Celebrating HerStory Month!

March is an important month for women! Not only was March 8th International Women’s Day. But it’s also HerStory Month, otherwise known as Women’s History Month. It is important to celebrate the vital role of women in American history for the entire month of March, not just one day. Learning about HerStory Month, got me thinking about my story as a woman in both science and the arts. I’ve written previously about some of the challenges I faced in my career, but this time I’d like to share some favorite and little-known highlights. Come celebrate HerStory month with me!

The Beginning of my HerStory

One of my favorite (non-science) accomplishments was helping to found the Hunterdon Radio Theatre. They produce New Time radio scripts in the style of Old-Time radio. My storytelling began with creating audio scripts, which are very different from writing stage theater scripts or books. All the information needed for the story is presented orally. Writing for the ear is much more difficult than for the eyes. The ear is unforgiving of “dead air” or incorrect sounds. And it can ruin the whole story for some! I remember listening to a police procedural where an officer enters his boss’ office. I heard the appropriate sound of the door opening and the background sounds becoming louder. As the dialog began, the background noise became quiet, but the door never closed. Instead of listening to the dialog, I was concentrating on the lack of the door closing sound! 

Many of my theater scripts were performed live. One, the Shrine of Seven Iguanas, was actually recorded. I bet you can guess how many iguanas I had in my home at that time (the script title is a clue). Noel, my first iguana, was used as the model for the cover.

The CD cover of my recorded play. An iguana peaks from the corner over a bright green background.

An Inspiring Artist

When I moved to Arizona, I transitioned to writing my science-based picture books. One of my books is set on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera. A local artist, Monique Carroll, had created magnificent illustrations for the island adventure. She invited me to join her at a local art festival where we could market the book. The festival organizers had set up a blank canvas that the artists were encouraged to paint on. But after an hour, none of these wonderfully talented artists had applied any paint. So, I, with my very limited painting talent decided to get things going. I painted a couple of green swipes to create a sprouting plant since my adventure tale featured seeds. Those few swipes were all the impetus that was needed. No longer an intimidating blank canvas, the artists’ creativity was released and a masterpeice was created! And even though, many more layers of paint were added, my little starting sprout was still visible.

Two images. The first is Elaine painting on a blank canvas. The second is the finished artwork displaying a shell and various island features.

Riding High

In the past few years, I’ve taken up horseback riding, in kind of a big way. I was never particularly interested in horses as a child or even as an adult until I retired. However, I had liked the idea of riding animals, all along. Before there was this:

Elaine riding bareback on a tan horse.

There was this:

Elaine riding a water buffalo.

I’ve also ridden camels and elephants!

Conserving Our Future

Growing up, I wanted to be a naturalist, sharing my love of nature with others as well as conserving it. However, life took me into laboratories, where I worked as a research biologist. I did wander out to help with conservation outdoors. I volunteered to travel to the Caribbean to work on rock iguana conservation. No lying on the beach for me. No, I was chasing, large lizards over limestone karst, through thorny bushes.

Elaine gripping a wild igauna as another person wraps it in canvas cloth.

Here I am with my friend, Jill Jollay, “processing” a rock iguana. We would take measurements, including weight, which was done by putting the iguana into a bag of known weight. This fieldwork introduced me to the people associated with the National Trust of The Bahamas, and subsequently, the Cayman Islands. Together we realized the potential of the books set in the islands to educate children and adults about important conservation topics. And a personal highlight, interacting with these incredible creatures resulted in me getting a rock iguana of my own to join my family.

Elaine holding a large blue-green iguana.

This is Blue, a hybrid Grand Cayman Blue iguana. He is the star of my in-person talks to groups.

To the Rescue!

My love of iguanas led to my starting an iguana rescue in New Jersey. I was on “speed-dial” for many agencies because I always answered the phone and I always made room for any iguana whose life was in danger. I had up to 26 iguanas in my house at any given time.

Elaine holding a large grayish iguana with orange spines down it's back.

This is Eddie, who spent a year with me while his mom was in Tanzania. When she moved to Uganda, Eddie was allowed to join her. Eddie remembered me when I visited him in Kampala.

Elaine smiles as a large iguana is perched on her shoulder.

This is Calliope, named for the muse of long poetry. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little bit of my HerStory and are encouraged to make your own history. To learn more about me and my current goings-on please sign up for my newsletter

A BIG Book Celebration in Tucson, AZ

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 450 authors and 50,000 visitors. The number of visitors has grown to 135,000. Yes, little ole Tucson has the third-largest festival in the country! They have an amazing team of volunteers who keep everything moving smoothly.

One aspect that I particularly enjoy is the annual festival mascot. Each year’s mascot is a resident animal of the Sonoran Desert. Creatures included so far have been the Gila monster, hummingbird, tarantula, Sonoran green toad, butterfly, Gambel’s quail, bobcat, jackrabbit, roadrunner, javelina, and coyote. I’ve written books about many of them and others are my companions in our desert home. I’ve been trying to get a photograph of a jackrabbit for years. They’re HUGE! This year’s mascots are prairie dogs or rather (as I suspect), round-tailed ground squirrels. I’m partial to ground squirrels (Squirrels of the Sonoran Desert).

Elaine smiling from her booth at the 2019 TFOB

Here I am at a previous Festival with some of my books. I’ve published a bunch more since then. 

The 2022 Tucson Festival of Books!

This year’s festival will be on March 12-13, 2022, at the University of Arizona Mall. I’ll be in the children’s section at booth #322. Look for Grab an Adventure by the Tale! Author-illustrator Brad Peterson, aka Anderson Atlas, will be joining me. Don’t miss the opportunity to get your personally signed books by either or both of us! We’ll be there all day, both days.

My books are all published through Lyric Power Publishing, LLC. One of my fellow LPP authors, Gene Twaronite, will sell and sign his books at the festival. He will be moving around to different locations for his signings. He starts at the Indie Authors – Children’s Author Pavilion on Saturday, from 10 am to noon. Then at the AZ State Poetry Society booth (#410 from 1-3 pm). On Sunday, at the ASPS booth again from 10 am to noon. And finally, at Young Adult Author Rendezvous (booth 451) to display his two young adult fantasy novels. 

Something for Everyone

Even though the festival is an opportunity for authors to sell their books and readers to meet the authors in person, TFOB has much more to offer. There are talks, performances, the science pavilion, non-profit agencies, parks, and food vendors. Tucson has the best food trucks. However, the festival is a celebration of literature to increase literacy rates among children and adults. Any money left over after the expenses are contributed to local literacy programs. So far, they have donated over $2 million.

So, mark your calendar for March 12th and 13th. Here’s a chance to get out and restock your reading pile with autographed books after meeting them in person. And remember to stop by booth #322. You’ll be glad you did, and so will I!

