Label: Seymour Photographs

September 18, 2011


It is autumn in the northeast, which means that the countryside is dappled with fields of goldenrod. These yellow weeds are a favorite of the monarch butterfly, and everywhere that I went today, there were monarchs flitting amongst the yellow flowers, sipping their nectar.


Then, I realized that all the monarchs I saw were also flying in a southerly direction. The winter migration has begun. Over the next few weeks, these delicate creatures will travel nearly 3,000 miles to their winter home in Mexico.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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September 2, 2011

I have a home in the upper Hudson Valley near the New York State-Massachusetts border. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States were just hit by the enormous rains and flooding caused by Hurricane Irene last weekend. Driving around looking at the swollen rivers and streams and the downed trees in some areas I realized that there was another, more seasonal, change in some of the trees. They were beginning to turn red, the way they do every autumn.




Autumn is one of my favorite times of year in the Northeast. Ideal autumn weather is bright, warm days and cool, crisp nights. The days grow shorter, the nights longer, pumpkins and tomatoes are ready to harvest, and yes, school is starting up again.


I wrote a series of books about the Seasons Across America. The photograph above is one that I took of autumn leaves for my book AUTUMN ACROSS AMERICA. Here is the explanation I wrote in that book about the change of color: 

Yellows, oranges and golds are produced in leaves by pigments (coloring materials) called carotenes, reds by pigments called anthocyanins. You can’t see these colors during the growing season because they are hidden by the bright green of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the green pigment that helps plant cells use sunlight to make food, a process called photosynthesis. In autumn, as days grow shorter, chlorophyll production slows down and the green fades, revealing the yellows of the carotenes. 

When chlorophyll production stops, a layer of woody cells develops and begins to seal off the leaf from the twig. Water can no longer reach the leaf. As the trapped sugar breaks down, red anthocyanin colors are produced by exposure to sunlight. Cloudy, rainy autumn weather prevents the red colors from forming. Ideal red colors come when autumn has bright sunny days followed by cool nights.




Posted by: Seymour Simon

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August 22, 2011

I was so pleased to discover seven new comments on the blog this weekend….mostly from kids on the West Coast and the South, where schools are starting up. Although I’m always a little sorry to see the summer come to an end, it means our readers are coming back. We missed you!

I have a funny photograph (and a story to go with it) to share this week. I was out in my yard, photographing some of the beautiful summer flowers. 

Just as I was snapping a picture, I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a hummingbird! I quickly refocused the camera, but before I could shoot again, it was gone. Curious, I toggled back to the photograph that I had been taking when I sensed the movement next to me, and sure enough, I caught just a blur as it entered the scene. Do you see it, in the top right corner of the photograph?

I named this photograph "Sneaky Hummingbird," because it darted into the background of my photograph to grab a sip of nectar, and was gone before I could lower the camera and take a look!

I’d love to hear stories from your summer in the outdoors. Click on "comments" below and tell me what you saw as you explored nature over your summer vacation.

READERS: Are you wondering how to add your own "comment" to this blog? Click here for exact directions on how to add a comment so you can become one of our Seymour Science writers! We also want you to be safe and not share too much information when you write on this blog, so please take a minute to read about how to stay safe on the Internet. We love to hear from you, so give "comments" a try! 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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August 4, 2011











August sunset is made even more brilliant by dust in the atmosphere.

Photo: Seymour Simon

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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June 17, 2011

I took a walk today in Great Falls National Park, along the Potomac River in Virginia. The falls are really beautiful, and the trails are wooded and shady, but the best part, for me anyway, was spotting all the wild animals.



This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) feeds at the water’s edge, using its long legs to wade through the water, spearing small fish and frogs with its long, sharp bill. 



You can clearly see the compound eye of this beautiful Dragonfly (an insect belonging to the order Odonata), which was perched in the foliage high above the falls. You usually find dragonflies near the water, because their larvae, called "nymphs" live in the water. These insects are valuable predators (valuable to humans, at least) because they eat mosquitoes.


My grandson Ben Simon took this great photograph of a wolf spider, which was hiding inside a crack of an old stump. Wolf spiders are members of the family Lycosidae, from the Ancient Greek word "λύκος" meaning "wolf". The blue and white mass, which almost looks like a piece of jewelry, are actually all her babies - dozens of tiny wolf spiders, riding on her back!


