Ask the Naturalist

A bird? A bug? Something strange in the natural world nearby? Ask us and we’ll find the answer! And check here for answers to great questions you didn’t even know you had. Top questions find their way to top naturalist Michael Ellis, who writes a column for our print magazine.

Ask the Naturalist: Is That Butterfly Supposed To Be Here Now?

November 12, 2015 by Liam O'Brien

A San Francisco reader wonders about the bright orange-red butterfly he recently spotted in his backyard.


Ask the Naturalist: Where Has “Charlotte” Gone?

October 29, 2015 by Bay Nature Staff

A concerned spider fan asks what to do about a missing arachnid and the egg sacs she left behind.

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Ask the Naturalist: Sea Foam – How Much is Too Much?

October 22, 2015 by Bay Nature Staff

How much sea foam along the shore is normal for this time of year? And how can you tell if it's harmful to marine life? We asked UC Santa Cruz oceanographer Raphael Kudela.

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Ask the Naturalist: Seabird Feeding Frenzy at Point Montara

September 25, 2015 by Alvaro Jaramillo

Why are large numbers of seabirds congregating off Point Montara?

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Ask the Naturalist: The Secret of the Slender Redwoods

September 03, 2015 by David Herlocker

Why are some stands of redwoods so spindly? Marin County Parks naturalist David Herlocker explains this anomaly.

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Ask the Naturalist: Why are deer droppings so tiny?

August 19, 2015 by Cat Taylor

Why are deer droppings so small? East Bay Regional Parks' Cat Taylor has the scoop on ungulate poop.

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Ask The Naturalist: Why Do Honeybees Clean Themselves?

July 30, 2015 by Eric Mussen and Elina Nino

Some have suggested that the inside of a hive is as clean as a hospital room. Maybe or maybe not. But honey bees are one tidy creature.

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Ask the Naturalist: What’s the Best Time and Place to See Meteors?

July 06, 2015 by Michael Ellis

What's the best time and place to see meteor showers from the Bay Area?

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Ask the Naturalist: Why Are Sea Hares Multiplying In Lake Merritt?

May 26, 2015 by Bay Nature Staff

Nearly 100 giant sea slugs have been spotted in Oakland's Lake Merritt -- and they're breeding! But why? We asked Cal Academy's Terry Gosliner about this sudden influx.


Ask The Naturalist: What’s That Weird Ball Coming Out Of That Bird’s Mouth?

May 14, 2015 by Allen Fish

For birds of prey, this may be the closest equivalent to a cat's hairball. The pellet is a necessary means to get rid of indigested material.

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