The Nature of Things | WYPR

The Nature of Things

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One of the most popular questions I overhear at Irvine’s comes from every age group. Our Nature Preschoolers ask it. High school-aged visitors on field trips ask it. Moms and dads coming in to hike the trails ask it. And then right on their heels, seniors from our area garden clubs ask it too.

What’s the difference between frogs and toads?

This episode aired in May 2016.

 

Butterflies

Jun 11, 2017

Butterflies of all kinds can be found flitting across our listening area’s woods, fields, yards and gardens. In fact, Maryland has more than 150 species of these winged wonders. Brooks wits down with Laura Soder, Irvine’s coordinator of its native Butterfly House, to chat about butterflies.

This episode originally aired in June 2016. 

The Nutria

Jun 6, 2017

 

With the exception of my kids after those messy, artificially flavored orange popsicles, there’s only one animal I can think of that has orange teeth. While some people might be turned off by this critter’s hairless, rat-like tail, it’s actually the teeth that stick with me.

The hooked, stubby, Tang-colored fangs protrude forward prominently. They are long, sharp and perfect for eating marsh plants.

And they belong to an animal called the nutria.

This segment aired July 2016. 

Box Turtles

May 30, 2017
Michael Mulqueen/Flickr

Driving on a quiet back road this Sunday, I rounded a slight curve and hit the brakes. In the middle of the road was a ball-cap-sized animal stranded near the double yellow line. I knew immediately it was a turtle in need.

This segment originally aired in June 2017.

Glenn Fleishman/flickr

 

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.

This segment originally aired in August 2016. 

Ticks

May 17, 2017
Ted and Jen/flickr

 

There may be no bug creepier than a tick.

These sesame-seed-sized parasites crawl slowly and silently up our bodies, surround their mouth-parts in our skin, and then casually slurp their fill of our blood until their bodies expand like tiny water balloons.

So as you carefully pluck a tick from your skin, you may undoubtedly wonder: what purpose could they possibly serve? What good are ticks, exactly?

This episode originally aired on May 3, 2016.

Chesapeake Conservancy

I don’t watch a lot of TV. But I do watch a lot of animal webcams. And one of my favorites is the Chesapeake Conservancy’s osprey cam, which has had a lot of activity lately.

Mitchell Orr/Unsplash

 

On weekends, I love to play with my three, big Labrador retrievers. Homer, Fletcher and Violet are great dogs, and they live for the days when we’re all outside together. They get really excited when I hide a spoonful of peanut butter in our neighboring field. All three dogs sprint to see who can track it first. Other times, I’ll play “red rover” of sorts with signal sounds. And on hot summer days, I’ll offer them big ice blocks with frozen meat inside to encourage them to use their instincts to solve an icy puzzle. I call these games, “enrichment activities,” after the kinds of work I see Irvine’s animal care staff doing every day.

Enrichment activities improve the lives of animals in captivity. It’s a way for animal caretakers to encourage and stimulate natural behaviors in captive animals through sight, smell, taste, touch and interaction.

Zachary Bedrosian/Unsplash

With its intimidating yellow-eyed stare and deep hooting voice, the great horned owl is the quintessential owl of storybooks. In fact, one of my daughter’s favorite picture books was Jane Yolan’s timeless story Owl Moon, featuring a great horned owl with cat-like eyes and tall, earlike tufts.  

Bird Nesting

Apr 18, 2017
slgckgc/flickr

Spring is officially here, and I’m starting to notice the days feeling longer. For me, the increased daylight is a signal that it’s time to break out the camping gear. I feel ready to hit the trail with each uptick in sunshine hours. Birds, too, are noticing the difference.

Throughout the year, most birds use day length to tell what season it is. When daylight extends, the change triggers physiological transformations. It’s how they know it’s time to breed and nest.

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