8 Positive and Negative Traits of Aries Men

Aries are more mysterious than any other zodiac signs. When it comes to Aries men, you may need a lot of patience and time to get to know their nature. Whether you are dating an Aries man, or you know someone of this zodiac sign, knowing these eight traits will help you understand him better.

1. They like freedom

Aries men do not like when someone interfere in their lives. They love full freedom in whatever they do. If someone tries to limit their freedom, Aries men get nervous and walk away. When in a relationship, an Aries man craves lots of alone time because of his introverted nature.

2. They have a terrible temper

Almost all Aries men have an unbearable temper, which is why it is really hard to deal with them at times. If someone behaves roughly with them, they will never forget it. Aries men also turn cold to women who are harsh to them.

3. Flattery is their thing

Praise an Aries man and you will see how he reacts. Aries men like flattery and they tend to do the same thing to women. They appreciate the beauty, and they want everybody to treat them in the same manner. If you have trouble giving compliments, it might be a reason you can’t build a happy relationship with an Aries man.

More: 8 Incredible Traits All Aries Women Have

4. They are highly emotional

Aries men are highly emotional by nature. They express their feelings in the most perfect manner. Due to it, Aries men are sentimental, romantic and passionate. Their emotionality does not let them build long-term relationships. Not every woman is wise and patient enough to understand an Aries man nature.

5. They love surprises

This is another positive trait of Aries men. They enjoy giving surprises for no reason. When in relationships, they like to surprise their women – be it breakfast in bed or a spontaneous romantic dinner after work. But Aries men love surprises too. Make sure you wow your Aries man every now and then.

6. They believe in commitment

Aries men look at love in its purest form. If they are interested in a woman, they will be loyal, loving, and caring. They are totally committed. However, they are very slow to commit. They have trust issues, and they will think thrice before asking a girl out on a date or marry her.

7. They are too ambitious

Aries men are too ambitious and hard working in life. They often take challenges and cope with any difficult situation in a positive way. They make excellent leaders. The problem is, they work too much, which is why most Aries men can’t find their love till their late 30s. It is not easy to be in a relationship with a man who thinks about job 24/7.

More: 7 Great Reasons to Marry a Complicated Man

8. They are moody and stubborn

Finally, Aries men are moody and stubborn. Oftentimes, they feel down for no reason. Fighting with an Aries man is pointless, because despite being a good listener, he keeps proving his point of view without admitting he is wrong. His stubbornness is one of the worst traits among the positive ones.

Aries men have many positive and negative traits, and only wise women are able to deal with them successfully. Are you dating an Aries man? What are your ways to cope with his negative traits? Share your secret tips with us, please.

MORE THAN TEN GREAT SOURCES FOR STORYLINES

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FAIRY TALES, FABLES, AND FOLKLORE ARE GOOD RESOURCES FOR STORIES.

Fairy tales are, of course, fanciful and imaginary stories about people, animals, things, or magical beings who have magical powers. They are always made up and are intended to amuse and entertain. They have satisfying themes, such as good triumphing over evil.

Fables are stories that have a point, a lesson, that’s supposed to help the reader live better, understand something about a specific culture, or comprehend the natural world. Fables are heavy-handed morality tales in which animals and humans are taught obvious little lessons.

Folk tales involve the traditional beliefs, practices, lessons, legends, and tales of a culture or a people passed down orally through stories. Folk tales have ways of explaining basic natural truths for each culture, such as where the world came from, why humans have power over animals, why animals act the way they do, why the seasons change, and so on.

FALL CROCUS IN THE GARDEN

Photo. Colchicum flowers.

It was tempting to use the title, “Naked Lady in the Garden”, to attract the attention of those who don’t ordinarily dwell much on fall flowers, but I thought perhaps it was a bit risque for a university arboretum story.  But it’s entirely true that fall crocus, meadow saffron, or naked lady, are common names for the beautiful flowers of Colchicum autumnale and other varieties of Colchicum.

Every spring, gardens around the world are pleasantly surprised by the arrival of early flowering crocus bulbs, but every fall, the Colchicum, or fall crocus, come out of nowhere when the garden is in decline.  The name fall crocus certainly applies to these delicate, slender, and beautiful flowers.

The bulb-like corms are easy to plant and are highly dependable.  The main problem is placing them some place in the garden so that they are not accidentally disturbed earlier in the year, allowing them typically to first grow their leaves and store energy so that they may surprise you later in fall with flowers after the leaves have withered away and you’ve long forgotten about them.

Just in case you don’t have any in your garden, here’s a few photos to help entice you to plant some of these beautiful flowers the next chance you get.

ARE WORMS NATURAL? THE GLOBAL WORMING DEBATE

Photo: Male American Robin (Turdus migratorius) eating an earthworm. Source: Wikipedia.

