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Exciting opportunities to learn more about biology/nature are popping up all over this fall.

1. It is time once again to plan for

International Rock Flipping Day:  September 9, 2012.

What is International Rock Flipping Day? It is a special day to celebrate all those critters that live under rocks, as well as the naturalists who want to find out more about them.

To participate all you need to do is find some nice rocks and flip them over. Record what you see by drawing, painting, taking photographs or recording in your nature journal. (If you live where there might be poisonous creatures under there, like scorpions or snakes, you might want to use gloves and/or some sort of bar to flip the rocks.)

When you are done, be sure to carefully return the rock to its original position.

If you take photographs or write a blog article about your results, be sure to link up with Wanderin' Weeta, who hosts the event. If you are interested in seeing what others have found, I'll post a link to the summary post after it goes up.

We've been having some nice rains this summer, so I'm hoping for some interesting finds.

(What I found in 2011).

2. It's also time for the monarch butterflies to start migrating again. Be sure to keep an eye out for butterflies in your area, and also an eye out for the

upcoming IMAX film Flight of the Butterflies.

Here's the trailer, or as they call it "teaser":

Look for more information and links for educational opportunities at the movie website.

3. Last, but not least, the New York Botanical Garden has a new interactive website called

Plant Hunters

It does take a bit of patience to navigate your way around, but there is a wealth of information about plants. Click on the word "Enter" on the first page, and then look up in the right hand corner. If you click on that box, it should take you to a list of the "challenges." You can then pick the challenge that suits your interest.

Please let us know if you have any questions, or if you have any other fun fall events to share.


For some reason, our yard is caterpillar central this week. Here's what we found in the last two days.

At least eight queen caterpillars on the milkweed plants.

This caterpillar is on the milkweed too, but it looks a bit different. It only has two pairs of black filaments, instead of three.

That's because this one is a monarch caterpillar, not as common in the Phoenix area.

What's this on the grapefruit? Looks like a bird dropping with a head.

That's a young orange dog caterpillar, which turns into a beautiful giant swallowtail butterfly. I have an older post with more information about those. In that year we found caterpillars in August.

This morning we looked way up into the desert willow tree and there's yet another caterpillar.

It was probably  18 to 20 feet in the air, and still big enough I could get this photograph with a telephoto lens. I would say it is five inches long, maybe six. Based on past experience, I know this is a caterpillar of the rustic sphinx moth, Manduca rustica.

Image of adult moth

Why do we have so many caterpillars right now? Maybe because we had a big rain last week and/or the temperatures have dropped below 100 ° F. In any case, the caterpillars are doing well.

Have you ever seen any of these caterpillars?


Monarchs are beautiful butterflies.

There's evidence in this photograph about the gender of the butterfly, and about the weather that day. What do you think?

If you are interested in the long migrations made by monarch butterflies, take a look at the NOVA TV program The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies. When I first went to this link there was only a preview, but today you can watch what looks like the entire the show.  I hope to finish it soon.

After the show, you might want to pick up one of these. There are a lot of great children's books about monarch butterflies.