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!

August 7 is National Lighthouse Day

Image courtesy of the US Coast Guard

August 7th is National Lighthouse Day. Lighthouses have always intrigued, standing tall at the sea’s edge often high on a cliff. They have played an important part in history, making sea travel safer, indicating dangerous coastlines and reefs and rocks.

Two lighthouses have meaning in my life, both on islands. The first is the historic lighthouse on Sanibel Island, built in 1884. I grew to know it as a child visiting the island with my parents on annual vacations. The beach around the lighthouse offered excellent shelling and the mangroves had interesting wildlife.

An illustration of the Sanibel Island Lighthouse
An illustration of the Sanibel Island Lighthouse from my home

In 1949, the dwellings were turned over to the employees of the wildlife refuge. When I was in college, I worked for two summers with the US Fish & Wildlife Service at the J.N. “Ding Darling” Wildlife Refuge.  Their offices were in the lighthouse buildings.

The City of Sanibel assumed management of the lighthouse property in 1982, except the tower, which was later transferred to the city in 2010. In 2016, the lighthouse and dwellings were added to the City of Sanibel’s Register of Historic Sites and Structures.

a photo of the lighthouse on Cayman Brac
Photo of Cayman Brac Lighthouse courtesy of Cayman Islands Dept. of Tourism

The second lighthouse in my life is on Cayman Brac.  This small lighthouse is perched on top of the bluff at the highest point on the island, 140 feet.  The view from the spot is spectacular, even if the lighthouse is not architecturally interesting. The first lighthouse was built in 1930 with a more modern one added in recent years. In addition to the ocean view, the lighthouse is a great place to observe bird life, including the nesting brown boobie birds and frigate birds drifting in the updrafts.

To learn more about the fascinating brown boobies of Cayman Brac (and only Cayman Brac), check out Bonnie Scott’s Brown Boobie Birds of Cayman Brac, and my own Fly Back to the Brac, Brian Brown Booby, which is fictional but based on the true story of a brown boobie bird that finally manages to fly and find his own kind. I love writing science into story and I hope you enjoy them. Both books are published by Lyric Power Publishing LLC.

image of book cover of a brown booby bird in cayman brac
“You can fly, Brian Brown Booby! Don’t give up!” Colorful Illustrations by Cayman Native Simone Scott Reading Level Age 8+ 48 Pages A fictionalized telling of the true story of Brian Brown Booby and the caring Caymanians who helped him. Brian Brown Booby was too young to fly but somehow ended up 80 miles from home. This is the tale of the many people who helped him get back home, fed him, and believed in him so that he could learn to fly with his own kind.

Meet the Brown Booby, a large sea bird which is a year-round resident only of Cayman Brac. They are not found at all in Grand Cayman or Little Cayman. These birds are a spectacular sight, soaring and gliding along the Bluff edge and the shore, diving for fish to feed their young, perching on rocks in the sun, then returning to their nesting colonies. With only about forty nesting pairs on the Brac, they are protected by Cayman law.
 

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!

Territorial!

Many animals (and some plants) establish territories. They protect these areas for their places to live, eat and mate. When I think of a territory, I usually imagine a natural area, but that’s not true for all lizards. Some lizards establish their territories on patios!

Several male Desert Spiny lizards, Sceloporus magister, have divvied up my patio, spacing their areas three to four feet apart. They respect each others’ space.

Don’t worry, I put out treats in all of their territories to encourage harmony. I’m happy to cede my patio to such wonderful lizards.

I enjoy writing about the animals in my life and have created a good number of children’s science education books that are fun to read. They are written in rhyme or as animal adventure tales–I believe fun reading makes the science stick. Looking for some fun science for your children? Check out my books on my Books page.

colorful children's book cover with a curly-tail lizard riding on the back of a hutia
This is a special story for readers who like to solve problems. It takes Curtis Curly-tail on his second adventure, but is based on real ecological events taking place on Warderick Wells Cay in The Bahamas. The hutia are endangered rodents native to the islands. Some are transplanted to Curtis’s cay, and Curtis meets his new friend, Horace. When the scientists come back to check on the hutia, they find that the native shrubs are almost gone, due to the hungry hutia. But Curtis and Horace do not understand what is happening when the hutia are captured and put into cages. Curtis decides to do everything he can to help Horace and his family. It is you, the reader, however, who must decide how the story will end. How do you solve a problem when an endangered species threatens a protected environment? There are three endings to the book. Which one will you choose? Or, will you come up with another solution? Lesson plans for teachers are also available at iginspired@gmail.com.

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

Eat Your Veggies!

June 17th is one of my favorite days of the year.  June 17 is National Eat Your Vegetable Day. As an omnivore, I enjoy my vegetables. My iguana and tortoise friends are also big connoisseurs of vegetables–that means they’re experts.

There are so many delicious vegetables to choose from. Don’t be afraid to try something new; you just might discover a new taste delight.

If you want to see some of my friends enjoying their vegetables, take a look at the YouTube videos on Curtis Curly-tail Speaks.