For more information on this festival, check out their website: https://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org/

 

Tucson Festival of Books Event Image courtesy of Digital Bookmobile

The Laws of Physics (According to Horses)

I started horseback riding after I retired. Before that, I’d never been particularly fond of horses, despite being a biologist. I preferred reptiles, crustaceans, and mollusks. However, life has a way of leading me down unexpected trails. Although no matter the trail I find myself on, I always find a little science. Even with a biology major, I had to take physics classes. I particularly liked those that dealt with the physics of living beings. But I still had to learn about the general laws of movement and such. But once I started riding horses, I quickly began thinking about all of the laws of physics. 

Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation

There’s the obvious law of gravity that I’m reminded of every time I climb on the back of a thousand-pound animal. Should I be jostled off, gravity will without fail take me to the ground. Yet, it’s gravity that keeps me on the horse. By balancing above the horse’s center of gravity, I will stay on her back. Once on board, the laws of motion are very apparent. 

Newton’s Laws of Motion

First Law of Motion: an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. I have to convince the horse to move forward. Sometimes, the horse prefers to just stand. That’s the difference between a bicycle and a horse. Fortunately, most of the time when I ask nicely, the horse will move forward. When the horse moves, I feel my body being thrown back – that’s my body trying to remain at rest. The faster the horse goes forward, say to a canter, the more my body is thrown back. Hopefully, I can remain seated and not thrown completely off the back of the horse! Every time the horse changes its pace, I have to adjust my center of gravity. There’s no sitting passively when on top of a moving horse!

Second Law of Motion: acceleration of an object depends on the net force and is directly proportional to the magnitude of the force, while being inversely proportional to the mass of the object. A rider’s center of gravity is critical for horseback riding. If I’m centered on top of the horse’s center of gravity, we are in balance. I can use my balance to communicate to the horse how I want it to move. By shifting my balance back, gently pulling on the reins and relaxing my legs, this net force moves the horse’s mass to slow down or stop. This also happens when a horse jumps, combining the horse lifting its legs and gravity pulling them back down.

Third Law of Motion: when two bodies interact, they apply forces to one another that are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. When I’m sitting on the horse, my body is pushing down on the horse (poor horse), but at the same time, the horse is pushing up on me (thank you, horse) with the same amount of force. The reason I bounce in the saddle is due to the force with which its hooves push on the ground, creating the upward force that causes me to bounce in the saddle. Of course, my coming off the horse, being thrown, involves this third law. That’s when the force of the horse is a little more than my force.

Centrifugal Force

Centrifugal force: an object moving in a circle behaves as if it’s being pushed outward.  Another aspect of departing the back of the horse involves centrifugal force. So, when I’m riding in a circle to the left, I feel like I am being flung to the right. Sometimes, if the horse makes a sharp turn, my body continues outward by centrifugal force. Sometimes, this force is sufficient to fling me off the horse, where gravity takes over.

To allow me to stay on the horse, friction can help. Holding my legs against the horse creates friction. This also helps keep me in the proper posture. The horse is creating its friction between her hooves and the ground.

Many other aspects of physics are involved in the more advanced riding that I haven’t experienced since I’m a “young” rider. The ones I’ve experienced so far have been sufficient. 

I’ve learned a lot since I started horseback riding, horse behavior, my body and its muscles and a refresher course in the physics of motion. Check out my other science based books, with an animal flair. And now it’s time to meet my physics instructors!

A chestnut horse with a white stripe running down it's head, Elaine leads it on a rope in the pasture.
Button
Elaine sits on a tan horse.
Lady

How Not to Photograph a Bat

I wrote a book about the difficulties in photographing hummingbirds, How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird. It pits one bumbling human against the desert as he carelessly attempts to photograph an Anna’s Hummingbird. If lucky, a hummer may alight for a moment or two, allowing the photographer to get the shot she wants.  But there is a tougher subject, that for some unknown reason, I feel compelled to try to photograph – Bats!

There are two main reasons why bats are hard to photograph. Not only do bats move fast and erratically, but it’s also rather dark when they come out. If you thought photographing hummingbirds was hard, then bat photography might be downright impossible. Especially if using a cell phone to take photographs.

It’s all for science!

So why am I trying to take photographs of these photo-elusive nocturnal mammals? I’m taking part in a citizen scientist research project on bats’ use of pools, especially in times of drought or areas of low rainfall, such as the Sonoran Desert where I live. I have a bat call detector on the edge of my pool that records the bat calls each night. The researchers can identify which bat species made the call and determine bat activity.

I knew my pool would be a good location because I am often joined by bats when I swim at night. I know that I have at least two species. The most common bat visitor is a small, insect-eating species that comes in a group. But every now and then, like this summer, a much bigger, solitary bat swoops down to the water.

I was concerned that the chlorine in my pool water would bother the bats but it doesn’t. I’m very glad. I also wondered if chlorine would help fight white-nose syndrome. Another possible research project, perhaps?

The researchers asked for all sorts of details about my pool: depth, length, shape, lighting, surrounding vegetation, fencing, nearby busy streets, etc. The results will be interesting to see what species of bats are around and which pools had the most activity. Tucson has a variety of bats: Big Brown, California leaf-nosed, Cave Myotis, Peter’s Ghost-faced, Greater mastiff, Lesser Long-nosed, Mexican Free-tailed, Silver-haired, Spotted, Townsend’s Big-eared, Western Pipistrelle, Western Red, and the Pallid. Over the years, I’ve tried to figure out which ones, swoop down to share my pool with me. They prefer me to either be on the side of the pool, so they can swoop at will, or in the center of the pool, so they can fly in a circle around me.

I can’t resist the urge to photograph my aerial neighbors, but it’s a lot harder than photographing a hummingbird. Here are my best efforts:

 

 

 

 

 

So, what do you think? Yes, these really are bats, not just smudges on my camera lens. Perhaps my next book should be How Not to Photograph Bats.

Stay tuned to for more blogs about my research on the citizen science bat project. And if you know any budding young bat scientists, I highly recommend My Book About Bats and Rats, a fun and educational workbook that not only focuses on the Caribbean Fruit Bat, but also the much easier to photograph rats that live on Cayman Brac.

Mushrooms in the Desert? I Have Pictures!

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 some interesting mushrooms.

These interesting mushrooms are Podaxis pistillaris, the Desert Shaggy Mane mushroom. Possibly the most common mushroom in the Sonoran Desert, this genus of fungus, possibly this species, is found in deserts worldwide. The above ground portion, the fruiting body, appears after a soaking rain. The fibrous texture and closed cap are believed to protect the gills and spores from desiccation.

The mushroom starts out whitish, turns brown, eventually ends up as black powder.

Being unfamiliar with this type of mushroom, I was curious to see what happened to these specimens. Would they be consumed by rodents, rabbits or coyotes? Would the horses be interested in eating them?  No, these mushrooms were undisturbed. This made me think this fungus is toxic.  However, P. pistillaris, is eaten in many areas of the world and has high nutritional value.

