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Faster Than a Speeding Bird? Nope. By Author Elaine A. Powers

photo of bird vermillion flycatcher

After watching a man stalk a hummingbird through the Tucson Botanical Gardens for an afternoon, I wrote a book about photographing a hummingbird. Around and around the man went. The bird appeared to be intentionally taunting him. The man’s tale is told in the humorous book I call How NOT to Photograph a Hummingbird.

I have also spent a fair share of time trying to photograph hummers, but recently I expanded my chasing activity to another species. This bird flitted around the stalls where I board my horse. His bright colors contrasted with the tan ground and gray bars of the stalls. I whipped out my cell phone to get the shot. He flew off to another stall. I pursued. He flew. From stall to stall we went. The bird streaked away. No photograph obtained.

I was delighted when the bird returned the next day. The pursuit continued. Stall to stall without success. I gave up and haltered my horse for a walk. When we reached the turnout pen, there he was – posing at the top of a tree. Perhaps he felt this perch gave me the better shot, and he allowed me to complete my quest.

The magnificent bird pictured above is a male Vermillion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus), perched on a mesquite tree.

What happens to the protagonist in my book who is in photographic pursuit of a hummingbird? Buy a copy and find out! Some birds are worth your time – just like a good book. How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird also includes a glossary of Sonoran Desert flora and fauna for educational purposes. Making science fun is why Lyric Power Publishing LLC exists.

Colorful book cover illustrated with Anna's Hummingbird in The Sonoran Desert
This colorful picture book for all ages teaches about the Sonoran Desert—with a sense of humor. It pits one bumbling human against the desert as he carelessly attempts to photograph an Anna’s Hummingbird. Enjoy the chase as the photographer is tripped up by a rock, stabbed by a Mesquite tree and rattled by a Western Diamondback. Then use the glossary to teach about the rich variety of life in the Sonoran Desert. Humor makes learning fun and easy!

 

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Turns Out I AM Allergic to Snow! By Elaine A. Powers, Author

photo of Desert Broom

I grew up in Central Illinois, in the hills of New Jersey and in the lake-effect snow region of Michigan. I am very familiar with snow . . . and moving snow out of the way . . . and being cold.

Consequently, I was delighted to be transferred to Tucson, AZ in the Southwest and nearly snow-free Sonoran Desert. Only once or twice a winter do snowflakes fall and then they disappear within a few hours. Even that is too much for me. There is something very wrong with snow on palm trees and cacti.

photo of Desert Broom plant

I have discovered that Tucson has another kind of snow – it’s called Tucson Snow. In the fall, the Desert Broom (Baccharis sarothroides) blooms. The female shrubs release massive amounts of fluffy white seeds in sufficient quantity to cover the ground with a layer of white. It looks like a layer of newly fallen water-based snow. The seeds germinate in disturbed areas. The male shrubs have small flowers that look nice and don’t disperse.

I, along with many others, start sneezing and wheezing when the Tucson snows begin. Even animals start sneezing and coughing. The eventual relief only comes when the seeds finally blow away.

But, as I suspected, I am truly allergic to snow!

Book Note: Curious about the Sonoran Desert and its creatures? Need to do a book report? Please see my books in The Don’t Series. They are full of scientific information but are different from typical Life Sciences books: they are written in fun rhymes, which has proved to be a real aid to learning and memory. Take a look today—they are colorful, fun and full of scientific facts.

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The Love of Rainwater: Not All Water is the Same by Author Elaine A. Powers

photo of bright green leaves

Image Courtesy of Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

This summer, the monsoons in the Tucson area failed to develop. In order to save our plants, we’ve been watering a lot. Despite the water, several of my trees have died. Watering by hose just isn’t the same as rain.  Rain has many benefits that artificial watering can’t replicate. I noticed that, after the single rainstorm we had this monsoon season, the plants responded spectacularly even though it was only a few tenths of an inch of rain. I can give them a gallon of water and not get such an enthusiastic response.

What is it about rain that plants crave?

It’s what rainwater contains that isn’t found in tap water. Rainwater has more oxygen, which is carried down into the soil. More importantly, rainwater carries down carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is needed to produce the carbohydrates to fuel plant growth.  Also, carbon dioxide makes the rainwater acidic. This reactive water helps release micronutrients (zinc, manganese, copper and iron) in the soil that plants need. Unfortunately, in some places, pollutants in the air make the rainwater too acidic, which damages plants.

Have you noticed how fresh and clean plants look after a rain? Another important purpose of rain is to wash the dirt off the leaves. Plants photosynthesize much more efficiently when sunshine isn’t filtered by a layer of dirt.

Hopefully, our watering will help the plants hang on long enough until the rain once again falls from the sky.

