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.

Starfish: How Many Arms?

I started out my biology career wanting to be a marine biologist. Even though I ended up as a laboratory researcher, I’m always looking for interesting creatures when I visit the ocean. I never know who I’m going to write about in my next fun science book!

One group of animals I always enjoy seeing are starfish. They come in different shapes and colors. Starfish are echinoderms, a diverse family of marine invertebrates. They are found in all oceans and none of them can live in freshwater. Of course, starfish are not fish; the name comes from their star-like shape. Starfish usually have five arms but some have up to 40 arms!

One thing all starfish have in common is their radial symmetry. Their body can be divided into five equal parts. Amazing. Don’t worry that they’ll become asymmetrical if a predator bites off an arm–starfish have the ability to regenerate their arms.

Starfish themselves are carnivores. Their mouths are located on the underside of their bodies (the anus is on the top side). Interestingly, a starfish has two stomachs, one of which can be pushed outside the body to allow it to swallow the large prey that can’t fit in its small mouth.

I like playing with the multitude of starfish feet–feeling the tube feet crawl on my hand. The feet are used for moving, of course, but also for catching prey. While the feet are moving the starfish, its bony skeleton with its spikes and thorns provides protection from above. Which is a good thing, because starfish have lots of predators.

These are some of the beautiful starfish I have encountered.

Someday, I might write a book about starfish. For now, I’ll just have to know they run into the sea turtles you’ll see pictured in the book below that I wrote about the Hickatee turtle. It teaches the physical traits and differences between the land-dwelling Hickatee and the ocean-dwelling sea turtles.

Or, learn all about another fellow ocean feeder, in this Lyric Power Publishing workbook full of activity sheets about the Brown Booby–the large seabirds who live on only one island in the world.

Fun Geology and Biology for The Lime Lizards Lads!

Geology is the science that explores the earth’s physical structure and substance, its history, and the processes that act on it. Geology is often included under the topic of Earth Sciences.  You might be surprised to learn that I often include geology in my fun science books that feature lizards. You can’t really study biology without knowing the geology of the ecosystem. Everything is interconnected.

One of my favorite inclusions in The Dragon of Nani Cave in the mineral, caymanite.

Hidden in the limestone karst of Grand Cayman’s East End and the Bluff of Cayman Brac is an uncommon variety of dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2.  Caymanite is prized for its layers of earth tone colors, which are the result of different metal contents. Its harness allows for it to be shaped into jewelry and carvings.

In The Dragon of Nani Cave, the Lime Lizard Lads are sent on a quest to find a piece of caymanite for Old Soldier crab. It’s the most dangerous thing a lizard can do on Cayman Brac, because that’s where the dragon lives! One of the fun things about being an author is having a say in the design of the book cover. I had mine when I asked that the book title be colored just like caymanite.

book cover illustration of two curly-tail lizards
With the Lime Lizard Lads, it’s one adventure after another. They know how to make science fun!

For additional ways to supplement science education in fun ways, please see the activity sheets and workbooks at Lyric Power Publishing. The workbook pictured above is a supplement to The Dragon of Nani Cave.

Ground Squirrels: These Cute Little Burrowers Soon to Have Their Own Book!

When I lived in the Midwest and Northeast, I knew it was Spring when the crocus and daffodils raised their heads from the ground.  Here in the Sonoran Desert, I know it is Spring when the round-tailed ground squirrels, Xerospermophilus tereticaudus, which dwell in the desert of the US Southwest and northwestern Mexico, raise their heads from the ground.

The common name for these small mammals is derived from their long round tail and long fluffy hind feet. I think they look like small prairie dogs due to their uniform sandy color.

Instead of running up and down large, lush trees found in the more temperate areas of the country, these squirrels burrow into ground beneath mesquite trees and creosote bushes, plants tough enough to survive the harsh desert clime. They are active during hot summer days and stay underground during the winter, but they don’t hibernate.

Some people find the squirrels a bother because they are always digging holes in their yards, driveways and even streets. I think they make a new tunnel each day. I like to think of their efforts as aerating the soil and loosening the rock-hard ground. Going underground, they are able to evade their many predators: coyotes, badgers, hawks and snakes.

These cute little mammals do love their burrows!

Even though they live in colonies, ground squirrels like their space. Males like to be in charge during mating season, but the mothers dominate when they have young!

Why am I writing about these delightful squirrels? I am starting to work on a picture book about the local ground squirrels. This book was requested by an educator at a local park. There are no books about area ground squirrels. Another fun, science book waiting to be written in rhyme! Gosh, I love my work!

I’ve got to get back now to my burrowing into the world of ground squirrels.

Thanks for visiting!

I’ve written many books about reptiles, and am excited about adding mammals to my book collection. Here is a workbook on mammals from my publisher, Lyric Power Publishing, LLC, focused on making science fun. Their activity sheets and workbooks really help to pass the time in a fun way.