To be more specific, are earthworms natural?  For the chronically busy and distracted, the short answer to that question is – absolutely not!  Earthworms are not natural!  Not even a little bit!  At least they’re not natural if they’re non-native, introduced earthworms that are devouring the forest floor and radically changing the ecology of some hardwood forests in the northern United States.

Science Underfoot

Surely I must be kidding?  What could be more natural and beneficial than the common earthworm, slowly churning through our compost piles and garden soils, dutifully converting organic waste into productive elements of soil?  They’re everywhere.  You see them when you dig in the garden.  Many birds and other animals love to eat them. After heavy spring and summer rains, they cover our sidewalks and roads, and squish under the feet of the careless.

On the other hand, maybe this is just another Commie, liberal, university, leftist, socialist, hippie, environmentalist plot to alarm a gullible public and scare them into donating more money to “save the world.”  Unfortunately, the truth of the matter isn’t quite that simple.  Many introduced earthworms are not natural in their environmental effects and they are wreaking ecological havoc in some North American forests. Forget environmental opinion. Let’s talk science.  But first, a bit of history.

Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. Painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme. Source: Wikipedia.

Cleopatra – Worm Worshipper

Cleopatra VII was the last pharaoh of ancient Egypt, one of the most famous female rulers in history, and apparently was somewhat of a worm worshipper based upon reports that she considered earthworms to be sacred:

“Did you know the ancient Egyptians were the first to recognize the beneficial status of the earthworm? Cleopatra (69 – 30 B.C.) recognized the earthworm’s contribution to Egyptian agriculture and declared them to be sacred. Removal of earthworms from Egypt was punishable by death. Egyptian farmers were not allowed to even touch an earthworm for fear of offending the god of fertility. A 1949 study by the USDA confirmed that the great fertility of the soil in the Nile valley was due in large part to the work of earthworms.”  Source: Did You Know……. Earthworms

However, Cleopatra is hardly alone in lauding the importance of earthworms to humans and the world.  Aristotle called earthworms “the intestines of the soil” while Charles Darwin studied worms for 39 years and concluded that: “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as these lowly organised creatures.”

“It will be difficult to deny the probability that every particle of earth forming the bed from which . . . old pasture land springs has passed through the intestines of worms.”

No one knows for sure when non-native earthworms were introduced to North America, but for the sake of convenience, let’s blame the first pilgrims and colonists for starting the process of bringing in passenger and cargo ships containing rocks and soil for ballast. Introduced earthworms probably got their toehold on the continent when these materials were dumped ashore, and when plants with soil and other cargo accompanied passengers to North America.

Dang Pilgrims! There goes the neighborhood! And there goes some of Mother Nature’s magnificant hardwood forests as well.

It is just possible that John Rolfe was responsible for the worms—specifically the common night crawler and the red marsh worm, creatures that did not exist in the Americas before Columbus…

Most people know him today, if they know him at all, as the man who married Pocahontas. A few history buffs understand that Rolfe was one of the primary forces behind Jamestown’s eventual success. The worms hint at a third, still more important role: Rolfe inadvertently helped unleash a convulsive and permanent change in the American landscape….

As the colonists bitterly came to realize that Virginia had no gold and that the Indians weren’t going to selflessly provide them with all the food they needed, they began to mold the land to their needs. Unable to adapt to this foreign landscape, they transformed it into a place they could understand. In doing so, they unleashed what would become a multilevel ecological assault on North America. Their unlikely weapons in this initial phase of the campaign: tobacco, honeybees, and domestic animals.  National Geographic: America Lost and Found

There is little doubt that the earthworms that you find in your yard, garden, and crawling across sidewalks and streets after rains are all non-native, introduced earthworms.  In reality, they don’t belong here.

Our colleagues at the University of Idaho, Yaniria Sanchez-de Leon and Dr. Jodi Johnson-Maynard, have conducted one of the few detailed studies of earthworms in the Palouse region, and they found that three introduced species (Aporrectodea trapezoides, A. tuberculata, and Lumbricus terrestris – often called the common earthworm, or nightcrawler) dominated the earthworm community, whether samples were taken in planted grasslands in an agricultural setting or in native prairie remnants.

Earthworm Research at Washington State University

In an earlier study of earthworms, in 1999, WSU researchers Mary Fauci and Dr. David Bezdicek, of the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, sampled earthworms at 46 sites in mostly farm fields and some grasslands in Palouse Prairie, but all of the worms they found were of introduced species. The highest earthworm diversity (8 species of non-native earthworms) occurred right here on the campus of Washington State University in the agronomy teaching gardens, perhaps illustrating the potential to bring in non-native earthworms in cultivated gardens when using plant materials originating from different sources.

So where are all the native earthworms? And isn’t one worm as good or bad as another? First, we don’t have as many native worms as you might suspect.  And second, not all worms are created equal. While some introduced worms may have beneficial effects in the human-created habitats of compost piles, gardens, and agricultural systems, some of our native forest habitats evolved without any earthworms at all.

