March 2nd is NATIONAL READ ACROSS AMERICA DAY

March 2nd, National Read Across America Day, is set aside to encourage kids to read. As an author of fun science-based children’s books, I love the idea of children reading books. I’m happy they’re reading, whether it’s one of my brightly illustrated picture books or adventure tales, or any other authors’ books, comic books, graphic novels. I want kids to just read!

Books can be sources of educational material or fantastical flights of imagination. In this world of visual stimulation through cell phones, computers, television and movies, children should be encouraged to use their imaginations, to come up with mental images all their own.

Children don’t have to read alone. Adults can read with them, children can read to other children, and children can read to pets.

photo of author elaine a powers reading to her tortoise, Myrtle
Myrtle, my red-foot tortoise grew so exasperated by being called a ‘turtle’ that she asked me to write her story. Here we are together, just after the book was published.

I enjoy reading to my reptilian family members. Here I am reading Don’t Call Me Turtle! to Myrtle the tortoise, the book she insisted I write after being called ‘Myrtle the Turtle’ one too many times! It’s a rhyming picture book for the young ones about the many differences between tortoises and turtles—so parents and grandparents learn, too. And the rhymes help the knowledge to stick with the kids. I’m inspired to write fun science books, and you’re welcome. 😊

Photo of interior book page of Don't Make Me Fly

Enjoy the vivid, colorful illustrations in the science-filled picture book about roadrunners, Don’t Make Me Fly!

image of book cover children's book Curtis Curly-tail Ship of Sneakers

Or a suspense-filled adventure tale like Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers. Curtis does not resist wanderlust very well—and then he has to find his way across the ocean and back home.

I encourage you to take up reading if you haven’t recently. There’s so much to learn and understand in our world. If you’re looking for something new, check out my books here at elaineapowers.com or all of the authors’ books at Lyric Power Publishing LLC.

At the very least, everybody, grab a book and READ! You will grow, and I like to think that’s why we’re here.

Today is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day– Meet Tabby the Five-Finger Fairy!

Today, February 26, is Tell a Fairy Tale Day. A fairy tale is defined as a children’s story about imaginary or magical beings and lands. Some fairy tales have been around so long they are part of folklore, passed down from storyteller to storyteller. Many of the fairy tales popular today were written in the 1800s; you might be familiar with those written by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.

I am excited to tell you that fairy tales are still being created today. These stories and characters might still be popular two hundred years from now.

Tabby the Five-Finger Fairy is a new magical being, a fairy who lives in the common Five-finger tree, Tabebuia bahamensis, found only in the Lucayan Archipelago. The land in my fairy tale is very real, but it is a wondrous, I might even say, magical, place: The Bahamas. It is hoped by Scott Johnson, Tabby’s creator, and The Bahamas National Trust, and me that Tabby (illustrated by Nicholas Thorpe), who loves Bahamian wildlife, bush teas, and making friends with animals and humans alike, will become a symbol for conservation and environmental education, not only in the islands but around the world.

photo of the cover of the book Tabby and Clean: Unexpected Friends
A Magical Chapter Book about
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy and Her
Adventures with Cleo, a Bahamian Boa
Reading Level: Ages 8+
52 Pages
Tabby Comes Alive in
Illustrations by Nick Thorpe
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy, who comes from the Five-Finger Tree, Tabebuia bahamensis, loves the native plants, animals and people of The Bahamas. She makes friends wherever she goes! Glossary of plants and animals included.

I encourage you to meet this new fairy tale character, Tabby, and enjoy her story aloud with another who appreciates warm tales of adventure and friendship, in Tabby and Cleo: Unexpected Friends. These stories are what I do: making science fun by weaving scientific information into adventure tales or rhyming stanzas. Enjoy a new fairy-tale story, on this special fairy-tale day.

Having Fun With The Mysterious Massachusetts Potatoes

With all the bad news today, unusual stories bring us a lot of entertainment, probably more than they should. They also provide opportunities for puns, as you will read in this tale about the baked potatoes found at the Wayland Free Public Library in Massachusetts.

The first cooked russet potato appeared on a Monday with a second arriving on the following Thursday. The library humorously suggested that the potatoes were part of a rare potato-migration. They are asking people to keep their eyes peeled for whoever left them. Perhaps the russets were rustled?

The library has been having great fun with the potato mystery. Books about cooking potatoes have become very popular. So far, the culprit has not been identified and no more potatoes have shown up—but Mr. Potato Head is looking for his friends.

You can still follow this developing story at the Wayland Library page.

Photo above is courtesy of the Wayland Free Public Library.

Book Note: I do enjoy funny stories, which is why I wrote How NOT to Photograph a Hummingbird, after watching a man at the Tucson Botanical Gardens race around, trying to capture a photo of a hummingbird that seemed to be taunting him. In my story, he is injured by Sonoran Desert flora and fauna, but remains undaunted in his efforts. Of course, I also include a glossary of the plants and animals in the story because science education is what I’m all about. I just love to make it fun for all the budding scientists out there!

illustration of a hummingbird on a cactus
A Humorous Tale Introducing the Plants
and Animals of the Sonoran Desert
“I’ll have a long-term memory of this visit.
Maybe a permanent one.”
For All Ages
Reading Level Age 8+
26 pages
Glossary of Minerals, Flora and Fauna
Illustrated by Anderson Atlas
A bumbling visitor to Southern Arizona is repeatedly injured when trying to photograph a mischievous hummingbird, as the Sonoran Desert conspires against him.
Have a laugh while enjoying learning about the plants and animals of Southern Arizona. Includes glossary.

Horse Care, Sirens, and a Desert Singalong

One afternoon about 3:00 p.m., I heard sirens on a nearby main road.  The sirens went on for quite a while and included several pitches. The vehicles probably included those from the police and fire departments, and perhaps an ambulance. I listened as I brushed my horse, Button.

Photo of a Missouri Foxtrotter horse
Button, my 1000 pound friend!

She turned to listen to the noise, too–not that she hadn’t heard sirens before, but these did seem to be excessive.

Then, voices nearby were raised in a chorus that matched the pitches of the sirens! The large pack of coyotes in the area joined in the song. I usually hear the coyotes’ chorus at dawn or dusk, not mid-afternoon, but they added spontaneous flourishes and harmony to the sirens that midday. One ran up and down the scale in an amazing arpeggio. It was a magical choral moment.

They typically call to each other in greeting to help them stay in contact and reunite. On that afternoon, did they believe the sirens were pack members calling hello, or did they simply grab an opportunity to enjoy a musical interlude in the afternoon?

Book Note: I live in the Sonoran Desert and enjoy the wildlife immensely. I have written three books on Sonoran Desert wildlife, one for little ones about desert tortoises entitled Don’t Call Me Turtle; and two others for all ages, called Don’t Make Me Fly about roadrunners, and Don’t Make Me Rattle, about rattlesnakes. They are written in rhyme and vividly illustrated to make learning the science throughout fun.

These books make excellent gifts and can be used for school projects, too. Check out my ‘Don’t Series’ today.

Fossil Iguana Burrow in The Bahamas?

