Farewell to Merlin

merlin in flight

FEBRUARY 5, 2022: Our merlin is back. She’s been appearing every so often for a couple months now, her muscular, falcon physique silhouetted dark against the blue skies. Over the last five winters she’s marked the seasons, here by late autumn from somewhere in the Canadian latitudes, gone by the early months of spring. It’s…

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My Octopus Teacher

Craig Foster swimming with and the octopus

  AGES AGO, I visited the invertebrate house of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. to meet Hercules. Hercules was the zoo’s resident giant octopus, whose first impression I would later record as “a fleshy confusion of serpentine limbs and baggy head, a tentacled wreckage with a disturbingly human eye peeking out from within.” There…

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Touched by a Shark

Jim Abernethy and Emma the tiger shark

For a couple years as a kid I lived on the island of Key West, a bohemian U.S. outlier ninety miles north of Cuba. Key West by that time had become a sportfishing mecca, and come five o’clock a boy with time and no money could entertain himself by walking the docks as the charter…

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Mason’s Blue Owl

watercolor by Mason Ellsworth

Twelve years ago, not long after our move to West Virginia, Kathy and I spent a special evening hanging with our new friends, Brian and Sylvia Ellsworth. That night we met their teenaged son, Mason, an angelic, baby-faced, happy-go-lucky musician who politely schooled us rock-and-roll dinosaurs on the current music scene, and led songs around the campfire after dinner. Two days later, Mason suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident.

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When Big City Meets Big Kitty

It’s been a few weeks now since our weary COVID gaze was momentarily enlivened by the sighting of a cat. For two days in mid-June we tuned in as a wild mountain lion walked the streets of San Francisco. We followed him by way of citizen smartphones and security cameras, popping up in the city…

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Owl Time

screech owl perched on nest cavity

There’s a predator lurking, just around the corner of the house. The cardinal bird says so, his excited chipping as clear a warning as a finger tapping on my shoulder. Toward all the fussing I follow, tiptoeing barefoot through the grass. And there, just a few feet away from the sentinel cardinal, is the subject…

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Earth Optimism Summit 2020

Cool to be part of the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism Summit 2020, which wraps up today. Feel free to drop in on my session, where I talk about–what else?–predators! That is, predators and their  ecological role in the web of life. And why in these scary times of the coronavirus pandemic, showing more respect and admiration…

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Lions in Our Midst

Last month a wild mountain lion, while out on his nightly rounds, helped himself into the Los Angeles Zoo after hours and famously dismembered one of its residents. The prey was a 14-year-old koala named Killarney, and her suspected predator was none other than Los Angeles’ most popular mountain lion, a seven-year old tom named…

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