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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

In Hot Water - Yellowstone Basin - Visiting Yellowstone National Park

Look and listen to the hot water coming up through the geothermal vents in Yellowstone National Park.


Yellowstone is constantly changing and singing different songs. 
Take a minute to warm up with some hot water from underground.

Old Faithful Geyser
 See more of Yellowstone at

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Meet a Channel Island Fox

The endangered Channel Island fox (Urocyon littoralis) is only found on six of California's Channel Islands and no where else in the world. To survive on islands with limited resources, the island fox is an opportunistic omnivore–he eats a wide variety of insects, small animals, and native fruit.

Watch this San Clemente Island fox (Urocyon littoralis clementae) hunting for beetles and beetle larva.


Recent research on island fox diet reveals differences in primary foods between the six subspecies of island fox (more on island fox diet). Each island habitat offers different food resources and the various island fox subspecies have adapted to survive on what their island home has to offer. All island foxes, however, rely on insects.

Their keen sense of smell and hearing helps them locate even the tiniest prey, while their small teeth function like precision tweezers to pick up grubs and beetles.

Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park

See where island foxes live on Santa Cruz Island and San Nicolas Island. Find out more about Channel Island foxes and conservation efforts at

More Earth Minute animal close-ups
Visit The Earth Minute each week to discover other wild places and wildlife.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Take a Wildlife Cruise on the Yellow Water, Kakadu, Australia

There are few places in the world with the primal feel of Kakadu. Take a cruise along the Yellow Water at sunset; Discover the birds and crocodiles that call it home.

forest kingfisher (Todiramphus macleayil)

Kakadu National Park in Australia's Northern Territory is an area of humid forest and extensive wetlands. It is a sacred place to the Aboriginal people and a World Heritage Site.

Here thousands of birds shelter in the wetlands and forest, while saltwater crocodiles lounge along the river banks and fiercely protect territory.

female saltwater crocodile
In a two-hour cruise with an Aboriginal guide, we saw thirty-five species of birds, including: five species of heron/egrets and three species of kingfishers.

little kingfisher

 The little kingfisher (Ceyx pusillus) is the smallest kingfisher in the world. This tiny hunter is only the size of a hummingbird, yet it plunges down into the water to grab minnows with the same skill as its larger relatives.

Kakadu is a special wild place, one not to be missed. We planned our whole visit there using their amazing website

More Earth Minutes with Australian birds:
Seabirds on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

More Earth Minutes in Australia

Experience a New Earth Minute each Week

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Meet the Dugong

Share a minute with a rare marine mammal, the dugong (Dugong dugon).


Most Americans are familiar with the endangered Caribbean manatee (Trichechus manatus), a slow moving herbivorous mammal that swims in shallow warm waters from Florida and the Caribbean to coastal South America. The dugong is related to the manatee, but it lives in the Pacific Ocean from Micronesia and the Philippines to Taiwan, South East Asia, and Indonesia to northern Australia and the Pacific islands. Unfortunately, only the Australian population is monitored and there is concern that this gentle plant-eater may be disappearing across much of its territory.

Watch the dugong swimming and you will note that it has a fluked tail like a dolphin, rather than a spoon-shaped manatee tail. The dugong swims faster than the manatee and is known to travel further when migrating. 

However, because it lives across a wider area, little is known about wild dugongs except that they eat sea grass. They are important creatures in their marine ecosystem because their grazing encourages the growth of sea grass higher in nutrients. In captivity, dugongs are picky eaters, refusing more nutrient-rich greens and preferring romaine lettuce. 

Unfortunately, romaine is low in nutrients. It takes a crew of people to keep the dugongs healthy. They refill special feeding trays all day long that hold the lettuce upright underwater like sea grass. 

Like their closest land-relative, the elephant, dugongs can live to around age 70. They also do not reach sexual maturity until after 10 years old and mothers care for their offspring for several years, spacing calves three to seven years apart. They are very slow to reproduce. 

In 2014 there are only five dugongs in captivity in the world. The two pictured here are orphaned individuals that were unable to survive in the wild.  (more about Pig and Wuru at the Sydney Aquarium in Australia).

See more Australian wildlife:
Cape Tribulation, Queensland - Watch Green Tree Ants
See Natural Art on a Tropical Australian Beach (sand dabbler crabs)
Flying Foxes in Cairns, North Queensland, Australia
Sea Birds on Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia  
Spotting a Lace Monitor in the Wild
Australian Great Barrier Reef Swim
(parrot fish, zebra fish, giant clams, coral)

Swim over to The Earth Minute each week for a new one-minute adventure.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Close-up with a Red Jumping Spider

Not all spiders are the same. Jumping spiders are compact athletes with short, strong legs. Rather than construct webs, they prowl around for their prey. This spider is more like a tiger. 

Get close-up with a red jumping spider (Phidippus formosus). See if you can count its eyes?


Nearly the size of a quarter, this is California's largest jumping spider. More information on this amazing spider at

See more wildlife close-ups, including California's Valley carpenter bees and gray bird grasshopper, and green tree ants in Australia's rainforest.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Discover Mountain Wildflowers in Wyoming

In this montane meadow at Togwotee Pass in Wyoming, discover wildflowers and the meadow thistle (Cirsium scaroiosum).