Distribution of continental ice sheets (white area) during the last Pleistocene glaciation. Source: Wikipedia.

The last Pleistocene glaciation ended some 12,000 years ago (see map). Any native earthworms were destroyed by the permanent ice cover and bordering permafrost, causing distributions to be pushed to the south.  It is easy to see from the map of continental ice sheets that the northeastern and north central United States were devoid of earthworms when the ice finally started melting and forests began their march northward following the retreating glaciers.

Forests in these regions have had thousands of years to evolve and develop communities of trees, shrubs, and understory plants all without any native earthworm community. And now the bad guys show up, and that would be us by the way, not the earthworms!

Worms As Ecological Engineers

Scientists have suspected for some time that introduced earthworms were having negative ecological impacts in these particular North American forests. As introduced earthworms invaded these forests, a series of largely negative ecological changes cascaded throughout the system, changing the structure, function, and even the overall appearance of the forest.

Not all worms are created equal because different species of worms occupy different habitats and eat different organic materials as food.  Some species of worms specialize by living in different layers or types of soil, or specialize in eating different foods such as animal manure vs. decaying logs, vs. leaf and organic matter on the soil surface.

A NATURAL EDUCATION AT WSU

I just witnessed a race to survive on campus – quite literally.  And the winner managed, but ever so barely, to survive.  That’s what I call reality – and it’s certainly not like the fake, highly contrived reality offered on television.  It makes me wonder how much natural education students miss by spending their days walking to and from classes, taking lecture notes, burying their heads in textbooks, staring at computer screens, and twittering away their time in social networking.

My afternoon work was interrupted for a short break to make a quick trip out to the WSU Arboretum & Wildlife Conservation Center to check on Fred/Fredricka, our young Columbia spotted frog, and also to look our other wildlife in the Endangered Species Lab.  Plus, the trees in the arboretum nursery needed a drink of water – yet another good excuse to get out of the office for a few minutes.

Of course, while I’m there anyway, who can resist taking a peak at our renovated pollinator gardens to see the thousands of bees in busy pollinating bliss while visiting our sunflowers, our beautiful blue borage (below), and other flowers in full fall bloom? Not me.  I’m always curious to watch the frenetic activity for a few minutes, and to see which species of bees and butterflies might show up in the gardens.

Blue borage flowers in the WSU Arboretum & Wildlife Conservation Center.

Honeybee visiting Starflower or Borage (Borago officinalis) in the Pollinator Gardens, WSU Arboretum & Wildlife Conservation Center.

I’m willing to bet that our young arboretum is already the largest single gathering spot for bees on the campus of Washington State University.  After all, we’ve got what it takes. Abundant nectar and pollen-producing flowers, and good clean water in several nearby small ponds.

Honeybees, in particular, visit water sources frequently, using it to cool the bee hive through evaporation and also to dilute the honey fed to their larvae.  We see as many honeybees visiting our small ponds to drink as we do visiting our flowers for nectar.  A bee hive might send out hundreds of workers, making dozens of daily trips each, just to collect enough water to cool and support a bee colony.

However, no sooner is the water started for our young quaking aspen trees in the arboretum nursery, when a tortoiseshell butterfly lands on an aspen leaf, only arm’s length in front of me.  But, of course, my camera is left behind.  When will I learn…?

Lacking a camera, I quickly try to memorize the wing pattern on what I know is called a Comma or Anglewing butterfly.  Which of several potential species it might be though, I don’t know.  It could be another Satyr Anglewing like the one I saw in the small arboretum woodland this summer.

But this individual is noticeably smaller and I wonder if that might be the case for those butterflies that emerge and fly during early fall just before the first major frosts arrive.  Or perhaps its a different species entirely.  A butterfly expert might know.

Ironically, just such a butterfly expert is sitting in a graduate student office just a few doors down from my campus office.  Tyler Hicks is a doctoral student from WSU Vancouver taking classes at WSU Pullman this fall.  His wife, a wildlife biologist, happens to be my graduate student and she is studying long-billed curlews – but that’s another story.  Back to butterflies.

Fender’s blue butterfly. Source: Wikipedia.

Tyler is working with Dr. Cheryl Schultz, WSU Vancouver, on an endangered subspecies of butterfly, the Fender’s blue butterfly, which is found only in the Williamette Valley of Oregon.  Despite my being trained as an avian ecologist, and now working on threatened and endangered mammals, and even amphibians as well, I also love to watch butterflies and am intrigued by the ecology of insects and other invertebrates – all of the small things that actually run the world behind the scenes and help make it so beautiful.

Tyler and I have had some great conversations about ecology and nature, but unfortunately, right now he doesn’t do me any good sitting back up on campus in front of his computer, working away diligently on his dissertation research, but in complete oblivion to my taxonomic confusion.

