Tag Archives: Nature

Eyes of a Child

I asked my niece to tell me what she thought of nature. This is what she said:

“Nacher is very prity. I like nacher because it is a fun, funny, and you can clime treees! I have been on a walk with my dog Hank and I have sean many trees, animals, and plants! It was so fun seeing trees, animals, and plants! I have been to the creek and the river and it was a fantastic place to go to! I love they flufy animals.”

Allow me to translate:

“Nature is very pretty. I like nature because it is fun, funny, and you can climb trees! I have been on a walk with my dog Hank and I have seen many trees, animals, and plants! It was fun seeing trees, animals, and plants! I have been to the creek and the river and it was a fantastic place to go to! I love the fluffy animals!”

This is a child who has grown up in the city, and while I have tried to take them to different parks and hiking trails, both my nieces’ ideas of nature revolve around their dogs and the animals they have seen in the zoo and the aquarium. Are we doing future generations a disservice??


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Nature Walks

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Worlds Largest Penis… Sort Of

BARNACLES! I know. It seems strange. But they do. The largest penis in the world! (Relative to body size that is… The actual largest penis belongs to *SHOCKER!* the largest animal, the blue whale.) Barnacle penises are up to 8 times their body size. In human terms, this would be like a 6 foot tall man having 48 foot long penis!

You may be wondering… Why do barnacles have such long penises? Well the answer is simple… SEX! Okay, so maybe I should explain. Barnacles are sessile, meaning they don’t move. Could you imagine trying to have sex without moving? It’d be quite difficult! Barnacles are hermaphroditic and lay on their backs, so they have extra long penises to reach across to their neighbor and fertilize their neighbor’s eggs. In return, their neighbors (sometimes multiple) fertilize their eggs. And what about those lonely barnacles all by their lonesome? Well they fertilize themselves. Power to the species!

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2 Species, Not 1

Africa has two elephant species, genetic analysis confirms.

Here you have it folks. There are the African forest elephants and the African savanna elephants.

Modern genetics really is amazing what it can determine. Apparently the difference between the two is as old as the difference between chimps and humans. Whoda thunk it?

Now I’m going to be honest. I can’t tell the difference between the two, and I don’t doubt that a number of people at zoos will confuse the two as well. Supposedly there is a significant size difference between the two, but I can’t tell from the pictures. I’d like to see 10 of each new species next to each other, so I could attempt to see the size difference.

I have two questions about this whole thing:

1. How significant are the genetic differences between the two species? The human and chimp genomes are 98% similar. What’s the percent similarity between the two species, and why is it significant to determine that there are in fact two distinct species here?

2. Which new species’ ears look more like Africa?



Top: African forest elephants. Bottom: African savanna elephants.


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Unlucky Hunter

I woke up this morning to go hunting. I was excited and nervous. Today was going to be a good day. It was beautiful outside. A layer of snow covered the ground. Snow-laden branches drooped with excess snow. Tiny icicles glittered in the sunrise. Snow came tumbling down as the wind whipped through the trees. Today was a damn good day. And then… nothing happened. Today, like every other day I’ve gone hunting in my life, was a bust. I got nothing, zero, zilch, nada.

Well actually I didn’t see nothing. When my dad and I pulled up to our gate, we saw the chopped carcass of a deer someone else shot and left on our property. It was a doe, and you could see where someone had cut off the hind quarters and the backstrap, leaving the front half and guts behind for the dogs. I’d include a picture, but its pretty graphic.

You see, I’m what you call “The One,” and no, its not like Neo from The Matrix. I’m the “The One” that all the bad stuff happens to. I have a chronic case of bad luck.

So this is me reaching out to my compadres, the other unlucky ones who just can’t seem to get it right. Here are some tips to make the endless waiting not so bad after all:

1. Sit back and relax. After all, you’re going to be there a while waiting for nothing anyways. I find this is best done with several layers of clothing and waterproof gear, keeping you dry and warm. I also suggest peeing and eating before you venture outdoors.

2. Practice listening. The biggest problem with never seeing anything is inexperience. You wouldn’t know what a deer even was if it weren’t for roadkill. If you ever go out with your buddies, make sure you know your nature sounds beforehand. If you swear up and down a big buck is coming, but all that comes around the corner is a scampering squirrel, you’re going to be really embarrassed. I suggest you take some time out of season to go listen to nature and becomes accustomed to the differences between deer, rabbit, squirrel, rain, etc. This can probably be done on the internet, but why not have an excuse to go enjoy the outdoors.