In addition, this mushroom is used extensively in traditional medicines and cosmeceuticals throughout the world. Now, I’m intrigued to try this mushroom, but I’ll await instruction by an experienced mushroom hunter.

I’m always delighted when I discover new and different aspects of the Sonoran Desert.

Book Note: If you’d like to know more about the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert, check out my Don’t series and the other Sonoran Desert-themed picture books.

#elaineapowers

#lyricpower

#desertmushrooms

#Podaxispistillaris

 

 

 

 

Mesquite Trees and Horses: Incompatible

photo mesquite treeWhen 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 bucket will produce about a pound of flour.

Many animals eat the pods: doves, quail, ravens, bighorn sheep, rabbits, ground squirrels, rats, mice and coyotes. In fact, if you find canine droppings on your property and you wonder if it was left by an irresponsible neighbor, look for the pods. If pods are present, it was left by a coyote, not a dog.

However, mesquite pods are not good for all animals. Horses find their sweet taste irresistible but eating too many of them can lead to colic. The beans impact the stomach or intestines, which can lead to surgery or the death of the horse.

When the pods ripen, the trees fling them about, carpeting the ground.

mesquite tree seed pods in horse corralUnfortunately, some pods land in the areas designated for horses, like this round pen. My horses eagerly head for the round pen in the hopes of finding pods. My task before they arrive is to remove the pods not only within the pen but also within reach of those long necks and agile lips.

Is it fair for me to enjoy something I deprive my horses of?  Yup. I enjoy their company and want them with me for as long as possible. Mesquite pods, be gone!

Book Note: The Sonoran Desert is a wild and beautiful place. I have written several books set in this extraordinary place. Please visit my Sonoran Desert Books tab for more information.

collage of sonoran desert book covers

#elaineapowers

#lyricpower

#mesquitepods

#mesquitepodsandhorses

 

 

Sharing the Morning Routine

As I watched the birds on the beach at sunrise on a recent trip, I noticed their actions reminded me of my own morning routine. Perhaps yours is similar.

Sandpiper in waterDo you start with a wash?  This sandpiper decided not to dip under the water for its wash. No, instead he or she was sucking up the saltwater and squirting it directly at the area of the wings that needed cleaning.

Then a friend joined in the morning washing.

Sometimes, the desired spot is a little hard to reach.

Two sandpipers in ocean

I’m not certain about the species of this sandpiper but believe it may be the Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus).

blue heron with oyster

Then do you grab a bit of breakfast before you fly off? Do you fix something at home or grab something on the go?

Yum, that clam was good.

But I think I want a bit more. I wonder what might be in the refrigerator, pantry or beneath the surface?

I thank this Little Blue Heron, Egretta caerulea, for allowing me to watch as he or she ate breakfast. I do like watching animals enjoy their food.

blue heron in florida

People think we’re so different from animals in the wild, but we aren’t, really.  We all have our morning routines.

Book Note: My book publisher, Lyric Power Publishing LLC, publishes workbooks of activity sheets to supplement my children’s science books that are written in fun rhymes or adventure tales, such as The Dragon of Nani Cave. This one, Flannel Boards and Standup Animals, is full of Caribbean island animals to make for educational purposes or just for fun. Pick up a copy for the kids today and enjoy some hands-on family time!

cover of a workbook to make flannel board animals

#elaineapowers

#lyricpower

#shorebirds

#littleblueheron

#dowitcher

#shorebirdswashing

#shorebirdseating

 

Saved: Dragonflies vs. Gnats–No Contest!

One major difference between the hot, dry weather of a desert (Tucson, AZ) and the hot, humid weather of the Gulf of Mexico (Ft. Myers, FL) in July is the number of human-eating insects. I was reminded of this recently. As I obtained my parking permit from the machine at the beach, a cloud of gnats descended upon me. I flailed my arms and wiggled my body as I waited impatiently for the printer to finish. I grabbed the receipt and dashed back to the car.

Unfortunately, my bug spray was back at the house. I would have driven home for the spray, but the parking is timed, and I needed my beach walk to stimulate my creativity. I approached the beach with determination and the expectation of a rapid walk with lots of arm movements and pulling up the back of my t-shirt. Gnats are called no-see-ums, because they look like black specks, but they have a very painful bite.  Nothing subtle about gnats. They strike fear in the boldest of people. In fact, I wrote a spoof horror audio theater script, In the Swamp, No One Can Hear You Scream, about gnats.

photo of dragonflies around the beach

I approached the beach path at a brisk pace when I saw my rescuers, waiting for me in the sea oats. Dragonflies, a swarm of dragonflies! I walked confidently forward, believing that these predatory insects, symbols of awakening and transformation in Native cultures, would consume the tormenting gnats.

As I walked along the beach, the dragonflies accompanied me. I was confident that they were protecting me and they did. The swarm of dragonflies was present the entire length of the beach, rising from their perches as I went by.

photo of dragonfly on sandThank you, aerial protectors. And, it’s always the right time for awakening and transformation in my book.

I’m not certain of the dragonfly species (see pictures), but it may be Tramea onusta, common name Red Saddlebag.

cover of script

Book Note: Before I was launched onto my writing children’s fun-science books career, I had written several performance scripts (being an actor myself), including In the Swamp, No One Can Hear You Scream, as one of two scripts included in Mayhem in Swamp and Snow.
Do you participate in a performance group? Check out my scripts on my author page—performance rights are included with the purchase.

#elaineapowers

#lyricpowerpublishing

#BuncheBeach

#dragonflies

#gnatsinftmyers

#audiotheatre

#audiotheaterscripts

Scientists Love Their Scat! And I Am One!

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.

photo of tortoise scat 2When the temperatures were warm enough, I let my sulcata, or spur-thigh, tortoise loose in my walled-in backyard. With the drought, my vegetation is rather sparse. I provide food for her, but she likes to forage on her own, too.  She’d eaten all the aloe, munched on the prickly pear cactus pads, and gobbled up Texas olives (many of which came through intact.).

However, she recently left this deposit for me which had me perplexed.

I searched my yard and I think I finally found what she had been eating that wasn’t digested fully.

image pricklypear cactusI suspect the fibrous material is from the main stem of this large prickly pear cactus! She really should stick with eating the soft, juicy young pads.

Book Note: My publisher, Lyric Power Publishing LLC, publishes workbooks and activity sheets to go with my rhyming stories and adventure tales. If your children love hands-on coloring pages and solving problems, cutting and pasting, labeling the animal parts, learning the life cycles, and so on, they would love LPP’s fun, 40+ pages, comprehensive, yet economical workbooks. Click on the tortoise covers below to see what is in these workbooks all about tortoises, at the different grade levels.

Check them all out here.

imagebook cover tortoises preK-1Book about tortoises gr 2-4

#elaineapowers

#lyricpower

#sulcatatortoise

#spurthightortoise

#pricklypearcactus

An Unusual Visitor Stopped By

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 local residents, and some were passing through on their annual migrations. I even had an albino individual who frequented my yard for a couple of years.