While some people collect photos of architecture or kittens, I love thistles. Native thistles in their natural environment. 

meadow thistle (Cirsium scaroiosum)
Unlike most thistles, the meadow thistle has a single thick stalk with numerous flowers close together encircling the crown. Fine hairs on the leaves reflect the sun making the plant appear to glow on the mountain slopes. 

I have a hunch these plants really dazzle in the ultraviolet part of the light spectrum, creating a beacon to attract native bees and insects. The meadow thistle lives at high elevation and must attract its pollinators during a short alpine summer. 

creamy buckwheat (Eriogonium umbellatum var. subalpinum)

Togwotee Pass is adjacent to Tetons National Park and Yellowstone National Park. (watch bison in Yellowstone)

For more about Rocky Mountain flora visit

Visit for a new 
1-minute adventure each week

Thursday, November 6, 2014

California Misses the Rain -Take an Autumn Walk in New York's Central Park

In Southern California we are in the middle of a record drought.

This October we visited New York City's iconic
Central Park and took a walk on a wet and beautiful fall day.

Join us on our rainy day stroll through the park! 


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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Watching a Snowy Egret

If you just watch an animal for a minute, you can understand so much more about it. Watch this snowy egret (Egretta thula) feeding in shallow water and you will understand why it has long legs, a long beak, and yellow feet.

The snowy egret is a common bird along California waterways. It is frequently mistaken for a great egret, a larger white wading bird with a yellow beak and black feet. The snowy egret's feet are its calling card–black legs with bright yellow feet.

Watch the video and you will understand why its yellow feet are an important adaptation.


This snowy egret was easily observed at Malibu Legacy Park. See  more about Malibu Legacy Park one of Los Angeles' Hidden Gardens.

See more Earth Minute wildlife videos

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Voices of a River - Lamoille Creek, Nevada

River water flows across rocks and through narrow turns,
speaking to all who will listen.

Take a minute to hear Lamoille Creek's voice
sing from different throats along it's course.

Lamoille Creek is one of the largest 
in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada.

From Elko, Nevada follow State Route 227 to
Lamoille Canyon.

The stream flowed through a wonderful campground at Thomas CanyonAnd further up Lamoille Canyon beaver had created habitat for wildlife

Hear other location specific audio.

Visit each week to see and hear a new

Thursday, October 16, 2014

See the "Island of the Blue Dolphins" - San Nicolas Island, CA

San Nicolas Island, CA
The story of the "Lone Woman" of San Nicolas Island formed the inspiration for Scott O'Dell's classic coming-of-age novel Island of the Blue Dolphins

Take a minute to explore this unique wild habitat 61 miles from the California mainland. Imagine surviving here, by yourself, for 18 years.


San Nicolas Island is a wild windswept slice of sandstone. California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) and harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) lounge on its beaches. Delicate native plants, like sand verbena (Abronia ssp.) thrive by staying low and out of the wind. The endemic San Nicolas Island fox (Urocyon littoralis dickeyi) scratches out a living on dune insects and San Nicolas Island deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus exterus). Current status of San Nicolas Island fox.

San Nicolas Island fox pup

sandstone carved by the sea into unusual shapes
The island is not open to the public because it is a U.S. Navy installation. As Education Director for Friends of the Island Fox, I had the opportunity to visit this most remote of California's Channel Islands. It is a place of unique natural splendor.

Compare San Nicolas to Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park.

Visit each week to experience a new 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Visit Pierce College Botanical Garden - Hidden Gardens L.A. #3

The S. Mark Taper Foundation, Life Science Botanic Garden on the campus of Pierce College in Woodland Hills is a gem of a Hidden Garden. Tucked between classroom buildings, it demonstrates how native plants and creative people can transform a barren lawn into habitat even in the middle of a college campus.


red mountain sage
I remember taking a class in the computer science building bordering, what was then, a large grassy area with a few trees. Now the two acres of land seem twice the size as planted landscaping and trees break-up the views. Anna's hummingbirds dive and swoop over bright blooms of red mountain sage (Salvia darcyi) and red-eared sliders lounge on water lilies. 

The Pierce College Botanical Garden is a showcase of plants from climates like our own that have hot dry summers and cool, typically wetter, winters. It is a wonderful place to see the beauty of California native plants and how important they are to wildlife. And, like any quality botanical garden, plant species are identified with signage so you can search out species for your own garden. 

This garden in a living laboratory and classroom. Students wander in and out observing the dragonflies for a moment before continuing on to class. Some stop to talk in quiet alcoves or study on the numerous benches. 

An extra attraction is the "Evolution Walk." The main walkway through the garden, the "Evolution Walk" measures out time from the Cambrian to the present. Each six inches represents a million years. Have a hard time remembering what plants and animals lived when? Here is a visual representation with the imprint of animal and plant life in the walkway for the period in which it lived. I love this walkway.

