tanka, but one syllable was sticking every time I read it and things felt a little out of place. So it went freeform.

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spring shakes tightly wrapped

blankets bulge, are cast aside

wings reach for the sun


What with Merian’s birthday yesterday and it being National Poetry Month…well, my haikus are rusty but had to give it a shot!

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Google Prompt and Metamorphosis

Embarrassingly enough, I’m finally posting this because of Google. I’ve had notes for ages, but I’m not always good at scrunching a complicated life into a handful of lines, so I’ve been procrastinating on writing about Maria Sibylla Merian. I saw one of her books on display at the Library of Congress last week. Then I saw the Google doodle proclaiming her birthday, and was finally shamed into it!


I have a lot of unusual reference books on my shelves. Perhaps the one that gets the most second glances is my copy of Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam, nestled between my art books.


It is by Maria Sibylla Merian, whose work I first saw years ago at a Rembrandt House special exhibit.


Merian (1647-1717) was one of the first documenters of insect metamorphosis.


She was born into an artistic family–her father was an engraver and publisher, and her stepfather a still life painter who encouraged her talents and taught her along with his (male) students. She was interested in flowers and insects and observed the life cycles of both.


She married her stepfather’s apprentice, moved to Nuremburg, had children, continued painting, designed embroidery patterns and took on (female) students of her own. By teaching their children she got access of the gardens of the elite and studied their insects.


In her time scholars still held onto spontaneous generation–basically the belief than insects and other ‘lower’ creatures were spontaneously created from mud or other debris. For example, that flies came to life from rotted meat.


She illustrated the metamorphosis of insects-showed that caterpillars wove cocoons and turned into butterflies. She painted the stages of these transformations and their host plants. These were collected into her first book in 1675.  The New Book of Flowers ultimately took three volumes to complete. It showed each flower distinctly so that it could be used as a reference for artists and designers of embroidery patterns.


She had a second daughter, published a second book and returned home after her stepfather died. After his estate was settled she left her husband to live in a religious commune.


There she met the governor of the Dutch colonies in Surinam and was introduced to its flora and fauna.


She later moved to Amsterdam, where her work was noticed by the scientific community. She was able to study the collections gathered by the intelligentsia. Her older daughter married a merchant and moved to Surinam, and Merian sold her belongings and was partially sponsored by the city of Amsterdam to travel to Surinam with her younger daughter, Dorthea Maria. They spent two years there studying the local animals and plants–recording the native names and uses–and collecting specimens. She contracted malaria and returned home, publishing books about her experiences and selling the specimens she collected.


She suffered a stroke and died in relative obscurity. It was Peter the Great who ultimately saved her for posterity. He had seen her work before, and heard that the then ailing artist had many works in her collection. Dorthea Maria sold 300 of her mother’s remaining paintings to an agent representing Peter the Great.


He opened his country’s first museum to exhibit them. He also invited Dorthea Maria and her family to Russia. She designed one of his largest scientific exhibitions and her husband became a court painter. After their first exhibition, most of Maria Sibylla Merian’s paintings were closed away in the libraries of St. Petersburg. This kept the delicate paintings safe from sunlight and abuse until their rediscovery centuries later.


It was an adventurous life for a woman of her time. (Anyone, anytime actually.) She traveled long distances to collect information and samples nearly a century before scientific expeditions became the norm. Her studies and use of native names influenced the European terms for some of the creatures, though since she published in the common tongue at a time when science was Latin only, her influence was limited and her observations against spontaneous generation largely ignored. She was a talented outsider rather than part of the scientific community. (If you’d like to read more on her and other early adventure/naturalists, check out Eaten by a Giant Clam, by Joseph Cummins. You’ll probably learn alot about a number of names that sound vaguely familiar.)


Filed under Art, Books, Natural Science

Woods in Winter

It’s at that point where winter just feels loooong. We’ve had snow. Lots of it. Not refreshing pretty white relax and enjoy after the shovels are finally put away but quickly tarnished with rain and capped with gray skies and general BLAH! I feel cheated by not getting those snowy vistas with brilliant blue skies that make you need sunglasses.


So even though it’s nigh on Spring (oh please oh please some sunlight please), a snippet of winter beauty by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (also in honor of his birthday):


Woods in Winter

When winter winds are piercing chill,
And through the hawthorn blows the gale,
With solemn feet I tread the hill,
That overbrows the lonely vale.

O’er the bare upland, and away
Through the long reach of desert woods,
The embracing sunbeams chastely play,
And gladden these deep solitudes.

Where, twisted round the barren oak,
The summer vine in beauty clung,
And summer winds the stillness broke,
The crystal icicle is hung.

Where, from their frozen urns, mute springs
Pour out the river’s gradual tide,
Shrilly the skater’s iron rings,
And voices fill the woodland side.

Alas! how changed from the fair scene,
When birds sang out their mellow lay,
And winds were soft, and woods were green,
And the song ceased not with the day!

But still wild music is abroad,
Pale, desert woods! within your crowd;
And gathering winds, in hoarse accord,
Amid the vocal reeds pipe loud.

Chill airs and wintry winds! my ear
Has grown familiar with your song;
I hear it in the opening year,
I listen, and it cheers me long.

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Make Your Own Snowflake

The snow’s slowly melting. I’m of two minds about missing the snow. I like dry roads thank you very much, but snow is certainly prettier scenery than dead grass…and ice makes branches sparkle like magical things.


So, in lieu of snow, here’s a project I found for making a crystal snowflake. Full disclosure, I haven’t tried this yet, I would like to.



Make Your Own Snowflake Project

(adapted from Kathleen M Reilly’s Explore Weather and Climate)



-pipe cleaners


-wide mouth glass jar

-borax from laundry detergent section of store (20 Mule Team Borax Laundry Booster)

-boiling water


-a child (if you feel like you need an excuse!)


1. Cut pipe cleaners into 3 equal pieces, twist them together and spread out end to form a snowflake shape. (Make sure it will fit in the jar!)

2. Cut a piece of string, tie one end to snowflake, the other to the pencil. The string needs to be long enough to hang from a pencil into the jar, but short enough not to touch the bottom. Put the snowflake skeleton aside.

3. Mix borax and boiling water in the jar, use 3 tablespoons of borax per cup of water. Stir well. (Don’t worry if a little is left un-dissolved.)

4. Hang snowflake skeleton in jar, suspended from the pencil and leave it overnight for the crystals to form.

There’s an alternate glowing (!) version on about.com.


Filed under Crafts

Winter Nights


Now Winter Nights Enlarge

Thomas Campion (1617)


 Now winter nights enlarge

 The number of their hours,

 And clouds their storms discharge

 Upon the airy towers.

 Let now the chimneys blaze,

 And cups o’erflow with wine;

 Let well-tuned words amaze

 With harmony divine.

 Now yellow waxen lights

 Shall wait on honey love,

 While youthful revels, masques, and courtly sights

 Sleep’s leaden spells remove.


 This time doth well dispense

 With lovers’ long discourse;

 Much speech hath some defence,

 Though beauty no remorse.

 All do not all things well;

 Some measures comely tread,

 Some knotted riddles tell,

 Some poems smoothly read.

 The summer hath his joys

 And winter his delights;

 Though love and all his pleasures are but toys,

 They shorten tedious nights.

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Early snowfall

boiled frosting on chilled

pumpkins, covering red and

blue signs. on tired steps

huddled newspapers wait and

watch cars turn into mountains.


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Autumn Falling

A continuation that I actually began before my previous leaf article… (A timey-wimey moment.)


Today as I was driving I kept getting caught in these swirling storms of falling leaves.
(It’s interesting how much better colors look in nature. Yellow of road signs isn’t what I would consider a pretty color, but I saw a lot of leaves so close to it today that the signs were blending in. With the sun at just the right angle that color on trees is luminous.)
Several weekends ago a friend mentioned something about how leaves don’t just fall, but are forced off by trees. I can’t remember if the word she used was expelled or excreted, but either way it wasn’t the right word and left us all with some entertaining images.
It was one of those ‘sounds vaguely familiar’ things. So I had to check it out. (I never did figure out quite what word she’d been intending to use.)


Apparently trees shed their leaves here in the northern latitudes (and on the southern half of the globe in the southern latitudes) because if left to their own devices leaves would try to photosynthesize during any warm spell. Then the leaves would die when the water in them from photosynthesis froze as soon as the weather turned cold again.
Rather than risk the likelihood of permanent leaves dying in the execution of their duty, deciduous trees have evolved to cast off their leaves in the fall and live on the food produced during the warm months.
Shorter and cooler days cause deciduous trees to release a hormone that in turn causes new cells to grow where the leaf stem and branch meet.
These are called abscission cells. Their job is to create a thin line of cells that grows and pushes the leaf stem away from the branches. That way they are only tenuously connected and ready to fall at the next autumn gust.
Since on of those friends is an NPR fan I’m guessing this was probably her original source.

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