To learn more about iguanas and tortoises, check out the thorough and fun educational workbooks, activity sheets and coloring pages at Lyric Power Publishing, LLC.

image of book cover My Book About Tortoises GRades 2-4

Forty-seven pages of fun activities about tortoises. Includes a KWL chart, fact sheet and coloring page; label the parts or a tortoise; predators of the tortoise coloring page; color by multiplication and division, color by three-digit addition; reading comprehension, 3rd and 4th grade vocabulary; four vocabulary-in-context pages; dangers to tortoises; ecology short answer; fill-in-the blank reading comprehension; True-or-False; cut-and-paste life-cycle; cause-and-effect worksheet; project sheets for writing a fable; nouns, adjectives, and adverbs; ecology crossword puzzle and word search.

Watch Out for Those Dangerous Choices in Clothing Colors!

When you get dressed, do you consider your pets? Sure, I know those of you with fur babies might wonder which outfit would go best with your pet’s hair. However, if you live with iguanas, you must make your clothing choices carefully.

Iguanas have excellent color vision. Since they eat leaves and flowers, this makes sense. It also makes wearing certain colors dangerous. When hungry, iguanas can be enthusiastic eaters. When they see a large green leaf that happens to be a pant leg or a t-shirt, they often bite first and ask about edibility later. They know I provide first-rate leaves, so why would that shirt be any less tasty?

Usually after the first bite, they realize something is wrong and then taste the cloth, confirming it’s not what they had wanted. Of course, it takes many tongue flicks to come to that conclusion.  Unfortunately, one of my rhino iguanas prefers to eat first and worry about whether it is food later. It cost a lot of money to get that green dish cloth out of his stomach.

One of my newest family members, a large rhino iguana, loves grapes—I mean really loves grapes, purple grapes. My favorite pair of jeans happens to be purple, so she will chase me around the house, convinced I’m one very large grape. She’ll tongue-flick and tongue-flick, certain the pants will eventually turn into a grape. Every time I wear the jeans, I am followed by the rapidly clicking claws running after me.

As I write this, I am wearing an orange-colored t-shirt. Not a good choice around iguanas. Many delicious fruits and flowers are orange. So, I’ll conclude this post and go change my shirt. I’m feeling a dark color would probably be better . . .

Then I’ll settle in and get to work on one of my new book projects. In the meantime, I hope you’ll check out my fun science books. I’m a retired biologist and a musician, so those two parts of me combined into writing science books as adventure tales, or in rhymes. It’s a lot of fun for me and I hope my books inspire many young scientists.

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

What is that Tongue Doing?

I have lived with many iguanas over the years, but Stella, a green iguana, is the only one who constantly sticks her tongue out. I’m always afraid I’ll startle her and she’ll cut her tongue with her razor sharp teeth. Fortunately, that has never happened. Her tongue is intact. 

So, why is her tongue always sticking out? She’s tasting or “smelling” the world around her. Iguanas don’t smell with their noses like people do. They “taste” the world. Scent particles in the air are collected on the tongue, then brought into the mouth. The particles are analyzed by special sensory cells for identification. These cells make up the Jacobson’s or vomeronasal organ. If you watch an iguana walking, you’ll see her flicking her tongue out. If something is particularly interesting, say a tasty bit of food, the tongue flicks back and forth a lot.

Stella’s forked tongue, with which she “tastes” the world.

Another interesting thing about iguana tongues is that they are forked! Just like a snake’s tongue. You might also notice that the end of Stella’s tongue is darker. That’s because it is more enriched with blood. The better for tasting!

Iguanas are fascinating friends. To learn more about them, check out the Lyric Power Publishing workbook with activity sheets, called My Unit Study on Iguanas.

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.

Why Can’t She Use a Tortoise As A Pillow? by Yours Truly, Curtis Curly-tail

One day, my friend Rango, a Rhino Iguana, and I, a perfect curly-tail lizard, were discussing over Zoom our favorite basking spots. I prefer a nice piece of karst, myself. I like a spot where I can put my front feet up a bit, angle my back to the sun and soak in the rays.

photo of curly-tail lizard Curtis
Here I am on karst near my home!

But Rango the Dragon, as I call all iguanas—can you blame me?— lives in a house, not on an island like I do. Oh, she has a lovely place to bask under a suspended heat lamp or in a sunbeam through the window or door. She even has a servant who brings her meals while she basks. I guess there are advantages to living in a house. I have to find my own food and make sure I don’t become a snack for a seagull where I live!

I learned Rango likes to bask at an upward angle, too. Her substrate is flat tile, though, not bumpy karst.  So, what does she do? She finds something else to perch on–a comfortable height and something hard that can hold her weight.

The other family members include tortoises of various sizes. Rango has selected the smaller tortoises as her desired perches. I don’t know how the tortoises feel about being used for this purpose, but they don’t wander off.

I admire Rango for her creativity, but I do hope she thanks the tortoises, especially Myrtle, who is a very famous tortoise. She has her own book, for Pete’s sake! That’s it below, a rhyming book favorite of the wee ones! (Human wee ones, that is.)

Thanks for stopping by at Elaine’s author website. Hope you’ll look around. See ya next time!

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!