The monsoon rains also play a part in the blooming of the Night-blooming Cereus every year. These amazing Sonoran Desert cactus plants all bloom together on one night every summer. You can read about them in my book, Queen of the Night, The Night-blooming Cereus.

a light brown book cover with green lettering: Queen of the Night: Night Blooming Cereus, with illustration of a white flower
A favorite and best-seller about the Night-blooming cereus plants, which bloom all together one night per year
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New YouTube Video Starring Curtis Curly-tail and Roadrunner!

screenshot from a YouTube video about roadrunners, with Curtis Curly-tail lizard

Lyric Power Publishing LLC invites Curtis Curly-tail Lizard to
announce his new YouTube video at Curtis Curly-tail Speaks!

photo of curly-tail lizard on the beach
Not only is THIS a Curly-tail lizard–it’s Curtis! He’s the little guy who started Elaine on her second career as a children’s science book writer.

 

“Hello, everyone! I’m Curtis Curly-tail and I am here at Lyric Power Publishing to announce my latest video! But first, let me tell you how much I love roadrunner birds. Did you know when they leave tracks behind, you can’t tell what direction they came from or where they went? I wish I could do that! And roadrunners are really, really fast. That makes me a little frightened of them, too, because they do love their lizard snacks. We lizards are pretty fast, ourselves. So far, so good.

I hope you’ll come on over to my YouTube channel, Curtis Curly-tail Speaks, and watch my latest video about the Southwest’s iconic bird: the Roadrunner. I give lots of interesting facts about this cool bird.”

A copper colored book cover featuring an illustration of a Roadrunner bird
“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 is dead.” Want to know how to swallow a horned lizard? Keep reading!” AZ Daily Star

 

And then, check out Elaine A. Powers book called Don’t Make Me Fly! The book tells all about this bird sacred to Native American peoples because of its courage and speed. It is written in fun rhymes and vividly illustrated. Don’t Make Me Fly! is available at Amazon.com.

A colorful illustration of a pair of roadrunners in a Southwestern Desert
An illustration by Nicholas Thorpe from Don’t Make Me Fly!
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They’re Back! (My Bat Friends, That Is) By Elaine A. Powers, Author

photo of great horned owl, courtesy of wikipedia

Great Horned Owl image courtesy of Wikipedia

In a previous blog on elaineapowers.com, I complained about the lack of bats during my evening swims. I hypothesized that the bats were afraid of the Great Horned Owls nesting in my yard.  (Owls are natural predators of bats.)

A hypothesis is a proposed explanation based on limited information, a starting point for further investigation. My hypothesis, therefore, was that the lack of bats in my yard was the direct result of predatory behavior of Great Horned Owls.

image of a fruit bat hanging upsidedown
I was happy to see the bats return

The owls finished their nesting season, successfully fledging their owlets.  With the departure of their young, the pair of owls left my yard. A few nights later, I realized that the bats had returned to my home. I took this as a positive datum that my hypothesis was correct. Of course, this is only one data point, but I feel it is somewhat conclusive.

I will be curious to see, should the owls return, if the bats leave again. I do have excellent owl habitat, along with bat habitat.
The fascinating world of science is always all around us, even in our own backyards.

To learn more about bats and have some fun while you’re at it, please see the comprehensive 47-page workbook My Book About Bats and Rats at our workbooks page.

 

drawing of bats and rats
Bat vs. Rat!
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You Know It’s Hot Out There When . . . You Get Rushed By a Tortoise! by Elaine A. Powers

photo of a tortoise native to Sonoran Desert

You might not think tortoises are very smart, but I have one who proved she is. I have a young native tortoise as a foster. Her name is Flipper. Last summer she was big enough to roam outside and it was relatively cool for Tucson. When it came time for her to brumate as winter approached, she was not making good den choices. (She thought a bucket on its side would be sufficient protection from the winter cold.) I brought her inside until spring. Several weeks ago, once the nighttime temperatures came up, I put Flipper back out into the yard.

It has not been cool this year. May 6th it was 105 degrees. (It was 111 at my house today.) Though I love hot weather, in the early afternoon, even I thought it was a bit much.

I supplement the tortoises’ grazing with the vegetables and fruits I feed the indoor tortoises. Flipper would come over every now and then but seemed to be doing well outside.  Recently, as I put out the plate of greens, Flipper came running over. She must be really hungry! Nope, she ran right over the plate, up to the door sill, and tried to climb inside. It was too high for her short legs, so I helped her up and over. I soaked her in the bathtub in case she had been dehydrated in the hot, dry weather (nine percent humidity).

After her bath, I gave her a plate of greens, which she “wolfed” down. Apparently, she needs to work on her transition to wild tortoise a bit more. I planned to have her go back outside when it cooled down to the mid-90s, but she beat me to it. A few days later, she somehow knew the temps were back in the 90s, and she rushed out the door.

To learn more about tortoises, take a look at Don’t Call Me Turtle! and the Tortoise workbooks/activity sheets here at Lyric Power Publishing LLC.

