Bug of the Week: Desert Hackberry Butterflies

On a recent hike, my son joked that we could identify one type of tree by recognizing the butterflies hanging around it.

The butterflies were the Empress Leilias,

and American snout butterflies.

Can you guess the tree?

In this case it was the desert hackberry, Celtis pallida.

Unlike its relative the netleaf hackberry (previous post), the desert hackberry keeps its leaves all winter long.  When ripe, the bright orange fruit are a favorite of many species of birds.

A tree that supports both birds and butterflies, doesn’t require much water, and is green all year? Sounds like a wonderful choice for desert landscaping!

STEM Friday #Kidlit A River’s Gifts

Right in time for World Rivers Day (September 25, 2022), let’s jump in with wonderful example of picture book nonfiction,  A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn by Patricia Newman and illustrated by Natasha Donovan.

Running through the book is the story of the Elwha River, which courses from Olympic National Park to the ocean in Washington state.  Centuries ago several varieties of salmon and trout swam up the river to have their young.  Then in the early 1900s people dammed the river, blocking the salmon from swimming upstream and flooding the landscape. The salmon numbers dwindled and wildlife disappeared. But the dams fell into disrepair and members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and others persistently  advocated to get them removed. Finally, in 1992, Congress passed The Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act, allowing for the dams to be demolished. Since that time, the river has made strides towards recovery.

In addition to the uplifting story of the restoration of the river and the salmon, plus the wildlife and people that rely on them, Patricia Newman packs the book with STEM. Young readers will learn about river vocabulary words like headwaters, channels, riverbanks, etc.  Do you know what an alevin is? Find out in the wonderful illustration of the life cycle of salmon.  Learn about the workings of a hydroelectric dam and how the dams were removed. Explore how important salmon are to ecosystems through food webs. See examples of wildlife and other kinds of fish found in and around the river. This book is jam-packed with all the fascinating information needed to truly understand the impact of the main story.

Natasha Donovan’s illustrations (website) are the water that keep it all flowing. In the note in the back matter, she explains that she grew up on the West Coast and had a wealth of sensory experiences to draw on for her work.

A River’s Gifts is one of those special books that fit into many different lessons:  geography, history, science, technology (dams), nature, ecology, art, and literature, to name a few. Essential for American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, Earth Day, and of course, World River’s Day, readers will return to it again and again.  Invest in a copy today!

Related Activities:

The book trailer is lovely.

Reading age ‏ : ‎ 8 – 12 years
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Millbrook Press ™ (September 6, 2022)
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1541598709
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1541598706

Disclosure: This book was provided as an E-ARC for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

Sunflowers For Bees, Birds, and Butterflies

Every year a small patch of wild sunflowers pops up in my front yard.  And every year I’m amazed at how many living things use them for food and shelter. Take last week:

One flower had this teeny, tiny praying mantis nymph.

This flower was so popular, it had a skipper butterfly and a digger bee. Can you see the bee?

Every morning a small flock of lesser goldfinches hang from the sunflower seed heads, pulling out the seeds. I have never gotten a good photo or video, but this is what they look like:


The birds drop and scatter enough seeds so that next year there’s sure to be another patch of sunflowers sprouting up.

Do you grow sunflowers?  What visitors do you see?

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