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The Hedgehogs of the Sonoran Desert

A hedgehog peeks up, only their face and ears are visible.

Before the dog days of 2023, the only mammal I wanted as a pet was a hedgehog. However, every time I got the urge to purchase a captive-bred hedgie, I’d remember that they were nocturnal. Sellers say you can interact with your hedgehog as they awake at dinnertime for some fun before bed. I prefer […]

Prey of the Hawk!

A Harris's Hawk perched on a branch displaying the side and tail of the bird.

They hunt as a pack, led by the dominant female. Working together, they can subdue larger prey than an individual can, providing a feast for the entire family. However, pack isn’t the term used for a group of birds. But the flock doesn’t seem strong enough. All About Harris’s Hawks These effective hunters are Harris’s […]

An Old Fossil Publishes a Dinosaur Book!

The cover of Dinosaurs Roamed Arizona.

Every festival, I’m asked if I have any books about dinosaurs. Up until now, I’ve had to say no. However, if a topic is requested often enough, what is an author to do but write one? Sure, there are books about dinosaurs, but how about books about the dinosaurs found in Arizona? Once again, I […]

Vampire…Tortoise?!

Book cover for Vampire...Tortoise?! with an illustrated desert tortoise with what appears to be blood dripping from its mouth.

What do you think of when you hear or read the word ‘vampire’? Does your mind go to the human Count Dracula, or perhaps it’s to bats? Members of the Desmodontinae bat subfamily feed on the blood of other animals. Consuming blood is called hematophagy. But not just bats are vampires. There are the candiru […]

Fast Food: Roadrunner Edition

A roadrunner mid-stride running across an asphalt surface.

After writing a couple of books about reptiles (Don’t Call Me Turtle! and Don’t Make Me Rattle!), I wrote a book about roadrunners. I’m not sure why I was so inspired, except for their impact on the reptiles, as significant predators. I delight in the variety and numbers of lizards (and snakes) that have chosen […]

How to Make a Monsoon

Gray clouds converging over the desert.

Here in the Sonoran Desert, changes in the weather occur before the monsoons arrive. Humidity and dew points increase. Replacing our comfortable dry heat – when sweat evaporates immediately. After all, in 100+ degree weather, the body needs to sweat. But sweat remained on my skin when I lived in the South, beading up and […]

What is the Color of a Snake’s Tongue?

Have you ever thought about the color of a snake’s tongue? I hadn’t until recently when a snake flicked its tongue at me. Let me tell you how it happened.  Relaxing by the Pool I have a net fence around my pool. It’s good to have a pool safely fenced off to prevent tragedies, such […]

Excuse Me, is This Chair Taken?

A brown grasshopper sitting on a wood plank.

I was outside recently and went to sit down in a cushioned chair as I often do, but this morning, I found the chair occupied! You’ll never guess who took it.  The surprisingly large insect, nearly 3 inches long, showed no interest in vacating the seat for me, so I thought we should get better […]

Yellow is the Color of Spring!

A field of yellow flowers.

Growing up in Illinois, I knew the blooming of the forsythia bushes meant spring had arrived. The bright yellow flowers of the large bushes added a bright color to the gray of winter. This memory came to me as I enjoyed the yellow flowers of spring here in the Sonoran Desert. We had good winter […]

Love is in the… Cactus?

Ah, the heart! ❤️ The symbol of romantic love. An appropriate topic for February 14th is Valentine’s Day. It was in the fifteenth century that today’s typical heart symbol was developed. With the establishment of Valentine’s Day, the use of the symbol exploded. Its popularity reached the ultimate pinnacle when the ❤️ became a verb! […]

My, What Big Leaves You Have!

The dense and green leaves of an oak tree.

When I need an ocean fix, I head to the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But when I need a green fix, I head back to my hometown of Peoria, IL. I call it my writing retreat because I sit on my cousin’s back porch, where my muse refreshes and my writing output […]

Jellyfish in the… Desert?

Small blue jellyfish float around in a small clump against a dark background.