Definitely a Hidden Garden worth seeking out.

bog sage
 Look For:
  • Native California and Channel Island plants, as well as additional drought tolerant species from other Mediterranean Climate Zones
  • Water features: a pond and sculpture with bog plants
  • Variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, dragonflies and butterflies (Including California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi); Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna), western scrub-jay (Aphelocoma californica), introduced red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans), western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis), multicolored darner (Aeshna multicolor), white checkered-skipper (Pyrgus albescens) and monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).
  • "Evolution Walk" with fossil and other life form traces imprinted into the walkway for each time period

Special Opportunities: It surprised me, but I spotted California quail (Callipepla californica) in the garden. The pond and native plants create an island of abundant life despite the human activity. This is a place of discovery right off the Metro Orange Line, an opportunity for anyone to experience wildness in the San Fernando Valley.

The Specifics:

  • Open - Daily, 8 AM to Sunset; Free to the public
  • Parking - Ample, but there is a fee weekdays: $3 for all day from the self-pay dispensers or $2 with a visitor pass obtained at the Sheriff's office on campus. Parking is Free on weekends or holidays. The Metro Orange Line runs just north of the campus. The Winnetka stop will put you closest to the Botanical Garden. 
  • Restrooms - Adjacent in the public campus buildings
  • Kid Friendly - This is a wonderful outdoor classroom space. Visitors should keep in mind, however, that during the week classes are taking place in the surrounding buildings.
  • Accessibility - The main pathway is wheelchair friendly, however some unpaved areas may be a challenge to navigate.
  • Dogs - Dogs are not welcome on campus
  • Restrictions - Parking can be limited when semesters begin, especially in the morning. Ongoing construction can make it appear that entrance to the garden is fenced off. It is not. You can reach the garden by following the signs.

For More Information:
Visiting the Garden webpage

Visit us every week to watch more at:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Australia Great Barrier Reef Swim

Swimming over the Great Barrier Reef!
 22 nautical miles from Cairns, Queensland,
is Michaelmas Cay.
 North Queensland, Australia.

Yes, we were each wearing a "stinger suit" to protect us from jellyfish as we went snorkeling over the reef.

We used  and   
Seastar Cruises, and they were so great and knowledgeable!  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

See Natural Art on a Tropical Australian Beach

Who is making art on this remote beach at Cape Tribulation?

These dots of sand are reminiscent of Aboriginal dot art, but these artists are crustaceans.

Sand dabbler crabs (Dotilla sp) feed by filtering microscopic organic matter out of the sand. As they feed they roll a scoop of sand into a ball and deposit it outside of their hole.

The arrangement of sand balls, wet and dry, near and far, creates an image that is unique and plastic. What you see, depends on your point of view.

Visit each week to see a new The Earth Minute.

See the monitor lizard just beyond this beach.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Watching Lizards in Southern California

Two species of lizards inhabit our yard. Take a minute to watch them reveal how different they are from each other.


The western fence lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis) are diurnal (active during the day), numerous, and prey on a variety of small insects–including flies and ants. They are highly visual–sitting in prominent locations watching for food or competition and creating visual displays in response to territorial challenges and mate attraction. Males do push-ups to show-off blue-colored chests and extend a flap of skin under the throat called a dewlap. (Watch the subordinate male in the video.) We typically have several batches of youngsters each year.

The southern alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) is more secretive, solitary, and predatory. Notice its short legs, elongated body and long tail. It travels through foliage using a serpentine movement. This lizard will prey on the juvenile fence lizards, as well as snails, slugs, and larger insects. The alligator lizard locates prey and mates using its slightly forked tongue and following scent and pheromone trails. On warm summer nights, they are still out hunting the sleeping juvenile fence lizards.

Take a minute to watch for the wildlife in your backyard and you might discover it's a world of predator and prey.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Busy Beavers in Nevada?

 An unexpected jackpot can be found in the
desert of Nevada...

In Lamoille Canyon in the mountains outside of Elko...
 the temperature drops 20 degrees as you climb
into the mountains.

Someone's been busy changing the landscape.


A beaver dam across the stream -

- can flood a canyon floor and make a beautiful
break from the desert!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Yellowstone Bison Jam

Yellowstone National Park is ever-changing.

Every time we visit, the landscape, trees, geothermal sites and the wildlife have undergone dramatic transitions.

This year we were caught in several "Bison Jams" as the traffic through the park came to a complete stop to allow the real inhabitants of the land to take back the streets.


Our 6 month old puppy, Bodie got to witness the huge bison as they crossed within a few feet of us!
Don't Bark, Bodie!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

An Earth Minute of Orchids

Orchids have long been treasured by humans for their exotic beauty. These ancient flowers date back to the Age of Dinosaurs and are found on all continents except Antarctica. With over 35,000 species, California is even home to several species, including stream orchids (Epipactis gigantia).

Take an Earth Minute to be amazed by their diversity.


Several of these orchids are in our garden, including the closing cymbidium orchid. 

She is a hardy queen that needs little maintenance to produce several stalks of treasure each year. Michael’s grandfather hand bred this plant over forty years ago and she is still going strong.

The displayed orchids were photographed at the annual Southern California Spring Garden Show at South Coast Plaza in April.

Check out this week's