Just as I step forward to get a better look at this butterfly, it takes off.  I laugh at my continuing folly as an amateur butterfly biologist (and someone forgetful of bringing their camera to the WSU Arboretum & Wildlife Conservation Center), but console myself by walking over to take a look at the pollinator gardens.

Photo. Common starling (Sturnus Vulgaris). Source: Wikipedia.

The Chase

Only moments later, I hear a bird scream in distress and look up.  On a steep hillside overlooking the pollinator gardens, a small hawk pursues an even smaller bird downslope.  The small bird is a starling, desperately flying as fast as it can, trying to escape the hawk giving chase.

As both birds dive downwards from the hilltop toward the riparian area by the gardens, I’m instantly caught up in the chase and wonder if the starling will make a break for the cover of nearby conifers or willow trees in an attempt to evade the hawk.  But it doesn’t.  The starling again almost squeals, I suppose in fright or distress at the hawk trailing only about 10 feet behind.

Much to my surprise, the starling continues to fly in a straight getaway pattern, making no dodging or darting maneuvers to escape the hawk right behind it.  I stand there, fully expecting to witness the hawk grab the starling right in front of my eyes, but instead, after pursuing the starling for about 75 yards downslope, the hawk brakes off the pursuit and simply lets the starling fly away.

Cooper’s hawk (left) and Sharp-shinned hawk (right). Source: Wikipedia.

Wait a minute!  What did I just see?  One second it’s an unknown butterfly, and the very next, it’s an unknown hawk.  But at least as an avian ecologist, maybe I’ve got a shot at identifying the birds.

Well, the hawk was small, but I know it wasn’t a tiny kestrel, North America’s smallest falcon and a predator so small it often eats insects like grasshoppers.  So that probably means one of two things.  It’s either a Cooper’s hawk, or a Sharp-shinned hawk.

Already I’ve got it down to one of two species, but that’s as far as I can go.  Cooper’s hawks and Sharp-shinned hawks are somewhat difficult to tell apart at a quick glance for the average ornithologist and average bird watcher.  And when they’re flying by rapidly, chasing a bird, it certainly doesn’t make identification any easier!

To make matters worse, these hawks also overlap in size, and so I’ll just send you to our good friends and colleagues at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and hope that you can figure it out from the identification guides there if you happen to see a small hawk chasing birds at your bird feeder.

Yes, the term “bird feeder” certainly takes on quite a different kind of meaning when you have these hawks in your backyard.  I sometimes feel sorry for the mourning doves that seem especially susceptible to these fast predatory hawks that specialize on small birds.  As always, even the good intentions of humans to put up a bird feeder has consequences in the natural world.

Chokecherry shrubs bearing fruit in the WSU Arboretum & Wildlife Conservation Center.

Forests, Berries, and Birds

As soon as the chase scene is over, I realize exactly how it came about.  The last several weeks, students in my restoration ecology class and I have been walking around the arboretum landscape, talking about ecological design and restoration planning issues.

One day, as I took the class on a hike on the nature trail running through the arboretum woodland, I noticed a small pile of feathers on the path, which told me that a red-shafted flicker had been taken, probably by a small hawk, rather than an owl, because flickers are active during the day.  The feathers lay in graceful, silent testimony to the tooth and claw of survival in the wild.

Feathers of red-shafted flicker (Colaptes aeratus), a member of the woodpecker family, probably taken by a small hawk in the woodland of the WSU Arboretum & Wildlife Conservation Center.

Flickers are unusual woodpeckers in that they often feed on the ground.  I wonder if this particular bird might have been surprised by a hawk while searching through the leaves and duff on the forest floor for insects.  Fortunately, flickers are one of the many species of birds which will benefit from our plan to increase the size of the arboretum woodland and plant surrounding ponderosa pine savannas of mixed trees, grasses, and native shrubs.

Photo: Northern Flicker. Source: Wikipedia.

The large hilltop overlooking the arboretum nursery and pollinator gardens contains a historical planting of varieties of chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) and other shrubs, that are now essentially as tall as small trees.  On one of our hikes through the arboretum, we noticed an exceptionally heavy fruit set on the shrubs this fall and I was foolish enough to remind myself why the berries are called chokecherries, especially when their astringent, bitter taste hasn’t been mellowed by enough ripening.

In central and northern parts of North America, chokecherries once were the most important fruit in diets of Native Americans, and were used extensively in a variety of foods and medicinal treatments.  Today, most of us probably think of the tasty, but tart, chokecherry jams and jellies that can be made from ripe fruit.

Distant, telephoto view of flocks of starlings visiting chokecherries and other fruiting shrubs on a hilltop in the WSU Arboretum & Wildlife Conservation Center.

For the last few weeks, I’ve noticed large flocks of starlings, spiraling out of the sky and dropping down into the chokecherries in the arboretum.  At the time I just paused to watch for a minute, not at all surprised by these birds going after ripening fruit.  But it appears that I wasn’t the only one watching.