3. Learn the difference between a maple and oak. Actually, learn a lot of dendrology. (Virginia Tech is a great resource!) And ornithology too. I find that the two things that never fail to be in the woods are trees and birds. So why not identify a few while you’re waiting for nothing? The birds go by pretty quick, but the trees aren’t really going anywhere. Test yourself by identifying them from the stand then going back later for a close-up to see if you were correct.

4. Place your bets. Make bets with your hunting buddies about how many gun shots you’ll hear that day. This can be a certain number or even just an under-over bet. For example, I heard three shots today. Whether for money or just bragging rights (my kind of betting), counting the shots will give you something to do when not getting a trophy of your own.

5. Three words: 5 HOUR ENERGY. I know that hunting forces you to get up early, and the eyelids often start to droop, particularly when its boring. I use 5 Hour Energy so that I know if I’m unlucky its not because I was snoring.

Hope these tips help make your next wasted trip a little more enjoyable, and I’ll see you next time for another installment of MotherNaturesPen!


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Kate Gosselin Goes Alaskan!

As seen on TLC’s “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.” Episode: “Alaskan Hospitality.” It originally aired two weeks ago, but I just got a chance to see it.

Kate Gosselin and her 8 kids have traveled to Alaska and joined forces with Palin crew for some camping fun.

First, they started with bear safety and gun classes. Kate just got scared.

Then, they went camping in the rain. The kids had fun. Kate complained.

They made moose hot dogs. Kate didn’t eat it because it was moose and there was no hand sanitizer.

The going got tough, and the not-so-tough got going… literally. Kate and her crew packed up and left.

Quote of the night:
“Why would you pretend to be homeless?” – That is Kate Gosselin everyone!

I guess not everyone is made for the great outdoors, but Kate is down a couple notches in my book (to -3).

Come back next time for another installment of MotherNaturesPen.

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Countdown to the Most Extreme Tides

The ocean’s tide is a powerful force that is controlled by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun. In some areas of the world, due to various factors, the tidal ranges are quite large. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, these are the most extreme tides in the world:

10. Cancale, France – Average Tidal Range: 27.8 feet

9. Banco Dirección, Magellan Strait, Chile – Average Tidal Range: 28.0 feet

8. Granville, France – Average Tidal Range: 28.2 feet

7. Koksoak River entrance, Hudson Bay, Greenland – Average Tidal Range: 28.5 feet

6. Río Gallegos (Reducción Beacon), Argentina – Average Tidal Range: 29.0 feet

5. Burnham, Parrett River, England – Average Tidal Range: 29.9 feet

4. Sunrise, Turnagain Arm, Cook Inlet, Alaska, USA – Average Tidal Range: 30.3 feet

3. Port of Bristol (Avonmouth), England – Average Tidal Range: 31.5 feet

2. Leak Lake, Ungava Bay, Quebec, Canada – Average Tidal Range: 32.0 feet

And the winner is…

1. Burntcoat Head, Minas Basin, Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, Canada – Average Tidal Range: 38.4 feet

Hope you enjoyed the countdown. Come again for another installment of MotherNaturesPen.

(Note: I removed general area duplicates from the list in order to avoid having the top 10 be all Bay of Fundy.)

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World’s Largest Crystals

I just woke up from the aftermath of Christmas. Wrapping paper everywhere. Gifts covering my room. I found an iTunes gift card that I hadn’t seen the night before. My parents were watching TV in the living room. Oh, and there’s snow outside. First time for an Atlanta Christmas since 1882.

On TV, my parents were watching a National Geographic special on a cave in Mexico with what might be the world’s largest crystals. These things are massive!

The crystals are made out of gypsum (CaSO4 • 2H2O for you chemistry buffs!) and can are as big as 36 feet long! The cave is called Cueva de los Cristales (literally translated Cave of the Crystals) and was found in 2000 near Delicias in the region of Chihuahua. The crystals have been exposed by a modern mining company, which continues to pump water out of the cave. If pumping were to stop, water would once again fill the cave.

This cave honestly looks like something out of a science fiction movie or novel. Its amazing to me that Mother Nature can hold so many secrets that we don’t know about. We think we have canvassed every surface of this earth, but we are still only just beginning. Proof, once again, of Mother Nature’s awesome power!

Hope you enjoyed, and come back for the next installment of MotherNaturesPen.