Even though Rock Iguanas (Cyclura nubila caymanensis) make their dens and escape holes in the limestone karst of the Caribbean islands, the females still need sand to lay their eggs. Females dig a burrow tunnel, lay their eggs in a chamber, then back fill it in—the iguana mothers cover over the entrance area to hide the presence of the eggs. I have watched females dig their dens and after their concealment efforts, I was unable to find the burrow entrance. Once the eggs hatch, the baby iguanas dig their way out of the tunnel to the surface.

Researchers have published an article stating they found a fossil iguana burrow on an island in The Bahamas: First known trace fossil of a nesting iguana (Pleistocene) The Bahamas  by Anthony J. Martin, Dorothy Stearns, Meredith J. Whitten, Melissa M. Hage, Michael Page, and Arya Basu.

Illustration by Anthony Martin of prehistoric iguana burrow

Illustration shows a cross section of the prehistoric iguana burrow, and how the surrounding landscape may have looked during the Late Pleistocene Epoch. (Credit: Anthony Martin.)

Anthony Martin is shown at the top of the page next to the trace fossil of the Pleistocene iguana burrow. (Credit: Melissa Hage.) The fossilized burrow dates back to the Late Pleistocene Epoch, about 115,000 years ago. The island still has iguanas, but they are critically endangered.

“After further investigation, Martin and his co-authors determined that the trace fossil he noticed on the limestone outcrop was that of a nesting iguana burrow. Ample evidence, including a nearby fossil land-crab burrow discovered by Hage, showed that the outcrop was a former inland sand dune, where iguanas prefer to lay their eggs.”

It is reasonable to assume fossilized sand dens would both be difficult to create and to be discovered, so if this is an ancient iguana nesting den, it is very exciting. Several iguana researchers doubt the conclusions of the authors, however. One point in question is that iguanas’ nesting dens are not dug straight down – they angle down slightly from the surface until the desired incubation temperature is found. They nesting chambers are not dug straight down as they appear to be in the fossil.

But that’s the great thing about science. Ideas are proposed and then evidence for and against the conclusions are presented and discussed.

photo San Salvador rock iguanas are critically endangered. Credit Anthony Martin.

The modern-day San Salvador rock iguanas are critically endangered. Credit: Anthony Martin.

One conclusion is certain: The San Salvador Rock Iguana is critically endangered. Hopefully, the current population can be preserved and not become known only as a fossil species.

For more information on iguanas and lizards and tortoises and turtles and snakes and roadrunners and desert plants and even a very special fairy (!), check out all the books here at elaineapowers.com.

February 1st is National Serpent Day!

I came across this beauty, a Western Diamondback Rattler, on a recent ride in the Sonoran Desert.

Ooh, February 1st is National Serpent Day! Some of my favorite animals are serpents. I grew up with snakes as family pets, mostly garter snakes, because my brother was allergic to fur. We cuddled them like you would any other pet.

The term serpent usually refers to a large snake, often in a negative way. In my books, I try to educate people about the value of snakes, to respect them, not to fear them. Religious beliefs have, unfortunately, been used to persecute snakes, which are important to the ecosystem of the human environment. Imagine a world overrun with rodents.

One of the misunderstood serpents in the Sonoran Desert, where I currently reside, is the rattlesnake.  You can learn all about them in Don’t Make Me Rattle! You’ll learn about what great mothers’ rattlers are, how they collect drinking water, what their venom is really used for and many other interesting facts.

book cover graphic of rattlesnake
There’s Much More to Me Than You Know! I Am Shy and My Rattle is Only a Warning: Please, Stay Away! For All Ages Reading Level 8+
Bold and Vibrant Illustrations by Nicholas Thorpe
Written in Rhyme 40 pages

Another misunderstood and persecuted snake is the rainbow boa of The Bahamas. I’ve written a couple of books about the gorgeous rainbow boa.

A brown book cover with illustrations of bahamian boa snakes
Tabby, the Five-Finger Fairy, is a good friend to everyone she meets. After Cleo, a Bahamian Boa, rescues her in their first book, Tabby & Cleo: Unexpected Friends, Tabby goes on to teach us about the natural history of the often misunderstood endemic Bahamian Boas, which have an important place in Bahamian life.

One is more of a natural history book, The Bahamian Boa: A Tabby Tale, while the other is an adventure tale, Tabby and Cleo: Unexpected Friends. It includes Bahamian folk tales and a study of human nature and is a true tale of friendship. Don’t worry, the adventure tale is full of science, as well.

Cleo, a Bahamian boa, one of the misunderstood animals of The Bahamas, rescues Tabby, a Five-Finger Fairy. In trying to find Cleo a safe place to live, this unlikely pair help each other and the people they meet. Tabby loves Bahamian wildlife, Bahamian bush teas, and making friends with both animals and humans alike. This book focuses on important conservation issues that threaten Bahamian wildlife, such as wildlife smuggling, habitat loss, invasive species and human intolerance of animals such as snakes and spiders.

May I suggest you get to know more about serpents and the important roles they play in their ecosystems, whether in person in your neighborhood or with a good book?  Here are a few of the serpents I’ve known personally.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes

Baby Rattlesnake born in garage

This rattler was born in my garage.

photo Sonoran Desert Rattler

Met this magnificent rattler while walking my horse.

Bahamian Boas

photo of New Providence Boa

A baby New Providence boa in The Bahamas.

On the Lyric Power Publishing LLC website, www.lyricpower.net, you’ll discover snake-related workbooks. such as this one, My Book About the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.

Book cover with photo of western diamondback rattler
Something for everyone from kindergarten through grade 3! Forty-six pages of fascinating information on the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Worksheets and project sheets include snake anatomy, crossword puzzle, word search, predators and prey; assemble a rattlesnake analog clock; math sheets including line graph, tally sheet, pictograph, and bar graph; THREE Venn-diagrams with corresponding fact sheets; life cycle activity pages, and reading comprehension.

What Makes Sunsets So Spectacular?

Sunsets can be spectacular in Tucson, Arizona. Bright colors predominate, such as the red one above. Sometimes, they’re dark red, sometimes orangish-red like on this night.

Why are these sunsets red? Because of particulates in the air. The colors of a sunset are caused by the scattering of light’s wavelengths. Stuff in the air like dust, smoke, pollution, and water change the intensity of the light, i.e. scatter the light. However, the wavelengths don’t scatter equally.  The short wavelengths, blue and violet, scatter away easily, so we can’t see them. The other colors of red, orange and yellow are able to make it through.

The dust from the Sonoran desert monsoons can enhance the red color. It’s good to know that the dust has a positive purpose.

Even though our sunsets result merely from light scattering, their brilliance can be quite enjoyable.

photo of sunrise in tucson az

The same scattering effect happens at sunrise. The light at sunrise has even farther to travel through the air because the sun is low on the horizon.

It’s nice to know why the sky can be so colorful. Understanding the science doesn’t diminish our enjoyment of the bright colors at all, does it?

The Sonoran Desert has inspired me to write many fun science books. Check them out on the My Books tab today.

A collage of book covers indicating the categories of books at elaineapowers.com
My Books By Category

There’s a Rainbow in that Dying Cactus

The saguaro pictured above is dying. I was curious about where the colors were coming from. I learned the green color in the photo above is, of course, from chlorophyll; the orange is carotenoids and the purple in the rainbow is betacyanins.