Usually, I have no trouble identifying my feathered visitors, since they were all present in my Birds of the Southwest book. I find they often cooperate by sitting on a branch so I can examine them.  I’ve been honored to host Black-chinned, Anna’s, Costas, Rufous, Calliope and Lucifer Hummingbirds.

photo of blue hummingbirdRecently, when a hummer visited my yard, as usual, I went out for a look. However, I didn’t recognize this individual. I looked in the book, but I couldn’t find her. That seems to be a problem with identifying birds – lots of photos of the males, but not enough of the females.

I contacted a friend whose son is an expert on hummingbirds. He thought it looked like a female Blue-throated hummingbird or Blue-throated Mountaingem. Blue-throateds are unusual in Tucson, but they are known to be in the area. Maybe the drought brought her to my yard. She stayed a few days.

Whatever her reasons for visiting, she is welcome anytime.

This hummer posed very nicely for me, but not all hummingbirds are that accommodating. I recommend my humorous tale, How NOT to Photograph a Hummingbird, about a bumbling visitor trying to photograph a hummer. Though the desert seems to conspire against him, it’s more that he doesn’t understand the environment he is in. So, the book also contains a lot of information about the animals, plants and minerals of the Sonoran Desert. Your kids will get a kick out of his ‘accidents.’ If they’d like to learn about the desert in a funny way, pick up a copy for them today. 

book cover about how NOT to photograph a hummingbird

#elaineapowers

#lyricpower

#bluethroatedhummingbird

#bluethroatedmountaingem

#hummingbird

#sonorandeserthummingbird

My, That’s a Really Big Tongue You Have!

I have learned a lot about horses in the past two years. But there is one ability that continues to amaze me: the agility of the horse’s tongue.

Above is a friend of mine, Simby. He has Cushing’s disease, which is treated with a small pill, Prascend.

I give the same medicine to my mare in a handful of pellets. She eats her pill, eagerly. I figure the tasty morsels hide the pill of similar size, and it readily eaten and swallowed.

So, when my friend asked me to give Simby his pill while she was traveling, I agreed.  After all, I’d just give him his pill in a handful of pellets, right? My friend warned me he would spit it out, but how could he with such a big tongue pick out a small pill from among all those pellets?

Well, big tongue aside, Simby had the dexterity to pick out the little pink pill from the midst of the pellets and spit it out!  He didn’t waste any pellets, either.

Their tongues do have twelve different muscles, and the top has protuberances called papillae to provide traction. This is important in moving food into the mouth and, apparently, in removing unwanted pills!

Every day is an adventure with horses.

Book Note: Kids on summer break? Why not give the gift of a fun adventure tale that weaves the science of the animals, plants and ecosystems into the story? Making science education fun is my goal as a retired-scientist-now-author, because science sticks when it’s fun.

Find out for yourself with a Curtis Curly-tail, Lime Lizards Lads or a Tabby Tale adventure!

screenshot Curtis books

#horsetongue  #horsepills  #elaineapowers  #lyricpower

 

 

 

 

A Spectacular ‘Bloom Night’ 2021 at Tohono Chul Botanical Gardens

The Night-blooming Cereus had to bloom all alone in the summer of 2020, but this year, they opened in all their glory for the visitors at the Tohono Chul Botanical Gardens on June 30, 2021.

Just prior to the 2019 blooming, I published my book, Queen of the Night: The Night-blooming Cereus. I wrote this book when the folks at Tohono Chul mentioned there were no books specifically for the native Cereus, Peniocereus greggii. After consulting with their expert botanist, I published this rhyming picture book. I was delighted by the public’s reception of the book on Bloom Night 2019.

Shortly after the 2019 blooming, photographer Karen Wright published a book about the Cereus featuring her phenomenal photographs, Queen of the Night: A Rare Beauty. So, with the park being open to members for the 2021 Bloom Night, I suggested that Karen and I do a book signing together.

I am pleased to report that we both had good sales and we made a good team, encouraging people to learn more about and fully embrace this unusual cactus species native to the Sonoran Desert. Most of the year, it looks like a stick, which extends from a large tuber buried in the desert soil.  Once a year, at the beginning of the summer monsoon, the cereus plants develop flowers. When all the conditions are just right, all the flowers across the area, bloom on the same night – for only one night! Their fragrance summons the pollinating moths and bats before the flowers all die with the morning sun.

These sticks produce spectacular blossoms one night per summer
Pots of Cereus Plant at Tohono Chul Botanical Gardens

A very brief but spectacular shared life!

 

 

 

 

 

book cover Queen of the Night

REVIEW ARIZONA DAILY STAR

Queen of the Night:
The Night-Blooming Cereus

$14.95
by Elaine A. Powers

Illustrated by Nicholas Thorpe 

A perk of Sonoran-desert living is the one-night-only appearance of the Night-Blooming Cereus, a much-anticipated summer event for Tucsonans who rely on predictions from experts to know precisely when the tiny window of opportunity will open on the floral extravaganza. How in the world do the experts know? And what causes a cactus to behave this way?

With this picture book, Elaine Powers demystifies the mysterious bloom, explaining – in rhyming couplets no less – the life cycle of the plant, how to predict its flowering (when the buds reach 170-230 millimeters, stand back!), why they all flower simultaneously, and other bits of botanical lore about this intriguing plant, which spends most of the year looking like an undistinguished stick. Written for children, Powers’ book will charm and edify cactus lovers of any age. Lush illustrations by Nicholas Thorpe are a splendid accompaniment: Look for his very stern javelina on page 12 – he’s delightful.

A former laboratory biologist, Powers, who makes her home in Tucson, now writes science-based children’s books.

– Helene Woodhams is retired from Pima County Public Library, where she was literary arts

 

 

 

How About a Big Bug Snack? It’s High in Protein!

Every seventeen years, the Brood X Cicadas emerge from the ground in the northeast US.  They climb and fly, singing their mating call, mate and produce the next generation.  With over a million per acre, there are a lot of big, very noisy insects out there.

Something different this year is the number of recipes being offered for cooking and eating these large insect morsels. After all, as part of the effort to conserve our planet, we are being encouraged to eat other more sustainable protein sources. And these insects are high in protein and low in fat.

A few years ago, at a Reptile Show, one of the vendors offered roasted grasshoppers and crickets for consumption.  If you were willing to taste one, you’d get an entry into a drawing for some nice prizes.  I am a curious eater, so I ate one of each. I discovered that the roasted insects were delicious, reminding me of pistachio nuts!  Most of the insects were still available at the end of the event, so I was rewarded with a full serving. Oh, and I did win the drawing for the grand prize.

Consequently, I was interested in the various articles about preparing and enjoying the plentiful cicadas: Recipes for eating them raw, roasted, boiled, grilled, and even smoked. There are instructions for making spicy popcorn cicadas from the Washington Post, cheese grits and blackened cicadas from Bon Appetit, on a nice asparagus salad or a cicada-nymph spring salad from the Brooklynbugs site. You can have them on a pizza, in tacos, or with chili guacamole from the AMNH. For dessert, you can have chocolate -covered cicadas or in a rhubarb pie. Yum!

