Label: Animals

December 16, 2010


What do you think the snake in this picture is doing?

If you said she’s trying to bite someone or something, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. If you said she is smelling the air around her, you got it it right! Snakes use their tongues to smell. She is flicking her tongue in the air because she’s looking for prey, or perhaps checking to see if there are predators nearby.

This is a European Grass Snake (Natrix natrix), sometimes called the Ringed Snake or Water Snake. This female is almost three-feet long (as tall as a first grader), but she is a non-venomous snake. It is often found near water and feeds almost exclusively on amphibians.


Photo: Wilder Kaiser 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals Nobody Loves, Animals, Cool Photo, Photography   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 10, 2010


Christmas came early this year for gorillla conservation experts. A census that counted endangered mountain gorillas in their African habitat shows that their number has grown by more than 25% since 2003. This is big news because just 30 years ago we were down to 250 mountain gorillas, and scientists believed that the species was in danger of extinction.

Scientists who did the census this spring found 480 mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) living in 36 groups, plus 14 solitary silverback males. They live in a huge park called the Virunga Massif which spans three countries - the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. The governments of these nations are credited with working hard alongside wildlife conservation groups to protect the gorillas by policing poachers and protecting against accidental snaring by local hunters.

"The mountain gorilla is the only one of the nine subspecies of African great apes experiencing a population increase.  While we celebrate this collective achievement, we must also increase efforts to safeguard the remaining eight subspecies of great apes," said David Greer, African Great Ape Coordinator at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 




 You can learn more about mountain gorillas in my book, and visit the International Gorilla Conservation Program website to learn how you can help.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Animals, Conservation, Gorillas   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 1, 2010


An Amazon milk frog (Trachycephalus resinifictrix) soaks up some rays on a flower in a zoo in Cleveland, Ohio.

Why are they called Milk Frogs? Because of the milky-looking fluid the frog excretes when it is stressed or threatened.


Photo by: Amy Sancetta/AP


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Cool Photo, Reptiles   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 18, 2010

chickadee bath


Yesterday morning I was waiting for my wife Liz in my car and noticed a chickadee landing in a water-filled depression in the driveway. The chickadee was taking a bath in the shallow water and it looked like such fun with water flying everywhere. It reminded me of a kid in the bathtub just splashing around and squealing. If I was bird-sized (instead of only my brain being that size), I would have leaped in and joined the water fun!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, birds   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 11, 2010

        Leaf Beetle

How do insects know when it’s time to take a bath? When their feet get dirty and lose their stickiness! Insects depend on their adhesive footpads to help them travel safely on leaves, along braches, even over craggy rocks. A new study of the behavior of beetles found that when they start to slip, they know it is time to stop and groom themselves!


Leaf Beetle photo: S.N. Gorb, University of Kiel, Germany 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Animals Nobody Loves, Animals, Cool Photo   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 7, 2010

I surprised myself with the answer to a question I was asked at a recent conference. The question was: What is your favorite animal? My initial instinct was to say that it’s impossible to say which is my favorite animal…’s like having favorites among your own children.

Then I realized, to my surprise, that I do have a current favorite animal. It’s the BUTTERFLY! And why are butterflies my favorite? Because I’m writing a new book on butterflies. The manuscript is finished, I’m now researching the accompanying photos, and the book will come out early in 2011 as part of my Collins/Smithsonian series. My editors really pushed me to write about butterflies, and I must confess that at first I resisted. But, as I started to learn about them I became fascinated by these gorgeous creatures that children can observe in the wild, right in their own neighborhoods.

So I suppose the answer to the question regarding "what is my favorite animal" depends on what I am writing at the time. The truth is, the more I learn about a particular species, the more interested I become. That’s the fun of being a science author and also a science reader- constant exploration!



Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: New Books, Animals, Animal Books, Butterflies   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 28, 2010

I came upon a lovely scene while driving on this pre-Memorial Day afternoon.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Cool Photo, Seymour Photographs, Horses   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 19, 2010

As you may have read previously in this space, we are creating free, downloadable TEACHER GUIDES to go with all 26 of Seymour’s Collins/Smithsonian books.

One of the nice features at the start of each Guide is a brief piece of first person writing from Seymour entitled "Why I Wrote This Book." It’s designed for teachers or parents to read aloud with kids before starting to talk about the book together.

Today we are working on the Guide to accompany CATS, and we thought you might like to preview what Seymour wrote about the genesis of this book.


 When I wrote the book on cats, my family had two feral cats that had been born in our back yard and that we took into our house when they were a few weeks old. They became tame and we named them Mittens and Sir Isaac Newton (aka Newty Frewty). You can guess the reason for naming a cat Mittens but let me tell you about Newty.  Sir Isaac Newton was one of the greatest scientists of all time and he had a mind that was “forever voyaging through strange seas of thought,” according to the poet Wordsworth. My cat Newty was always wandering into strange places in my house so that is how he got tagged with the name of the great scientist, Newton.  

 We have completed a prototype Teacher Guide - for EARTHQUAKES - and are currently testing it in classrooms.  If you would like to give us your feedback you can download a copy by clicking on this link. We would love to hear from you!




Posted by: Liz Nealon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Animal Books, Cats, Pets   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 26, 2010

John James Audubon, bird watcher, artist, and one of America’s original conservationists, was born this day in 1785. His Birds of America, a collection of 435 life-size prints, set the standard for painters of wildlife in this country. The National Audubon Society, whose mission is “to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity,” is named after him (although he played no role in its founding or operation).  Although he was a hunter for most of his life, in his later years Audubon wrote about his concerns at the destruction of birds and their habitats.

You can see all 431 existing watercolors of the original 435 Audubon painted for “Birds of America” at the New York Historical Society, in New York City. Many of the copper plates used in the printmaking are across the street in the American Museum of Natural History (one of Seymour’s favorite places). It is also possible to see 18 original Audubon paintings in Key West, Florida at a small museum called the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens.

Audubon once wrote: "I never for a day gave up listening to the songs of our birds, or watching their peculiar habits, or delineating them in the best way I could."

John James Audobon is buried in what is now the Trinity Cemetery at 155th Street and Broadway in New York City. Audubon himself was the last private owner of that parcel of land, and had built an estate overlooking the Hudson River there. The property was eventually bought by the city, and his grave is marked by a large Celtic cross with likenesses of his work on either side. 

 Image: Iceland Falcon Falco   rusticolus from plate 366 BIRDS OF AMERICA, John James Audubon,  1838.

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 21, 2010

Today’s Earth Day post comes from my friend and fellow science writer, Jordan Brown. Hope you enjoy it! - Seymour


    On Earth Day, as we celebrate our planet’s biodiversity, and marvel at all the remarkable ways that species are interconnected, why do many people ignore the tiniest creatures?

Be honest: When’s the last time you thanked a microbe? I’m guessing “never.” You’re not alone! Most folks are unaware of the HUGE impact that teeny-tiny creatures, such as bacteria, have on our planet.





 Brown, Jordan. MICRO MANIA. Morganville, NJ:  Imagine Publishing, 2009. Page 13 Photo: iStockphoto



Earth Day is the perfect time to learn more about at all the little life forms that share our home. While writing my new kids science book MICRO MANIA, I learned