Plants live and die like all living organisms. Some die of old age, but some die when they are young, like this saguaro. A rainbow of colors is revealed as the cactus dies. This is a similar process to what happens to the deciduous tree leaves that change color with the coming of winter, but I wondered what pigments are found in cacti.

The green is chlorophyll, present in the stem for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process which converts light energy into chemical energy that is used to fuel the plant’s activities. As the chlorophyll fades away, the other pigments are revealed.

Associated with the chlorophyll are the yellow to orange carotenoids. As the green chlorophyll degrades, the carotenoids become visible. These pigments act as photoprotective agents as well as additional light-harvesting pigments, enhancing the light collection for photosynthesis.
The nice purplish colors seen here are the betacyanins, reddish to violet betalain pigments. These pigments may act as a screen, protecting the plant tissue, and may also serve an an antioxidant. Fungicidal properties have also been suggested. Betalains are most obvious in the cactus flowers and fruits, such as the yellow-orange betaxanthins and red-violet betacyanins.
So, the rainbow-in-death colors seen in this saguaro are produced by the pigments revealed as the green chlorophyll is reduced.

Book Note: If you’d like to learn about another fascinating Sonoran Desert plant, I wrote Queen of the Night: Night-Blooming Cereus, about the beautiful plants that bloom once a year, all on the same night, usually in July. The blooming is a big deal here in Southern Arizona and something fun and mysterious to learn about. I love to write fun science books (I believe the learning stays when it’s fun), so I wrote Cereus in rhyme. Check it out here.

image of yellow green book cover about the plant Cereus
The Night-Blooming Cereus: An Amazon No. 1 Book!

 

Photo of night-blooming cereus in Tucson AZ
Photo courtesy of ThisisTucson.com

November 6th is National Nachos Day. YUM!

November 6 is National Nachos Day, a day set aside to celebrate a delicious culinary delight. Nachos are crunchy with melted cheese, a perfect combination of taste and texture. Nachos were created by “Nacho” Anaya from Piedras Negras, Mexico in 1943.

Over the years, other ingredients have been added to the tortilla chips and cheese. Even though I regularly enjoy beef on my mine, my favorite is seafood nachos topped with shrimp and crab meat. I’ve found just about anything goes well with the basic chips and cheese.

Try being creative with your nachos.  Today, go ahead and nosh on some nachos!

(Above image courtesy of José Vanegas López from Pixabay.)

And when you and the kids are done with the nachos, check out the activity sheets and workbooks at my publisher’s website, Lyric Power Publishing LLC. They’re entertaining, educational and economical and were created to coordinate with my fun science books for children.

book cover illustration with two lizards
The Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, LOVE exploring their island home, where the bravest thing possible is to go see the Dragon of Nani Cave. An Adventure Tale For Readers Age 8+ 48 pages Fun and Colorful Illustrations by Anderson Atlas of the many animals they encounter, including the Dragon!
book cover for workbook "My Book About Rocks"
Forty-one pages of information, worksheets, and activity sheets that will give students in grades 2-5 an all-around understanding of rocks and minerals and how they are formed. Includes three word searches, a crossword puzzle, opinion essay writing, group chart activity, cut-and-paste the rock cycle, check lists for collecting rocks in the field and sorting and classifying them in the classroom. Homework project: How to build a sedimentary sandwich, with full instructions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Reptile Awareness Day Should Be Appreciation Day!

October 21 is National Reptile Awareness Day. I would prefer the term ‘Appreciation’ instead of ‘Awareness.’ Many people are aware of reptiles but don’t appreciate them. They often state they hate reptiles—especially snakes!

image of Zoe tortoise
Zoe, who lives in the Sonoran Desert with me, stars in a video on my You Tube Page.

This day is for celebrating all 10,000 species of reptiles, from the cute, colorful gecko to the unnerving rattlesnake, and to educate and raise awareness to the threats suffered by these fascinating beings. Reptiles are equally as important to the Earth’s ecosystems as are mammals, birds, amphibians and fish. Their presence helps to ensure a healthy environment, but they are almost always underappreciated.

Sometimes, people’s actions toward reptiles make me angry.  A few years ago, it was the number of Sister Isle Rock Iguanas killed in one week by cars on Cayman Brac. I knew many of those iguanas by name from my work in iguana conservation as a citizen scientist. This led to me writing the book, Silent Rocks.

Recently, a FL poster on Facebook displayed a photo of a decapitated corn snake, asking if it was a coral snake. A man who hated snakes had killed it out of fear–a harmless, native corn snake who would have eaten the rodents around their home, preventing damage to their electrical wires and infestations of disease. Despite several responders assuring the poster that it was a harmless, nonvenomous snake, popular as a pet, others insisted it had to be a venomous coral snake or cottonmouth. Why do we always assume the worse when it comes to snakes?

Sadly, the RV park in FL has a history of needlessly fearing animals. A mother alligator had shared the rearing of her hatchlings with the residents, only to be killed when she took a walk down a park road one day. Not threatening anyone, merely using the road as a thoroughfare. I believe they should have known better because they knew her.

I want to write books about these episodes, but how do I present these occurrences in an educational way that people would relate to and not be offended by? Inspiration will come to me. But obviously, educational books about reptiles are still very necessary. I get disheartened by people’s attitude that reptiles are “disposable” animals. I hope that through my books, I can bring people who “hate” reptiles to “disliking but respecting” them.

So, please appreciate all reptiles, even those you may not like. Maybe do some online research about the animal you dislike or are afraid of. Learn about their species and life-cycle and predators and offspring and what they bring to the circle of life. We don’t fear what we understand.

And remember that we’re all part of the great ecosystem of Earth.

Ever Set a Pumpkin on Fire? In Your Kitchen?

My reptiles like hard squash, so I cook pumpkin, butternut and acorn squash until they are soft and squishy. The easiest way to cook them is whole in the microwave. I don’t bother to cut off the stem. I rinse off the outside, plop it in, and cook until it is soft.

Photo of Rhino Iguana standing on a tortoise
My pumpkin flambe, please?

I was cooking the third of the ‘Buy 3-for-$5’ pumpkins while writing at the kitchen table. Good thing, because I smelled smoke. Not the flavorful aroma of cooking vegetables but the odor of burning wood.  With the number of heat lamps in my house, I do worry about the wooden enclosures catching fire from a misplaced heat lamp. I immediately began sniffing for the direction the odor, which led my eyes to the microwave, where I saw that the pumpkin stem was in flames! (Inside the microwave, mind you.)

I ran over and unplugged the microwave, grabbed the pumpkin and poured water on the stem in the sink. The inside of the oven was scorched but had not been engulfed in flames, for which I was very thankful. Fortuitously, the pumpkin was cooked to perfect squishiness, so I would be able to feed the reptiles. The stem, however, was ash.

After all the squash I had cooked in microwaves, why did this one catch fire?

Microwaves produce an electric field that does the cooking. If small amounts of metals or minerals are present, they can enhance the electric field, sort of like a lightning rod. Pumpkins contain minerals; after all they are very nutritious. It is possible that the minerals in the stem, a conductive material, along with the extended stem, created a stronger electric field than the air around it. The dry stem was definitely flammable.