The tram operators of Sabino Canyon in Tucson, AZ are offering nighttime tours this summer. It’s part of an overall upgrade to the beautiful park located in the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Coronado National Forest. Along with upgrading to electric vehicles, the tour narration now comes with personal earbuds. This reduces the noise of […]

All About Bats: A Citizen Scientist Update

Several bats flying in the sky at sunset.

Last year, I wrote about the bat survey I’m taking part in. Researchers at Texas Christian University are studying the usage of pools by desert-dwelling bats. I live in Oro Valley, Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert. And I have a pool in my backyard. Both make me a perfect candidate for this citizen scientist endeavor. […]

Why Don’t I Write That?

graphic of three books in The Don't Series

I’m so happy in-person book sales are returning. I love speaking to people about my books and about the importance of science education through children’s books. Many people are delighted to find my books and often suggest other topics for me to write about. I write them all down.  My most popular books are my […]

A BIG Book Celebration in Tucson, AZ

A crowd of families with young children sit around a book mobile at the 2010 Tucson Festival of Books

The authors are coming! The authors are coming! Once again, we’ll be celebrating books and literacy in person in Tucson at the 2022 Tucson Festival of Books (TFOB)! Learn more about this Tucson book celebration staple and how you find me there.  A Brief TFOB History The first festival was held March 14-15, 2009 with […]

The Need to Feed

A chipmunk with it's cheeks full of food staring at camera.

An author friend of mine recently wrote a blog for my publisher, Lyric Power Publishing. She described how she, a girl who grew up on the cement streets of Manhattan, became enamored of a couple of native Desert Spiny lizards. A local informed her that she could feed the lizards mealworms. So, every day she […]

A Squirrel is a Squirrel is a… Chipmunk?

Sometimes, stories are written to craft clarity from confusion. That’s certainly the case with my book Squirrels of the Sonoran Desert. I’ve lived in many places yet found myself perplexed by the local squirrels. In discussing them with other residents, it became clear that they were just as confused by the nature of these rodents. […]

Iguanas and Tortoises are… Invasive Species?

A small but full-grown desert tortoise chases a much larger but still growing sulcata tortoise across the grass.

  Invasive species are a common topic in environmental discussions these days, and rightfully so. Often, these concepts seem to deal with invasive plants or animals that affect people and places far away. But if you’ve ever watched my Reptile-Side chats, or witnessed one of my school or community visits, you know my non-human housemates […]

Mushrooms in the Desert? I Have Pictures!

Podaxis pistillaris mushroom

Living in the Sonoran Desert, I don’t often see mushrooms.  Sometimes, fungus appears on the trunks of dying trees, but that’s not often. This year, Tucson has had a very wet monsoon season, which is wonderful after years of severe drought. Along with the greening of the vegetation, the abundance of rain has brought forth […]

Mesquite Trees and Horses: Incompatible

photo mesquite tree pods corral

When I moved to the Sonoran Desert, I learned about mesquite pods.  I knew about the mesquite wood used for barbequing, but not the seed pods of the tree. They’re used as food by both people and animals.  The mature pods, not just the seeds, are ground into flour, which is quite delicious. A five-gallon […]

Scientists Love Their Scat! And I Am One!

picture of tortoise scat

Scientists have long been using scat as a valuable tool in figuring out what animals have eaten. The indigestible parts pass through and are excreted. Some items can be easily identified, but others require a bit of investigation. When the temperatures were warm enough, I let my sulcata, or spur-thigh, tortoise loose in my walled-in […]

Ergot: A Fungus and a Tissue Protuberance–Geez!

photo ergot on horse ankle

My favorite bread flavor is rye. Given a choice, I will always choose rye.  So, growing up, I wondered why rye hadn’t been more popular historically. After all, rye is easier to grow than wheat and, in my humble opinion, much tastier. The reason is Ergot.  Ergot is a fungal disease that killed and disabled […]

An Unusual Visitor Stopped By

photo of female blue-throated mountain gem hummer

The Sonoran Desert is home to many species of hummingbirds. The first things I installed in my yard when I moved in were hummingbird feeders.  Whenever a hummer would stop for a drink, I’d pull out my bird book to identify it. I’ve had quite a few species stop by over the years.  Some were […]