Given that our chokecherry and serviceberry shrubs are on the open summit of a large hilltop, there is no nearby cover for small birds when a hawk attacks.  Moreover, Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned hawks are experts at maneuvering through trees in pursuit of small birds.  Starlings are not as well adapted for rapid flight through trees and branches, and so now I wonder if the scene I witnessed wasn’t the best chance for the starling to escape.

Having been singled out of the flock by the pursuing hawk, the starling’s odds of survival must have dropped dramatically and perhaps the best or only option left was to fly downhill as fast as possible until the hawk hopefully decided the long distance chase wasn’t worth the effort.  While these small hawks are well known to eat starlings, this is the first such chase I’ve witnessed, but now I’m curious to see if hawks continue to hunt the birds feeding in the arboretum chokecherries.

Part of the defensive strategy of starlings is safety in numbers.  The starlings obviously fly to and from the chokecherry shrubs generally in large flocks, which makes it more difficult for a given individual to be singled out as prey.  And many eyes makes spotting predators easier.  For both the hawks and the starlings, the chase is a game of probability, chance, and individual decisions, but a game with real life or death consequences for each.  That’s Nature’s reality.

THROWING THE FROGS OUT WITH THE BATH WATER

Young Columbia spotted frog in the Endangered Species Lab, WSU Arboretum & Wildlife Conservation Center.

Say hello to our new Columbia spotted frog friend, Fred, or Fredricka, as the case may be.  We don’t know which it is yet, but we were quite surprised recently to discover this little frog sitting in our amphibian breeding pond at the Endangered Species Lab in the Wildlife Conservation Center at Washington State University.

We hadn’t expected to hear the pitter patter of little frog feet this year, because we had thought that our adult Columbia spotted frogs had failed to breed this spring.  Sometimes it’s really nice to be wrong!

Several days ago while checking on the amphibians in our breeding ponds, I noticed this little frog emerge from underneath the floating duckweed.  At first I doubted what I saw, thinking it must be a tree frog.  Adult tree frogs are about the same size as young spotted frogs.  But the coloring and patterning on its back, along with the distinctive facial pattern, told me it was a young Columbia spotted frog.

Top view of young Columbia spotted frog sitting in shallow water.

I quickly grabbed a net and captured the tiny frog for verification, but also to prevent it from being eaten by the much larger adults in the pond.  Many different frogs will eat almost any prey that fits into their mouths, so tiny young frogs that have recently changed from tadpoles to young adults sometimes are vulnerable to predation by other large adult frogs.

Fred or Fredricka, represents the first time that we’ve had Columbia spotted frogs breed in our outdoor ponds at the Endangered Species Lab.  While Columbia spotted frogs aren’t endangered, they are a species of some conservation concern and an important component of amphibian diversity in Palouse Prairie.

Normally, Columbia spotted frogs breed quite early in spring, so here in the heat of September, I’ve long ago dropped any expectation of seeing these frogs breed this year.  However, I have seen evidence of extremely tiny spotted frogs in the wild in early fall, so I’ve always suspected that there might be some late breeding in some years.

Columbia spotted frogs often are communal breeders, which means that males select calling sites in shallow water areas of wetlands in early spring, and attempt to attract females for mating.  However, where one spotted frog female lays an egg mass in shallow water, you’ll often find other females coming in and laying eggs nearby.

That’s another reason why I didn’t expect our Columbia spotted frogs to breed this year.  The few spotted frog adults we had this spring were placed in a relatively small, 8 x 8 foot, mesocosm – or small artificial wetland habitat that we have fenced to keep the frogs inside and secure from predators, such as birds, raccoons, or snakes.

We did not have a large artificial pond available to put the spotted frogs in this spring, so I didn’t really expect that they’d find our small holding pond suitable for breeding.  But the fact that they did surprise us and lay eggs and hatch tadpoles in this pond isn’t the whole story.

The Rest of the Story…

We check our amphibian ponds multiple times every day to make sure all is well in frog land, and that everyone is safe and healthy.  But in early spring, we noticed that a male tree frog had climbed into the Columbia spotted frog pond and set up a calling station.  And not surprisingly, we soon found three or four golf ball size egg masses that appeared to be from Pacific tree frogs.  We have had wild tree frogs climb in and lay egg masses in our ponds before.  So, there was no surprise there.

Adult Pacific tree frog. Photo source: Wikipedia.

The density of tree frog tadpoles was soon so high that it was obvious they would all starve, because our small holding pond doesn’t have the shallow water habitat and productivity for algae and other tadpole foods that a larger natural pond would have.  So we instituted a feeding program by adding “tadpole pellets.”

Yes, they make commercial food pellets for tadpoles, which look much like small goldfish food pellets.  And we also added algae in the form of large dried flakes of cultured algae, sold in pet stores as food for algae eating fish.

With the addition of these supplemental foods, the tree frog tadpoles grew quickly, but soon threatened to over run the small pond.  And we knew that they would be in danger of being eaten by the adult Columbia spotted frogs as soon as they started to emerge from the water as adults.