Poof! Kind of like a Pumpkin Flambe happened in my microwave.

Apparently, flames can be produced by many fruits and vegetables, but my advice is, “Don’t try this at home!”

Then, it was back to writing. Books, blog posts, newsletters–I am a busy writer, especially if you add in the mystery novels I’m working on. I hope you’ll check out my fun children’s science books on the My Books page. My publisher sells activity sheets and workbooks to accompany them, at Lyric Power Publishing LLC. They are jam-packed with lots of fun and interesting supplemental science education activities.

 

Umm . . . Ever Wanted to Lick a Toad’s Back?

Toad image courtesy of ockienot88 from Pixabay

Are you familiar with the word entheogen? I wasn’t either until I heard it mentioned in a talk about the Sonoran Desert toad, also known as the Colorado River toad, Incilius alvarius.

You may have heard of this toad without knowing much else: It’s the toad made famous by claims that if you licked its back, you would experience a hallucinogenic effect, due to entheogen. Entheogen is a psychoactive substance that produces alterations in perception, mood, cognition or behavior for the purpose of enhancing spiritual development. The compound found specifically in this species of toad that causes this effect is 5-MeO-DMT (5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine).

The toad only produces these toxins for defensive purposes, not for human use as an entheogen. You must harass the toad to get it to secrete its toxins and, for the record, harassing animals is just wrong. By the way, licking the toad will not get you high, or closer to your deity. And, if your dog tries to eat one of these toads, it could be fatal. Native predators have learned to avoid the toad’s back, grabbing its prey by the feet and eating the underbelly.

Sonoran Desert toads also produce the related toxin bufotenin (5-HO-DMT). These toxins are exudates from the parotoid gland behind the toad’s eyes.

Now you know what “entheogen” means. Try to include it your next conversation. I love the challenge of new words and try to inject them as often as I can. I guess that means I am a writer. Well, you can kind of tell that on My Books page, too. Still, to think a tiny curly-tail lizard could inspire me to write his story and that THAT would lead to all these science books that I’ve written to be FUN is really something! We just never know where life is going to take us.

Enjoy the quest!

A collage of book covers indicating the categories of books at elaineapowers.com
My Books By Category

 

 

Did You Know There is More Than One “English?” by Curtis Curly-tail Lizard

Hi, friends! It’s me—Curtis Curly-tail! Did you miss me? (Come on  over and see me at my YouTube page.) I missed you, too!

Did you know there is more than one English? I was wondering about Elaine a few times when she didn’t understand something I said–I am from the Bahamas, a member of the British Commonwealth–but I’ve recently learned because of a blog post Elaine wrote that her English is actually different from my English. There’s a US English and a British English! Some of our words are even spelled differently. Elaine said in the post she will continue to write in US English, at least for now. (We will see about that.)

Elaine got me wondering about the other differences in the two Englishes. Brits and Americans also use different terms for the same objects. (That explains her confusion.) Some British words, like “boot” for the trunk of a car, make good sense. However, some involve animal terms and are a lot more fun.

What they call a ladybird in Great Britain, you call a ladybug in the US. A metal clip with long serrated jaws often attached to an electric cable is called an “alligator clip” in the US—but we call it a “crocodile clip” in the British Commonwealth. Did you just choose a similar reptile to be different? Personally, I’m glad both the gators and crocs have a metal clip named after them. Go, reptiles! I’m thinking someone should name something after Curly-tail lizards, too! Of course, it’s got to be curly. And the first one should obviously be a “Curtis.”

Another fun name in Great Britain is the term for crosswalks. Those stripes on the road where pedestrians walk across are called “zebra crossings!” Do real zebras cross there? I might have to take a trip to find out. Then Elaine could write another Curtis Curly-tail adventure: Curtis Curly-tail and the Crossing Zebra! I’m not sure how I’d get there by boat, but she will figure it out.

(Right, Elaine? Right?  Okay, okay. The fourth book in the series just came out. You’re probably waiting for inspiration. But aren’t I always inspiring??)

That’s right, my compadres–the next book in the Curtis Curly-tail series just came out. That’s four now–ALL ABOUT ME! What can I say? When you’re a star, you’re a star! I hope you’ll go over and grab a copy of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away! by Elaine A. Powers. (I mean, you’ve GOT to find out if I make it back home after a hurricane that blows me away. Just pretend like you didn’t see this post until after you read it. It’s really good–lots of weather and environmental science woven into the story. Kids don’t even notice–they just learn the science. And that, my friends, is how Elaine rolls. I just love that!

children's book cover about Curtis Curly-tail lizard and a hurricane in the Bahamas
In this story, I join Allison Andros Iguana to warn the iguanas of Beach Cay about the impending hurricane. Low lying areas are particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, high rainfall and powerful winds of hurricanes. Small islands or cays here in the Bahamas can be completely washed over. Beach Cay, the setting of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, has entire populations of endemic animals, such as the iguanas like Allison. One powerful hurricane could wipe out her entire species.

Moon and Venus say Hello to Each Other!

PHOTO above is courtesy of the App called SkyView.

Thanks to Tucson, Arizona being a dark sky city, stargazing can be wonderful. One recent September morning, I enjoyed viewing the crescent moon along with a bright object. Of course, that object was not a star, but the planet Venus. I thought it was worth a photo (below), even though my cell phone doesn’t take the best night-time images.

photo of crescent moon and the planet Venus near each other
Photo of crescent moon near the planet Venus by Elaine A. Powers, Author

I’m not very knowledgeable about constellations, so I use the SkyView app. The constellation for the Zodiac sign Cancer was overlaid. I like how the claws appear to be holding the moon.

Several of these astronomy apps are free and fun to use. All you have to do is go outside and look up.

I wonder if Curtis Curly-tail lizard ever navigated his way home using the stars as guides? He certainly is a bright little guy and he really helps make learning science fun. Check out the Curtis Curly-tail series today!

children's book cover about Curtis Curly-tail lizard and a hurricane in the Bahamas
In this story, I join Allison Andros Iguana to warn the iguanas of Beach Cay about the impending hurricane. Low lying areas are particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, high rainfall and powerful winds of hurricanes. Small islands or cays here in the Bahamas can be completely washed over. Beach Cay, the setting of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, has entire populations of endemic animals, such as the iguanas like Allison. One powerful hurricane could wipe out her entire species.

It’s Not a Horny Toad! By Curtis Curly-tail Lizard

Did you know that people sometimes call lizards toads? Toads—which are amphibians, by the way, not reptiles like us lizards. Even this lizard’s scientific name refers to toads! Phrynosoma means “toad-bodied”–all because they have flat, round bodies and blunt snouts. The correct common name for these interesting lizards is Horned Lizard—not horny toad!

