Smartphones and fearless animals

We had a lovely cool day this week, and the wind was making a sea-rushing in the pines. So I took the baby and my iPod and sat on the porch to enjoy it.

As I sat there, idly scrolling through blogs, I noticed a couple of sparrows hopping around in the flowerbed. There’s a spot where I put down birdseed for them, and they were checking it out. They kept an eye on me.


As long as I was looking at my iPod, they came within three feet of me. But as soon as they noticed me watching them over the top of it, they flew off.

My mom recently had cataract surgery. She talks about how the birds got so used to her not being able to see them, they’re not afraid of her now that she can see.

Everywhere people walk around with heads down, staring at their smartphones, oblivious to nature. The birds have gotten so used to it, they are fearless as long as someone has one!

One day we’ll look up and wild animals will be eating people who were texting and never noticed. :-p

Conversely, it’s like carrying around a bird watching blind!

Life finds a way

I’m constantly baffled by animal conservationists. They scream about an animal dying out, but when that species adapts and changes, they scream about that, too.

Take the polar bear grizzly hybrids. They know very well that polar bears descended from grizzly bears in the first place–I believe they traced the genetic line to a female bear in Northern Ireland, but don’t quote me.

So some ice is melting and some grizzlies and polar bears have interbred. And the conservationists are wailing that this color won’t be around anymore. In the same breath, they scream about new diseases getting into the Arctic and how hybrids can’t adapt to the environment of the parent species.

In the same article, they say this:

Two days later, the scientists saw another grizzly bear 15 miles offshore on sea ice in Viscount Melville Sound, closer to 74 degrees North. This bear was so fat and healthy that it was almost certainly hunting seals, something that grizzlies on the mainland don’t normally do

So the bears are changing their behavior, too, hybrids or not.

Another fun one is coywolves–a cross between coyotes and wolves. Seems that as people killed off gray wolves, the smaller coyotes took up the slack in the ecosystem. Then the two species interbred, creating a bigger, nastier coyote with the strength to bring down deer. And apparently they’re all over the place.


And oh, are the conservationists screaming. The pretty gray wolves are evolving into skinny coywolves!

The bad is that while coyote populations have been expanding, wolf populations have become endangered. Hybridization with coyotes is now a major threat to the recovery of wolves.

Wait, doesn’t a successful hybrid mean that the type of animal is making a dramatic comeback?

I swear, it all comes down to people being mad that animals don’t come in the colors they like.

It’s the same type of animals–ursids and canids. They’re still doing what they’re supposed to do out there in the wild. And they’re adapting to a changing environment, the way they’re supposed to. It’s not like dying species like the river dolphin, which couldn’t hybridize and is officially extinct.

Do we want our designer color animals, or would we rather see them extinct? Sometimes I wonder.

Weird critters in Arizona

So I’ve been researching Arizona for a story I’d like to write. And there are some WEIRD critters out here!

Ever seen a Gray Fox?

Gray Fox by James Marvin Phelps, via Wikimedia Commons
Gray Fox by James Marvin Phelps, via Wikimedia Commons

Or a Ringtail Cat?

Ringtail Cat by Pixelfugue, via Wikimedia Commons
Ringtail Cat by Pixelfugue, via Wikimedia Commons

Or a Jaguarundi?

Jaguarundi by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, via Wikimedia Commons
Jaguarundi by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, via Wikimedia Commons

Or a white-nosed Coati?

White Nosed Coati by  Benjamin Keen, via Wikimedia Commons
White Nosed Coati by Benjamin Keen, via Wikimedia Commons

Or that we even have jaguars??

Jaguar by US Fish and Wildlife Service, via Wikimedia Commons
Jaguar by US Fish and Wildlife Service, via Wikimedia Commons

Not to mention the deer, pronghorns, kangaroo rats, wolves, ferrets, bighorn sheep, and even some introduced bison somewhere!

I was prowling around the mountainy areas around Flagstaff in Google Maps, and I can definitely see all those critters living up there. Some dense coniferous forest up there. There’s even some deciduous here and there, where the rivers cut through and there’s actually some water. It’s refreshing to look at cottonwoods and things. I’d love to drive up there just to look at trees. Down here in the Phoenix valley, it’s all cactus and mesquite and things.

All in the name of research!

I have yet to spot a pyrrhuloxia, though.

Pyrrhuloxia by  Snowmanradio, via Wikimedai Commons
Pyrrhuloxia by Snowmanradio, via Wikimedai Commons

Animal group names

I was lying in bed last night, pondering what a group of velociraptors might be called. Then I started trying to remember group names of other animals. Thank goodness for the internet! I found a big old list of them.

Some that amused me unduly:

A shrewdness of apes
A battery of barracudas
An obstinacy of buffalo
A destruction of feral cats
A coalition of cheetahs
A quiver of cobras
A gulp of cormorants
A cast of falcons
A flamboyance of flamingos
A skulk of foxes
An implausibility of gnus
A glint of goldfish
A kettle of hawks in flight
A bloat of hippopotami
A charm of hummingbirds
A richness of martens
A scourge of mosquitoes
A rhumba of rattlesnakes
A dazzle of zebras

A lot of these terms describe people’s opinions of these animals, or the animals’ behavior. Apes sit around and look shrewd. Foxes skulk around. Do rattlesnakes do the rhumba with their tails? Do cobras quiver?

People like martens if a bunch of them is a richness, whereas mosquitoes are a scourge.

So what about extinct animals like dinosaurs? We don’t know about their behavior or what we’d think of them. Would duckbills nesting together be a shout? Or a mess? Or a hive?

Would a bunch of velociraptors be a cunning? A preen? A strut? A pride?

What about sauropods, the long-necks? A hydra? A pod? A surge? A thunder?

What about tyrannosaurs?

What about a bunch of megamouth sharks? Or sabertoothed tigers, or mammoths, or any of those other weird extinct mammals?


When in doubt, draw an iguana!

Now, if only I had studied humans the way I’ve studied reptiles, I might draw better humans. As it is, what am I the most comfortable drawing? Dragons, dinosaurs and reptiles. Let that be a lesson to you, everybody. Draw humans!