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Flying Squirrel

Flying Squirrel—A Mysterious Critter

In today’s NatureSmart column, Stan Tekiela shares with us about flying squirrels. I’ve always found the critters that are less well known or more mysterious to be the most fascinating. A good example of this is the flying squirrel. I have recently photographed a wonderful little Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys Volans). There are more than 40 species of flying squirrels in the world, but only 2 species live here in North America. Besides the Southern Flying Squirrel, we also have a Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus). In general, the Southern Flying Squirrel lives across most of the eastern half of the country, while the Northern Flying Squirrel lives in the northern states and across Canada. Both the northern and southern flying squirrel are closely related to other tree squirrels. All are in the family Sciuridae. The big difference between flying squirrels and other more familiar tree squirrels is that flying squirrels are nocturnal. All of our...

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Children reading books

Flying Squirrel—A Mysterious Critter

In today’s NatureSmart column, Stan Tekiela shares with us about flying squirrels. I’ve always found the critters that are less well known or more mysterious to be the most fascinating. A good example of this is the flying squirrel. I have recently photographed a wonderful little Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys Volans). There are more than 40 species of flying squirrels in the world, but only 2 species live here in North America. Besides the Southern Flying Squirrel, we also have a Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus). In general, the Southern Flying Squirrel lives across most of the eastern half of the country, while the Northern Flying Squirrel lives in the northern states and across Canada. Both the northern and southern flying squirrel are closely related to other tree squirrels. All are in the family Sciuridae. The big difference between flying squirrels and other more familiar tree squirrels is that flying squirrels are nocturnal. All of our...

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Super Animal Powers

Valentine’s Day and the Bald Eagle

Valentine’s Day always makes me think of the Bald Eagle. I know, I know: It’s the symbol of our country, but it’s not exactly the symbol of romance. Still, the holiday and the bird are forever connected in my mind, thanks to one of nature’s happy coincidences. While we’re out choosing the perfect card, buying the perfect gift, and planning the perfect dinner, eagles are starting to get romantic too—and their idea of romance is way more awesome than ours! I learned plenty of interesting details while researching and writing the children’s book Eagle in the Sky and by following an Eagle Cam. Few were as startling or as intriguing as the mating rituals of the Bald Eagle. (No, that information didn’t make it into the book.) And here, in the northern part of the country, mating often begins around Valentine’s Day. Finding a Partner The males and females first become ready to mate when they...

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Bald Eagle

Valentine’s Day and the Bald Eagle

Valentine’s Day always makes me think of the Bald Eagle. I know, I know: It’s the symbol of our country, but it’s not exactly the symbol of romance. Still, the holiday and the bird are forever connected in my mind, thanks to one of nature’s happy coincidences. While we’re out choosing the perfect card, buying the perfect gift, and planning the perfect dinner, eagles are starting to get romantic too—and their idea of romance is way more awesome than ours! I learned plenty of interesting details while researching and writing the children’s book Eagle in the Sky and by following an Eagle Cam. Few were as startling or as intriguing as the mating rituals of the Bald Eagle. (No, that information didn’t make it into the book.) And here, in the northern part of the country, mating often begins around Valentine’s Day. Finding a Partner The males and females first become ready to mate when they...

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Observing a Total Eclipse of the Sun

Today, George Moromisato, author of 101 Amazing Sights of the Night Sky, helps us to observe a total eclipse of the sun. Lunar eclipses happened regularly enough that ancient astronomers were able to work out how to predict them. But total eclipses of the sun, which happen at a given spot only a few times per millennium, were impossible to predict with any accuracy. Imagine, then, how awesome and scary it must have been for our ancestors to see the life-giving sun swallowed up completely without warning. They must have watched anxiously as the skies darkened, perhaps wondering whether the sun would disappear forever. Within minutes, however, the light and warmth of the sun reappeared and everything would go back to normal—at least for a few more centuries. Today, of course, we know that the sun is eclipsed when the moon happens to pass in front of it. We can enjoy it as one of nature’s greatest spectacles. But it’s only the coincidental size...