Homeschooling? Worried About Education? How About Supplementing with FUN Science Workbooks?

The mission of my book publisher, Lyric Power Publishing LLC, is to “Make Science Fun!” That’s because they know how fun science really is.

Their Activity Sheets and Workbooks are for Ages K-5 (see workbook covers for grade level and contents) and while they are highly educational, they are also lots of fun! Have you ever counted iguanas? Or made a lizard clock? Made your own Compass Rose or Passport?

Depending on the grade, they can include: Animal Facts, Name the Animal, Lifecycles, Compare Traits, Food Chains, Label the Parts, Color by Math, Mean/Median/Mode/Range, Color by Number, Printing, Underline the Answer, Counting, Convert Grams to Pounds, Fill in the Blanks, True or False, Cut Along the Dotted Lines, Cut and Paste, Cut and Classify, Fill in the Right Word, Word Search, Match the Facts, Using a Histogram, Venn Diagrams, Making Charts, Interpreting Charts, Crossword Puzzle, Other Puzzles, Conservation, Vocabulary, Complete the Sentence, Unscramble the Sentences, Prepositions of Place, Using Maps, Writing Prompts, Essay Writing Exercise, Reading Comprehension, and More!

Who can make all the above fun, economically? Lyric Power Publishing!
Purchase a Download Once and Print as Many Times as You’d Like!

For additional relaxing fun, check out their Coloring Books and Flannel Board Templates, enjoyed by children and adults alike. Coloring is handwork and creative, proven to reduce stress. Let your creativity run wild! Get out your colored pencils or crayons and have some fun today! Then print the pages again and color them in a whole new assortment!

You’re welcome!

The Marshmallow: Not Merely Fluffy Sugar

In a previous blog, I related a story how even in my early years, I was working to keep wild alligators away from people food with stale, very hard, marshmallows. This occurred on Sanibel Island, FL. 

Have you ever thought about where marshmallows come from? My marshmallow story took place on Sanibel Island, FL, where you can find the marsh mallow growing. Yes, the marsh mallow is a plant. I learned about it while I was working at the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. On Sanibel the species is called Kosteletzkya virginica.

Did you think marshmallows were merely fluffy sugar? Well, they’re not. Marshmallows have been around since ancient Egypt. They used the mallow, Althaea officinalis, which grew in salty marshes. The sweet sap was made into a candy that was dedicated to their gods.

The ancient Greeks valued the medicinal properties of the mallow. Many cultures have used mallow to treat wounds, inflammation, toothaches and sore throats.

In the 1800s, the French created a candy for adult consumption, in addition to its previous medicinal uses. The mallow sap was whipped with egg whites and corn syrup into an easily moldable substance and the modern marshmallow was created. The next time you enjoy a marshmallow, think of the plant from which it came:  the mallow growing in salty marshes.

Botanical illustration of the Marsh Mallow Plant

A botanical drawing of the marshmallow plant, featuring the plant as well as close-ups of the flower and seed.

FRANZ EUGEN KOHLER, KOHLERS MEDIZINAL-PFLANZEN

NOTE: Every now and then, I divert from writing about animals to do a bit of plant investigation. To see some of my work on plants, check out The Queen of the Night about the fascinating Night-Blooming Cereus, plants that bloom magnificently only one night per year—and they wait for each other to bloom all at the same time. EAP

book cover for the Night-Blooming Cereus
All about the mysterious plant that blooms only one night per year–all at the same time!

Using Children’s Books for Science Education–at a Bar!

Last February, I had the honor of giving a science talk at a local bar.  Yes, a bar! But it’s a very different bar–it specializes in astronomy and holds weekly science trivia contests with March for Science Southern Arizona.

My talk was about using entertaining children’s books in science education.  It was kind of fun that I had multi-colored spotlights instead of plain white. I spoke from a platform and looking down and around the room, I wondered if my talk was appropriate for such an audience. I couldn’t gesticulate as I usually do, because I had to hold the microphone to my mouth (eat the mic) and the slide clicker in the other hand. I felt constrained, but carried on with my assignment.

This is me with my Blue-iguana hybrid, named Blue, of course!

Even though I watched people drinking and talking through my entire talk and the background noise level was high – it was a bar, after all – some of the audience actually listened. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by that response and there were even a few questions afterward about book publishing and children’s science books. All in all, it was a great experience. 

My thanks to the March for Science organization for letting me present during Brains and Brews at Sky Bar in Tucson, Az.

Balloon Curtis created by artist Jeremy Twister.

And to the wonderful artist, Jeremy Twister, for creating the balloon version of the perfect curly-tail lizard of Warderick Wells in The Bahamas: Curtis Curly-tail.