The solution was to trap the tadpoles and release them into an adjacent pond where they could finish undergoing metamorphosis (changing from a tadpole into a young frog) and leave to resume life in the wild in the surrounding natural habitats in the WSU Arboretum & Wildlife Conservation Cener. And there you have “the rest of the story.”

We now wonder whether it is possible that we “threw the frogs out with the bath water” – meaning, we wonder if it is possible that a few spotted frog tadpoles were in the mix of tree frog tadpoles that were allowed to emerge from the adjacent rearing pond and disperse into the wild.

We’ll never know, of course, but we don’t think so.  Columbia spotted frog tadpoles have a larger, more robust head than tree frog tadpoles, so we’re pretty sure that Fred or Fredricka is a result of a later breeding event in the pond, after all the tree frog tadpoles already were gone.  Perhaps Fred or Fredricka is the lone surviver of a late-season egg mass in the spotted frog pond.

We’ll never know for sure exactly what happened, but it’s always fun when Mother Nature throws you a few surprises.  And now you know….  the rest of the story!

Large adult Columbia spotted frog female floating in duckweed in a breeding pond at the Endangered Species Lab at the WSU Arboretum & Wildlife Conservation Center.

Oh, but one more thing.  When will we know whether our young frog is a Fred or a Fredricka?  It may take a while. Perhaps a year or more.  When young, the sexes look alike in Columbia spotted frogs.  But females soon begin to grow much larger than males, especially when they are healthy and fed well, as is our captive population.  If this little frog continues to eat well and grow rapidly, we might know its sex by next summer.  In nature, patience is a virtue.

[Note: All amphibians at the Endangered Species Lab are managed under appropriate state, federal, and university permits and regulations and our facilities and animals are regularly inspected and tended by WSU veterinarians.  The basic purpose of this project is to support the conservation and restoration of declining amphibian populations in the wild through collaborative projects with state and federal agencies.]

CAMAS FLOWERS IN THE WSU ARBORETUM

The native camas (Camassia quamash) flower is beginning to emerge in the Arboretum, although it is not yet blooming. However, the leaves from some surplus bulbs that we planted in a garden plot in the arboretum last fall are growing vigorously already and it might not be that long until we see the central flowering stem begin to emerge. I haven’t been able to see yet whether a small patch of a few hundred bulbs that students planted on the edge of a wet meadow in fall, 2009, have survived some construction and landscape contouring in the arboretum. But I think they might have missed the bulldozer’s blade and we will know within a few weeks.

The story of camas bulbs and their beautiful blue flowers that once covered vast wet meadows of Palouse Prairie like blue lakes is an interesting one. It’s a story that we will undoubtedly cover in depth here at Nature @ WSU. For now, however, I just want to show you some photos of the growth of camas in the WSU Arboretum as we welcome the signs of early spring. The photos above and below are from the flowering camas plants last year. They show what we might have to look forward to in the next few weeks of spring and early summer.

So let’s begin with a few photos showing you what the flowering camas looked like last spring after WSU students in our course in Restoration Ecology planted the bulbs the previous fall. I’ll then return here and update photos periodically so that you can track the progress of the flowering bulbs this year.

The small patch of blue camas looked beautiful last year and certainly gave me pause to imagine what an entire large wet meadow landscape would look like covered with these flowers. Stayed tuned for photo updates. We’re hoping, and thinking, that most of this flower patch made it through the construction of the Gathering Circle. If not, we’ll definitely replant some more bulbs this coming fall. We want to make sure that we have the native camas growing in the new WSU Arboretum & Wildlife Conservation Center at Washington State University.

HOW TO SAVE AN ENDANGERED SPECIES

I recently had an interesting dialogue with Brian Palmer, who writes for the Green Lantern series for Slate Magazine, an online publication of the The Slate Group, a Division of the Washington Post Company.  Brian contacted me to see how I would answer a question that a reader had posed to him, “Which endangered species should I save?”.

[Photo of Dhole, one of the most endangered mammals in the world.  Source: Wikipedia.]

The issue basically is, suppose someone wants to make a difference by making a relatively small donation to help save an endangered species?  How should they go about it?  How can they know their money is doing the most good possible to save an endangered species somewhere in the world?

The question is quite interesting, and one so obvious, that of course, I’d never really thought much about it even though my students and I run the Endangered Species Lab at Washington State University!  But after pondering the matter for a little while, I replied to Brian essentially saying something like the following:

While there are many good sources of information about endangered species on the internet, there really doesn’t seem to be any clearinghouse for individual endangered species conservation projects.  There are so many threatened and endangered species conservation projects around the world, that it would be difficult to know where a person’s money might be put to best use.

One such source of excellent information from a global perspective is that of the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) who publishes the Red List of threatened and endangered species worldwide.  Closer to home, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has an endangered species program, as does our Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  But even so, it can be difficult to know exactly what to do if you want to help.