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Eclipse of the sun

Observing a Total Eclipse of the Sun

Today, George Moromisato, author of 101 Amazing Sights of the Night Sky, helps us to observe a total eclipse of the sun. Lunar eclipses happened regularly enough that ancient astronomers were able to work out how to predict them. But total eclipses of the sun, which happen at a given spot only a few times per millennium, were impossible to predict with any accuracy. Imagine, then, how awesome and scary it must have been for our ancestors to see the life-giving sun swallowed up completely without warning. They must have watched anxiously as the skies darkened, perhaps wondering whether the sun would disappear forever. Within minutes, however, the light and warmth of the sun reappeared and everything would go back to normal—at least for a few more centuries. Today, of course, we know that the sun is eclipsed when the moon happens to pass in front of it. We can enjoy it as one of nature’s greatest spectacles. But it’s only the coincidental size...

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Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owls

In today’s NatureSmart column, Stan Tekiela shares with us why Burrowing Owls are different from all other owls. I love the rule breakers in nature. People tend to pigeonhole (sorry for the pun) birds and animals into categories not based on facts but on how we perceive them to be. We think that if they are one kind of critter, then they will act a specific way. Owls are a good example of this stereotypical thinking. I have written many times in the past about the Red-headed Woodpecker, which is a species of woodpecker that doesn't really act like other woodpeckers. This is a good example of a rule breaker. The Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) is another great example of a species of owl that doesn’t behave like other owls. First of all, Burrowing Owls are tiny birds—not the large hulking predators that we often think of when imagining owls. In fact, they are so...

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Children reading books

Burrowing Owls

In today’s NatureSmart column, Stan Tekiela shares with us why the Burrowing Owl is different from all other owls. I love the rule breakers in nature. People tend to pigeonhole (sorry for the pun) birds and animals into categories not based on facts but on how we perceive them to be. We think that if they are one kind of critter, then they will act a specific way. Owls are a good example of this stereotypical thinking. I have written many times in the past about the Red-headed Woodpecker, which is a species of woodpecker that doesn't really act like other woodpeckers. This is a good example of a rule breaker. The Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) is another great example of a species of owl that doesn’t behave like other owls. First of all, Burrowing Owls are tiny birds—not the large hulking predators that we often think of when imagining owls. In fact, they are...

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Common Backyard Weeds of the Upper Midwest

Teresa Marrone has been gathering and preparing wild edibles for three decades, and we are excited about her new book Common Backyard Weeds of the Upper Midwest. Hundreds of full-color photos with easy-to-understand text make this a great visual guide to learning about nearly 60 species of common weeds—toxic, edible, or otherwise interesting—found in the Upper Midwest, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Today we take a look at Queen Anne’s Lace. The distinctive part of this non-native biennial is the second-year flowering plant, which is 2 to 4 feet tall. Its slender green stem is hairy and has fine vertical lines. It often grows in large colonies; in sunny, dry areas, including yards, gardens, parks, and waste areas; and in fields, on railroad embankments, and along roads. It is very common in the southeastern two-thirds of our region and is listed as a noxious weed in Iowa, Michigan,...

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Queen Anne’s Lace

Common Backyard Weeds of the Upper Midwest

Teresa Marrone has been gathering and preparing wild edibles for three decades, and we are excited about her new book Common Backyard Weeds of the Upper Midwest. Hundreds of full-color photos with easy-to-understand text make this a great visual guide to learning about nearly 60 species of common weeds—toxic, edible, or otherwise interesting—found in the Upper Midwest, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Today we take a look at Queen Anne’s Lace. The distinctive part of this non-native biennial is the second-year flowering plant, which is 2 to 4 feet tall. Its slender green stem is hairy and has fine vertical lines. It often grows in large colonies; in sunny, dry areas, including yards, gardens, parks, and waste areas; and in fields, on railroad embankments, and along roads. It is very common in the southeastern two-thirds of our region and is listed as a noxious weed in Iowa, Michigan,...

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