The Horned Lizard doesn’t move around much, allowing its camouflage to help protect it from predators. The spines on the Horned Lizard’s back are modified scales, but they still make the lizard hard to swallow, especially when it puffs up. Roadrunners have learned to swallow the lizard with the spines facing away from them, so they don’t puncture their innards. That is an interesting fact from the rhyming and fun science book, Don’t Make Me Fly!, by Elaine A. Powers.

illustration of a desert roadrunner
A Review of Don’t Make Me Fly! By Helene Woodhams
Arizona Daily Star:
What a curious creature the Roadrunner is! This iconic desert bird prefers hoofing it to flying, and its footprints are the same backward as they are forward. With vibrant illustrations by Nicholas Thorpe, this picture book is jam-packed with scientific facts about roadrunners, delivered in verse form to keep the narrative lively. Roadrunners
“grab their victim
behind its head
And bash it on
the ground until it’s dead.”
Want to know how to swallow a horned lizard? Keep reading! Don’t Make Me Fly! is recommended for children in grades K-4.

The horns on the lizard, however, are true horns, since they have a bony core. The lizard in the above photo is a Regal Horned Lizard, Phrynosoma solare. It gets its common name from the row of horns on its head. Regal Horned Lizards eat harvester ants, lots of harvester ants, over two thousand per meal. And they eat during the incredibly hot days in the desert!

Along with camouflage, spines, and running, Horned Lizards can also squirt blood from their eyes. (Ewwww, right?) The bad-tasting blood hits the predator’s mouth, discouraging it from eating the lizard. Now, that’s one trait I wouldn’t mind having. “Come on down, seagull! Open wide!”

So, dear readers, when you see any of these wonderful, interesting lizards, please don’t call them horny toads! Remember they are the amazing Horned LIZARDS–reptiles. Just like me, of course!

I wrote Silent Rocks, but Susan Mule Gives a Dramatic Reading!

 

Above Susan Mule of the Cayman Islands reads Silent Rocks.

Of particular importance to me are the two endemic iguana species on the islands of Cayman Brac, the blue iguana found on Grand Cayman and the Sister Isle Rock Iguana found on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. I’ve done field work with the latter and enjoy going back every year to how my reptilian friends are doing. In fact, I wrote the book Silent Rocks: Iguanas of Cayman Brac to help inform people about how the iguanas are being needlessly killed.

 

book cover with photo of iguana from Cayman Brac

The endemic Sister Isle Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac is critically endangered. This poignant book shows why* and how we humans can help. Includes many photographs of these magnificent large lizards.

*Silent Rocks can be used to teach how humans endanger many species

September 4 is National Wildlife Day

This guy, Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus, and his species inspired my book, Don’t Make Me Fly!

September 4 is National Wildlife Day.  As a biologist, I love wildlife, whether it is in my backyard or at some distant exotic location. Wildlife Day was established to remind us about endangered animals, locally and around the world.

This is also the day to recognize the work being done on behalf of these animals, both in preservation and education about them. I do my part for conservation through my volunteering as a citizen scientist, talks I give, the books I write about animals, and supplemental, educational workbooks that teach about animals in a fun way.

photo Regal Horned Lizard Phrynosoma solare
Regal Horned Lizard Phrynosoma solare

I love to talk about and share my reptiles with people and I hope my tales that weave science into animal escapades and picture books educate children and adults alike. Sometimes my message is subtle, such as in stories featuring curly-tail lizards and their environments and plights, and sometimes it’s more direct, such as in Silent Rocks about the disappearing rock iguanas on Cayman Brac.

photo Desert Cottontail Sylvilagus audubonii
Desert Cottontail Sylvilagus audubonii

While you are contemplating how you can help the endangered animals of the world, get outside and enjoy the wildlife in your neighborhood. With habitat loss and climate change, some may be more endangered than you realize.

photograph of tarantula
Tarantula, Aphonpelma chalcodes
photo Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii
Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii

I hope you enjoy these pictures of some of my neighbors.

photo of two Great Horned Owl Bubo virginainus
A mating pair of Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginainus
photo Gopher Snake Pituophis melanoleucus
Gopher Snake Pituophis melanoleucus

If you want to read more about these Sonoran Desert critters, I suggest How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird, which is a fun story about the desert conspiring against a photographer—I just can’t help myself—I am, at heart, a murder-mystery writer. (It was a curly-tail lizard who started my career as a children’s science book writer.) I am still working on those murder-mysteries, however!

illustration of a hummingbird on a cactus
A Humorous Tale Introducing the Plants
and Animals of the Sonoran Desert
“I’ll have a long-term memory of this visit.
Maybe a permanent one.”
For All Ages
Reading Level Age 8+
26 pages
Glossary of Minerals, Flora and Fauna
Illustrated by Anderson Atlas
A bumbling visitor to Southern Arizona is repeatedly injured when trying to photograph a mischievous hummingbird, as the Sonoran Desert conspires against him.
Have a laugh while enjoying learning about the plants and animals of Southern Arizona.

There’s a glossary in the back of How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird with the scientific details about the mischievous conspirators. I love making science education fun!

Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away is Now Available! by Curtis Curly-tail Lizard

illustration of curtis curly-tail lizard
It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail Lizard! Don’t you just love my perfectly curled tail?

Hello, everyone! I recently mentioned my latest book would soon be out—well, it’s here! The next Curtis Curly-tail adventure has been released: Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away is written by, of course, my good friend and author, Elaine A. Powers. The gorgeous illustrations are by artist Monique Carroll, who also illustrated Grow Home, Little Seeds.

In this story, I join Allison Andros Iguana to warn the iguanas of Beach Cay about the impending hurricane. Low lying areas are particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, high rainfall and powerful winds of hurricanes. Small islands or cays here in the Bahamas can be completely washed over. Beach Cay, the setting of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, has entire populations of endemic animals, such as the iguanas like Allison. One powerful hurricane could wipe out her entire species.

It’s not only animals that need protecting during hurricane season; people are also in danger. In this story, as in real life, people come together to help not only each other, but animals and the environment, as well. Along with the destruction caused by hurricanes, Elaine also discusses the positive effects in the book. (Yes, there are benefits from hurricanes. I’ll bet you didn’t know that!)

The title kind of gives the story away, but I hope you will grab a copy so you can find out what happens to the iguanas and if I make my way back home to my perfect little den at Warderick Wells cay. It’s a great story for all the kids at home these days, and helps them to learn about weather science and ecosystems. Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away makes learning science fun and is for sale at Amazon.

‘Til next time, take care of yourselves and each other. Together, we will get through this, just like my friends and I, who help each other survive and recover from hurricanes. Friendship rules!

It’s That Time of the Year–Weather is in the News! by Curtis Curly-tail Lizard

Illustration of Curtis on boat looking at a sneaker
Here’s me in Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers. This book started my career as a book-inspirer, writer and video performer. I must say that I have a lot to be thankful for! Illustration by Arthur Winstanley.  Book designed by Nora Miller.

Hello, everyone! I’m Curtis Curly-tail Lizard and every year, all of us in The Bahamas worry about hurricane season. I wrote here before about Hurricane Dorian, which hit the northern part of my country, causing a lot of damage. Of course, this the time of the year, weather is newsworthy in many places–like all the terrible fires now burning in California.  For my friend, Elaine, in Arizona, it’s the monsoon season. It amazes me that Elaine hopes for monsoon rains, while we Warderick Wellians hope the hurricanes will avoid us!

