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Have you ever wondered why some butterflies have iridescent blue-black wings and a taste that’s repulsive to birds and other predators? Ron Rutowski, a Tempe resident and biology professor at Arizona State University since 1976, has too — actually, he’s spent years and traveled extensively throughout North and Central America and Australia, studying the ways color is produced, employed and perceived in the animal kingdom, particularly on ways insects use color as a visual signal and how it’s interpreted by their compound eyes.
BOISE, Idaho — Boise has long been dubbed the "City of Trees," a nickname that always catches newcomers by surprise given the city's high-desert climate and summers with little or no rain.
This 2010 photo provided by Boise Parks & Recreation shows bikers on the Polecat Loop in the Ridge to Rivers trail system in Boise, Idaho. The foothills are also a playground for hikers, runners, mountain bikers and bird-watchers. The city manages a network of more than 130 miles (210 kilometers) of trails and numerous access points, some just minutes from downtown. Even a short, moderate hike along any of the trails provides enough elevation to overlook the city, the valley and the Owyhee Mountains across the valley floor. (AP Photo/Boise Parks & Recreation, Aaron Beck)
This 2010 photo provided by Boise Parks & Recreation shows a mountain biker on the Polecat Loop in the Ridge to Rivers trail system in Boise, Idaho. The foothills are also a playground for hikers, runners, mountain bikers and bird-watchers. The city manages a network of more than 130 miles (210 kilometers) of trails and numerous access points, some just minutes from downtown. Even a short, moderate hike along any of the trails provides enough elevation to overlook the city, the valley and the Owyhee Mountains across the valley floor. (AP Photo/Boise Parks & Recreation, Aaron Beck)
This undated photo courtesy of Tucson Audubon shows a group of Tucson Audubon birders watching for birds in the White Mountains of southern Arizona. From the sandhill crane to the red-faced warbler, rock stars of the birding world have spawned a tourism industry in Arizona that draws bird-watchers from around the world. (AP Photo/Tucson Audubon, Paul & Eng-Li Green)
PHILADELPHIA — The City of Brotherly Love is perhaps best known for its Colonial roots but locals will tell you there's much more to explore in this city of 1.5 million people. Options abound for travelers looking for free things to do in and around the historic district and beyond — and they don't all involve tri-corner hats and Betsy Ross' flag.
Mary Rose is raising money for bird conservation efforts, and she’s headed out on the open waters to do so. Rose will be rowing thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean next summer in the hope that she can be of help to the animal that she admires.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at her now, but Mini was once roughing it on the streets as a stray. This domestic short-haired young adult cat was trapped at a feral feeding station even though she is obviously not feral. Then, as soon as she was rescued, she gave birth to four kittens. After a stay in a foster home, Mini’s kittens found homes, but Mini herself is still waiting for someone to make her a member of the family.
Avian wildlife lovers will enjoy this free 60-minute bird walk at Veteran’s Oasis Park, sponsored by the Desert Rivers Audubon. Rehabilitated owls, falcons and hawks will be onsite with Liberty Wildlife. Binoculars will also be available to aide bird watching.
Gilbert Family Bird Walks, hosted every third Saturday of the month, October through March, by Desert Rivers Audubon are back at Gilbert Riparian Preserve.
As we barrel down the two-lane road, historical markers tell us we are traveling along the original El Camino Real, the frontier wagon trail from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Dating to 1598, it is the oldest European-American trade route.
We wouldn’t know a Gila woodpecker from a Gilded Flicker, but we can tell you the East Valley is a bit of a hotspot for birders, who enjoying racking up wild bird sightings. Now, they can turn to more than a dog-eared old field guide when stalking avian life.
A cat with a mustache? That’s the distinctive Nico, a 4-year-old black and white feline that AZ RESCUE says is “full of mystery, intrigue, and a whole lot of mischief!” But that mischief can sometimes work to your advantage for Nico is a skilled bug hunter who can catch a fly faster than the stickiest spider web.
The gray stallion with the unlikely name Biff and his family were relaxing in the shade of the mesquite woods bordering the Salt River when I spotted a coyote about 40 yards away.
Celebrate one of Arizona’s top birding sites at the 2012 Feathered Friends Festival, a family-friendly event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 24 at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch.
Winter Visitor Welcome: Flash your out-of-state drivers license at the admission booth, and get buy-one-get-one-free admission at this botanical park and bird-watching hotspot. Guided tours of the main trail will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, and Minnesota humorist and musician Mark Fogelson will share Norwegian humor and original songs at 2 p.m. each day.
DETAILS >> Offer good Saturday and Sunday. Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, 37615 U.S. Highway 60, Superior. $9 for adults, $4.50 for kids ages 5-12. (520) 689-2811 or www.ag.arizona.edu/bta.
When it comes to camping close to home, Valley campers in the know have long pitched tents or parked RVs inside Maricopa County parks.
For years, the Gilbert Riparian Preserve has been home not only to birds and bird-watchers, but also feral cats, many of them former pets who were dumped there by irresponsible owners. Save the Cats Arizona has been trapping these felines and then putting them into foster homes for rehabilitation with the hope of future adoption. Now they need your help.
Saturday is National Trails Day, a time designated by the nonprofit American Hiking Society for the past 18 years to get Americans outdoors and into the natural spaces that spur adventure for some, soul-soothing tranquility for others.
Celtic music concert
Short on New Year’s resolutions? Take a cue from what our own East Valley has to offer, and resolve to live like a tourist in your own backyard. From getting back to nature (try bird-watching at Gilbert Riparian Preserve; spotting otters, beavers and eagles from a canoe on the lower Salt River near Mesa; or hiking at San Tan Mountain Regional Park) to going out on the town (think drinks and a show at Mesa Arts Center or fun, tasty dining in downtown Chandler), our nearest cities offer plenty to do. Here are our picks for four local things you should make a point to see or do in 2010.
We encourage readers to submit letters to the editor on issues of interest to East Valley residents. Submissions should be no longer than 300 words, factually accurate and original thoughts of the writer. Please be brief and include name, address, city and phone number for verification. Letters and comments may be edited for clarity and length.
Jim Ripley: Nothing is more precious in the desert than shade and water. Throw in the views of the Sonoran Desert, the bluff and mountains and you have Coon Bluff. I’ve seen many beautiful places, and this is one of them, I decided.