The Trouble With fireworks

New Comics, Redbubble

Yes, I loved fireworks when I was a kid, and I blew up more than my fair share of Black Cat firecrackers and M60s. But that’s before I understood the environmental impact of what I was doing. I know if I’d had less damaging ways to celebrate I would have had just as much fun (seriously, what child wouldn’t have a great time throwing eggs that smash into a flurry of confetti?) If you want to be extra-considerate of nature, make sure whatever you choose is as eco-friendly and biodegradable as possible; light-up poi and other battery-operated light toys can have years of use, and make sure your confetti eggs don’t include plastic-based glitter or other non-biodegradables. 

I realize that I didn’t cover related topics, such as how fireworks can cause massive fires. Wildfire is a topic I’d like to give its own comic down the line; needless to say, another reason to avoid fireworks is the potential for accidentally setting things alight (such as the Eagle Creek fire in Oregon in 2018.) I do also acknowledge that smaller fireworks fo the sort most people use at home, like firecrackers and smoke bombs, are less of an impact individually than mortars, but they still contribute a lot of pollution on their own, and are likely an even bigger source given how many people buy them each year.

Also, here are a few links on the ecological impact of fireworks, in case you need more talking points when discussing this with others:

Finally, if you thought the toad on panel four was cute, you can get her as a sticker at!

It’s National Pollinator Week!

New Comics

Sure, it’s the middle of the week, but the entire week is a great time to celebrate these animals that are so important to the lives of many plant species, as well as the animals that rely on them. (We’re included in that last group, by the way.) There are even more animals than these that are known to pollinate plants, and almost certainly more that we just haven’t observed carrying pollen from one flower to another. 

How do we protect them? Well, start with the biggest problem: habitat loss. More species become endangered or go extinct due to habitat loss than any other reason; a species can often survive a lot of pressure if they just have someplace to go, but if there’s no suitable habitat they can’t feed, or reproduce, or do anything else except die out. Part of that includes growing more native plants, as non-native plants often don’t offer enough food and other resources to wildlife, and they take up space that could be used for the native plants these species really need. We also must address neonicotinoids and other harmful pesticides. Not only do they not discriminate between the bugs we like and the bugs we don’t, but they will kill birds and other animals that come into contact with them. And we need to keep pets indoors, especially cats; domestic and feral cats kill billions of birds, small mammals, reptiles and insects every year, and many of those are pollinators.

A great starting point, particularly for helping invertebrate pollinators, is the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. In addition, the Pollinator Partnership is an organization dedicated solely to protecting pollinators of all sorts. And any efforts toward habitat preservation and restoration is bound to help pollinators. 

Species portrayed: soldier beetle (Cantharis cryptica), pollen wasp (Pseudomasaris coquilletti), hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus), hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe), Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna), Mexican long-tongued bat (Choeronycteris mexicana), Lorquin’s admiral (Limenitis lorquini), Noronha skink (Trachylepis atlantica), Namaqua rock mouse (Aethomys namaquensis), pagoda lily (Erythronium pagoda), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Dandelion Or Not?

New Comics, Redbubble

This time of year the yard is absolutely full to bursting with hairy catsear, plus a few of the other species shown here. I’ve had friends comment on the “dandelions” in the yard, which of course is the perfect invitation for me to tell them more than they ever wanted to know about the dandelion tribe, Cichorieae. While the catsear has pretty much spread everywhere here, it at least gives the adult pollinators something to eat; the black-tailed bumblebees and ctenucha moths especially love it. So while we may try replacing it with something native later on, for now it’s not the most pernicious of invasives. 

Also, my worst nightmare finally happened: the edge tore when I was removing this piece from the sketchbook. You can see it at the top in the title. *sigh* It’s not a huge tear, but it means I’ll have to be extra careful going forward. 

Finally, the flowers themselves are available as a sticker and other merch at my Redbubble shop! It’s a nice, summery design. 

Species portrayed: common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), hairy catsear (Hypochaeris radicata), smooth hawksbeard (Crepis capillaris), prickly sow thistle (Sonchus asper)

I Found a Baby Bird! Now What?