Consequently, my advice was twofold.  First, if a donation were relatively small, then one might locate a reputable conservation organization that has a track record of sound conservation activities and make a donation to them, knowing that if enough people contribute even small amounts of money, that it will sum up to make a big difference.

I also suggested an approach that focused on endangered species projects within a local region so that people could make a difference close to where they live.  The tried and true motto “Think Globally.  Act locally.” is highly appropriate.  There are now so many threatened and endangered species that one does not have to look too far from wherever you may live to find a species whose future is in jeopardy.

Many endangered species projects carried out at the state or local level are minimally or poorly funded, if at all.  To find the threatened and endangered species in your area, generally look at your state natural resource or state wildlife agency, and see what kinds of projects are being conducted.  Generally, all states have an endangered species specialist, or perhaps a “non-game” specialist who can help you identify regional wildlife (or plant) conservation projects.

Universities are also good sources of information, although you may have to look through many web sites to locate faculty working on threatened and endangered species.  Relatively small contributions to university projects can make a big difference, and moreover, have the benefits of helping to train the next generation of conservation scientists.

Brian Palmer thought this kind of advice was interesting, because many of the international experts he contacted for opinions on how best to save endangered species talked about the necessity of a “triage” approach – we can’t possibly save every endangered species, so it is necessary to focus on some key species that we still have a chance to save.

When Brian came back to me again and asked for some additional explanation, I told  him that small donations are the equivalent of micro-lending for local conservation organizations and small university programs.  For example, a relatively small amount of money can have a disproportionately large impact when an organization is trying to care for and breed endangered species.

Conservation scientists essentially all agree that the best way to conserve the largest number of threatened and endangered species is to work on large-scale conservation of their habitats and ecosystems.  But even here, small donations can add up to significant differences and on-the-ground impacts when local conservation organizations are able to raise enough money to purchase or otherwise conserve or restore critical local and regional habitats.

In the end, we may lose the battle to save many individual endangered species.  The odds are overwhelmingly against us. But we will be better if in our hearts, we know we at least tried to make a difference.

There’s one thing I do know as an endangered species biologist.  If we give life just half a chance, it will fight to survive.  The first step in saving an endangered species is just to care, and then, to care enough to try and make a difference.  Certainly, always gather credible information and learn from experts whenever you can, but then follow your heart and your passion. You’ll feel better and the world will definitely be a better place for it.

To see the usual masterful job that Brian Palmer did in answering the reader’s question in the Green Lantern column on Slate Magazine, see: So Many Species, So Little Money – Which Endangered Species Should I Save?

THE FIRST FLUTTERBY (…BUTTERFLY) OF THE SEASON

I saw my first butterfly of the season today on April 9th.  It was orangish, medium size, maybe with some darker spots or patterns of some kind on the wing, moving fast – okay it’s already gone!  What was it?

How in the world can I figure out what species of butterfly that might have been with only that small bit of information?  It turns out that a sighting like this is common for many fast flying butterflies, but there actually is an abundance of information in that brief encounter that might help identify the butterfy.  Let’s see how we might determine what species of butterfly just fluttered by….

First a disclaimer.  The above photo is not the same butterfly I saw on April 9th.  You’ll notice in the above photo that the grass is mature and dry, indicating a mid to late summer photo taken in the WSU Arboretum, which it is.  But the photo gives you some idea of the general wing shape that fluttered by me, although that unknown butterfly was smaller, the orange coloring was more muted, and it did not have the conspicuous large spots as on the above butterfly, which I believe may be a Hydaspe Fritillary (Speyeria hydaspe).  However, I am certainly willing to be corrected by an expert!

How might we begin to identify a butterfly from such a fleeting glimpse?  There are many good online sources of information on butterflies and moths.  Let’s look at several of them and see if they can help us.

The web site, Butterflies and Moths of North America, might sound a bit imposing if you only want to identify a butterfly in your local area, but if you go to their regional checklist page, and sequentially insert the search terms “butterfly”, then “United States”, then “Washington”, then “Whitman County”, and then hit the Apply button, you are presented with a list of the confirmed sightings of butterfly species for Whitman County that have been submitted to this organization.

So already, you’ve narrowed the list of potential butterflies down considerably.  However, even here, there are about 90 listed butterfly species, which still might seem overwhelming. At this point, it’s helpful to book mark the page, but look at additional sources that might help you narrow your search down.

If you do a quick web search on Washington butterflies, you’ll see a page pop up in the list for Eastern Washington Butterflies. Scroll down through the photo samples of representative butterflies you see here, and you’ll probably notice that some of the more orange colored butterflies are tortoise shells, angle wings, fritillaries, checkerspots, and cresent butterflies.

Given the wing shape and coloring that zipped by me, I’m now suspicious of it being in the fritillaries.  If that ballpark guess about the right general group of butterflies is correct, then we’ve narrowed it down to about six species.  At that point, you can look at photographs for each of the six species and take your best shot at identification.

