Monthly Archives: March 2012

Word(s) of the Week: Phloem and Xylem

Today’s words are:

[phloem] and [xylem]

Pronounced: FLOW-um, ZYE-lum

Sciency Definition: Phloem and xylem are two layers of tissues found within the stems of plants and trunks of trees.

Or I could have said: Plant guts.

What’s it do?  Phloem is made of tissues that transport sugars created during photosynthesis, feeding the plant from the top (where the leaves are) down to the roots. The xylem is made of tissues that transport water and minerals up from the root system. In trees, the xylem dies after one year, creating the rings you see in a tree’s cross-section.

Example sentenceA tree ain’t cryin’ without its XYLEM! Ha! Uh, sorry, I must have had some phloem stuck in my throat.

Can you use either of these words this week? Report back in the comments!

Cross-section of a flax stem by SuperManu, via Wiki. The xylem is #3, and the phloem is #4.

It’s NEST CAM season!

Wahh hoo! I love this time of year – since I’m stuck inside all day, I can vicariously get my nature fix by watching nest cameras. This year there are some particularly yummy ones. Check them out! If you know of any other cameras up and running, please leave them in the comments section.

Of course, my favorite, a hummingbird nest in a California rosebush. If you get a chance to see her eggs before they hatch, they’re approximately the size of small jellybeans. Here’s another cam, but I can’t locate info as to where the cam is or what species this is. Maybe Florida? The baby looks like a tiny echidna! …okayonemore.

Eagles in Decorah, Iowa. Here’s a clip of mom gently adjusting the eggs, then wiggling herself down over them so they’re nuzzled against her brood patch.

Big Red is a Red Tailed Hawk that happens to be nesting on the campus of Cornell University in Pennsylvania, famous for its ornithological research.

Here’s a gorgeous view of a Peregrine Falcon in Minnesota, and Barn Owls in California!

The Hummingbirds Are Coming…

Maybe you all aren’t TOTALLY aware of how much I love hummingbirds. “A lot” doesn’t begin to cover it. On a recent camping trip to the Oregon Coast (oh yes, it was cold and wet), the moment I stepped out of the car and approached my carefully chosen campsite, I heard the telltale buzzing of two tiny birds. I didn’t get to lay my eyes on them, and the pair flitted about for a mere second before flying off to explore other campsite options. Like me, I’m sure they chose site H27 for its looming trees, moss-covered stones, and an appropriate distance away from everyone else at the campground.

For most of my friends, hearing hummingbirds is a no-big-deal moment. For me, particularly the first time I hear them for the year, my heart fills up so big I sometimes get a little embarrassed if I’m with company. I was ecstatic. I almost offered to purchase the campground but realized I’m not yet wealthy enough to horde such a beautiful place. But one day. One day.

All that being said, I at least have digital maps to show me where the hummingbirds are hanging out. If you haven’t seen these yet, here are migration maps for my two favorite species: the Ruby-Throated and the Rufous. By clicking on the image below, you’ll be taken to the migration maps – the two species are hyperlinked beneath the main title above the map.

My top favorite site for bird information –, maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – has this to say about the Rufous’ annual migration:

“The Rufous Hummingbird makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any bird in the world, as measured by body size. At just over 3 inches long, its roughly 3,900-mile movement (one-way) from Alaska to Mexico is equivalent to 78,470,000 body lengths. In comparison, the 13-inch-long Arctic Tern’s one-way flight of about 11,185 mi is only 51,430,000 body lengths. (AAB)”

Nearly 4,000 miles one way! And besides that, the Rufous is well-known for being the feistiest of all the hummingbirds, bold enough to chase even small mammals away from its territory. All that energy from the nectar of flowers and some insect protein? Outstanding.

Bookmark these maps and check back periodically – it’s fun to see where the birds end up every couple of weeks. Enjoy!

Screen shot taken from Rufous Hummingbird Migration Map, - click the image to check out their awesome maps!

Word of the Week: Sclera

Today’s word is:


Pronounced: SCLARE-uh

Sciency Definition: The white, fibrous tissue that covers all of the eyeball except the cornea.

Or I could have saidEyeball.

What’s it do? The sclera gives the eyeballs their shape and protects them from damage when your 4 year old pokes your 2 year old in the eye just to see what happens. The muscles that control the movement of the eye also attach to the sclera, and the sclera also keeps all the important organs of the eye in place so our depth perception and focal abilities remain intact. (Did you know that eyeballs have organs?)

Example sentence: Don’t fire until you can see the sclera of their eyes!

Sclera, via Rhcastilhos on Wiki.

Roaming along the coastline of Newport, Oregon

roam: verb - To move about without purpose or plan; to wander.

The Oregon Coast is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been. There’s something about the walls of mist rolling through big, black rock outcroppings, the bent pines standing up to the ocean winds, and the booming power of the waves hitting the sand that really gets me out of my head. It’s one place that I regularly escape to when living in the high desert makes me feel claustrophobic.

Read the rest of this entry

Word of the Week: Macrophyte (Formerly: Video of the Week.)

So my computer had to go into the shop for a while and after being computerless for a time, I lost a lot of my interest in froofing around on the internet for hours at a time. I kind of can’t stand watching videos online at the moment (unless it’s The Daily Show), so now for something slightly more educational:

Word of the Week!

This segment will [mildly] stretch your brain and give you completely arbitrary information that you can share at dinner parties, on the bus to work, or with your significant other when they’re not expecting it. Each week I’ll share a word and its definition, and challenge you to use at least ONCE at SOME point in the week – and then post what you did in the comments section. Or, rather, what your friend or family member did after you said it. The more absurd, the better.

Today’s word is:


Sciency DefinitionA macrophyte is a “macroscopic” (meaning that it can be seen with the naked eye) aquatic plant, emergent (rooted in soil but most of the vegetative growth above waterline), submergent (all plant matter beneath the waterline), or floating (floating).

Or I could have saidWater plants.

What’s it do? Macrophytes provide cover and forage for aquatic vertebrates and invertebrates, and supply the water with oxygen. (They’re really important.)

Example sentence: What kind of macrophytes are in this sushi?