Photos For A Moment Of Inspiration

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The Moment, overall winner and joint winner of the 2019 wildlife photographer of the year for the category ‘behaviour: mammals’. Yongqing Bao’s image shows a hungry marmot, not long out of hibernation, being confronted by a fox in China’s Qilian mountains. Photograph: Bao Yongqing/2019 wildlife photographer of the year

Today, not much to say, other than wow, thanks to the Guardian’s sharing of these photos, compiled by Eric Hilaire. Continue reading

When Squirrels Fly

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In most circumstances, the flying squirrel has a brownish color, left. But ultraviolet light reveals them to glow hot-pink. Northland College

When we last linked to a story about flying squirrels we mentioned that we had neglected to write about them while in Kerala. However, that was not quite correct. We did frequently mention the Malabar giant squirrel, especially in guest sighting posts. Their other common name is the Malabar flying squirrel. In its own way this animal could make you gasp when you saw one, but it was competing for attention with elephants, tigers and bears. This story, thanks to Veronique Greenwood, points to other flying squirrels that might cause a completely different kind of gasp:

Flying Squirrels That Glow Pink in the Dark

While ultraviolet fluorescence is common in birds, butterflies and sea creatures, scientists haven’t often observed it in mammals.

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Scientists suspect the flying squirrel may have evolved fluorescence to evade owls that hunt them. Alternately, the glow may have a mating function. Northland College

One spring night in Wisconsin, John Martin, a biologist, was in his backyard with an ultraviolet flashlight. Suddenly, a hot-pink squirrel flew by.

It was a southern flying squirrel, a small, furry creature most active at dawn and dusk. Under most circumstances, it has a warm brown color. But in the beam of Dr. Martin’s flashlight, it sported a gaudy Day-Glo hue closer to something you might see in a nightclub or a Jazzercise class circa 1988.

“He told his colleagues at Northland College, but of course, everyone was pretty skeptical,” said Allison Kohler, a graduate student at Texas A&M University.

Dr. Martin asked Ms. Kohler, then a student at Northland, to look into it. After examining more than 100 specimens of flying squirrels across two museum collections and spotting five more squirrels under UV light in the wild, the researchers and their colleagues reported surprising results last week in the Journal of Mammalogy: The pink is real. Continue reading

Elephants Can Smell

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Elephants have a keen nose. They have more smell receptors than any mammal – including dogs – and can sniff out food that is several miles away. A new study tests their ability to distinguish between similar smelling plants. Image by akrp, via Getty Images

It is true that elephants can smell. As in, be smelly. But they can also smell well, better than I knew. Yesterday’s elephant mention was the first in a long time, reminding us how frequently we posted about them from India. When we were in the land of elephants, and other charismatic megafauna, we ran stories frequently about their mega-wondrousness. Now, a welcome reminder about how amazing these big creatures are in smaller ways too. Click above to go to the video accompanying this story below by James Gorman:

The Elephant’s Superb Nose

In the world of noses, the elephant’s trunk clearly stands out for its size, flexibility, strength and slightly creepy gripping ability.

Go ahead, try to pluck a leaf with your nostrils and see how you fare. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the elephant’s sense of smell is also outstanding. Continue reading

Can You Top This Birding Experience?

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A Canada warbler. Credit Ian Davies

We have wow posts about birds all the time, but this one will have to take the cake, for now:

A River of Warblers: ‘the Greatest Birding Day of My Life’

At an observatory in Quebec, they were hoping for a 50,000-bird day. They saw more than half a million.

By James Gorman

Ian Davies got hooked on birds when he was 12. He went to a site near Plymouth, Mass., where volunteers were putting bands on migrating birds.

“They let me release a Canada warbler,” he said, “and that was just game over.”

On Monday, he saw an estimated 700,000 warblers and set the birding world all atwitter with a posting on the site eBird describing the astonishing event. Continue reading

Preparing For August 21

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Solar eclipse of November 13, 2012 as seen from Australia. Photo © Romeo Durscher on NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr through a Creative Commons license

Thanks to Cool Green Science for this set of instructions for North American viewing of the sun’s near-disappearance:

Where will you be on August 21, 2017 when the solar eclipse passes through North America?

Here’s a guide to viewing opportunities, including Nature Conservancy preserves where you can catch the spectacle in beautiful surroundings.

Solar eclipses can be viewed from the earth’s surface about two to four times a year, but they aren’t viewable from all parts of the earth’s surface and the path of totality (the places on Earth from which viewers can see the total eclipse) is only about 50 miles wide. Eclipse 2017 stands out because the path of totality cuts a wide swath through the United States and all of North America will have views of a partial eclipse.

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Ring of Fire

An onlooker watches an annular solar eclipse from New Mexico.

For the past few years it seems that August is the month to amaze and astonish on the astronomical front. Although the Perseid Meteor Shower happens annually, last year there were an unusually high number of meteor “outbursts” because Jupiter’s gravity has tugged some streams of comet material closer to Earth.

While solar eclipses aren’t technically rare, an annular solar eclipse is more so, when the moon is too far from Earth to obscure the sun completely, leaving the sun’s edges exposed and producing the ‘ring of fire’ effect. What’s particularly special about the upcoming August 21st eclipse is the path from which it can be viewed.

The August eclipse will be the first to go coast to coast across the U.S. since 1918, offering viewing opportunities for millions of people.

Sky-watchers across the United States are gearing up for the best cosmic spectacle in nearly a century, when a total solar eclipse will race over the entire country for the first time since 1918. On August 21, tens of millions of lucky people will be able to watch the moon completely cover the sun and turn day into night for a few fleeting minutes.

The main event will be visible from a relatively narrow path, starting in Oregon and ending in South Carolina. In between, the total eclipse will cross multiple cities in 12 states, prompting plans for countless watch parties, cosmic-themed tours, and scientific observations. (Also see “100 Years of Eclipse-Chasing Revealed in Quirky Pictures.”)

Click on the image above to FOLLOW THE ECLIPSE ON ITS COAST-TO-COAST TOUR

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Albatross, Age & Egg — Keeping The Species Going

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Wisdom tends to her egg. Laysan albatrosses spend the vast majority of their lives in the air. Photograph: US Fish and Wildlife Service/AP

Thanks to the Guardian’s Environment section (and Reuters) for this news:

World’s oldest-known seabird lays an egg at age of 66 in Pacific refuge

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross, is also world’s oldest-known breeding bird in the wild and has had a few dozen chicks Continue reading

Agricultural Origin Story

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Various species of ants engage in some kind of agriculture. Here, a leaf-cutter ant gathers food for its fungus farm. Mark Bowler/Science Source

Thanks to National Public Radio (USA):

Who Invented Agriculture First? It Sure Wasn’t Humans

Ants in Fiji farm plants and fertilize them with their poop. And they’ve been doing this for 3 million years, much longer than humans, who began experimenting with farming about 12,000 years ago. Continue reading

Snowball Beach

National Public Radio (USA) has this news from the far reaches of cold lands:

Giant Snowballs Wash Up On Siberian Beach

REBECCA HERSHER

There were snowy, icy balls everywhere.

Videos and photos from western Siberia, on the Gulf of Ob, showed an entire beach covered in snowballs that had apparently washed ashore. In one image published online by the Siberian Times, a woman sat on the frozen balls. In another, a dog ran near the balls, which had also formed what looked like a vertical mass of balls mashed together into an icy ball-wall. Continue reading

Watch the Perseids this Week

Photographer Ruslan Merzlyakov captured this spectacular photograph of the Perseid meteor shower filling the Danish sky in the early morning of Aug. 13, 2015. Photo via space.com

Sometimes you should just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show, especially when it’s broadcast by nature itself. This week, between August 11th and 12th, try to find time to stay awake once the moon has set, and a place you can be as far from light pollution as possible, and watch the sky for what promises to be a particularly active meteor shower from the Swift-Tuttle Comet, near the Perseus constellation:

According to NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke, the Perseids are perhaps the most popular meteor shower of the year. They will be in “outburst” in 2016, which means they’ll appear at double the usual rates. Learn more about the 2016 Perseid meteor shower in this video.

“This year, instead of seeing about 80 Perseids per hour, the rate could top 150 and even approach 200 meteors per hour,” Cooke said. It’s the first such outburst since 2009.

Continue reading

The Jaguar in the Night

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The night drive is one of the most popular tours at Chan Chich Lodge because it is arguably the best opportunity for spotting a jaguar, ocelot, margay, or puma. Of the four forest cats, last night our tour group was fortunate to see the beloved jaguar.

The drive started at 7:30pm. Eight of us climbed up the back of the truck and took our seats along the cushioned benches facing out to the road. We were instructed by Luis, our tour guide, to look for “eyes,” and thereafter, the truck rumbled to a start and Luis began to point his flashlight in all directions, up at the tree branches and down at the forest undergrowth. The aftermath from Hurricane Earl was evident as the truck drove between broken tree stumps and overhanging branches, but this also allowed wildlife to appear in places that it had not been seen before.

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Not So Surprisingly, An Awesome Podcast

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After a few of us listened to the first few podcasts recommended in this earlier post, we started poking around the Gimlet website. We found this. Wow. Did you see the movie called The Big Short?  If so, and if you found it awesome, there is a high probability that this podcast will work for you. Both Adams worked together on that film, one as the improbable director (whose other movies, all lowbrow forms of “humor” you would not have seen promoted on this site) who showed a level of genius transforming dry into crisp; the other was an advisor on the film because of his proven ability to make dry money-related things seem crisp. So, no huge surprise that they can make unlikely topics pop. Continue reading

Ornithological Epicenter

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

– Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, 1859

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has long been a leading presence in the study, appreciation and conservation of birds. From citizen science programs, to eBird, to research collaboration with the the National Geographic Society, the Lab has helped to educate the public about the environmental importance of birds. The Wall of Birds, titled “From So Simple a Beginning,” from the Darwin quote above, celebrates the world of birds, showcasing biodiversity and evolutionary change, by featuring species from all surviving bird families alongside several extinct ancestors.

The scale of the mural is mind-blowing! The world map covers the largest wall of the Lab’s visitor center, with life-sized birds from each of the 243 taxonomic families of the world, placed in their geographical endemic locations. Check out the scale of the flying albatross in the lower left of the mural! The pale, gray scale depictions of the extinctions and ancestors adds to the complexity of the mural.

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Mother’s Day Redux: Bluebird and her Babies

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A little less than a month before mother’s day (May 10th), a pair of bluebirds made their nest in one of the bluebird houses in our backyard in Atlanta. I was away studying at the university at the time, but my parents described to me in phone conversations the process familiar to anyone who has seen birds build a nest in their yard: first the birds made tentative visits to the site, then they began to carry in straw, twigs, and grass, finally the mother Continue reading

Florida, Marbles Lost

In 2013, Jim Harper, a nature writer in Miami, had a contract to write a series of educational fact sheets about how to protect the coral reefs north of Miami. ‘We were told not to use the term climate change,’ he said. ‘The employees were so skittish they wouldn’t even talk about it.’ JOHN VAN BEEKUM FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

In 2013, Jim Harper, a nature writer in Miami, had a contract to write a series of educational fact sheets about how to protect the coral reefs north of Miami. ‘We were told not to use the term climate change,’ he said. ‘The employees were so skittish they wouldn’t even talk about it.’ JOHN VAN BEEKUM FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Knowing the Miami Herald has been recognized as a newspaper of reasonably high standards, we cannot chalk this up to careless reporting. We wish there was something intelligent to say about the news they report on this article, but are left without words, so we can only say read it for yourself:

The state of Florida is the region most susceptible to the effects of global warming in this country, according to scientists. Sea-level rise alone threatens 30 percent of the state’s beaches over the next 85 years.

But you would not know that by talking to officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state agency on the front lines of studying and planning for these changes.

DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. Continue reading

Can Weasles Fly?

Photograph: Martin Le-May Twitter;

Weasel clutching on the back of a European green woodpecker; Photograph: Martin Le-May Twitter

According to Martin Le-May’s recent photograph that went viral a couple days ago, they can when they’re riding a woodpecker. I remember scrolling through Facebook and seeing the picture, but I didn’t take it seriously. There are many posts on Facebook that shouldn’t be taken seriously. We all have those friends who post everything and anything on the internet and swear it’s true. But how about National Geographic Magazine, is that credible enough? After reading the full article, and the research that went into proving it true, I am now a firm believer that it is, indeed, possible. And you?

Is the Photo Real?

As the viral video of the pig rescuing the baby goat taught us, just because something is cute doesn’t mean it’s real. But is the photo now known on Twitter as #WeaselPecker a fake? Continue reading

From Our Amazing Planet

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PHOTOGRAPH BY TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP / GETTY

In other news:

A few minutes after 9 A.M. on Saturday morning, at Sotheby’s, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a small group of people huddled around a knobbly, dirt-smudged tuber sitting on a white china cake stand. Federico Balestra, the C.E.O. of the North American branch of his family’s company, Sabatino Tartufi, put on a pair of white gloves, squeezed past a rack of oil paintings, and rotated the tuber a few degrees—“for showing its good side” to the in-house photographer, Balestra said. “To be honest, we really didn’t know what to expect,” Dan Abernethy, a Sotheby’s representative, said apologetically. It was the auction house’s first experience with selling a truffle. Continue reading