June 1 marked the official hurricane season start in the Atlantic Ocean, which includes the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Of course, weather doesn’t always abide by the calendar, as Elaine has mentioned about Southern Arizona’s 2020 monsoon season. It never started. Everything is very dry there and the heat has been rather extreme. Elaine’s prickly pear cactus plants are drying up. It’s pretty bad when cactus dry up.

In the Sonoran Desert, the air rises upward due to the hot temperatures warming the ground. This creates a vacuum that can pull in moisture-containing winds from the west, including air from Baja California in the Pacific. Monsoon rains are powerful and can cause flash floods, lightning strikes can ignite fires, and winds can knock down trees and poles. They also create microbursts, which are like tiny tornadoes. But, after the heat of May and June, the refreshing rains allow the cacti to rehydrate, wildflowers to bloom, ocotillo to produce leaves. Animals, from insects to mammals, increase their activity. It is normally a time of fun and frolicking. The water is much needed by the plants and animals in the desert and much missed this year. Elaine and her friends are all still hoping the rains will come.

I hope you’ll stop by and visit me at my YouTube channel, Curtis Curly-tail Speaks. And I’m very excited to tell you that a new book will be added to the Curtis Curly-tail collection very soon. It’s about my experiences with the yiggies on Beach Cay. What’s a yiggie? You’ll soon find out in Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away! I’m so excited and I’ll be sure to let you know when it goes on sale!

I hope you’re enjoying the summer weather, wherever you are. Take care of yourselves and each other out there! I sure am on Warderick Wells!

“What’s a Nurse Tree?” you ask.

In the heat of the Sonoran Desert, many cacti use the shade of trees to help them survive. They also help in the cold winters. These are nurse trees.

Underneath a mesquite in my yard, I found this thriving Graham’s Nipple or Arizona Fishhook Cactus. The scientific name is Mammillaria grahamii. I wouldn’t have noticed it if not for the bright colors of the flowers.  The term fishhook refers to the one-three large spines in each spine grouping that are hooked and reddish to brown in color. This species are named after Colonel James Duncan Graham (1799-1851), who took part in a U.S.-Mexico border survey.

Arizona Fishhook Cactus under a mesquite ‘nurse tree’ in my yard

Indigenous people have eaten the fruit and pulp of this plant as food, as well using it as a medicine to treat earaches. I’m enjoying it for its natural beauty.

Even though I didn’t include this species in my fun science book that comes with a glossary of Sonoran Desert plants and animals, you can read about other desert treasures and have a good laugh in How NOT to Photograph a Hummingbird.

illustration of a hummingbird on a cactus
“I’ll have a long-term memory of this visit. Maybe a permanent one.”
A Humorous Tale Introducing the Plants and Animals of the Sonoran Desert
For All Ages
Reading Level Age 8+
26 pages
Glossary of Minerals, Flora and Fauna
Illustrated by Anderson Atlas
A bumbling visitor to Southern Arizona is repeatedly injured when trying to photograph a mischievous hummingbird, as the Sonoran Desert conspires against him. Have a laugh while enjoying learning about the plants and animals of Southern Arizona.

Ophidiofomophobia. Say, what?

I’m always learning new words. I thought someone who liked reptiles was a “herpephile.” I found out lately it is actually “herpetophile.” There really is a word for people like me who like reptiles and enjoy studying them.

Then I read about “ophidiofomophobia.” I had to look it up, but, unfortunately, it isn’t a real word, although it really should be. I know “Ophidiophobia” is a fear of snakes.  Ophidiofomophobia would be the fear of NOT having snakes. I would definitely suffer from ophidiofomophobia. I can’t imagine not sharing my yard with a variety of snakes.  They are all welcome, even those that rattle.

This examination of phobia words lead me to wondering about other phobias. Was there a word for people afraid of lizards?  Not a specific one for lizards, but there is a general one for reptiles: Herpetophobia is a fear of reptiles, usually lizards and snakes, but also crocodilians. I guess lizards don’t get their own phobia.

I feel iguanas—the big lizards—deserve their own phobia, at least.  Iguanaphobia has a nice rhythmic flow to it, don’t you think?

Seriously, phobias are serious issues that shouldn’t be joked about. One of the reasons I’m interested in writing science-based books is to help people learn about misunderstood animals and, hopefully, lessen their fears.

My motto is: Respect. Don’t fear.

infographic complete book description of book Don't Make Me Rattle

It’s National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day by Curtis Curly-tail

Image courtesy of マサコ アーント (Aunt Masako) from Pixabay

Hello, friends! It’s Curtis Curly-tail, star of Curtis Curly-tail Speaks! I hope you are all staying safe and that you are ready to share or receive some zucchini squash. That’s right—August 8th is National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day! If you have ever successfully grown zucchini, you know they can be prolific. In fact, people often have so many zucchini, they sneak them onto their neighbor’s porches in the dark of night. August 8th is the day celebrating this act of generosity. 

But I’ll bet you didn’t know that reptiles enjoy the zucchini AND the flowers. That’s a hint for those of you who have too many fruit on your plants—just pick the flowers off the plants and feed them to your favorite plant-enjoying reptile, like tortoises and iguanas. I’ve even heard that humans also enjoy the flowers.

Zucchini don’t seem to grow near my home on Warderick Wells in the Bahamas, but I hope to someday enjoy zucchini flowers and the fruit, too! In fact, if you’re headed my way, you don’t need to worry about the date to sneak some zucchini into my den!

Speaking of my den, I don’t seem to spend a lot of time there. I hope you’ll come along on one of my crazy adventures! (I just can’t seem to help myself . . .) You’ll learn about ecology and conservation in fictional stories by Elaine A. Powers. She’s pretty awesome—who would’ve thought you could make science fun with rhymes and adventure stories? Why, me and Elaine, of course!

Here I am for your educational needs AND pleasure:

book covers curtis curly-tail
Three adventures so far! I meet Allison Andros Iguana in Curtis Curly-tail is Lizardnapped!

Looking for More than Sky Rain

Growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t really think about rain. It rained all year long, although in the winter it could fall as ice, or if we were lucky, snow. The only time rain was newsworthy was during tornado season, when nature used it as a weapon, or mid-summer when the corn and soybean crops needed timely rains for optimum growth.

But then I moved to the diverse and complex Sonoran Desert, where rain is not only newsworthy but fascinating. Every time it rains, it’s like I’ve never seen it before. I run to the window to watch the water falling from the clouds. The Tucson area only gets about 12 inches of rain each year, most during the summer monsoons. In my hometown, we were used to around 37 inches a year.

When I first moved to Arizona, I worked on the second floor. One day, I was delighted to see raindrops on the windows. I ran downstairs to stand in the rain, only to discover the rain was not reaching the ground.  I looked up and could see the rain stopping about three feet above my head. Yes, sometimes the ground is so hot and the humidity so low that the raindrops evaporate before reaching the ground. Thus, I call it sky rain.

Sky Rain: Rain that doesn’t reach the ground

This year, in the weeks before monsoon, when it was very hot and rain clouds started to form, I watched sky rain right in front of me. If you look closely at the pictures, you will see that the rain is not reaching the ground. The ends even look slightly curved upward as the water is being warmed by the hot earth.