A children's book cover, green with a tortoise standing, coming out of a circle, finger pointed, saying Don't Call Me Turtle
Voted 5-Stars by the Preschool Crowd, Who Now Know the Differences Between Turtles and Tortoises. Colorfully Illustrated by Nicholas Thorpe.  Written in Rhyme. 20 Pages.  There are many differences between tortoises and turtles, and the wise tortoise who narrates this book tells us about ten of those differences–in rhyme. She also says, “Don’t Call Me Turtle!” (Even if my name should be Myrtle.)
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Can You Hear Me Now? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

Great Horned Owls on cell tower

As we humans expand our footprint into the natural environment, the wildlife often suffer—but some do adjust. Usually, the presence of people and their structures, poisons, etc., is detrimental to the populations of owls. But in my neighborhood, one species has found a way to co-exist: the Great Horned Owl. Being generalists (having many food prey), Great Horned Owls can live in a variety of habitats, including urban areas.

The owls pictured here live on top of a cellular telephone tower. They have a nest on it where they have raised several broods of young. During the rest of the year, they use it a convenient observation post. The owls don’t seem to mind the activities of the humans below. Maybe we are their entertainment, and they’re enjoying watching us as much as we enjoy watching them.

It’s wonderful to share our lives with local wildlife.

To see Lyric Power Publishing’s books about birds, go to Our Books. You’ll see such fun, science-based books like this one:

A copper colored book cover featuring an illustration of a Roadrunner bird
“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 is dead.” Want to know how to swallow a horned lizard? Keep reading!” AZ Daily Star
Vivid, colorful illustration of a Greater Roadrunner along with rhyming text
Don’t Make Me Fly by Elaine A. Powers is written in rhyme.
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A Desert Star is Born, on My You Tube Channel! By Curtis Curly-tail Lizard

My sidekick, Elaine A. Powers, introduced me to Zoe, a Sonoran Desert tortoise, who lives with Elaine. Zoe is a female who knows her territory and stands her ground. You can see her here, chasing Duke out of her yard!

Small tortoise chases large tortoise away
Zoe chases the interloper, Duke!

Stop on over today at my You Tube channel and check Zoe out!

And, if you’re looking for some fun activities for the kids and the kids-at-heart, check out our workbooks.

image of six workbooks
Fun, educational and relaxing!

 

 

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May I Have Some Privacy Please? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

roadrunner in sonoran desert wings spread

GREATER ROADRUNNER

I’m always trying to get an interesting view of the animals and plants I write about in my books and blog post. Roadrunners move very quickly, so I was having trouble getting a good photo. Then I came across this roadie at the Sabino Canyon Visitors Center near Tucson, Az. The roadie was hurrying along the sidewalk when I joined the bird.  Roadie tucked behind some rocks and an agave cactus, but I was still in sight.

Finally, the roadie decided it was safe behind a grouping of boulders and a large prickly pear cactus. Conveniently, the cactus left a window where I could observe the roadie as it spread its wings to expose its dark back to bask in the sun. I was honored by this opportunity to observe and share the bird’s behavior. I think the roadie got nice and warm.

You can read about this behavior and many others in the rhyming book I wrote, Don’t Make Me Fly!

A copper colored book cover featuring an illustration of a Roadrunner bird
“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 is dead.” Want to know how to swallow a horned lizard? Keep reading!” AZ Daily Star
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January 21 is Squirrel Appreciation Day by Elaine A. Powers, Author

a gray and brown squireel sitting on a tree branch
An Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis in Corkscrew Swamp

I think squirrels are often maligned unjustly. People spend a lot of time and money trying to thwart them, but have you ever stopped to consider their ingenuity at overcoming the obstacles we put in their way? After all, they are just doing what they need to do to survive.

Squirrels are small to medium-sized rodents. They are native to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa. They live in almost every habitat, from tropical rain forests to semiarid deserts. They are predominantly herbivores, eating seeds and nuts, but many will eat insects and even small vertebrates, as well.

Many of us interact with local tree squirrels, trying to prevent them from getting into our bird feeders. It’s amazing how much effort we put into attempting to out think these rodents—and then failing. The industry producing supposedly squirrel-proof bird feeders in quite sizable.

Here in the Sonoran Desert, I enjoy my ground squirrels, as well as tree squirrels. I think of their extensive digging as aerating my soil. I often head into my yard when I take breaks from writing. The little ones sitting up on their hind legs to greet me always makes me smile. I don’t discourage them from sharing in the feeders’ contents. I simply add a bit more for them.

I’ve written books about turtles and fish and tortoises and lizards and snakes and birds and plants—and even a fairy!—but not any mammals. No, wait! There is a mammal, a hutia, in Curtis Curly-tail Hears a Hutia, but I can’t think of any others. (A hutia is an endangered rodent native to the Bahamas that has endangered the local ecosystem. Readers of this Curtis-tale tag along on his adventure and then must decide how to solve this conundrum.)

Tomorrow, please join me in appreciating squirrels, those adorable, ingenious rodents. And consider picking up a copy of Curtis Curly-tail Hears a Hutia for the budding scientist in your family.

A book cover with a Curly-tail lizard riding on the back of a Hutia, a rodent
Curtis Curly-tail and Horace Hutia become friends after declining hutia are brought to Warderick Wells. But when the hutia damage the cay’s ecosystem, what will the scientists do? You, the reader, help them decide.