New Comics, Redbubble

It’s that time of year again! Nestlings may tumble out of their nest if they lose their balance, get shoved by their siblings, or the wind blows them out. Fledglings, on the other hand, are making their transition to the wider world around them. These are some basic guidelines for figuring out the best course of action. When in doubt, call your nearest wildlife rehabilitation center.

I’m experimenting with all-caps lettering, in the hopes that it’s at least a little more legible. I’m not used to writing this way, but I hope with practice I can neaten it up. What do you think?

Also, the fledgling blue jay and cedar waxwing in this comic were so much fun to draw that I drew several other adorable fledglings, including a crow, a cardinal, and a pigeon. They’re now available as stickers and other merch at – if there’s a species you’d like me to add to the lineup, let me know!

Finally, as with all my comics you’re welcome to share this; just please include a link to this site. 

Species portrayed: blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata), American robin (Turdus migratorius), cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum), American goldfinch (Spinus tristis), domestic cat (Felis catus), coyote (Canis latrans), American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

Word Find: Endangered Invertebrates

New Comics

Hey, so the actual word find square and the list of words are two separate images, because the word find took up the entire page all by itself. Just keep that in mind if you decide to download this or print it out, so that you don’t forget your word list!

These are all invertebrates that are listed as either threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. They tend to be overlooked in favor of charismatic megafauna like the grizzly bear and California condor, and if these smaller creatures are the only endangered species in their immediate area, they may have less of a chance of getting support for protection of their habitat. Even when conservationists try to invoke the protection that the ESA affords smaller creatures, some people may scoff about why such a seemingly insignificant species should be the reason that a dam or other development can’t happen (see what happened with the snail darter, a small fish, or the infamous northern spotted owl.) And if small vertebrates are seen as being so worthless by many, imagine how much resistance there is whenever we try to save a species of clam!

Yet these animals deserve as much protection as the rest, and I wanted to use this word find to help you learn their names, so you know they exist. I challenge you to pick one of these species, learn about it and what is threatening its existence. Then see if any organizations are working to protect its habitat, and find out how you can help. Every little bit counts, and every little animal counts, too!

My Favorite Nature Words: Carboniferous

New Comics

I just like imagining huge piles of dead trees all over the place, partly because we’ll never see that again on that scale, and partly because when giving park tours I’ve literally had someone ask me on more than one occasion, “Why don’t you clean up all these unsightly dead trees?” I want to transport these people back 350 million years ago to where there were so many dead trees that the weight of the more recently deceased just kept pushing the older ones into the ground, and the climate cooled considerably due to all the carbon trapped in the dead wood, and then I want to tell them “See? We don’t have as many dead trees compared to this!” And then expound upon the importance of snags and nurse logs to today’s forests, and why the bacteria and fungi and other tiny beings that break down dead wood are so important, and how silly it would be to remove the dead trees like sweeping the dead leaves off the forest floor.

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Cute Baby Bird Stickers and More!

Other Art, Redbubble

Over the weekend I drew a blue jay fledgling as part of a WIP comic, and really had fun with it! So I decided to give her a few friends, including a fledgling robin from a previous comic, plus a cardinal, a crow, and the ugly-but-so-darn-cute baby pigeon. All five birds are available as stickers and other merch over at my Redbubble shop. If you have any other species you’d like to see added to the collection, let me know, too. And as always I am open for general art commissions!

Attack of the Murder Hornet!

New Comics

I know that this topic has been edged out by bigger, and ultimately more important things, but I had a specific request to cover “murder hornets” in a comic, so here it is! Yeah, they’re scary looking compared to other wasps, but they’re not the big deal that the more sensationalized end of the media likes to make of them. (Keep in mind I lived through the killer bees hype of the 1980s. This ain’t my first “DANGEROUS HYMENOPTERAN!” rodeo.) This isn’t to say it isn’t crucial that we intercept these invasive wasps when we find them to try and prevent them from becoming established. But at this point there have been only literally a handful of them found here recently, and more native pollinators have died as a result of the hype than any actual Asian giant hornets.

Species portrayed: Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia), European honey bee (Apis mellifera), black-tailed bumble bee (Bombus melanopygus), hairy cat’s ear (Hypochaeris radicata)