I finally heard a meadowlark. On one of my essential runs, keeping an appropriate distance from others engaging in their own essential activities, I heard it. Just one. Perched impossibly atop a stalk of prairie grass, it was signing its heart out. A melodic, happy, resonant sound. The sound of spring.
Meadowlarks have up to a dozen different calls, depending on the occasion: courtship, defending a territory, chasing off an intruder, nest building, egg laying, and more. But whatever the occasion, hearing the meadowlarks calls for pause and appreciation. I’m glad they’re back. Happy spring.
Let’s talk about tardigrades. Also known as water bears, they are an average 1 mm in size. Yet despite their size, they are among the hardiest organisms on Earth. To start, this micro-animal has survived all five mass extinctions. Yes, they’ve been around for a VERY long time (at least 500 million years). These hardy creatures survive being frozen or being heated above the boiling point of water. They are found in Earth’s most extreme conditions – from the hottest to the coldest environments. And because they are so hardy, they live everywhere on the planet including (Antarctica) and in every imaginable habitat. They prefer moist environments or bodies of water they but can go without water for decades.
Chances are there’s some near you – possibly in moss or lichen. If you have a high-powered microscope and need an activity, go on a bear hunt! Collect a sample of moss or lichen and place in a shallow dish with water for 24 hours. Then remove the excess water from the dish. Next, shake or squeeze the moss or lichen to collect the water that’s left. Transfer the water to a microscope slide and look for the bears!
Every year I anxiously await the return of meadowlarks to my area. For me they are a true sign that spring is actually coming. In the past couple weeks, I’ve been actively listening for them when I’m out on a run or walk. Alas, not yet. But, I have heard the grackles. They are a noisy lot, but they fill the air with song. I appreciate their boisterous chatter even if it is at 5:00 in the morning on a summer day. They make the world seem alive.
Grackles looks like stretched out black birds, with glossy black-bronze feathers. As I see in my own area, they like to flock together in those noisy groups, often in pine trees. These birds forage on the grounds in fields, parks, and lawns for seeds and grains; they’ve adapted well to human landscapes. In some areas, Colorado included, they migrate back in the spring to raise a family (or two!). The females are responsible for building the nest, usually in pine trees, but the males will help with repairs. They use twigs, grass, leaves, and other materials, and then line the nest cup with mud and soft grasses. Once the home is complete, females lay 1-7 eggs. Grackles may nest in colonies of up to 200 PAIRS. That’s a lot of chatter, but it’s awesome.
BIODIVERSITY: Explore the Diversity of Life on Earth (Nomad Press, 2019) IS ON A TOP 10 LIST!!!
Specifically, it is on the Booklist editors’ Top 10 Books on the Environment & Sustainability for Youth 2020. I couldn’t be happier. Not only is this a true honor, but I hope this will get the book in the hands of more young readers.
As an author I have done a great deal of research about nature and the environment. I thought I knew a lot. Yet as I researched BIODIVERSITY, I began to understand how much more there is to know. The biodiversity on Earth is so remarkable it is beyond description. Through my close and careful investigation, I came away with an even deeper appreciation of the natural world than I’d had. I learned about extremophiles (look it up!), the wood wide web, the microorganisms that live between grains of sand on the beach, bee bacteria, and SO much more. More importantly, my research reinforced how intricately tied together everything is.
I hope is that readers will gain a deeper understanding of the biodiversity on our planet and will be inspired to help preserve it. If ever there were a time for change, it is now.