We’re familiar with these facts:
- Brown Pelicans are saltwater birds, sticking to the coasts.
- It’s only the male bird that sings.
- Birds that migrate fly north in the spring and south in the fall.
- Great Blue Herons eat aquatic insects, crustaceans, amphibians (such as frogs) and fish.
- Males have the ornate feathers, while females tend to be drab and camouflaged.
We think we know. We think we understand. We’ve observed, conducted studies, collected facts. We think we have it right. And then Mother Nature confounds us.
For the past few weeks, my blue car has been yellow. Drifts of fine mustard-yellow dust cover our patio, our deck, and the floors indoors. I dust, and dust, and dust again; each time the rag comes up yellow. What is this dull yellow layer that covers everything? It’s pollen. More specifically, Ponderosa Pine pollen.
For those of us who live with pine trees, the pollen season is a yearly event as predictable as the throngs of Miller Moths currently beating themselves to death against our windows, and happening at the same time of year. Because we had a lot of rain at the end of last summer, 2014 is particularly pollen-y. All those trees, once dying from thirst, have a new lease on life, and they’re taking full advantage.
Continue reading “Pollen Season”
Girl eggplants? Boy eggplants? Does one taste better than the other? And what does all this have to do with plant sex?
In researching my recent post on eggplant, I discovered a bunch of discussion about “male” vs. “female” eggplants. We’re talking about the fruit—the eggplants that we eat—not the individual plants on which the eggplants grew.
From a botanical point of view, this whole debate is nonsense. Let me explain:
Continue reading “Eggplant Sex”
Male ducks don’t look anything like female ducks, at least during the breeding season. And you can easily tell the boy Black-headed Grosbeaks (right) from the girls (below)… in fact, they don’t look like they even belong to the same species! But with lots of birds, from Steller’s Jays to Canada Geese, it seems that only they know who is who.
I’ve often wondered just how they do that. What is it that tells male Red-tailed Hawks who the ladies are? How do California Gulls avoid courting a gull of the same sex? Well, I just read some fascinating articles that solved this mystery, at least when it comes to Black-capped Chickadees.
Continue reading “Telling the Boys from the Girls”