Why don’t the feet of a duck (seagull, goose, or other winter bird) freeze when they spend the night apparently sleeping on ice in sub-zero temperatures? Also, do you know if they stand on one foot and then the other going back and forth as a strategy to help with this?
Submitted by: Ken L., Milwaukee, WI
|The Question: “Are snakes useful to humans? And what role do they play in nature?
Submitted by: John L., Texas (John found three beautiful rat snakes when he lifted a tarp on some stored wood. When he posted his photos on FaceBook with enthusiasm, he was shocked that so many people responded by saying, “Kill them!!” Thanks to John for the picture printed below.)
I was very much affected by these photos in the latest issue of Audubon Magazine: http://www.audubonmagazine.org/onepicture/onepicture1003.html. For some reason, they reproduced it in a small, low-res format. To see a better version, go to this pdf and go to page 21 of this presentation: http://faculty.philau.edu/AshleyJ/Philly_U_MD_Bamford.pdf (if you want to get really depressed, read the whole presentation.)
If you’ve ever wondered whether a little trash makes any difference, this picture gives a moving answer. The bottle caps, cigarette lighters, and hundreds of other pieces of trash that killed this albatross may have come from half way around the world. Albatross will scoop up just about anything they see on the surface of the ocean because in pre-plastic days, virtually anything floating on the ocean was food. Also, apparently, flying fish lay their eggs in long strings attached to floating objects, and albatross feed on them by scooping up whatever they see floating. Then they go back and regurgitate to their chicks. Unfortunately, all the plastic junk the parents have ingested ends up in the chicks. In this case, it was enough to kill the chick.
These photos are a tragic demonstration of the interconnectedness of our environment. Every bottle cap or plastic bag we throw away on the sidewalk can end up washing into a storm grate, into a river, out into the ocean, and eventually into the gut of an albatross chick.
Every summer I see teeny tiny red bugs crawling around, usually on something like concrete. What are those?
Submitted by: Rick P., Queens, NY
I’m excited to be creating this new website/blog to answer questions about nature. Despite a lifetime of learning about nature and asking questions, and a graduate degree in Biology, I would never claim to know more than a tiny fraction of the answers. But I love to think about and research why and what and how questions about plants and animals. I know how to track down the scientists who work on the questions, and I love the challenge of making their answers understandable to non-scientists.
For me, the most fun will be when you ask a question, and in the process of discovering the answer, we’ll also discover that there is another question, and that leads to another question …
Click here to send an email with your question. I’ll respond to you as quickly as possible.
Tom Pelletier, Naturalist