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"The Dangerous World of Butterflies"

 Nature lovers versus breeders. Preservationists versus poachers and smugglers.  A history that goes back eons versus threatened extinctions in the 21st  century. These are just some of the stories that lie within the dangerous world of....butterflies?

 Here on the west coast, we enjoy seeing the annual migration of the brilliant orange monarch butterflies, some of which gather in certain trees at the Bodgea Dunes state park on the Sonoma Coast.  But the Monarchs of eastern North America have a longer and far more remarkable migratory cycle.


Researching and writing this book on butterflies has opened his eyes in unexpected ways, Peter Laufer (left) says, but it also served to fulfill the unarticulated wish behind the impromptu remark that first set him onto that path.




This video compresses the life cycle of the Painted Lady butterfly into less than three minutes of striking time-lapse photography.

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War weary after writing a book about Iraq, Laufer joked before an audience that his next book would be about butterflies. The result: an invitation to a butterfly preserve in Nicaragua. There he stumbled into a theater of intrigue full of strange and nefarious characters-all in pursuit of one of nature's most delicate creatures.


The Dangerous World of Butterflies chronicles Laufer's unexpected discoveries in the butterfly industry and underground. Readers will learn everything there is to know about the beauty and magic of butterflies. But Laufer's narrative takes unpredictable turns into the high-stakes realms of organized crime, ecological devastation, species depletion, natural history museum integrity, and chaos theory. Set in locales throughout the Americas and beyond, this fascinating book takes us into a behind-the-scenes world sure to alter our view the next time we delight in the colorful fluttering of butterflies in our yards.

 Butterflies are enormously popular, and have been for centuries, but not everyone loves them. There is even a website for people who are repelled by them.


Battling Bottled Water

tap logoCivic and national freshwater advocates are reminding us not to take tap water for granted. Instead, they say, we should take it as our drink of choice.

The Messages in Bird Song

david-lukasBirds speak in a language all their own. Through chirps, warbles, trills and calls, they advertize for mates, warn of approaching predators and defend territories. Naturalist and author David Lukas trains listeners to pick up on these cues and hear a new world, as KRCB's Danielle Venton reports. (Right, David Lukas observes a flock of unperturbed Canada geese grazing near Lake Merritt, Oakland/Danielle Venton for KRCB.) 


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Bird vocalization carries an astounding level of information and variety. Here, Lukas has collected three song dialects from the same species -- White-crowned Sparrow. (Image of White Crowned Sparrow, right, courtesy of Public Domain Images.)



Lukas recently published a book about the birds of the Bay Area. The region, he says, is the perfect place to be a birder.

 Lukas will also present a talk on bird song to the Santa Rosa to the Redwood Region Ornithological Society oin Santa Rosa on Feb. 14 . Details here.


In the Tracker's Footsteps

SullivanJim Sullivan, tracker, artist, writer, at Salmon Creek Beach. KRCB photo by Danielle VentonTracking, the ancient art of detecting subtle signals left by animals, is alive and well today -- especially in the North Bay. Through local tracking clubs, classes and the Point Reyes Tracking School, launched this week, the opportunities are ripe for learning the ways of the outdoors. 

Jim Sullivan (right) organizes monthly classes and meet ups. The art of tracking, he says, is sort of like reading a novel. 

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