Monthly Archives: April 2014

Vintage Nature Illustration Wednesday – Octopus

Ulisse Aldrovandi, 16th century

Ulisse Aldrovandi, 16th century

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April Tweets & Pins

Here’s the monthly roundup of our favorite tweets and pins for your perusing pleasure. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Pinterest if you like what you see!

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Astronomers pinpoint the exact date and time that Monet’s “Sunset” was painted.
This penguin slips on the ice and then I’m pretty sure he cusses.
What happens to your body without a spacesuit? NOTHING GOOD
Animal Planet’s “Call of the Wildman” is accused of animal mistreatment.
Photos: Camera-trapped predators of India.
Teach yourself to dream lucidly but, uh, watch out for the demons.
Spectacular renditions of superheroes in Pacific Northwestern indigenous art styles.
Two snakes of the same species can have surprisingly different venoms.
Video: 1-year old anteater has a fuzzy freakout over a log. You’re welcome.
Monsanto is returning to cross-breeding plants because people think GMOs are icky.

Wildlife Rehab Diary: The Beginning

I have an itch to work with wildlife. A bad itch. An itch that tugs at the back of my brain all day, every day, day in and day out. No matter what I’m doing, I’d rather be sharing space with an animal. I’m not picky: I’d even take insects and spiders over a desk job if I was in a real bind.

In Oregon, I’d been accepted into a spectacular captive animal management program, but couldn’t procure the funds to attend. Heartbroken, I returned to the East Coast, trying my best to believe that something equally as incredible was in the making. (I’m the kind of person that believes if a thing isn’t in your best interest, you don’t get it, no matter how badly you thought you wanted it; but walking away from zoo school was a doozy.)

Fast forward six months, and a combination of coincidence and free time led me to email a local wildlife rehabilitator to see if she needed volunteers. Wildlife rehab is a world of unpaid, tireless work for creatures that will bite you, shit on you, and most likely hate you with every fiber of their being. But more importantly, it’s a world of creatures whose lives are only a passing whisper to most humans, a glimpse of what is otherwise just mystery. It’s a world of injuries and orphaning, of human-caused suffering, but of healing, resilience, and the return of a living being to its home. It’s a world of hope; fur and scales and teeth and hope. Read the rest of this entry

Curio Cabinet: Obsidian

CC obsidian

The Curio Cabinet series (#curioTuesday) is published biweekly, featuring an artifact of natural or cultural history and a brief selection of nifty facts. Curio Cabinet celebrates the history of curio collections, the roots of which played a part in the globalization of learning and scientific knowledge. Learn more here.


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[Activity] Display Your Own Curio Collection

This month we wrote about the history of curio collections and we thought we’d also give you some ideas on making your own at home!

Your personal “curios” don’t have to be nature-only; they can be whatever trinkets you collect. When I was a little girl, my great-grandmother kept a huge, wide metal bowl on top of her bedroom wardrobe. When I visited, she’d pull it down and let me pick through the old tin toys inside that she’d kept since her childhood. Some of them were just colorful, others moved when you cranked the knobs or pumped the spinners. Although she’s passed now, her memory lives on for me in that bowl of toys and her smiling face when she’d take them down for me to play with.

That was the first curio collection I ever knew, and although mine aren’t comprised of toys, I hope that they speak to my nieces and nephews when they visit me.

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Vintage Nature Illustration Wednesday – Feathers

Adolphe Philippe Millot (Paris, 1 May 1857 – 18 December 1921)

Adolphe Philippe Millot (Paris, 1 May 1857 – 18 December 1921)

Ole Worm and the History of Curio Cabinets

I am an avid collector of small things both natural and cultural: rocks, seedpods, carvings, fetishes, art, more rocks, curiosities, skins, and – wait – did I already mention rocks?

Many of my naturalist comrades share this tendency to hoard similar items, perhaps as a way to remember the places we’ve been or to bring the outdoors inside. Our fascination with these items is not a new trend; in fact, collecting “curios” (defined as a rare or unusual object, considered attractive or interesting) dates back to the ending of the Middle Ages and the opening of the Renaissance.

1592 collection of engravings by the Flemish artist Joris Hoefnagel. University of Massachusetts Amherst. Photo credit: www-sicd.u-strasbg.fr

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[Naturalist Notebook] Snakes Awake!

I’ve had my Rosy Boa Isis and my two Rubber Boas for several years now. Amongst the other thousand reasons that I love spring, these three slithery friends give me one more reason: they wake up from their winter sleep.