Newly hatched cicadas, called tenerals, are preferred because the shells haven’t hardened. Storage is easy: use them immediately, refrigerate or freeze them. Choose the method that’s best for your recipe.  If the only cicadas you can find have hardened, females are best, because they’re filled with fat–males are hollow.  Remove the wings and legs, if you’re using the adults.  Unless you like the crunch, they’re not very flavorful.

photo cooked cicadas
Look fried to me. YUM!

I was curious to try this unfamiliar food item when the FDA squashed my desire. The cicada flavor is apparently reminiscent of crab and I shouldn’t eat crab. You see, I’m allergic to shellfish and the FDA warns people not to eat cicadas because they are related to shrimp and lobsters!  Oh, great, another food I’m allergic to!

Crustaceans are responsible for life-threatening allergies in many people. Insects and crustaceans are arthropods and share many proteins that might be the cause of the allergic reactions.  In addition, chitin, a complex carbohydrate involved in the body structure of arthropods, has been implicated in allergies.

Those of you who can, enjoy those cicadas! Please share your experiences with those of us who can’t in a Comment field.

Screenshot of Curtis Curly-tail books

Book Note from Curtis Curly-tail Lizard: Hi, friends, it’s me, Curtis Curly-tail! Have you missed me? I’ve missed you! I’ve been busy over at my YouTube channel where all kinds of stuff is happening! But I thought I’d butt in here. Elaine, as wonderful as she is, hasn’t written any books about insects yet, but because she knows how much they mean to me, she includes them in my stories. If you love island life, you’ll love my tales! Summer is here and kids love to read fun books. Pick up a Curtis Curly-tail tale today! My adventures are irresistibly fun science books! Who makes science fun? Elaine A. Powers, that’s who! (Though I, yes, I, Curtis Curly-tail lizard, inspired her writing career! In other words, where would she be without me? You can read the true story here.)

My latest adventure was a doozy! Check it out here:

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.

P.S.–Boy, do those big bugs get my saliva going! Elaine, please prepare and ship me some Cicada salads ASAP, to:
Curtis Curly-tail Lizard, the
Most Famous Lizard Ever
My Perfect Den
Warderick Wells Island
The Exumas
The Bahamas

Thank you, my friend!

#elaineapowers  #lyricpower   #cicadafood

 

 

Who Was Observing Whom?

I was exercising my young horse when he suddenly turned away from me to look at something outside the ring. I discovered my horse enjoys birdwatching as much as I do.

photo of roadrunnerHowever, as horse and human watched this Greater Roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus, pass by, I noticed that it seemed to be studying us as much as we were studying it. I have to say “it” because male and female roadrunners look alike.

photo of roadrunner bird

I wondered what the roadie thought of the two mammals watching it. Obviously, it didn’t feel threatened, moving ever closer, stopping frequently to examine us. After a few minutes of mutual observation, Exuma and I got back to work, and the roadrunner said as it continued on its way: “Places to go and prey to catch. Sorry, I can’t stay.” Perhaps we will all meet again.

photo of roadrunner running away

I was delighted to find out that my boy liked watching wildlife as much as I do. This bodes well for our future trail rides.

Book Note: In the midst of writing fun science books about reptiles, I veered off to write one about the predator I often see in my yard, the Greater Roadrunner. The result was the colorful and fact-filled book written in rhyme, Don’t Make Me Fly! Young and old alike seem to love the rhyming stanzas all about this Southern Arizona iconic bird. Pick up your copy today!

Infographic about book Don't Make Me Fly

You might also be interested in summer-fun workbooks full of activities about Roadrunners that are available from Lyric Power Publishing LLC. The covers below show what is included in each workbook, My Book About the Greater Roadrunner, one for grades K-2 and one for grades 2-4. 

Book cover about the Greater Roadrunner GR K-2book cover about greater roadrunner GR 2-4

#elaineapowers  #lyricpowerpub  #roadrunners

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Prettiest Head of All?

Red-footed tortoises, Geochelone carbonaria, are popular pets. These natives of Central and South America are easy to care for and don’t get too big, growing up to 30 pounds. They are also known for the bright colors on their skin and shell, including their namesake red scales on their legs.

Recently, I noticed how vivid Rose’s head is.  Her yellow markings (above) are very different from the others in my household.

photo of red-footed tortoiseShe is just as lovely from the side and you can see the red scles on her legs. Rose is the only one who has the yellow head.

Some red-footed tortoises have more red coloring on their heads – these are called cherry heads. Myrtle is an example of a cherry head.

photo of cherry head of red-footed tortoise

Not all heads are colorful. Some are rather humdrum like this one. No bright yellow or red scales on this tortoise.  But Gladiola is still a delightful tortoise.

photo of plain head of red-footed tortoise

The varied color patterns are normal for this species of tortoise. The same clutch of tortoises can have different colored individuals.

No matter their head color, I enjoy all my red-footed tortoises.  They are good natured, personable and a lot of fun to have around.

However, when I asked Rose if she had the prettiest head of all the tortoises, she came as close to a tortoise shout as one could get. “YES!”

photo of red-footed tortoise with open mouth

Book Note: Check out my fun tortoise book, Don’t Call Me Turtle!, in which I write about the many differences between tortoises and turtles—in rhyme. It’s a favorite book of little ones and their parents! Rhymes are not just fun—they help us to remember what we’ve learned.

 

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs
Don’t call me Myrtle the Turtle! I’m a tortoise! Learn the differences in fun rhymes inside!

And for keeping the science juices going in a fun way this summer, check out the workbooks full of interesting and fun activity sheets on a variety of science subjects at LyricPower.net. The books are comprehensive, educational, economical and fun. They range from PreK to 4th grade. Check them out today.

Collage of Science Education Workbooks
Click on Workbooks to see all 23 workbooks, making science education fun!

#elaineapowers   #lyricpower  #redfootedtortoise

You Know You’re From Arizona When . . .

You might be familiar with these Fun Facts posted on Facebook by Brad Snyder in 2013. They are still very true today, and I’d like to share a bit more about these interesting and fun topics.

Book Note: I am fascinated by  animals and plants and truly enjoy having them all around me. I have written two books about plants, one for ages 8+, Grow Home, Little Seeds, an adventure tale starring seeds that are all looking for just the right place to germinate. It teaches the science about plants and how they grow in a fun way.  The second one, Queen of the Night: the Night-blooming Cereus, is about the magnificent desert plants that all bloom on one summer night, together. It is colorfully illustrated and written in rhyme, so learning the science is memorable and interesting.

image of the covers of two plant books by Elaine A. Powers

I believe learning science in rhyme or a story makes the learning stick. Check my books out today. Someone you know might really enjoy a fun-science book. You can see all my fun-science children’s books on My Books page.