Another fun identification guide that also helps narrow down searches can be found at the Discover Life web site on their identification guide for butterflies.  At this site, we can select “orange” for the various distinctive colors of segments of the wing, as well as “Washington” for the region, and then hit the search button.

The result is a narrowed down list of 18 possible species, each with a link to a photo.  The fourth photo I look at seems like a possibility, so then I do some more searching for information on Pacific Fritillary (Boloria epithore) and remember I’ve got a butterfly field guide gathering dust on my office shelf.

[Photo: Western meadow fritillary (Boloria epithore).  Source: Wikipedia.]

I look up the picture for Boloria epithore, here called by the common name, Western Meadow Fritillary, and I immediately notice a few things about the description: “This is the smallest fritillary in the region and usually the first fritillary to fly in the spring.”  In addition, I notice that the larval food source is violets (Viola spp.), which is one of the early flowering plants in spring in Palouse Prairie.  The size, coloration, and behavioral description matches, and I may well have identified my mystery butterfly!

So am I confident I that identified my mystery butterfly?  Not really.  Another butterfly field guide that covers all the species in the Pacific Northwest, The Butterflies of Cascadia, by the expert Robert M. Pyle, has a picture of a northern crescent, another widespread, orange colored butterfly that can be found flying in April.  In looking at the photo, I decide that I can’t rule out that my mystery butterfly might not have been an early flying crescent.

[Northern crescent butterfly.  Source: Wikipedia.]

In the end, my various online and field guides helped me narrow down the possibilities, and though I didn’t reach a definitive conclusion about the identity of my first butterfly sighting of the season, I had fun for a few minutes trying to figure it out and learning more about the mysteries of life that occur daily all around us.  And it leads me to wonder how and where these species manage to survive on our now highly modified landscapes.

My mystery butterfly will remain a mystery.  But that’s alright.  It’s nice to have a few mysteries to investigate once and a while. And most of all, it was nice to see this tiny bit of energy and color fly by as an obvious sign that spring has arrived.

7 Ways to Use Vinegar for Natural Cleaning

Several years ago, I switched to using natural cleaning products. Since then, I have found a lot of great recipes, tricks and shortcuts that have not only taken the chemicals out of my daily life, but made our house cleaner, fresher, and faster to clean!

One of the products I use the most when cleaning and that you probably already have in the house is distilled white vinegar (It is also available organic). I know, I know, you don’t want your house to smell like pickles, but don’t worry, the smell fades when it dries and can be easily masked with a few drops of essential oil. Things I use vinegar for in my own natural cleaning:

Stains

With five kids, I have gotten a lot of practice with stains, especially on white clothes, which seem to attract stains like a magnet. The most effective treatment I have found so far is pouring undiluted vinegar onto the stain and washing as normal. This also works great for wine, tomato sauce, or other spills on carpet. Immediately pour vinegar on the area, wait a few minutes, and wipe up with a damp cloth.

Window cleaner

Vinegar is by far more effective than Windex or other window cleaners at cleaning windows and mirrors with a spot free shine. I mix 1 part vinegar to three parts water and add a few drops of my favorite essential oil (lemongrass) or a 1/2 tsp or so of my organic dishwashing liquid.

Mold Remover

One part borax mixed with four parts white vinegar in a spray bottle does wonders for mold. Just spray it on, wait about an hour, and wipe up. The mold wipes right off.

Hardwood Floors

Our last house was entirely hardwood floors, and this meant a lot of mopping for me. I found that 1/3 to 2/3 cup of white vinegar in a gallon of warm water cleans hardwoods very quickly and easily.

Toilet Cleaning

Pouring a few shakes of baking soda in a drain and then adding a cup or so of vinegar will create a bubbly reaction that, when scrubbed, leaves the toilet shining.

Cleaning Cabinets

If you have food spots, oil buildup or stains on your cabinets, mix 1 part vinegar with 3 parts water and scrub with a rag or sponge. The vinegar will cut any grease, leaving the cabinets clean and shiny.

All Purpose Cleaning

For everything else, I have two bottles of homemade spray cleaner in the kitchen and all bathrooms. One of these is 1 part white vinegar, 4 parts water, 10-20 drops of essential oil (optional), and 1 tsp of organic dish soap. This does wonders on counter tops, high chair trays, baseboards, walls, appliances, floors, and everywhere else things can be dumped, spilled or tracked.

More DIY Recipes:

Here are some of my other favorite DIY natural cleaning recipes:

Natural Stain Treatment Reference Sheet
Natural Homemade Laundry Detergent
Natural All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe
Natural Oven Cleaning
Natural Homemade Glass Cleaner Recipe
Easy Homemade Scouring Powder Recipe
Natural Cleaning and Organizing Checklist
Natural Bathroom Cleaning
Natural Kitchen Cleaning