The Nature of Things | WYPR

The Nature of Things

Tuesday at 4:44 pm

The Nature of Things is a weekly broadcast about our area’s native flora and fauna, hosted by Irvine Nature Center’s Executive Director Brooks Paternotte.  At the start of each week, The Nature of Things offers an eco-friendly perspective on everything from our changing seasons to the sounds of our migrating birds to the plants invading our yards, fields and forests.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 4:44 pm. as Brooks inspires us all to explore, respect and protect nature.

John Flannery

Everyone knows the monarch butterfly. But do you know the tiger swallowtail? 

It is one of our listening area’s more easily recognizable butterflies due to its large size, bright yellow color and black tiger stripes. Swallowtails can be found all over the Baltimore area, especially near water, but also in meadows, gardens, parks and roadsides.

With a wingspan of as much as 4 and a half inches, tiger swallowtails are big and beautiful with additional blues and sometimes tiny dots of orange. But there is much more to this butterfly than meets the eye.


Sep 1, 2015
Wayne Thume

Sitting outside on my patio this weekend, my attempts at reading the Sunday paper were thwarted by an unmistakable, buzzsaw-like song.

I could hear, but not see, the culprit. With my kids at my heels, I ascended a nearby pine tree to pinpoint the noise and locate its source. Just a few limbs up, my son found a stout, one-inch long, black-and-green insect loudly calling out. My daughter knew it instantly. It was a cicada.

Barred Owl

Aug 25, 2015
Ralph Daily

The rich baritone hooting of my favorite owl species is a characteristic sound in our listening area, where breeding pairs often call back and forth to one another.

Bird enthusiasts quickly learn this easy-to-recognize rhythm with the mnemonic “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” It is, all bird watchers will tell you, the sound of the magnificent barred owl.


Aug 19, 2015
Tracey Barnes, Smithsonian's National Zoo

My family and I recently headed to Deep Creek Lake for some largemouth bass fishing. And although we caught and released some sizable fish, the highlight of our vacation was seeing a North American porcupine eating bark from a sugar maple along the side of Interstate 68.

The presence of porcupines in Maryland came as a surprise to me and my wife, but we have since learned that our state’s western counties have a regular population of these nocturnal rodents.

Debbie Ballentine

Pollination is something that’s happening in the natural world 24 hours a day. Its ordinariness might be why we forget how vital it is to our everyday lives.

The transfer of pollen from the male part to the female part of a flowering plant is essential to life on earth, for without pollination we would not have enough food. Over 90 percent of all known flowering plants, and almost all fruits, vegetables and grains, require pollination to produce crops. And since one out of every three bites of food we eat each day requires pollination to make it to our plate, we are indebted to the creatures that perform this critical service.


Aug 7, 2015
David Heise

Flying insects are usually annoying. Mosquitoes can bite, leaving itchy red welts. Bees and wasps can sting. Flies are quick to invade your meal at a picnic. But there’s something really magical about dragonflies.

Shark Myths

Jul 28, 2015
Elias Levy/Flickr

  Sharks have a bad rap.  Especially lately as Sharknado 3 airs on cable, Jaws celebrates its 40th anniversary and a rash of shark attacks cropped up along the East Coast. Thanks to sensationalized stories and stereotyping, sharks have become feared rather than revered.

Painted Ladies

Jul 22, 2015
Bill Gracey/Flickr

The aptly named painted lady butterfly wears brush strokes and splatters of color on her wings. The top sides of her wings are oriole colors: orange with black blotches and white spots. Underneath, her wing color is a beautiful combination of pink, brown, olive, black and white.

House Sparrows

Jul 14, 2015
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

You can find house sparrows in most places there are homes or other buildings. Along with the European starling and the rock pigeon, also introduced species, house sparrows are some of our listening area's most common birds.

Save The Bees

Jul 7, 2015
Bob Peterson/Flickr

The media has recently stepped up coverage of a serious problem facing not only North America, but also anywhere bees are used for crop pollination.  Bee colonies around the world have been failing at an increasingly alarming rate over the last several years.

Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission

What do purple loosestrife flowers, large fuzzy nutria, emerald ash beetles, chestnut tree blight and the nefarious snakehead fish have in common? They are all non-native, invasive species in our listening area. Invasive species can cause damage that far outweighs their numbers.

Luna Moths

Jun 23, 2015

Moths are often regarded as country-mouse cousins of butterflies. Moths are night-flying pests that tangle in our hair and eat holes in our clothing. Their relatives, the butterflies, steal all the glory, flitting through flowery fields and delicately sipping nectar from colorful flowers.

Garden Pests

Jun 16, 2015

In my home garden, now’s the time of the season when there's some really amazing growth. But it seems like I find a different garden pest to combat each week.  Slugs, rabbits, tomato hornworms, corn earworm. What's a gardener to do?

Cornell Lab of Ornithology,

Right now, it’s breeding season for our local red-tails. And this time period initiates a spectacular sequence of aerial acrobatics. Learn more about what to expect to see in the skies.

Leave No Trace,

With so many of us headed into the Great Outdoors, now is also a great time to brush up on the seven important principles of "Leave No Trace."

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

  Because sapsuckers are one of the few animals capable of maintaining a flow of sap from trees, they make very desirable neighbors for a host of other animals.  Bats, squirrels, porcupines and many types of birds will eat sap made available by the sapsuckers.

Irvine Nature Center

Nature-based preschools are re-focusing the lens on early childhood education. Join us for the fourth annual conference to address the unique benefits and challenges of nature-based curriculum in early childhood programs.


  A snapping turtle's prehistoric appearance makes it an easy local species to identify.  It's an impressive reptile with a large head and a strong, hooked beak that makes it resemble a toothless yet ferocious old man.

The glittering tones I noted as the a nearby bird turned sped past me were a dead giveaway. It was one of the season’s first ruby throated hummingbirds. They are little jewel-toned birds that are major players in the pollination cycle.

Pet Turtles

Apr 29, 2015

  Red-eared sliders are semi-aquatic turtles that get their name from the small red dash by their ears. They are the most popular pet turtle in the U.S., and are also the most popular type of turtle rescue organizations receive calls about.


Apr 22, 2015
The Bay Journal

Fishing for American shad, the largest member of the herring family, off Deer Creek was a spring rite of passage for me as a boy. My grandfather and I would spend hours catching the thin, metallic fish with dark spots on its shoulder.


One of our listening area’s coolest native wildflowers comes with many names. Memory root. Brown dragon. Bog onion. Indian turnip. Pepper turnip. Cobra lily. American wake robin. Cuckoo pint.


Apr 8, 2015
Fairfax County Public Schools

Skunks are legendary for their powerful predator-deterrent – an oily, hard-to-remove, horrible-smelling spray.

  With the arrival of spring’s warmth, buds and blooms begin to develop. Beauty blankets the floor of the deciduous woodlands in our listening area. The native wildflowers that come first known as spring ephemerals.

Project Clean Stream is a wonderful opportunity to learn, pick up litter and help everyone better understand their connection to the Chesapeake. Every day, our decisions affect the health of the Bay and its watershed.


Mar 17, 2015
New Hampshire Wildlife

One of the more peculiar native animals in our listening area seems like it could have come from the inspired imagination of a Hollywood director.


Mar 11, 2015

The quintessential early bird, robins are North America’s largest thrushes. They are distinctive for their warm orange potbellies, long legs and fairly long tails. Does their presence finally mean that spring is in the air?

The value of the honey bee's pollination services is commonly measured in the billions of dollars. That's because the bees from each hive pollinate and collect roughly 60 pounds of pollen per year – that’s about the same weight as your average 7 year old.

The kestrel has a cool, 'hipster' vibe, with pairs of black vertical slashes on its pale face – referred to as a "mustache" and "sideburns."

  Knowing that I can make a difference through my food choice has led me to become a 'locavore.'  That is – I'm committed to eating meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, honey and other food products that are produced at farms in my local community.