#funsciencebooks  #funscienceeducation  #funchildrenssciencebooks

#AuthorElaineAPowers

 

 

I’d Like to Recommend Snorting!

When I’m not writing fun science books, I’m caring for my animal companions: the iguanas, tortoises and turtle I live with, and my two horses, which are stabled just down the road.

I’ve learned a lot about horses over the past two years. Many behaviors are still mysteries to me, however. One of them is the greeting squeal. When horses meet, they extend their noses to each other. The human handlers often wait cautiously off to the side at this point.

close up of horse head and human face in mask
Exuma and me

After a moment or two, one or both of the horses will issue a very loud squeaky cry, called a squeal. I’ve been told that the submissive horse will squeal, but I think they just enjoy squealing. If the horses are going to battle, the squeal is the first step before biting and kicking.  The first time my mare, Button, met her new neighbor, I made the mistake of standing behind her. I got kicked in the stomach and was left with a remarkable hoof-shaped bruise. (Don’t worry, I won’t make that mistake again.)

The sense of smell is very important to horses. It’s been suggested that the nosing is because of the different odors that are on the other horse. The horses aren’t really “shaking hands,” but are “exchanging medical records and business cards.”

But I’ve noticed that the squealing occurs even between horses that know each other, so it’s not only on the first meeting. Neighbors insist on squealing as loud as they can. Very annoying and a bit painful to my ears. Since horses depend on their sense of hearing, you’d think they’d want to tone it down, too.

Wouldn’t a simple snort suffice? Must such loud noises be uttered? Really, horses? Button? Exuma? At least they don’t squeal when I greet them. I’m pretty certain I’ll never understand why squealing so loudly is necessary.

The following video, showing some of the squealing, may help you to understand my point.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JWfWouuBgk

#elaineapowers  #horsenoises  #horsesqueal

Book Note: Summer and other breaks are soon upon us. Would you like to keep the science education coming, but make it fun? Check out the supplemental, educational, interesting and fun workbooks at Lyric Power Publishing LLC, my book publisher. Click the photos below and check them out. Lots of fun activities and they’re economical, too.

screenshot of workbook covers

 

Lights! Camera! Action! (and Scratches!)

With the pandemic, my reptile talks have moved to video, instead of live, presentations. I talk about reptiles every Thursday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. MST at my Facebook page, Elaine Powers. I hope you’ll join me tomorrow for my Reptile-Side Chat, when the green iguanas and I talk about color, chromatophores, and so much more! C’mon–it’ll be fun! Bring the kids–they’ll really enjoy the iguanas.

I’m discovering that some of my reptiles are not thrilled with new technology. I was surprised that Blue Rock Iguana, the star of my in-person talks, did not have any patience with being viewed over my laptop! Usually, he stays still as I hold him for everyone to see.  Not in front of the computer! He had no patience and had had enough of  being held after a few moments. I did get some impressive scratches upon his departure.

photo of a rock iguana hybrid
Blue likes to escape from his enclosure at home, too!

Calliope Green Iguana wasn’t old enough or big enough for me to take along on talks in 2019 and early 2020.  However, she has grown nicely over the past year and is now an excellent size for talks. Even though she happily rides around on my shoulder at home and, as my writing muse, she is delighted to watch me write, she was not willing to be used for a demonstration during my talk. I hope she reconsiders her behavior, since I plan on using her in future talks.

I do have experience with green iguanas in performance. Two of my iguanas were featured in a television commercial for Corazon Tequila. 

Credits & Description: Company: DEVITO/VERDI, USA, New York Creative Director: Sal Devito Copywriter: John Devito Art Director: Manny Santos Agency Producer: Karen Tomlin Director: Kenan Moran Editor: Jerry Fried The TV Commercial Ad titled GREEN IGUANA was done by Tequila New York advertising agency in United States. It was released in the Apr 2006.

The two iguanas who made it on screen were Jubby (blue) and Algae (yellow). However, four iguanas were taken for the shoot, because I didn’t know who would cooperate. The large male, Jimmy, was a disaster (as I suspected he would be, but the director had liked his looks). I was surprised that Noel had no interest, but Jubby and Algae and turned out to be regular hams. They endured take after take, for three hours! They were filmed from a variety of directions, since the director was intrigued by their performances. This resulted in a fifteen second commercial. I was amused that my iguanas had an acting agent, but I, an actor and script writer, did not!

 

photo of green iguana named Algae
Algae, the TV star

Here are Algae and Noel.

photo of green iguana named Noel
Noel, who said no to fame

graphic Facebook Live Reptile Side Chat

I hope you’ll join me tomorrow on Facebook as the greens and I talk about iguanas.

Pandemic Life, Pandemic Dreams—and Tortoises!

I’ve always had vivid dreams, many that I can fully remember when I wake up. Most are filled with action (being chased or falling), which doesn’t really bother me. However, every now and then I have a bad dream that wakes me up with a start and a surge of adrenaline. I’ve forgotten to do something important! It might be something at work or forgetting to feed some of my scaled family members. Not exactly nightmares, but definitely bad dreams. These things of dreams had never happened, but I guess deep down in my psyche, I was concerned about my chores. My newest bad dream caught me by surprise, but it really shouldn’t have when I thought about it.

Like many people, I have a Zoom account that I use for my business talks and for a few organizations that I belong to. It’s part of keeping our monthly meetings going since we can’t get together due to the pandemic restrictions. For one of the Saturday meetings, I send out the link once I receive notification participants have paid the fee. One Friday night I woke up with a start and an intense feeling of dread. I had forgotten to send out the links for the meeting! Oh, no! A bunch of people and the speaker didn’t get the link for the meeting. I had to get up and send them out before it was too late.

Except that meeting had been held the weekend before! As I realized that I was okay, it struck me that my bad dreams had evolved with the pandemic along with my way of living!

Image above courtesy of Free-Photos from Pixabay

I’ve evolved in another way, too! I’m enjoying talking via video on Facebook, every Thursday at 3:00 Mountain Standard Time. I call them my Reptile-Side Chats because I live in a home where there is usually a reptile by my side. I’ve been told they are fun to listen to–I do like to make science education fun. What is seen on these videos is also how I write my children’s books.

Here are the links to the video talks on Facebook:

Feb 25th I spoke about the birthday celebration of my book Don’t Make Me Rattle!

On March 11, I showed my adoptive Sonoran Desert Tortoise.    

On March 18, I spoke about the three types of Tortoises I live with. 