My three boas hibernate during winter, even though I have their heat lamps on at all times. Their internal clocks just know when it’s time to rest and right around August or September, they’ll all lose interest in eating and start slowing down. The two Rubber Boas will bury themselves into the wood chips and hardly emerge for more than six months. The Rosy Boa, however, doesn’t dig down or curl up in her hideout: she likes to lay right out in the open on the cold side of the tank and snooze. Every few weeks she’ll rouse herself for some water and a quick bask under the heat lamp, but then she’s right back to rest.

Any offer of food during winter is duly ignored, so I get really excited for that first meal of the year. This year, the Rosy started to get more active in early March, while the two Rubbers didn’t appear until the end of March.

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The last time I moved, I needed somewhere safe to keep my giant Sugar Pine cone so I put it in the tank thinking at least it would be safe til I arrived at my new place. Turns out the Rubbers love climbing all over it and sleeping on it, so, well, it lives in their tank forever now.

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There was a full bowl of fresh, clean water in the tank but they apparently preferred slurping it off the walls after I sprayed the tank to raise the humidity a bit. Which seems weird, but I suppose I’m not one to judge weird.

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The Rubbers readily take pinkies by hand now, which is spectacular because it’s much easier to keep track of how many each snake eats when you’re giving them food individually. If I ever had to leave food in the tank overnight for them to eat, I had no way of knowing which one ate all the grub. These two happily each took three pinkies without hesitation. The male (pictured in the back, with the darker skin color) seemed a little confused as to how to find them and kept trying to eat my hand, but that’s pretty typical for him. The female (lighter color, up front) eagerly snatched her mice and wolfed them down faster than the male.

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Here’s a great shot of her jaws stretching wide and her using her coils to push the mouse into her mouth.

Usually the male is the feistier of the two when it comes to being handled – he’s musked me countless times (and it smells TERRIBLE). This time around, the male didn’t put up much of a fight (maybe he’s still sleepy) and the female was the one to get testy after eating. Understandable, since they hadn’t eaten in close to nine months, I’d be testy too!

Once I put her back in the tank, she actually coiled up into the typical Rubber Boa defense pose: the tail, which resembles the head but has a bony plate to protect it from jabs and pokes, sticks up above the coils to mimic the head while the head is protected beneath the whole body. Rubbers will sometimes even wiggle the end of the tail to confuse predators. She’s slowly coming out of the posture in the pic, but I wanted to share it with you guys anyway since it’s a neat one.

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They’ve grown so much! The female is finally noticeably larger than the male and they’ve both developed their individual colors, with the male being a darker olive brown and the female being a paler, sandier brown. (Their faces actually look quite different too!)

I didn’t take any pics of the Rosy eating this time around because I get worried about disturbing her too much with the first meal (the Rubbers were both on their third pinky by the time I took these shots), but if you want to check out pics of her eating you can go here! If you like reading about these guys, you can see some baby pics here and here too.

How do you feel about snakes? Do these pictures freak you out? I hope not – these boas are incredibly gentle, amazing creatures, and they play such an important role in the ecosystem that humans would be in a bad way without them! :)

Thanks for reading!

Vintage Nature Illustration Wednesday – Gems

Reinhard Anton Brauns (1903)

Reinhard Anton Brauns (1903)

Call for Submissions: Backyard Plants to Save the Planet

Hello friends and fellow bloggers!

We’re hosting the May edition of Berry Go Round here and we want your articles. What better time to talk about important backyard plants than first thing this spring? We realize that calling it “Backyard Plants to Save the Planet” might be a lofty title, but the plain truth is that backyard gardeners have an incredible amount of power in the race to support failing populations of native birds, insects, and more. We can also support ourselves and reduce our dependence on the industrial food system by growing some of our own food, even if it’s just a little!

We want to focus on plants and projects that are accessible to the average gardener. The more we know, the more we can do!

Get creative and send us up to 3 of your articles (start writing!) on the following topics by posting a link in the comments section or tweeting it to us @RoamngNaturalst. Deadline is April 30th!

1. Plants that support reptiles/amphibians in your backyard.
2. Plants that support mammals in your backyard.
3. Plants that support native birds in your backyard.
4. Plants that support beneficial insects and especially pollinators in your backyard.
5. Plants you can eat that will contribute to reducing dependence on food system.
6. Plants that support the soil in your backyard.
7. Plants that support water conservation and purifying in your backyard.

Your article will be linked in the final post, published towards the end of May, and will be available for lots of new readers to see. We hope you’ll join us!