Have you taken a walk in the outdoors this week? If not, get outside and keep your eyes peeled. There are fascinating wild creatures all around you.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Animals Nobody Loves, Animals, birds, Summer Vacation Science, Seymour Photographs, Insects   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 8, 2011

When I saw a wild turkey crossing over the dirt road leading up to my house in the country the other day, I thought of Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States. Why? Because when it came to choosing a symbol of the United States, Ben Franklin thought the wild turkey was a more dignified bird than the bald eagle.  I’m not sure if I agree; the bald eagle is magnificent soaring in the sky and I think the turkey looked a bit pompous and stuck-up strutting across my road. But the turkey is a pretty interesting bird. It would rather walk than fly (though it can fly, at least for a minute or two). Seeing a single turkey is rare around here; I usually seem them in flocks of a dozen or more birds.


Not to be outdone by a wild turkey, a large snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) came walking across the same dirt road. I stopped the car to take a picture of the snapper. When I came close, the turtle turned around to face me, snapped and hissed. "OK," I thought. "I’m just looking. Let’s part friends!" And I got back in my car and watched the snapper disappear into the undergrowth. There’s a stream just nearby the road and I guess that’s where the turtle was headed.

A snapping turtle has a large head with strong jaws. This one was quite large - I would estimate about 14 inches from its head to the tip of its armored tail. That’s about the distance from your fingertips to your elbow. Unlike many other kinds of turtles, the snapper can’t withdraw its head into its shell. It relies on its jaws for defense and can bite hard enough to take your finger off. I wouldn’t try to pet a snapping turtle, and neither should you! Thinking it over, petting a wild animal is a "no, no" in every case, no matter what. Wild animals are not pets and should not be touched, for your own safety as well as theirs. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(5) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Summer Vacation Science, Seymour Photographs   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 13, 2011

Yesterday, we drove along winding roads through the hills in Dutchess and Columbia counties, in New York State. It’s very agricultural up here, with many horse and dairy farms.

Spring is the season for animal babies and we saw many calves and foals in farms along the roads. This calf is two to three months old and follows its mother everywhere. Where mom goes, baby is not far behind.

Spring is an amazing season of quick changes. Trees and bushes leaf, and the color of the leaves changes from a pale yellow-green to a darker green in a few weeks. Flowers bud on apple trees and on forest floors as if by magic. Birds are singing. Butterflies are flitting from one bush to another. It feels as if you’re in a nature movie, but this is real life and it happens every spring.

Years ago, Rachel Carson, a scientist and naturalist, wrote a book called Silent Spring. It was about the dangers of using too much and the wrong kinds of insecticides. The "silent spring" referred to the bad effects of insecticides upon birds. Every time I hear birds singing in the spring, I give silent thanks to Rachel Carson, a wonderful nature writer who also provided me with the inspiration to become a writer. 

(Editor’s Note from Liz Nealon)

I often travel with Seymour as he walks in nature and photographs, and thought that it would be fun for readers to see what was going on "behind the camera" while Seymour was taking the photograph above. This herd was very curious, poking their heads through the fence and nuzzling to see if he had any food for them!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Seymour Photographs, Seasons   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 4, 2011

I received a photograph this morning from a student name Ryan S. He wrote:


"This is not very science related, I just knew Seymour does photography and decided to upload something. I took this one while on vacation in Florida."


Ryan, thanks for writing and for sharing your excellent photograph. What a magnificent sky! There are three different types of clouds in your photograph. The long, straight thin ones that are closest to the horizon are called stratus clouds. The ones just above them, still long, thin and low in the sky, but a little bit puffy, are strato-cumulous clouds. And the big ones that look like cotton balls high in the sky are cumulus clouds.





I found a good chart, from Web Weather for Kids, that you can use to identify all the different clouds you see. Or you could always read my book WEATHER, which includes many of my own photos of clouds.




Thanks for uploading your photo. And you thought it didn’t have anything to do with science! 