On March 25, I spoke of the differences between Turtles and Tortoises. I wrote a book about that.   

illustration of curly-tail lizard, curtis

You can also view the Facebook videos on my YouTube page, Curtis Curly-tail Speaks.

a dark green book cover: Hickatees vs Sea Turtles
Do you know the differences between the land-dwelling Hickatee and the ocean-dwelling Sea Turtle? Learn about them inside.
Reading Level:
Ages 6+
Written in Rhyme, 45 Pages
Wonderful Illustrations of the Native Hickatee Turtle and Sea Turtles
by Anderson Atlas
Learn all about the endemic Hickatee turtle who has so many troubles–well-meaning humans who throw them to their deaths into the ocean, cars that run over them, loss of land to lay their eggs, and cousins pushing them out.
Shows physical traits and the differences between these land-dwelling turtles and the sea turtles that do reside in the ocean.
Make friends with the Hickatee today!

And my tortoise and turtle books are shown here. If you enjoy my videos, I believe you will enjoy my books, as well.

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs

#Elaine A Powers
#Tortoise or Turtle
#Don’t Call Me Turtle
#Hickatee vs. Sea Turtle
#Reptile-Side Chats
#Facebook Live Thursdays

My Computer is Padded: Reptile-Side Chats Here I Come!

In previous posts, I mentioned the lessons learned from doing Facebook Live talks. I was able to continue them last week with my new laptop.  New, because my Sonoran Desert tortoise peed on my old laptop and killed it. I did hold her up for 12 minutes, and she showed great restraint, so it really wasn’t her fault.

Despite having purchased the protection plan with my new computer, I wasn’t taking any chances with last Thursday’s talk, which featured three tortoises! I remembered I had these absorbent pads tucked away in my bathroom closet.  This is what I was saving them for!

With my new laptop safely covered, the chat went on without a soaking! I will now continue my talks, knowing all will be well. (Reptiles are known to be a bit leaky.)

My Reptile-Side Chats are on Thursdays at 3:00 pm MST on Facebook on my personal page, Elaine Powers. Tomorrow, 3/25/21, I’ll be showing the differences between tortoises and turtles live, with the very cute Trevor the Turtle and one of my tortoises. I’ll also show the book I wrote about the differences, Don’t Call Me Turtle! The rhyming stanzas make learning science fun!

If you’d like to watch the recordings of my Reptile-Side Chats (teaching about reptiles, of course!), they are posted on my YouTube channel, Curtis Curly-tail Speaks.

#funscience #elaineapowers #Reptile-Side Chats #tortoiseorturtle

#reptileeducation

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs
There are many differences between tortoises and turtles, and the wise tortoise who narrates this book tells us about ten of those differences–in rhyme. She also says, “Don’t Call Me Turtle!” (Even if my name should be Myrtle.)

The Facebook Live Learning Curve–Post Two: Pee on Set

In a previous blog post, I mentioned the surprises I had in my first Facebook Live talk. My second talk with my iguana went well and I thought I knew what I was doing.

Hah!

For my third talk, I showed my Sonoran Desert Tortoise and I mentioned how reptiles urinate when they are stressed. That’s why you should never pick up a desert tortoise. Its supply of water is stored in its bladder and using it to repel you, it is doomed to death by dehydration.

I had learned from my in-person talks that the tortoises often will void, so I put down a tarp.  Voiding is not an issue since I can provide them with as much water as they need to refill.  Consequently, I had a towel in place for my Facebook talk just in case. The tortoise did great. She stayed on camera and was relaxed as I held her in the air for over ten minutes. As I signed off, I felt water run down my shirt. I placed her in the box on the chair beside me and finished up my presentation. I then noticed some water on my laptop and wiped it off. Yes, she had peed her displeasure onto my computer.

As I went to move my laptop back to the table where I usually worked, the screen went black. I pushed the on button, nothing.  On no, had she doused my computer enough to kill it? Yes. Yes, she had. I rushed my trusty laptop, who had been with me for many years, off to the repairman. He wasn’t able to save my electronic companion, but he was able to save her memory.

graphic Facebook Live Reptile Side Chat

I intend to share three tortoises during my Facebook Live Talk tomorrow, Thursday, March 18th.  Look for me at 3:00 p.m. MST at my personal Facebook page, Elaine Powers, during which time I will be wrapping my new laptop in plastic! I can’t wait to get back to doing live talks. It is so much safer for my electronics.

I did give the manager a great story to tell of the woman whose laptop was destroyed by tortoise pee!

Book Note: To check out the fun children’s science books I’ve written about turtles and tortoises, please click on the books below or in the My Books section here. They’re fun, informative and are wonderfully illustrated by the talented artists I use.

Two fun science books on tortoises and turtles

 

Singing While Wearing a Mask? I Can Now!

I have a music degree along with my science degrees. I’ve enjoyed singing and performing on stage throughout my life. People on stage or in concerts are often told to sing out, project to the audience. Singers are extolled for singing to the last row or to the balcony, so that everyone can hear them.

Today we have a new direction: Sing through your mask.

With the pandemic, in-person performances have been severely curtailed. But humans are a creative species who will adapt to changing circumstances. Even though the need for masks was apparent, singing in them was less than ideal. Every time I took a deep breath to sing, I’d inhale the cloth and the sound was somewhat muffled.

Today, clever designers have created “masks for singing.” These have sufficient space and stability for proper singing, enabling the singer to get good inhalation and to drop the jaw.

photo 2 of singers' maskphoto of singers' mask

Of course, merely wearing a mask isn’t sufficient protection, so the chorus I sing with rehearses outside, maintaining six feet of distance. It’s nice for us to be able to hear the other singers and make harmony. Sometimes, the local wildlife even joins in, like Great Horned Owl and coyotes. Everyone deserves the opportunity to join in song.

Sing safely!

Book Note: The musical side of my brain is also the side that loves poetry. The other side of my brain is where the scientist/educator in me lives. The two sides combine in my “Don’t Series” books, in which scientific information is woven into fun, rhyming stanzas. “Don’t Series” fans tell me the rhymes make learning fun and the knowledge sticks with them. So, if there is a person in your life who wants a fun and colorfully illustrated book about the differences between tortoises and turtles, or to learn all about the fascinating roadrunner bird, or the very interesting rattlesnake, I’ve got the book for you!

Click below to see their book descriptions.

graphic of three books in The Don't Series

February 25th is Book-Birthday Day!

Snazzy the Snake is celebrating! February 25th is the birthday of Don’t Make Me Rattle!, the rhyming book by author Elaine A. Powers full of rattlesnake facts and vibrant illustrations.

While Elaine writes to make science education fun, she writes particularly about rattlers so we will respect, not fear, them. They are shy creatures who prefer not to engage with humans. The rattle is only a warning: Please stay away!

Learn the rattlesnake’s role in the ecosystem, about their social behavior, what the venom is for and much, much more in this 40-page book with bold illustrations by illustrator Nicholas Thorpe.

See Snazzy celebrate on YouTube at the Birthday Book!

Find the birthday book here at ElaineAPowers.com and Lyric Power Publishing LLC. Don’t Make Me Rattle! is for sale at Amazon.com.

#educationalchildrensbook   #bookaboutsnakes   #rattlesnakes   #animation   #3dcharacter   #picturebookbirthday   #nonfictionpicturebook   #storytimeforkids   #nonfictionbooks

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

Horseback Riding and Cougars Just Do Not Mix!