When it rains at your house, be glad when it reaches the ground, providing moisture to plants and animals. Sky rain, while fascinating, just doesn’t get that job done.

If you’d like to learn more about the Sonoran Desert, please see my Don’t Series books, which are vividly illustrated children’s book, where the science is written into rhyming stanzas, making learning science fun!

book covers Dont Series
These best sellers are colorful and written in rhyme, making learning science fun!

It’s New Tech Time–Elaine A. Powers Will Now Visit Your Classroom via Video Conferencing

Image courtesy of Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

Hello, everyone!

It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail! You know me as the perfect curly-tail lizard from the Bahamas, who inspired Elaine A. Powers to write her very first children’s science book (fun science adventure tale, that is) called, most appropriately, Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers. Who knew Elaine would go on to write 25 children’s science books? Not me! But there was a need to make learning science fun and she grabbed the moment and ran with it. I am so proud of her!

Then she asked me to write for her blog and star on her YouTube channel, as well. What could I say? Who doesn’t want to be famous? I do have a bit of the star-strut going on at the beach near my home on Warderick Wells. And the girl curly-tail lizards–well, they get giddy and giggly when they see me. Someone’s gotta be that guy and it may as well be me.

After I started Elaine on her career as an author, I sent her out visiting schools and organizational meetings, teaching about us wonderful reptiles. She brought iguanas, tortoises and turtles and they were always a smashing hit! However, with the virus pandemic, Elaine hasn’t been able to take her scaled friends out and all of them are really bummed. Especially, Blue, the rock iguana. (The big guy is pictured with Elaine below.) He loved the attention he got and misses the people he was meeting. Now, schools are closed and Elaine and her reptile family are all stuck at home.

photograph of Elaine A Powers with her large rock iguana, Blue
Elaine A. Powers and her big buddy, Blue, a rock iguana hybrid.

Animals have many ways of communicating, and humans don’t communicate like we do. You must use electronic technology over distances. I think that’s a decent alternative. I myself am very familiar with photography, posing for all the tourists as I do on the beach. This new electronic technology allows for “live” images–you can see each other in real time! Much more amazing than a photo, unless the photo is of me, of course! And, you can hear your voices, too. It’s called video conferencing, and a group, a crowd (that’s a collective noun) of humans, can communicate simultaneously. Very impressive.

Once I learned about video conferencing, I told Elaine, “You have to do this! You can’t meet with them in person now, but you can talk to them online. You can teach about the reptiles and show the iguanas and tortoises to classrooms or during meetings.”

She said, “But the people won’t be able to touch the reptiles. And Blue loved that!”

“I know. So far, I can’t figure that one out. But this isn’t going to last forever. Someday, you’ll be out and about again. In the meantime, people need to know all about us reptiles. We love it when people learn about and understand us. Come on, Elaine–say yes! You are needed! And Blue can ham it up for the camera.”

“Well, I guess we could give it a try.”

“That’s the spirit! It’ll be fun, just like your books!”

So, my friends, if you’re an educator, or have an interest in reptiles, you can talk to Elaine about speaking to your classroom or group. You will also learn about the books she has written and the incredible workbooks and activity sheets from Lyric Power Publishing, LLC. Elaine’s heart and mind are all about making science education fun. Contact her today to spice things up in the science curriculum via video conferencing.

We must all adapt these days. And, don’t forget about us very interesting reptiles! Contact Elaine through her website, www.elaineapowers.com today! Or at www.lyricpower.net, to schedule an online get-together with Elaine and Blue and Myrtle and Calliope and Rango and Cantata and Chile and Turquoise and–well, you get the picture! Or, you will!

After the exciting session from the Powers home, stop by and see me at Curtis Curly-tail Speaks on YouTube. You can learn a lot about reptiles from me, too. That’s my job and I’m stickin’ to it!

Natural Fire: Helpful or Destructive?

Fire can be a wonderful or terrify thing. In many ecosystems, fires are important for keeping them healthy. These are low intensity fires that clear the ground of brush and scrub. However, invasive plant species like buffelgrass cause fires to burn hotter destroying the ecosystem, instead of nurturing it.

May and June in the Sonoran Desert are high fire periods. This is the dry season between the winter rains and summer monsoons. Plants dry, grass turns brown. It is very easy to accidentally start a fire, so open fires are restricted. Sudden, heat-generated storms are produced, containing a lot of lightning, and nature uses the lightning to ignite fires during this time.

One such storm ignited the dry vegetation on Pusch Ridge, near my home, on June 5. Pusch Ridge is in the Santa Catalina Mountains, north of Tucson, AZ. The three peaks are between 5,000 to 6,000 feet high. At the lower elevations are the iconic saguaro cactus, while juniper and pines are found higher.

Picture by Elaine A. Powers early on in the Bighorn Fire

Natural low-intensity fires clear out the ground debris allowing for new growth that support animals, such as bighorn sheep. Unfortunately, the introduction of invasive plants, like buffel grass, have changed the nature of the fires. The dried invasive plants fuel much larger, higher intensity fires, resulting in the destruction of the ecosystem instead of enhancing it.

Sadly, the Bighorn Fire on Pusch Ridge is one of the destructive fires. This destruction is the results of man’s altering of the environment. Buffel grass was introduced for erosion control and cattle forage. The buffel grass thrived and forced out the natural plants. Buffel grass-fueled fires also destroy buildings.

Image courtesy of www.wildfiretoday.com; Photographer not credited; photo undated

The fire is still raging today. According to The Arizona Daily Star, “Firefighters spent most of Sunday strengthening fire lines in the Summerhaven area and burning down the ridge line north of the town as they continued to fight the 58,500-acre Bighorn Fire,” officials said. 950 people are fighting the fire that is about 16% contained.

It is hoped that some of the areas will be able to rejuvenate with native species, but the loss may be irreparable or last for many years. Unfortunately, humankind has never been able to quickly stop its destructive behaviors.

NOTE: Staying indoors with children? Check out my science-based, fun and educational books; and the science workbooks and activity sheets at Lyric Power Publishing, LLC.

image of MY Books Page

Who’s Your Favorite Footrest?

Do you have a favorite footrest in your home? Putting one’s feet up is so relaxing and relieving. The cushioniest footrest in my house is the one that came with a comfy chair. Simple, functional, the perfect height, very practical.

My favorite non-living footrest

My favorite footrest is covered with a needlepoint I stitched many decades ago. I was living in Michigan, so the Canada Goose theme was appropriate . . . as is the snow. Lots of snow in the lake-effect region of Southern Michigan. I could cross-country ski right out of my garage. I don’t miss the snow now that I’m here in the Sonoran Desert. Snow here is just wrong to me.

My most recent footrest comes to me while I am writing at the table. I don’t even have to pick my feet up – she walks right under me.  She stops, not minding that my feet are resting on her shell. In fact, I think it’s her way of making contact.

Myrtle says hello and rests under my feet as
I type away on the next story

If you want to learn more about tortoises, Myrtle, my footrest tortoise, has inspired a book Don’t Call Me Turtle and a number of workbooks at Lyric Power Publishing, LLC, where science education is fun!

