An uptick in butterflies

The butterfly was not a butterfly but two fallen leaves.

I had been seeing butterflies a lot lately, and so I thought this was yet another encounter.

Recently my local Cooperative Extension made an announcement on Facebook that there was an uptick in the insects’ numbers in the Las Vegas area. Now I wish I had read it.

I wondered if it had something to do with climate change, although the Extension had an optimistic tone in sharing the news. Continue reading “An uptick in butterflies”

My story is online at Entropy magazine

My creative nonfiction story The Size of Hummingbirds was posted yesterday at Entropy magazine.

There was an American robin on a bough above us guarding its nest. I had pointed it out to Rob, as well as the male grackle that had been looming higher in the tree for several days, as if setting its sights on raiding the nest.

The story is included in Entropy’s ongoing series The Birds, which features fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and essays.


The ducks had trust in the two little girls who were approaching.

Actually, the ducks were Canadian geese. Elegant creatures that added class to the playground.

One girl’s name was Brooklyn, and her mother assured her the geese would not attack.

Brooklyn’s younger sister threw grass at them, offering it as food.

The other day on National Geographic’s safariLIVE!, they showed rare footage of a baby elephant charging at the nature guides’ jeep and then retreating. Charging and retreating. Never coming closer than within 2-3 feet, its ears flopping as its mother loomed in the background.

The guides and cameraman held fast, laughing at the fledgling’s repeated bluffs.

Birds, eggs & other journal notes

Mourning Doves:
  • Their brains register the task of parenting
  • Together they build a sloppy nest
  • The eggs are laid — typically two
  • After the eggs hatch, the father and mother alike feed their nestlings with milk
  • They eventually offer plant seeds from their beaks (mourning doves eat mostly seeds)
  • The hatchlings grow strong and go on to sing more distinctively than most other birds
  • Their calls evoke a few simple woodwind notes
  • Ancient woodwinds were used to mimic animal calls
  • The Northern Paiute word for wind instrument is te-mo’-yaga-ke-no
  • Rock doves, like drunks, walk precariously close to moving car tires
  • Great-tailed grackles — house guests behaving badly
  • A Northern mockingbird — inexhaustible in his spry April song
  • Darwin acquired various types of pigeons, breeding them to help him build evidence for his theory of natural selection, which he would present in On the Origin of Species
  • He became uncharacteristically smitten with his pigeons, science writer Courtney Humphries stated in her book Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan … and the World

2 great-tailed grackles

Illustration by Laszlo Layton.

Lately I’ve become quite the nature aficionado, specifically regarding the flora & fauna in my community. The other day I spotted 2 great-tailed grackles trading courtship calls from polar opposite ends of a Washoe pine. I thought it quite amusing since these are raucous birds with shrill cries, obscenely long beaks for their body size & all-around abrupt behavior. Yet here was this would-be couple acting like reticent teenagers at a high school prom, having eyes for each other from across the gym floor, wondering if they’d be able to share a dance before the final song.

Three thoughts

1) Vegas Pampas Elegy —
A stalk of pampas grass in proud bloom
dislodged and strewn on the lawn by the gazebo
like a cocktail toothpick the hue of cigarette smoke —
cast by a wind that blew through town
like a drunken tourist who later lays down
done with and alone

2) Web —
Web woven so magnanimously —
just like the work of bees or ants
Meticulous & time-consuming
and it turns out to be
this intricate miracle
that some might think
is a mere tangle of string

3) How the Nose Knows —
If you could still smell something
but not in a literal sense
do you say you can smell it
in your noses’s eye
(like in your mind’s eye)?
Or is the nose not equipped
with such faculties?
Because in my mind
we are talking about
the same mental facet
in either case, it seems to me
Or maybe it’s nasal memory?