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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.

What Is This Moth That’s Almost as Big as a Hummingbird?

October 10, 2017 by Tony Iwane

Moths often get sidelined as the country cousins of butterflies. But they have their own beauty and utility as some of the best pollinators around.

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Why Did I Hear Popcorn Sounds In the Recent Extreme Heat Wave?

September 26, 2017 by Trent Pearce

When temperatures crank up, an unusual ecological adaptation begins to play out among our native Monterey pine. We explain why in our latest installment of our reader-funded Ask The Naturalist column.

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Ask the Naturalist: What Do Hummingbirds Taste?

September 25, 2017 by Michael Ellis

How do hummingbirds experience sugar?

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Ask The Naturalist: Why Are There So Many Birds On the Beach At One Time?

September 12, 2017 by Donna Pomeroy

Head to the beach on one of these late summer days and you're liable to come across a wonderful spectacle of nature: the feeding frenzy.

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Ask the Naturalist: Where Can I Find Old Growth Redwoods in the Bay Area?

August 29, 2017 by Mia Monroe

Crowded Muir Woods isn't the only place in the Bay Area to wander amongst old-growth redwoods.


Ask the Naturalist: How Does a Spider Make Silk?

August 15, 2017 by R.J. Adams

How spiders create protein-rich liquid and turn it into silk.

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Ask the Naturalist: Can Hummingbirds Taste Their Food?

August 01, 2017 by Marc Badger

What does a hummingbird taste in a flower?

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Ask The Naturalist: Why Are There Humpback Whales In the San Francisco Bay Right Now?

July 18, 2017 by Bill Keener

Good news: there are likely more whales in the Bay because there are more whales overall.


Ask The Naturalist: How Do I Know If a Lizard Is Male Or Female?

July 03, 2017 by Tony Iwane

While there are few hard and fast rules in the natural world, here are a some things to look for when trying to determine the sex of a lizard.

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Can You Take the Temperature By Cricket?

June 28, 2017 by Michael Ellis

Is it true that some crickets can tell us the temperature? If so, how does it work and what are the Bay Area species to listen for?

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