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs, pointing at the viewer
Learn the differences between tortoises and turtles today!
Collage of Science Education Workbooks
Click on Workbooks to see all 23 workbooks, making science education fun!

Word for the Day: Saurophagy (And Autophagy!)

Photo courtesy of Kaimuki Backyard on You Tube.

I learned a new term today. It’s not a word to be used in daily conversation but interesting, nonetheless. The new term is saurophagy. Its means “the eating of lizards.”

I was a little sad to learn this word in a report about one iguana species, C. similis, eating its cousin, C. bakeri. Normally herbivores, iguanas can be opportunistic consumers. C. similis seem to take the opportunity to eat the hatchling C. bakeri heading to the mangroves.

Like most people with access to the Internet, the first thing I did was search saurophagy. It’s apparently a well-kept secret. Google offered me autophagy which is very different. Autophagy is the destruction of cells during normal physiological cycles.

It took a while to find anything on saurophagy. Most of what I found was lizards-eating-lizards research, which makes sense in places with high numbers of lizards. But of course, lizards have many predators. Those predators are usually just called carnivores, nothing fancy like saurophagy.

Saurophagy is a fun word to know. You just might need it someday for a trivia contest or Scrabble game. And don’t forget, there’s autophagy, too.

To learn more about iguanas, check out this wonderful downloadable resource at Lyric Power Publishing, LLC. Nothing about saurophagy in it, but lots of other information about iguanas and wonderful activity sheets. Full description below.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

Is That Torpor or Hibernation? by Curtis Curly-tail

Howdy, friends! It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail! You know how I LOVE to bask in the sun? Well, I’ve recently learned that some of my friends go underground when it gets cold—to stay warm!

My human friend, Elaine, wrote here at Tales & Tails that round-tailed ground squirrels spend the winter underground to stay warm. Yes, it gets cold in Southern Arizona during the winter, unlike the warm tropical weather of the Exumas, where I live. But ground squirrels don’t actually hibernate like some other mammals do—they go into a state of torpor.

Both the state of torpor and hibernation are means for mammals to survive cold temperatures, conserving energy due to low food availability. Hibernation and torpor both involve lowering body temperatures and breathing, heart, and metabolic rates. What’s the difference between them? It’s all in the planning. Animals that hibernate plan for it. They store fat in advance and stay in the quiet state for as long as possible. When the warm temperatures finally arrive, the animals take a while to wake-up, using up a lot of their energy reserves.

Torpor happens involuntarily and only lasts for short periods. It’s like a deep sleep. Waking up takes less time and involves violent shaking from muscle contractions. I call that shivering.

As scientists have learned more about hibernation, the definition has changed. Animals once believed to be hibernating were in fact in the state of torpor. Today, the term hibernation includes true hibernators and those asleep in torpor.

Here’s a fellow desert-dweller of Elaine’s, that hibernates during the cold winters.

Gila Monster image courtesy of David Mark from Pixabay

Another interesting state is aestivation, which is an entirely different topic, in my estimation. Do you like my word play? Aestivation and estimation? I think Elaine should explain what aestivation is and use my rhyme in one of her books—with credit, of course!

For information about a desert dweller that goes into torpor–not hibernation–the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake–check out the 46-page workbook and activity sheets at Lyric Power Publishing, LLC. It’s educational, but it’s full of fun activities. Elaine always says, “Learning should be fun! That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!”

Book cover with photo of western diamondback rattler
book cover graphic of rattlesnake

Or, a perennial favorite is the rhyming, thrillingly illustrated Don’t Make Me Rattle! People fear rattlesnakes because they don’t understand them. Come inside and learn about these amazing snakes, how they help people, and why they should be respected, not exterminated.

How Do You Know if a Lizard is a Green Iguana? by Curtis Curly-tail

Hello, out there, friends and fans! It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail!

Today, I wanted to ask you if you knew that Green Iguanas, Iguana iguana, come in different colors? And, if they come in different colors, how do you tell if a lizard is a green iguana? 

You look for the subtympanic scale. “What is that?” you ask. Well, I don’t have one, so I had to look it up myself. The subtympanic scale is that large scale on the side of the green iguana’s head.  Sub means below and tympanic means ear.  So, it’s the big scale below the ear. I have a friend who calls that scale the “jewel.” She always admires the beautiful coloring in the iguana jewels.

A blue Green Iguana

Here are some of my green iguana friends, in very different colors. As you can see, they are not just green–but they are all still called “green.” Even the green green iguanas come in different shades of green. It can be confusing, if you ask me.

The native range of the green iguana is southern Mexico to central Brazil and several Caribbean islands. If you don’t live in those areas, why should you know how to identify a green iguana? Because they’re very popular as pets in people’s homes and they have been introduced to many other places in the world, where they don’t belong and can be causing harm. That means they’re “invasive.”

A Green Iguana
If you are interested in passing out these descriptive booklets, which are free, please use the contact form on Elaine’s website to obtain them.

If you want to know the differences between a green iguana and their cousins, the rock iguanas, Lyric Power Publishing, LLC has several identification booklets to help you tell them apart.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas

If you enjoy learning while coloring and doing activities, I encourage you to be creative. To learn more in fun ways about iguanas, please see our 30-page workbook full of activity sheets about iguanas, My Unit Study on Iguanas. Remember that the green iguanas you color, don’t have to be green!

‘Zoe the Star’ Tortoise! by Curtis Curly-tail

Hello to all my friends out there! I hope you are taking care of yourselves and each other in these difficult times. I’m looking forward to the day when my human friends don’t have to worry anymore about the virus called Covid-19! (If I could, I would banish it right now!) Until this passes, please take good care out there.

I love having made so many friends through my sidekick, Elaine A. Powers, and today I’d like to introduce you to Zoe, a Sonoran Desert tortoise. She’s a female who knows her territory and stands her ground. (I just love that in a tortoise!)

I don’t want to tell Zoe she’ll never be the star I am, of course, but take a look at my You Tube channel on your small screen at this beauty in her habitat and learn about what it takes to be a tortoise in the Sonoran Desert.

And for the kids and kids-at-heart in your home, have some fun with science education using the activity sheets and workbooks from Lyric Power Publishing, LLC.

Here’s an example or two:

Twenty-three fun, engaging, and interactive pages on the Freshwater Turtle.
Ideal for your young learners.
Four ecology coloring and information pages; three spelling and tracing pages; what freshwater turtles eat coloring page; label the parts of a freshwater turtle coloring page; complete the life-cycle of the turtle (same for both freshwater and green sea turtle); three color by addition and subtraction pages; two learn to spell coloring pages; and several teacher information pages suitable for creating bulletin boards about freshwater turtles.

47 pages of captivating activities that kids from kindergarten through 3rd grade are certain to enjoy! Includes spelling pages, two Venn-Diagram activities: bats vs. parrots, and bats vs. rats; math pages, reading comprehension pages for both bats and rats; a teacher-driven felt board activity; rhyming words, less than-greater than coloring sheet; two word searches, and MORE! Students will gain a deeper understanding of the Caribbean Fruit Bat and the rats that live on Cayman Brac and how they affect the ecology.