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Top 7 National Parks You’ve Never Heard Of

1. Biscayne National Park – Homestead, Florida – When you travel to Miami, you probably have more on your mind that a national park, but if you can find a way to pull yourself out of bed after a wild night in South Beach, I suggest you venture out to Biscayne National Park to learn about and explore North America’s coral reef ecosystems.

2. Katmai National Park & Preserve – King Salmon, Alaska – Who says you have to go to Hawaii to see active volcanoes? Or perhaps you’ve already seen the ones in Hawaii and are ready for a new challenge? Katmai is home to 6 active volcanoes, and another 10 volcanoes that have not erupted in the last 250 years.

3. National Park of American Samoa – Pago Pago, American Samoa – While American Samoa isn’t exactly next door, it is a pristine area so far left pretty much untouched by Western civilization, particularly in the park. The sky is the limit in American Samoa, literally. To enjoy it, you have to fly there, and it’s well beyond Hawaii. Another plus is the opportunity to discover the wonders of the rich Samoan culture, which has fueled everything from the American tattoo culture to the National Football League!

4. Inyo National Forest – Bishop, California – While not technically a national park (being governed by the U.S. Forest Service, not the Natinoal Park Service), Inyo has something to share with all of us about Mother Nature that you may not have heard before unless you have taken a Botany class or two, like me. Believe it or not the oldest living on the planet is not a tortoise, its a tree, more specifically a bristlecone pine tree, even more specifically a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva). See, even their scientific name refers to them being really old. And the oldest of olds can be found in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest of Inyo National Forest.

5. Great Basin National Park – Baker, Nevada – Once again, not nearly as famous as Las Vegas or Reno, Nevada’s Great Basin National Park offers something a little more special than some gambling and a drunken shotgun wedding! Great Basin’s name comes from the Great Basin, the large, dry, desolate region between the Sierra Nevada in California/Nevada and the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. Interestingly, the park’s biggest attraction is found straight up. It’s the Milky Way in all its beauty, clearly visible without interference from any city lights!

6. Isle Royale National Park – Houghton, Michigan – Here’s a challenge: a national park accessible only by seaplane or boat. It’s not even actually located in Houghton, but that’s where the Ranger III, the NPS’s largest ferry boat to the park is located. Isle Royale is located closer to the Canadian shore than it is to the Michigan shore. And its remote location has only added to its pristine nature.

7. Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve – Gustavus, Alaska – How many of y’all have seen a glacier in person? Glacier Bay is home not only to a slew of scientific teams exploring climate change but also to a wilderness sanctuary (both on land and in the water). If a trip to Alaska isn’t exactly your style, you can try a cruise! Most Alaskan cruises hit their northern peak of the trip at Glacier Bay.

Thanks for stopping by, and come back again for the next installment of MotherNaturesPen!

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On Dasher, On Dancer…

In honor of the season, I thought it would be appropriate to do a piece on the animals that ride around with good ol’ Saint Nick.

Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Mammalia, Order Artiodectyla, Family Cervidae, Genus Rangifer: Rangifer tarandus.

This is the reindeer, or as we call it in North America, the caribou, and while it can’t fly or make coffee, it is a pretty neat animal. The caribou is a medium to large-sized deer, not quite as big as an elk (Cervus canadensis) but much larger than the traditional white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) or even a mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus). Caribou are relatively unique among the deer family because both the males and females grow antlers, although the males’ antlers are larger than the females’. There are many subspecies of caribou, as it is found in both tundra and taiga in North America, Scandinavia, and Russia. They can also be found dodging bullets from Sarah Palin.

Here are some caribou fun facts you might not know:

1. They’re tasty! New York City has hot dog vendors. Anchorage, Alaska has reindeer sausage vendors, which is basically just a hot dog made form caribou meat. In Alaska, caribou outnumber people, so each year, Alaskans fill their freezers with freshly-killed caribou.

2. They’re marathon runners … sort of. The subspecies we are familiar with in North America are famous for their long migrations. They often travel up to 50 miles per day and 3000 miles per year. For a size reference, it is only 2451 miles from Los Angeles to New York using the City Distance Tool.

3. Their most fierce predators are 5 and 30 times smaller than the caribou. The most prolific predator of caribou is the gray wolf (Canis lupus), which weighs in at about 80lb. The second most prolific predator is actually the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), which at its maximum is only about 15lb. Gray wolves use their speed and strength in numbers to attack caribou, while golden eagles prey on the caribou newborn calves. Caribou also have to deal with the traditionally pesky mosquitos (Family Culicidae), which in Alaska are HUGE!

Hope you like the facts, and come back again for the next installment of MotherNaturesPen.

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