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Friday, April 29, 2016

California Towhee Guarding a Chick

The California towhee (Melozone crissalis) may not be a colorful bird, but it's full of personality. 

A large member of the sparrow family, CA towhees are found throughout western California, a small area of Oregon, and down into Baja Mexico. They are truly residents of the California floristic zone. 

A pair of CA towhees lives in our yard and raises their chicks here every year. This monogamous species doesn't waste a lot of energy on fancy feathering. Their relationship is based on displayful dancing and successful co-parenting.

The CA towhee's call sounds like the piercing "beep" of a smoke-detector alarm when it needs a battery replaced. The towhee uses that call to keep in contact with a distant mate or, in this case, to communicate to a chick: "Stay hidden!" The closer I got to the chick, the closer together the alarm calls.

CA towhees nest in chaparral and they urge their chicks out of the nest as soon as possible. Frequently, chicks are just barely feathered. The youngster will stay hidden or sit motionless on a small branch until a parent comes to feed it or move it. A fledgling bird may not have fallen out of a nest, its parent may have moved it out for its own safety. A nest can attract predators. 

This chick was so well hidden we didn't see it, but the action of the parents told us it was there. Take a moment to watch the birds around you. If you pay attention their behavior may surprise you. They are intelligent creatures with purposeful actions.

More Earth Minutes with birds:

Ruffled Feathers - What's That Bird
Bewick's Wrens Build a Nest 
LA River through Atwater
Walk the Beach at Malibu, CA
Birding Descanso Gardens
Bird on a Frozen Big Bear Lake 
Birds and Marine Mammals of CA Channel Islands 
Mamukala Wetland, Kakadu National Park Northern Australia
Sulphur-crested Cockatoos on the Defense 

Earth Minutes with Birds and other Wildlife 

Visit Each Week for a New Earth Minute 

Friday, April 22, 2016

An Ice-Aged Earth Day

On this Earth Day - Go Outside! 

See the planet of today and time-travel into its past. The La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles spotlight our scientific present and humble us with a view into the past of 40,000 years ago.


The Pleistocene Garden is green with plants eaten by camels and horses once native to California and the Columbian mammoths that lived here for thousands of years. Can you imagine these large creatures grazing on the open hillsides of the Las Virgenes Open Space?

The Tar Pits still ooze and bubble. They still take captives, while slowly revealing their treasured information from a long-ago past. Saber-toothed cats and packs of dire wolves once claimed territory along the Los Angeles River

Take a minute to make your own outdoor discovery 
Then contemplate the future you'd like to live in.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Experience Mamukala Wetland at Dusk - Kakadu, Australia

A healthy wetland teams with life. Australia's Northern Territory is the home of Kakadu National Park and Mamukala Wetland.


As twilight falls, thousands of birds flock into the wetland for the night.  Life surrounds you in every direction.

Magpie geese are an iconic species of Australia's northern monsoonal wetlands.  Their black and white plumage is hard to miss, but on this day they were all smeared reddish-brown from feeding in the mud. 

An ancient species they diverged from the evolutionary branch containing all other modern water fowl in the late Cretaceous. They have a prehistoric look and as the only existing member of their primitive family, they are a living fossil. At the water's edge two pied herons hunt for small invertebrates and fish.

At the edges of the wetland wallabies forage. The droppings from thousands of birds nourish a rich green tapestry of plant life.

Kakadu is a treasure of wildlife diversity and human spirituality. 

and discover 

Visit TheEarthMinute weekly for an minute outside. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

See a Surprised Salamander! Black-bellied Slender Salamander

Starting our Second Year of
we had a surprise guest in our backyard!

A Black-bellied Slender Salamander -
Batrachoseps nigriventris
Coming out after the rains..  tiny but determined.. 
 She's a beauty! 
 For more California wildlife - subscribe to and visit

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Day in the Badlands - Badlands National Monument, South Dakota

The sun creeps across the high plains, modeling the weathered volcanic ash deposits of Badlands National Monument, South Dakota.
  HD   Music and Photos by Michael Lawshe
Watch the shadows - and the wildlife!
Prairie dogs!
The term badlands may have arisen because it was a "Bad Land" to travel - especially in a wagon.

 For more USA travel see

Dawn on the Tallgrass Prairie - Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron Illinois 

Storm Brewing over Grand Tetons National Park, WY