I recently had an encounter with a mountain lion while riding my horse. Button tried to tell me a big cat was near, but I couldn’t see it. I suspected she had seen the cat by the way she bolted. It was a wild ride but we got home safely (with much stomping and agitation) and the lion went on his way. As the fates would have it, an interesting article came up on my social media shortly afterwards.

A Canadian woman came across a cougar, another name for mountain lion, while hiking.  As the cougar approached, she yelled and waved her arms, causing the cat to stop but not back away. Keeping her wits about her, she pulled out her cell phone and played loud music to scare the cat away. Her choice was the loudest band she could think of: Metallica! The band’s hit “Don’t Tread on Me” did the trick. The cougar ran off.  Perhaps he wasn’t a heavy metal fan.

I really do like the idea of using loud music to scare off a lion. However, while riding a very agitated horse, I don’t have a spare hand to get the phone out of my pocket. Both hands are firmly on the reins. I’ll just have to sing loudly, instead. I know many operatic arias I could use.

There aren’t any videos of mountain lions . . . yet.

Note: If you like YouTube channels, please check out Curtis Curly-tail Speaks, where there are lots of videos about my children’s science books and my reptile family and friends, like the one about Roadrunner below that goes with my rhyming (fun) science book, Don’t Make Me Fly!

I happen to believe that science education should be fun! What about you?

 

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.

Now That Dog Can Bark On Pitch!

I am a retired biologist who writes rhyming children’s science books. I’ve been questioned about this and I believe the rhyming happens because I’m also a musician and singer. I still sing in community choruses and one of them had to get creative with rehearsals and performances due to the pandemic. Many musical organizations have used video streaming services, creating combined videos (requiring expert technical ability).

My chorus sang outside in a cul-de-sac, masked and social distanced at least six feet apart. We gathered in the director’s neighborhood with our reading lights since the sun had long set. It was often a bit nippy and we had to dress accordingly. It was nice to be able to hear other singers, however muffled they were.

One of the other sopranos brought her Scottish terrier along. He was a well-behaved dog that sat quietly at her feet. However, the dog was aware of moving creatures going bump in the night. When one was detected, he would start with a low growl, then a short bark, alerting us to the approaching danger. One night his growling crescendoed to a series of barks, almost on pitch with the song we were singing. Since the director was recording us for a virtual concert, the terrier’s ad lib contribution was not appreciated.

The following week, the chorus sang a concert in another neighborhood. We stood in one of the yards.  We gathered and sorted ourselves into our voice-part groups, i.e. all the first sopranos together, second sopranos, first altos and second altos. The terrier had joined us, so I asked him what part he was singing.  The reply was…

Howl-to!

Book Note: One of the educational books I set to rhyme is called Don’t Make Me Fly! Can you guess what it’s about?

Roadrunners, of course! It’s full of fun facts about them and fun to read and hear because of the rhyming verses. It’s also vividly illustrated and kids, young and old alike, really appreciate the powerful drawings. It makes a great book for the family, and for a book report on roadrunners. It’s available at Amazon.com.

illustration of a desert roadrunner
Strong. Fast and Courageous, Roadrunner Doesn’t Need To Fly

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.

January 31 is National Inspire Your Heart with Art Day

The artist strategically placed the shells on the branches of the bush skeleton above. A piece of the exoskeleton of a horseshoe crab was also used.

January 31 is Inspire Your Heart With Art Day.  Art should evoke emotions, hopefully, pleasurable ones.  There are many kinds of art.  My book illustrators are all great visual and/or digital artists. The editor/manager of my websites, Pamela Bickell, is a creative collage artist, as well.

Other artists create sculptures and three-dimensional works. Every once in a while, I stumble across something fantastic in nature.

Today I want to feature and very unusual piece of art I came across on Bunche Beach in Fort Myers, FL. Most people appreciate a beautiful intact seashell. Most people also appreciate healthy green vegetation. Yet, few of us would see the art in a dead bush and bleached broken shells that this artist did.  Most of the shells had holes in them, the result of the predators who ended the mollusks’ lives.

close up of shell art on dried branches
This did inspire my heart!

While not everyone would see the beauty here, I appreciate it as an unusual but lovely work of art. It did bring joy to my heart.

I hope you make or find some art this weekend that brings joy to your heart, too.

Book Note: I truly appreciate my book illustrators, who have added so much to the words I write.

Arthur F. Winstanley

a pink book cover with an illustration of a green curly-tail iguana riding in the ocean in a red sneaker

Anderson Atlas

book cover illustration with two lizards

Nicholas Thorpe

a book cover about Tabby the five finger fairy and Cleo a bahamian boa

Jessica Minns

a blue and white children's book cover with curly-tail lizards illustrated

Simone Scott

image of book cover of a brown booby bird in cayman brac

Monique Carroll

book cover about seeds finding a place to sprout

Haley Gray

book cover of catfish

Jacqueline Klene

image of book cover with catfish and museum

January 28th is NATIONAL HAVE FUN AT WORK DAY

Working from Home with our Pets

January 28th is National Have Fun at Work Day and with the pandemic, many people who would go to work in an office or at least away from home, are now telecommuting or video conferencing. We find ourselves trying to convince our companion-animal family members to maintain professional boundaries. (Although, I’ll bet everyone enjoys watching other people’s pets photo-bomb their meetings.)

My household is no different. Meetings that I would attend in person are now virtual through my laptop. Even though my family members are reptiles, they feel the same need as mammals to participate. You’d think noise wouldn’t be an issue with animals that don’t bark, meow or squawk. But, my iguanas get creative. As soon as I log in, Chile Green Iguana (photo above) starts his gymnastics in his wire enclosure. He uses his full length to clank the sides and shelves as much as possible.

photo of Myrtle red foot tortoise pusing chair

Then I feel my chair start to move away from the table. Myrtle Redfoot Tortoise is underneath me, pushing as hard as she can, successfully rolling the chair and me away from the computer.

Calliope Green Iguana
Calliope Green Iguana checking to be sure Myrtle doesn’t roll me too far from the meeting.
Rose Red-foot Tortoise
Rose Red-foot Tortoise stops by so I’ll take a break from work and scratch hr shell.

Other family members merely stop by to see who I am speaking with or to ensure that I am working as I should be.

I hope you, too, are having fun at work, whether it is away from home or at home.  Co-workers can be very entertaining.

Book Note: My co-workers are my inspiration for many of my books. I hope you’ll check them out at My Books.

Don’t Call Me Turtle was inspired by my tortoise, Myrtle, pictured above.

photo of a children's book cover, entitled Don't Call Me Turtle
There are many differences between tortoises and turtles, and the wise tortoise who narrates this book tells us about ten of those differences–in rhyme.
She also says, “Don’t Call Me Turtle!” (Even if my name should be Myrtle.)

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