I love it when students upload photos and videos that we can use on the blog. Do you know how to send me a photograph or a video? It’s easy. When you are on the homepage of the website, look at yellow bar at the very top of the page. Click on the little picture of a TV screen, to the right of where it says "Send us Photos/Video". That will take you to a page that reminds you how to stay safe when you upload photos or videos to the Internet, and then a very simple page that will help you upload your photo, or even record a video on your webcam! 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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April 16, 2011

Today’s story is part of our ongoing EARTH WEEK coverage.

  One of the things people wonder about after the very harsh winter we had this year is how we can have global warming when it seems to be snowier and colder than ever.

 That’s because there is a difference between the daily weather vs. the climate where you live. You get your daily weather forecast on TV or on the Internet. It tells you the expected high and low temperatures of the day and whether it’s going to rain or snow. Weather is a combination of all these things and more.

So how is weather different from climate? Climate is what the weather is most often like over long periods of times. The Northeastern United States and the upper Midwest will be cold and probably snowy in the winter because that’s been the climate pattern for many years. Weather can tell you if you need to wear boots that day because of the snow prediction. Climate tells you when and where it’s best to take a swimming vacation on a beach. Climate tells you what clothes to keep in your closet because you might need them during the year, but weather tells you what clothes to wear that day.

Most scientists are convinced that there is global warming and that they have the facts to back that up. The year 2010 ranked as the warmest year on record, together with 2005 and 1998, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The WMO started keeping instrumental climate records in 1850, and eight of the hottest 10 years since then occurred in the year 2000 and beyond. Scientists expect a 3.5° F increase in average global temperatures by the year 2100, resulting in the warmest temperatures in the past million years. 




The last two decades of the twentieth century were the hottest decades in more than 400 years and may have been the hottest decades for several thousand years.

Records show that over the last century, Earth’s average climate had warmed in all seasons and in most regions. A single season or even a year in one region of the world is not a trend in global climate. Global warming refers to a long-term average over our entire planet.





The fact is that after 1961, many glaciers over the world have lost hundreds of cubic miles of ice. Most scientists believe that rising temperatures are the most important factor behind the retreat of glaciers. In Greenland, a NASA satellite shows that the ice sheet is shrinking and disappearing. Glaciers are moving into the ocean faster each year and more and more glaciers are being affected. In 1910, Glacier National Park in Montana was covered by 150 glaciers-today there are fewer than 30.


There’s no doubt about it, the earth is warming up.



Winter Wetlands Photo: Seymour Simon

Map Image courtesy

Upsala glacier photo: Gary Braasch


Posted by: Seymour Simon

February 23, 2011


Since my new book (coming out in August) is BUTTERFLIES, I was very excited to be able to visit Aruba’s Butterfly Farm. It is a large garden, all enclosed by netting, with cocoons, caterpillars, and thousands of delicate butterflies from all over the world. Have you ever seen a black and white butterfly? This beauty is called a Rice Paper Butterfly (Idea leuconoe), and they were quite curious, fluttering around us the whole time that we were there.

Readers often ask me what my favorite animal is, and I always reply that it is whatever animal I am writing about at the moment. I do a lot of research when I am writing a book, and the more I learn, the more fascinated I become. So, my favorite animal at the moment is the butterfly, and it was SO exciting to be in this relatively small space and surrounded by fluttering creatures! 

The one on the right is called a Scarlet Swallowtail (Papilio Rumanzovia) - isn’t it beautiful? Any butterfly that has the two long, trailing pieces at the bottom of their wings is some kind of swallowtail.

Butterflies protect themselves from predators in many ways. For example, when it is a caterpillar, the Monarch butterfly eats a leaf that is poison to many animals. By storing the poison in its body, the adult Monarch butterfly is avoided by predators who would otherwise eat it. Other butterflies protect themselves through an amazing natural phenomenon called "mimicry" - they appear to be something else altogether, like a leaf, a stick, or a piece of bark. While we were there, my wife Liz shot a video of a Dead-Leaf butterfly. Click on this link to play the video and you will see exactly how mimicry works.

Dead-Leaf Butterfly Video.

The scientific name for the Dead-Leaf butterfly is Kallima inachus. Whomever gave this genus of tropical butterflies the name Kallima must have been looking at the topside of the wings, since it comes from the Greek word for "beautiful"!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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