Random Nature Trivia

A shutter speed of 1/1250 did not stop the motion in the wings of this Anna’s hummingbird.

I am way impressed by the crazy amount of knowledge that my grandkids possess. I sit down with them to read a magazine like the National Wildlife Federation’s, Ranger Rick, only to have them start peppering me with questions I can’t answer, but they can. It is truly embarrassing for a so-called professional naturalist.

In case some of you other parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles find yourself in the same sinking boat I am in, I strove to compile a bunch of useless but fascinating and impressive facts from nature that we can use to be able to hold our own with the average Fifth-grader. So, here they are, in no particular order. 

Did you know that:

The fastest hummingbird’s wings beat over 4,800 times a minute or about 80 times a second. Hummingbird hearts beat slower, up to 1,250 beats per minute. The fastest I can blink my eyes (I timed it) it about 220 blinks/minute.

For all the things elephants can do, there is one thing that they, uniquely among mammals, cannot do: jump.

An air molecule at room temperature is busier than a bee, traveling at 500 yards per second or nearly 1,000 miles per hour.

Speaking of molecules and atoms, each year, 98 percent of the atoms in our bodies are replaced. That spurs two thoughts: first, Am I really me? Second, maybe I actually can do a complete makeover and be better by next year.

The largest of the Great Lakes is Superior. It holds 3 quadrillion gallons, reportedly enough to flood all of North and South America to a depth of one foot. That is nothing though, compared to the Atlantic Ocean which holds 17 quadrillion gallons or 80 million cubic miles of water.

Energy from lightning heats the air anywhere from 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit to up to 60,000 degrees F. Raw iron ore melts at about 2,750 degrees F. Tungsten is the metal most resistant to heat and it melts at 6,150 degrees F. An acetylene/oxygen torch flame burns at about 6,332 °F. Lightning is HOT.

Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. At that speed, it would take 100,000 years to travel from one end of the Milky Way to the other side. Fathom that.

Measuring river lengths from headwaters to ocean discharge is trickier than it might seem and two rivers vie for the longest river: the Nile, traditionally accepted as longest, and the Amazon, longer only if you include the estuaries. However, the Amazon drains twice the area and has ten times the discharge of the Nile. China’s Yangtze River is third and the Mississippi is fourth. The Mississippi drains twice the area of the Yangtze but has half the discharge.

Spider silk is about twice as strong as steel of the same weight. The TV show, Mythbusters, tested this using 28-gauge steel wire vs. the equivalent weight of spider silk: 25,000 strands. The wire broke at 12.5 pounds while the spider silk held to 26.5 pounds.

The Common Poorwill is the only known bird species to hibernate. It hibernates for up to five months.

Birds aren’t known for having large brains but an ostrich’s brain is smaller than its eyeball.

You may think this is all a waste of time. I will remind you though, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy fame didn’t become a millionaire by watching soap operas. Winning 3.5 million dollars, he proved trivia is no idle pursuit. Better still, some of these facts might help you “wow” a kid in your life and that is worth even more.

TAX DAY is coming! Here is a chance to do something good with a bit of your tax return and make the day less painful.

Donate part of your tax return to support wildlife in Idaho!

On the second page of the Idaho Individual Tax form 40 you have the opportunity to donate to the “Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund”.

Check-off this box on your next return or ask your tax preparer to mark the Nongame check-off on your behalf. You can donate any amount you wish, it all helps to support the wildlife you love.

If you are not from Idaho, check with your own state wildlife agency about how you can help. Many states have a similar program.

Help Idaho Wildlife

When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

And tell them that you heard about it from Nature-track.com!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho