Bay Area Wonders: In Praise of Redwoods, Sea Otters, and Other Astonishments

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Bay Area Wonders In Praise of Redwoods, Sea Otters, and Other Astonishments



Bay Area Wonders In Praise of Redwoods, Sea Otters, and Other Astonishments


The Nueva School Hillsborough Campus 6565 Skyline Blvd. Hillsborough, CA 94010 650-350-4600

© 2022, Text by the 2022 Fifth Grade Students at The Nueva School. Published 2022 by The Nueva School. Printed in Burlingame, California. Cover and interior illustrations by the 2022 Fifth Grade Students. Photos by Cristina Veresan. Design by LiAnn Yim. 3

Contents INTRODUCTION White-breasted Nuthatch BY JASON R. Monarch Butterfly BY XOCHI S. Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake BY ANDREW Z. Wood Duck BY BRANDON N. California Tiger Salamander BY EMMA L. Roof Rat BY ISLA D. San Francisco Garter Snake BY JERRY H. Iridescent Kelp BY EVA G. Costa Hummingbird BY MADDIE L. Coastal Redwood Tree BY EVELYN H. Bay Ghost Shrimp BY OLIVER S. Flame Skimmer Dragonfly BY LUCIA V. G. Mexican Free-tailed Bat BY ATTICUS L. Carolina Chickadee BY GWENYTH Z. Kelp Perch BY HARRY C. California Sea Lion BY EVA Y. Coyote BY OLIVER R. Starry Flounder BY BEN K. Mountain Lion BY FELIX P. Grey Whale BY ALICE N. California Halibut BY ANDREW L. Common Yarrow BY HUXLEY E. Great Horned Owl BY BEN R. Common Bottlenose Dolpin BY ELLA Y. Egg-yolk Jelly BY KYLIE E-M. Harbor Seal BY MIA T. Ground Squirrel BY CATRIONA C. Bat Ray BY SKYLER L. Snow Plover BY KATELYN D. 4

California Scrub-Jay BY REED C. California Sagebrush BY NICHOLAS S. Northern Raccoon BY JANE J. Pickleweed BY AVIVA S. Brush Rabbit BY IVAN C. Bobcat BY RYO S. Bullwhip Kelp BY ALON H. Oyster BY RAFI P. Dusky-footed Woodrat BY DIANA P. Red Fox BY TIAGO S. Great White Shark BY KARSH N. Banana Slug BY ANYA W. Saltwater Harvest Mouse BY MICHAEL S. Northern Pintail Duck BY VALENTINA T. White-crowned Sparrow BY LEO H. Mule Deer BY IRIS B. Short-beaked Common Dolphin BY KAITO H. Steller’s Jay BY CHANNING L. Sea Otter BY KEIRA C. Western Fence Lizard BY NATALIE D. Giant Kelp BY KEPLER Q. Red-winged Blackbird BY ELISA K. California Poppy BY JULIETTA C. Leopard Shark BY LUCAS Y. Western Bluebird BY AANIK C. Allen’s Hummingbird BY KACI G. Long-tailed Weasel BY MEREDITH M. Great Blue Heron BY JAKE B. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


We invite you to marvel at the species with which we share our world and the kind of transformative connections we make with them.


Introduction Our topography and coastal climate make the Bay Area a biodiversity hotspot—meaning not only that it supports a rich variety of plant communities and wildlife but also that the ecosystems are under threat. Despite widespread commercial development and other human impacts, our region is home to hundreds of native plant species and a dazzling array of birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. Many species are endemic— found nowhere else in the world—and some have been classified as rare and endangered. It’s important to us that 5th grade students gain a sense of place here and nurture a deep appreciation for our diverse ecosystems. This year, a new way we addressed these goals in our curriculum was the Bay Area Wonders project. The initial inspiration for the project came when we saw writer Aimee Nezhukumatathil speak at the Nueva School’s 2021 Humanities Fair. Even over Zoom, Nezhukumatathil sparkled with enthusiasm, and her insights about her writing process and the natural world were equally impressive. She spoke about her book World Of Wonders (2020)—a collection of natural history essays that explore her connections, both real and metaphorical, to different species from around the world. Each essay is devoted to a unique species and they are all beautifully illustrated by Fumi Nakamura. We both read the book and thought the fifth graders could emulate the form of these “wonder essays.” We developed the project over the summer, supported by a Nueva grant, and we implemented it this fall. For our collaborative project, we decided to focus on the Bay Area. Students were provided a curated list of local native plants and animals to select their essay subject. We encouraged students to choose a species with which they felt connected; for some, they had observed an organism firsthand, while for others they related to an aspect of the organism’s physical characteristics or behavior. In science class, students investigated ecology concepts, and in writing class they read and analyzed essays from World of Wonders. Then, in both classes, using Nezhukumatathil’s essays as a guide, students researched and wrote their own essays about their selected species—combining personal experiences, figurative language, and natural history information. Finally, students consulted reference images to create a realistic scientific illustration of their species to accompany the essay. All the fifth grade essays are collected here in this Bay Area Wonders: In Praise of Redwoods, Sea Otters, and Other Astonishments anthology. We are proud to present this incredible student work celebrating our local biodiversity! We invite you to marvel at the species with which we share our world and the kind of transformative connections we make with them.




White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) BY JASON R.

How interesting it is that the white-breasted nuthatch can walk upside down, defying gravity as if to laugh, “You want me to fall?” If only I could defy the will of the majority, defy the will of the foolish. After all, if I were a white-breasted nuthatch and anyone ever tried to make me feel unwelcome, I would just chase them right out of my territory, shouting my famous insistent yammer. I would be, in fact, the biggest nuthatch in North America, the place where I would reside and build nests and call my famous cry. Then, I would return to the friendly bird I was, walking down trees and branches, and whacking nuts and acorns against trees to get the seeds in my particular way. I would be cute and funny and acrobatic, just like a Dr. Seuss drawing. I would go back to my nest, or back to the cavity or former woodpecker nest and continue building. Perhaps I would take some time to admire what would be my beautiful white face, colored like a tulip, and my cap dipped with ink, as well as what would be my blue-gray upperparts. Or, if it was winter, I might join a hunting flock led by titmice and chickadees, deciding it was not a time for admiring oneself, but a time to snack on some insects. Perhaps, if I were male, I might dance my funny courtship ritual, bowing deeply, spreading my tail, drooping my wings, raising my head, and swaying back and forth with the wind. How beautiful I would be, left alone and in the wild! I could go anywhere I pleased since I am, once again, not to be messed with. If only I could be like that. But I’m not. I’m a person. Once I was on a vacation in Sri Lanka with my former friends Hugo and Ryan. They were what you would call a mild dose of completely wild. They reminded me of my brother, running on the bus, in restaurants, everywhere, messing around. Even worse, they thought that what they were doing was right and that I had no reason—or right—to object. Whenever I tried to mention it to them, whenever I was concerned about their safety, about simply being rude, or about distracting the bus driver, they would shut me down. (Their parents didn’t mind either.) I didn’t know about the bird back then, but if I did, I would probably wish I was like it. I would just scream my ear-piercing screech and chase them away like the highly territorial bird that I would be. In fact, I might be the one who was bullying them, as white-breasted nuthatches are known for bullying their enemies. Perhaps I might jam them with my beak that is usually used for getting seeds out of nuts. Or maybe I would just fly away. After all, what would be my “cute” little wings beat more than thirty times per second, and I would just swoop right out of their grasp. I would escape to wherever I would go, away from the wild children, away from those greedy hands, and away from those sarcastic smiles. I might go for some peanut butter in a bird feeder, enjoying my time away from them. How fun and how easy it would be to just escape? Yet it may be ever so easy to pretend, but ever so hard to make a reality. Even though I have never seen even a nuthatch, it would be so easy to imagine myself away from everyone. Just enjoying myself in the wild, eating seeds, being cute, escaping. And no one would ever dare to invade my home. I would once again be beautiful, walking down trees and branches, and whacking nuts and acorns. Perhaps you should try to leave things be. And possibly, you will be awarded the gift of being able to appreciate the world, if you are just quiet enough... 8

After all, if I were a whitebreasted nuthatch and anyone ever tried to make me feel unwelcome, I would just chase them right out of my territory, shouting my famous insistent yammer.


I have some very fond but old memories with monarch butterflies. They are these alluring orange and black butterflies with patterns that on the males look like they could have been sculpted carefully with wire...


Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) BY XOCHI S.

Monarch butterflies are a wondrous species not just of butterflies but in general. They are a beautiful and interesting species. I have some very fond but old memories with monarch butterflies. They are these alluring orange and black butterflies with patterns that on the males look like they could have been sculpted carefully with wire but on the females look like you could draw them with a crayola marker. But sadly these gorgeous butterflies’ population had been dropping since the eighties and just last year the total count went down 53% then generally they only live to be 6-8 months old. One of these old but fond memories is when I was I want to say four or five, when I was in Pre-K. My class was raising monarch butterflies. To be honest I don’t really remember the weeks raising them but I do remember the day we released them. It was a relatively bright day which was a nice day in my city because it’s normally very foggy here. My teachers brought the little green mesh tunnel thing we had been raising them in outside. Then they brought my whole class outside. I remember watching each and every one of them slowly fly over the playard and into the sky. To my little self, it was just ‘aww the pretty butterflies are leaving’ and it’s still kinda that. Monarch butterflies have some interesting behaviors that I like,including: There are some more grotesque things about this insect like the fact that they eat the skin they shed. There are also some more ‘oh’ types of facts, like how it is the state insect to seven states: Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia. They also look super creepy when they are in their caterpillar stage, like in those Sci-Fi movies when a slimy alien creature crawls out of something. There is also the fact that their chrysalis have gold studs like you might see on a singer’s outfit at a concert. It’s also creepy when they come out of their chrysalis. When it’s halfway out, they look gross and weird, using the Sci-Fi reference again it looks like a slimy bug alien. As adults, they will gather in what’s known as a swarm and completely cover tree branches like kids on a hot day when the ice cream truck comes by wanting to relieve themselves of the heat. As well as their wingspan is 3-4 inches. Another one of these memories was in I want to say first grade and my parents and I were on a trip to Santa Cruz. It was the time of year where a lot of monarch butterflies migrate to Santa Cruz and always gather on this one tree. This particular year my parents took me to see the spectacle. I remember the tree being roped off and because it was the afternoon, and there weren’t a lot of people there besides what my memory tells me was an old couple. They were so beautiful that nobody would really think about the fact that they are poisonous because they eat milkweed to keep other animals from eating them which has resulted in them being poisonous. I imagine a giant monarch butterfly killing people like a vampire by sticking their teeth into people and in this case poisoning them. I don’t know why I thought of this whilst looking at a bunch of monarch butterflies on a tree. But my 7 year old self had a very big imagination. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like if the monarch was the size of a bird or a plane, and how interesting it would be if when you’re just walking down the street suddenly the shadow of a giant butterfly appears. I do realize it might be really nerve wracking and terrifying but also it’s a giant butterfly. On occasion I will see a monarch just flying in the middle of a street. But because of Covid I can’t see the large swarms of these butterflies but I would love to again. To see their bright orange wings and the careful designs that adorn their wings. What I would give to see the swarm of butterflies gathering on the tree like a secret organization. What I would give. 11

Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) BY ANDREW Z.

Pre-K was a prime time of life, having only three and a half hours of school, playdates every single day, and on top of that learning something new almost every day. When the world is still full of knowledge and you aren’t, you want to gobble it up like a snake, all in one ginormous bite and swallow. When I wasn’t feasting on knowledge, I was snacking on cookies and milk at my friend Pablo’s house. It was like swallowing a lot of snacks at Pablo’s house. The days we’d spend watching Wild Kratts on PBS kids, or the countless hours we’d go in the creeks near emerald hills. These playdates were adventurous but calming. Just like how some days we’d go fishing for small minnows, while other days we’d hike up the steep hills with amazing views of nature. But out of all of these playdates one filled with more adventure and excitement than any other: hiking into a rattlesnake. Of course, California is inhabited by many mountain lions and snakes when going hiking, but this was the first time we saw one in person. The snake camouflaged like a greyish brown twig. Its rattle shaking like a maraca and its tongue wagging like an excited dog. The sharp fang teeth give it the resemblance of a vampire. It looked like a vampire twig. These snakes are venomous witches, toxin is transmitted by biting its victim, making a cruel and painful death for the snake’s prey which are small rodents like mice and also small birds. They live mainly in dry rocky places where they hide in between the gaps of the rocks. This also segments into the way they hunt, being a species that mainly hunts during the night they can sense the warm blood in their prey because it is a cold-blooded reptile making it not sense itself when using its ability of the equivalent of night vision. Their long bodies and triangular heads are covered with intricate hexagonal scales that glow a vibrant yet mysterious brown. The snake is like a lasso that’s ready to snap into a venomous bite. Such a fierce animal that screams with excitement. When these animals go into the mating season the males slam their bodies together like swords and battle until one falls and the winner gets the mate. These animals are about 4-6 years old when they start to mate. Their lives depend on gender. When the male lives up to 22 years the female lives about 2 more than the male. Like all snakes, they shed their skin which looks like a transparent balloon with scales on it. Their skin can be sold for 2-3 dollars per foot. Their blue tongue glows like the ocean and the vampire fangs make a fierce face like a sabertooth tiger. Rattlesnakes live in places like Western Texas, southern New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California. When they shed their skin it allows them to get bigger. Their rattles on the end of their tail can be used for communication and hunting where the different frequencies can make it look like it’s angry, hungry, or protective. This is used to fend off predators, talk to other snakes or when they mate. Their rattles can move at 40-60 per second. They are deadly combined with the scary rattle and venomous teeth that can pierce through their prey of amphibians, small rodents, small birds, and also some fish. They hunt every 2-3 weeks and most of their body weight is made up of the water they drink. Water, the thing that flowed all through the creek. Although we encountered this vampire rope it never hurt us. A vampire twig and what would look like a giant to that snake. Pablo’s not here anymore. He moved away during the summer to the south and was going to go to Spain later this year. Life without Pablo was lacking adventure, the playdates we’d have and the comics we’d write. Time and time again he would push me out of my comfort zone and make me experience these new things every single time we would play. Having Pablo in my life would time and time remind me that these moments of excitement would be something I cherish for the rest of my life. Something that would be scary, something sucking out that fear like a vampire. So whenever I think of snakes I remember the most adventurous friend that I had ever had. Someone that could’ve been a random stranger to me who taught me so much, so maybe look twice before you step on an ordinary twig. 12

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To eat, they stick their head under the water and wiggle their butts trying to snag a little fish or little pieces of bird seed the person who takes care of them gives them.


Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) BY BRANDON N.

I live in this big apartment complex called Woodlake. If you walk out the apartment door then you can see apartment 405, where my neighbor Daniel lives. He is part of a family who are my friends, but after the coronavirus our relationship has become just saying hello when we see each other. Anyway, turn right then get in the elevator. Ride it down to the ground floor. There, if you turn left and walk up a little path, there is a circular path with a giant pond in the middle. Inside the pond there are a lot of different animals including about 5 different types of bird and some turtles. You see some Wood Ducks (pronounced exactly like what you think it’s pronounced like) in this area. To eat, they stick their head under the water and wiggle their butts trying to snag a little fish or little pieces of bird seed the person who takes care of them gives them. If you go around this circle then you’ll see a path leading into an overhanging tree grove. The trees there are almost 30 feet tall. If you go to the back, peek behind a tree, you’ll see turtles, mallards, swans, and Wood Ducks. They all sit on the grass peacefully sleeping with their head tucked under their wings. I have learned not to disturb them. When provoked, they screech like mad and try to claw you, or they fly away. Right behind this circular path is a small field which is good for baseball. Me and my dad play there when it’s not rainy and we can always hear the Wood Ducks calling. Some of the other birds and squirrels there have grown plump and fat over the years from people feeding them. There are some old grandmas that feed the Wood Ducks bird seed and little bits of bread from the Safeway right behind the baseball field. But I have never tried that, because you know, I’m not an old granny. The Wood Duck (and the mallard) thrive in the park because they have none of their predators there (mainly owls, minks, and raccoons). Like most ducks, the Wood Duck can’t live that long. It only lives for 3-4 years. That’s only 1/20th of how long the average person lives. There was some really old Wood Duck who lived for 22 years, but even that is very short. It is sad to see these cute and noble ducks live for only 3 years, but that’s how nature works, so deal with it. The Wood Duck nests in trees close to water, so that their hatchlings can jump down from the nest and go into the water. The hatchlings can jump down over 50 feet (each letter in the giant Hollywood sign is 49 feet). The female Wood Duck can lay from 6-15 eggs at a time. If two nests are too close together, it is not strange for a nest to have over 15 eggs because sometimes other females get confused and lay their eggs in other nests (egg-dumping). Within 2 weeks of hatching, 88% of hatchlings die. The most common cause of death is getting eaten by predators. This is why the Wood Duck has evolved to lay so many eggs at a time. Adult Wood Ducks have a diverse calling system consisting of up to 12 different calls, whereas less educated hatchlings have only 5. With eyes that are a bright red and heads that look like curved knives, and jabbing their beaks at you, they look menacing and evil. But in contrast they have a high pitched squeak. It sounds like KAAAAAAA with a very very very high pitch. Despite this, the Wood Duck is considered the most beautiful duck in the world, with their many colors including vibrant and colorful blacks, greens and browns. They represent delightful energeticness and happiness. The female has many more calm and tranquil colors like light brown and little bits of blue on its wing and a white teardrop on it’s eye, like it is eternally crying. When I’m bored I always find my mind wandering to these beautiful and graceful birds. I think of their bright colors and their eternal tears. I think of the grandmas who feed them, the mallards that always are with them, and the tortoises calmly sitting on a plant-covered concrete island. 15

California Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma californiense) BY EMMA L.

I remember when I was just a 3 year old. I splashed warm water while I laughed and giggled my head off. I remember my grandma brushing my teeth for me, the vivid memory of sweet flavored toothpaste muffling my giggles. I was dried in a bright pink towel, and rubbed with sweet-smelling lotion. I was a California Tiger Salamander, smiling because of the burrow the ground squirrel gave me, snuggling in my new room. I was never so warm before. The California Tiger Salmander’s body is a black canvas, pale yellow splotches splattered all over its body. Its long, rounded, black nose, and beady, tiny eyes, need to be useful in order to breed or eat in the dark, late, night. In order to get the title of a tiger, it has pale white or yellow stripes wrapping around its body. The tiger salamander has 12 coastal grooves on each side of its main body. These grooves are crucial to the salamander if not all salamanders. The grooves increase the salamander’s skin area and create water channels to suck in more moisture for the salamander to survive. When I, a human with two legs, was a 5 year old, I learned to be independent. I learned to walk. I learned to speak for myself. I learned to eat on my own. I learned to brush my teeth. Everyone needs to be independent when you grow up, because that’s just how society accepts you, and what we call a factor of living a successful life. Independence is a great skill in life, but you can’t just be independent on your own, you have to learn when to be dependent and when to be independent. You need to find the balance between the two, or else you will tip over, leading you nowhere in your fragile life. When the Salamander is born, it doesn’t have any adults to take care of it. Sheesh, irresponsible parents. Unlike many other animals and creatures (including us), we always had a guardian or someone to lean on as we grew up to be more independent. But for the California Tiger Salamander, it’s completely different. When they were young, they never had anyone to lean on. They had to feed on their own, they had to survive on their own, and they had no assistance on how to do anything. They were as independent as ever. As they grew older, the larvae learned to be more dependent. Soon, they grew into full living 20 centimeter adults. They then learned to be dependent on those dry days where they would usually crumple up and run out of moisture. This is how we live with the California Tiger Salamander, independence, and being dependent. Who knew such a different creature can be related to us two-legged creatures? Let’s now jump into the present. So, let’s say that you are that cute, yet creepy California Tiger Salamander. Like the clumsy Salamander you step on the weird, grey, line with yellow streaks upon it, and sit there. The humans out their will probably think it’s suicide, but you although have the brain of the walnut. Now most humans will probably not look at the road to see if there are salamanders, especially if it’s 18 centimeters long. So you just sit there. Even though you should be breeding at the pond since it’s early November, and you’re 4 years old. So, you just wasted 5 minutes of your 30 years of life, sitting there, being roadkill. And then one solid crash and you’re dead. That wrecked Toyota Prius didn’t even acknowledge your death. You see, that just might mean a “funny story” to you, but it happens. Maybe I should emphasize the word “happens” to “it happens often”. This is one of the most common “accidents” that occur, turning these creatures into dead, lifeless, salamanders. No one wants that, do they? Although many people don’t know this, in fact almost all animals are important to the environment! Even those pesky little flies you find all over the planet, or maybe even the black and white chubby panda. So, why is this salamander so important? The tiny-tiger amphibians eat herbivores, or they eat secondary animals like frogs -- making them the second and 16

When the Salamander is born, it doesn’t have any adults to take care of it...They had to feed on their own, they had to survive on their own.

third layer of the food chain. These salamanders monitor insect and amphibian overpopulation, as well as providing a yummy snack for animals like herons, snakes, fish, bullfrogs, skunks, and egrets. They have this special feature to their skin-- it’s thin. The thin skin is sensitive and acts like an alarm to many other species seeing if there is drought or pollution levels are fairly high. So what can we learn about the living tiger amphibian? It reminds us that we are, as a community, almost on figure. We help each other out when we can, but sometimes we don’t, and that’s absolutely fine. Afterall, you’re on a balance beam, closing your eyes and trying to stay in the center. Two weights on each side of your arms, independence, and dependency. The skill to know when you asked for too much. To know when you need someone to cry on. To know when to eat from your parents. To know when to excel at your studies. Too much of any, you’ll fall on your head. Clueless. Wandering. Drowning. Down, down, down. 17

I can only imagine the way that little pup was feeling when he fell out of his nest, out of his tree, out of his family.


Roof Rat (Rattus rattus) BY ISLA D.

Over the summer when I was nine, I had been sitting in the living room drawing when my mum yelled out my name. I rushed outside to find her standing next to my dog Catie who was sniffing the ground. My mum pushed her back a bit and told me to go grab some gloves from under the sink. I remember running through the hall and grabbing a pair of latex gloves from a small box. I handed them to her and she picked up a small rat pup that looked like a furry stuffed animal. I can still envision the moment I first saw the pup, rolling around and reaching its claws out looking for something to grab onto. The body of an adult roof rat can be up to 8 inches, their tails can be the same size or longer, whereas the pups are about half that size. Their fur is a mix of many colors, such as brown, white, gray, and black. Their ears look like they are made of stretched out clay, cracked and scratched in some spots but also smooth and good for hearing sounds around them. An array of whiskers line their face like tiny pieces of string. They have small pink and brown claws and long muzzles. Their eyes are large and dart around quickly scanning the area for predators or prey. They blend in with the ground and sneak around in the darkness. They use their small claws like needles sinking them into vines and branches to climb up tall trees and buildings. You can hear them running on the fence and dashing through the tree top, but you never see more than a glimpse of their shadow, rushing by, back into the darkness. I can only imagine the way that little pup was feeling when he fell out of his nest, out of his tree, out of his family. I wonder how he felt when we put him in a cardboard box with fabric for him to lie on. He rolled around in the soft plush bedding trying to get a better grip on it. My mum called an animal expert that we hoped to give him to, but they would only be available in two days. In the meantime I fed him milk using a paint brush. I would dip the brush in a small glass, covering the bristles in a creamy layer of milk. I would try my best to get just enough that he could drink it, but not too much that he might choke on it. I still remember the way he would grab the paintbrush with his little claws in an attempt to pull it closer. I remember the way it felt as I held him while he sucked on the paintbrush. I remember when I named him Snickers and smiled wishing we could keep him. I remember when we drove to San Francisco and gave him away in hopes he could live a good life. But most of all I remember the next day when we found two more rat pups. I named one Resses, but he was weak and didn’t make it through the night. The other one, however, who I named Almond, made it to San Francisco and is now living with his brother. I thought of the rat pups when I was the new kid at a school where everyone was already friends, a school where it was hard to fit in, a school where I wanted to hide everyday. I wanted to run up into the trees where no one could see me, a place where I was hidden, nothing but a shadow. I wished I could be like the roof rat. The way they rush around in the darkness, a single sound gives them away, the soft pattering of their claws on the leaves. So high up in the tree, a view of everything around them like a bird safely hidden away. I didn’t always want to hide, I found friends who cared about me, friends who ended up being more than friends. I figured out that I was okay where I was. I figured out that many other people felt the same way and if I hadn’t experienced those weeks of loneliness when I sat at a desk on my own and didn’t talk to anyone during recess. I wouldn’t have learned how that felt. I wouldn’t be able to help that person who sits in the back of the cafeteria eating lunch, works by themselves at a desk on the edge of the room, and never speaks to anyone but the teacher. The way the roof rat stares at you with it’s big black eyes, makes you smile and realize that no matter what’s happening around you, you’ll be okay. 19

San Francisco Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia) BY JERRY H.

At a young age, I was interested in many reptiles, like marine iguanas, komodo dragons, and geckos. One of the most interesting reptiles to me were snakes. I was curious about them, and asked questions to myself like, How does the cobra shoot venom out of its teeth? Where do venomous snakes get their poison? How do snakes move on land without limbs? Snakes are always interesting, and once I had an answer, I kept on having more questions. I have seen plenty of images of snakes, but seeing one in real life is a different story. One day when I was around 6 years old, when I still lived in Shanghai, China, I was walking down the pathway of the garden to our goldfish pond. I was feeding the goldfish when I noticed something strange. There was a fish with its back barely peeking out of water, and its scales were pure black with a white underbelly. I couldn’t see it very well; it just swam in a circle and disappeared. My eyes followed the fish back to the shore, and that was when I realized it wasn’t a fish at all! It had smooth scales, black eyes, and its body was long and curled up. It was a snake! I didn’t dare to approach it, I was afraid it would bite me. But the snake didn’t dare to approach me either. Instead, the moment it saw me, the snake slithered away quickly, as if it was afraid of me, and left without a trace. I just moved to the Bay Area this summer from Shanghai, China. Ever since I moved here, I realized that the Bay Area is full of life. It is one of the nation’s six most important biodiversity hotspots, and I never know which animal to expect. While I was surfing the web, I came upon images of lots of amazing animals, but the one that attracted me the most was a beautiful snake with lots of stripes of different colors, and that was the San Francisco garter snake. I was amazed by its colorful stripes; I had no idea such a beautiful snake even existed! The San Francisco garter snake is endemic to the Bay Area, which means its native to here and can’t be found anywhere else. It resides in San Francisco, San Mateo County, and the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Upper Crystal Spring Reservoir, and along the Pacific Coast to Waddell Creek. You can find them in small bodies of freshwater, wetlands, grasslands and sometimes in rodent burrows; they like to live near bodies of water because they are good at escaping by swimming away, where they are protected from predators at the shore. Even animals or people that mean no harm can scare a San Francisco garter snake into the water. They usually live alone, but in the winter, when they hibernate, they gather together to stay warm. Often known as the most beautiful snake in all America, the San Francisco garter snake has extremely colorful stripes. It looks like a twisted and curved rainbow of blue, black, red, and orange. Unlike other species of garter snakes, which have a white or yellow underbelly, the underbelly of the San Francisco garter snake is turquoise-ish. When fully grown, their size ranges from 18-55 inches in length. It looks like a long and colorful rope with large eyes on the sides which are relatively bigger compared to other species of garter snakes. This allows them to have good eyesight. They use their excellent eyesight to track predators and prey. The San Francisco garter snake primarily prey on a few different species of frogs, like the California red-legged frog or the Pacific tree frog. They can also feed on American bullfrogs, and can also consume juvenile San Francisco garter snakes. This snake also has the ability to feed on the California newt, which possesses deadly toxins to protect itself from predators. Even though San Francisco garter snakes might seem like fierce predators, they are actually pretty shy. Because of their shy behavior, the San Francisco garter snake’s number one plan is to slither away. The moment you find one and look at them, they slither into the water as fast as a strike of lightning. Thanks to their good eyesight and agile body, San Francisco garter snakes are extremely fast in both land and water because they’re excellent swimmers. They also have mildly toxic saliva that would be lethal and deadly to most kinds of animals; however, they’re harmless to humans. 20






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Not only does this snake possess these abilities, they can also give off pheromones to communicate by flicking their tongues. Pheromones are also important for mating. During mating season (spring and fall), females can give off pheromones to attract males. Lots of males will come at once, and this is known as a mating ball. Fortunately, just like other snakes, the San Francisco garter snake fights for a female in a non-violent way. While other animals might try to violently fight and injure their opponent/s to mate, the San francisco garter snake will try to discharge and hide the pheromones the females are producing, and then use the ones that are hidden as its own. The other adults will be confused and go to the males pretending to be female instead of the real female snake. Once all the snakes are drawn away from the female, the males pretending to be female will immediately slither back and try to mate with the female snake. Once they mate, the female will give birth to at least 20 to 40 babies at a time. After those juvenile garter snakes are born, they would survive for around two years, or maybe even ten, if kept in captivity. Like a San Francisco garter snake, sometimes I also wish I could slither away quickly and silently into the water, where I can hear nothing on the surface and while I stay there, and be protected from predators. When I’m feeling unhappy, or if there’s someone that’s bothering me, I wish I could flee to the water. Underwater, it’s silent and peaceful no matter how loud it is on the surface. Simply being quick could also be useful; nowadays, I feel like time is moving so quickly. Whether I’m always on time and never late, or if I could finish homework and piano practice quickly, being fast will always make a change for me. The San Francisco garter snake has been listed as “endangered” as early as 1976, when many federal laws started to protect them from extinction. Now it is still illegal to kill or capture a San francisco garter snake and they can only be kept in captivity in sanctuaries. People are now working together to protect the San Francisco garter snake, and hopefully one day these colorful snakes will no longer be endangered and can be found all over the Bay area. When I was young, I thought there wasn’t such a thing as a colorful snake, but the San Francisco garter snake can remind you just how colorful this world of wonders can really be if we work together to restore it. 21


After the seaweed is removed from the water and given time to dry, it becomes a brittle brown or black, almost like dried fruit, drained of its colors. 22

Iridescent Kelp (Mazzaella splendens) BY EVA G.

How nice it would be to be as flexible as iridescent seaweed! Whether a season changes, or just a plan, a required skill is to be flexible. Bendable, rubbery, and changeable. Able to adjust to a new environment in little time, with little energy, and without much complaint. In kindergarten, my beloved teacher requested us to sit on the weathered baby-blue carpet that she kept in the corner of the room, saying that today there was a change, that we needed to be flexible. She waved her arms in a fashion that hinted at flexibility, a challenging subject for us five-year-olds. This is when I discovered that flexibility was a needed skill to live a fruitful life, and this is when I turned to iridescent seaweed to teach me these skills. This seaweed is a master of flexibility. Not only is the plant rubbery in texture, it even changes color based on its habitat. The blades natively grow on rocky landscapes from the gulf of Alaska, all the way down to the coast of Mexico. Its vibrant colors range from purples, to yellow-ish browns, to reds, but only when it is underwater or wet. After the seaweed is removed from the water and given time to dry, it becomes a brittle brown or black, almost like dried fruit, drained of its colors. The oily rainbow seaweed loses its iridescence and fades away, always ready to burst back into color after returning to the water. Iridescent seaweed received its name from its unusual iridescent sheen, which usually shines blue underwater, working with the wetness to reflect a rainbow of colors. The plant gives off a reflected light, and though it appears as though the brightness is muted by a translucent curtain, this effect creates a unique sparkle. A playful rainbow of light and texture. The rainbow that is always in motion like the world around it. Today I aspire to help our world grow. When one can invent, when one can shine their unique light onto the world, the world becomes a better place. Like iridescent seaweed, its rainbow blades creating a range of color, of difference, I wish that everyone would shine their own type of light. Their light of ideas, of help, of creativity. When I was six, I was tasked to design a way to stop the world’s water problems. Later, I submitted my idea, its description scrawled in misspelled, small, first grade handwriting, a sketch quickly scribbled. Who knows what has become of the spark that was lit when I wrote that. But I do know that if we all ignite our sparks, and make it our goal to help, we will make the difference that we all need. Just like iridescent seaweed, with a light made to change, to spark ideas. Most of the people on Earth share a particular anatomy, we look pretty much the same on the outside, but when we look closer, everyone has many different personalities, habits, thoughts, contributions, and personalizations. Like humans, Mazzaella splendens and Mazzaella flaccida are very similar. Mazzaella splendens is in the Mazzaella grouping of algae, Mazzaella meaning “iridescent weed”. Even with such different genetic codes, Mazzaella splendens barely stands out of its large family of over five separate species. If one looks closely at the blades, they will see a stripe that is three to six centimeters long on Mazzaella splendens, while they see a stripe that is less than two centimeters long on Mazzaella flaccida. The appearance is nearly the exact same on both large seaweeds, though the genetics are oddly different. Just like me, and just like you. We are all similar, but when one looks closely we are separate, almost special, people. It is hard to tell us apart just by our appearance, but easy by our genetics, by interacting. If only you and I both could be more flexible, more helpful, more different. When things go right, when things go wrong, and when things look gray, we should be able to bend. When people require a helping hand, when people ask for a helping hand, when you need your own help, being able to help the world. When everyone feels the same, when everyone feels alone, when everyone needs a friend, one so different and so much the same, being able to diversify yourself. Remember iridescent seaweed, just like I have. If you are like this algae, you can do it. Yes, you can change the world. You can change the world. You can change the world. 23

Costa Hummingbird (Calypte costae) BY MADDIE L.

When I was younger, I used to visit a family friend who had a hummingbird feeder in her front yard. I watched the hummingbirds flapping around, drinking the sweet sugar water, returning again and again, like me asking for more dessert! If I was a hummingbird, I would drink sugar water and nectar all day. Flying from house to house, and garden to garden, to get my fill. I wouldn’t even have to go to a store to buy sugary sweets because people refill the sugar water in their bird feeders as soon as it runs out. Although the hummingbirds I saw were probably Anna’s Hummingbirds, this memory made me want to research the beautiful and compelling Costa Hummingbird. The Costa Hummingbird is a distinctive and fascinating creature. It is the second smallest hummingbird in the United States. Costa Hummingbirds are so small with an average length of 7.62 cm. The oldest known Costa Hummingbird lived to eight years and nine months old. Male Costa hummingbirds have a unique feature that distinguishes it from females. They have purple feathers around their necks, which they puff out when they are showing off to females. When the male Costa is puffing, it reminds me of a baby octopus because the shape of their feathers looks like octopus tentacles reaching out from their bodies. Female Costa Hummingbirds do not have purple feathers around their necks and are mostly green and white. Costa Hummingbirds were named by Jules Bourcier, a French naturalist, who named the bird after his friend, Louis Marie Pantaleon Costa de Beauregar. Costa Hummingbirds have unique behaviors including the way that they eat, breed, and communicate. The Costa Hummingbird visits over 1,840 flowers every day to get the nutrition it needs. They also feed on small insects such as ants or flies that they pluck out of the air for a bit of protein. When I think of the Costa Hummingbird zipping around when looking for food, it reminds me of me and my friends racing during recess, darting from one place to another. But they aren’t just racing around, they are pollinating plants such as Agave, Chuparosa, Desert Honeysuckle, and Fairy Duster, while also feeding on their nectar. Breeding sessions happen between January and May. Then females start nesting and lay a clutch usually consisting of two eggs. Incubation periods are around 15 to 18 days. The first egg hatches two days after the nest completion and the second follows two days after the first. The mother feeds the babies until they can leave the nest, usually at 20 to 23 days, that is also the time when babies start flying. Costa Hummingbirds have a cute little chirp! They vocalize in a high-pitched chirp. Females vocalize to indicate food sources, enemies, and a lot more. Male Costas vocalize when in danger and during courtship. When Costa Hummingbirds vocalize to indicate enemies, it reminds me of people screaming when they are in danger. Costa Hummingbirds can normally be found in deserts or arid habitats. They are located in the western region of the United States and Mexico with a northern limit of central California and a southern limit of Mexico. Typically they live with plants like the Joshua Tree and the Cholla Cactus. There have been reports of sightings of the Costa Hummingbirds in Alaska, Kansas, and the southern tip of Mexico. Costas migrate when the weather is unbearable or the food supply is short, like how I go inside to the air conditioning on a hot day or find my way to the kitchen for a snack when I am hungry. Unfortunately, Climate change is affecting the Costa Hummingbirds’ habitats and causing them to migrate far away from their homes. After researching Costas, I realized the reason why I was so interested in them is that I have imagined myself as a hummingbird. I envision myself drinking sweet sugar water from bird feeders, getting nectar from flowers, flying to places, and pollinating flowers. But there are threats to Costa Hummingbirds now. They typically live in deserts that are already warm, and they are only getting warmer. Though Costa Hummingbirds aren’t endangered and are known as a concern to many zoos and animal rescues, like some other plants and animals, they need protection. To help Costa Hummingbirds please stop throwing away reusable items in the trash and support companies or organizations that are helping the environment. Together we can protect and preserve the Costa Hummingbird species. 24

The Costa Hummingbird is a distinctive and fascinating creature. It is the second smallest hummingbird in the United States.


They stand strong and barely sway, like they have experienced intense wind for years. The coastal redwoods grasp the ground and creak quietly as if my dad was in a meeting and I needed to slowly open his squeaky office door.


Coastal Redwood Tree (Sequoia sempervirens) BY EVELYN H.

It’s a cold, windy morning. I hate these days when the sky is gray and the ground is slippery. It was a weekend and I had nothing to do. I step outside with my sister on the front porch and wonder if our ropes are still there. Instead of playing with them, we walk down our redwood stairs to the driveway. It was like the wind is screaming to knock down the redwoods that surrounded us. They stand strong and barely sway, like they have experienced intense wind for years. The coastal redwoods grasp the ground and creak quietly as if my dad was in a meeting and I needed to slowly open his squeaky office door. As my sister and I run across the driveway, I worry if the colossal trees will fall and crush us. I have always had this fear, and it was constantly worrying me. If you have ever seen a coastal redwood, it would be pretty scary to imagine one falling on you. These trees are extremely tall. In fact, they are the tallest trees in the world! The tallest of these tall trees is the Hyperion, which stretches 380 feet into the sky. You can also see the roots that grow out of the ground. I would climb them and pretend I was on an adventure. Usually, the branches are located in the upper part of the tree. As a coastal redwood gets older, the lower branches fall off. Making the tree look different from other redwoods. Like the branches, coastal redwood bark is very unique. It is reddish-brown. When I see a coastal redwood, I look carefully at the wood. Sometimes, the bark of the redwood would have strips of bark attached to the trunk of the tree. These strips of bark would be a little fuzzy, and it reminded me of the “pork floss” that my mom buys at the Asain market. The bark of the redwood is one of the reasons why coastal redwoods are fire-resistant. It acts as a shell and protects the tree from fires. Not only that, but the tree is strong, just in general. If a small fire is burning on a redwood, I imagine the tree saying, “It’s just a minor cut, and I’ll be fine.” These fire-resistant features are important because they saved my house. In 2020, there was a forest fire that spread to 10 minutes away from my house. My family had to take pictures of all our belongings for insurance claims and took about 36 photos of the family in front of our house. I felt worried and scared, but I wasn’t sure if our home would burn down. The sky was constantly orange, and it was too smoky to go outside. I had to evacuate to my grandma and grandpa’s house in San Jose. It was difficult for me not to sleep at my house. Fortunately, the redwoods refused to burn and our home survived the fire. If it were different trees surrounding my house, home-sweet-home would be ashes now. Do you ever dream of impossible situations, but it is just so compelling that it gives you a little spark of sensation? Well, I have had such an adventurous dream, which is unusual for me. I’m not Dora the Explorer, who has adventures with a talking backpack. In other words, I am typically an unadventurous person. Anyhow, I have this dream where I am randomly running through a forest of coastal redwood trees. I am not thinking of anything either, such as, “Wow. There is a giant redwood!” With a sudden stop, I stand tall and lift my head to the sky. I see the colossal coastal redwood trees arranged in a circle as if they were a magical area. Well, my dream was accurate on that “magical” part. These circular arrangements of coastal redwood trees are called “fairy rings”. Unfortunately, everytime I have this dream (either in my sleep or daydreaming) it always stops at the fairy rings. When I used to take out the trash with my dad, I looked at the trees, and I “thought those trees were just redwood trees, no big deal.” But there are so many fascinating facts about coastal redwoods. I didn’t even know that they were native to California or that they were called “coastal redwoods.” Now that I know more about coastal redwoods, I pay attention to the little details on the tree. For example, the tiny spikes on the leaf or the texture of the bark. I am also more thankful for coastal redwood trees because of my past experiences. They are really beautiful in the way the roots grasp the ground when it’s windy or the way it looks when you see the fairy rings. It really made me think about that adventurous dream, and I’m still trying to figure out what would happen next. The magic in coastal redwoods is not only fairy rings, but the way they creak, and survive fires. What reminded me of this dream was a quote, “And into the [redwood] forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”- John Muir 27

Bay Ghost Shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis) BY OLIVER S.

For me, school was tough. I am not talking about homework and sitting in class for hours, I am talking about social life. School plops you into a building with other students and teachers that you have to interact with. When I was in 1st grade, I was a shy kid. This made school hard for me. I would not want to come to school, I would put the hood of my jacket up so that people couldn’t really see me, and finally and most importantly, I didn’t speak in class. Recess, I would walk around and sing a song or do math equations in my head to let time fly. Math was the only thing that I could be happy to do related to school. I would geek out to my dad and teacher and occasionally have a discussion in the classroom. However, when I would get something wrong, I felt embarrassed and even more shy. I would not speak in class for days. When 2 o’clock passed, I would stare at the clock and decorations in the classroom counting every second and minute. And when I would finally hear the bell of being dismissed, I would run as fast as I could into the arms of my mother. I just wanted to hide. Hiding is a big part of the Bay Ghost Shrimp. They live in the ocean, and when a wave picks them up and carries them onto the surface, they tunnel down without thinking. How I wished to be able to do that in class. Their only goals are just to survive, eat, grow, and mate. These shrimps almost never come out. After all, they are a tasty treat for birds, fish, and even humans who go and use them as bait. They live all throughout the west coast from Alaska all the way to California, where I live. The Bay Ghost Shrimp spends most of their time just digging and digging. To dig, they scoop up some sand, and fling it out the tunnel hole to cover up shells, and then dig some more. This motion reminds me of a drill, their slick long body and also their sharp claws like the tip of the drill. They not only dig to evade predators, but to eat. They eat plankton, zooplankton and detritus that they find in the sand. They also have small hairs on some legs that are not noticeable, but they act to catch plankton and other things when water rushes into their hole. Four feet is the depth that they might dig at to find enough food to survive. That also means that these animals almost never see the daylight and just hide. When seeing the Bay Ghost Shrimp, you might see why they hide from predators. They stand out with a bright red, pink, pale, white, or orange color all throughout the body. I wonder why they were made that way because that can be easily spotted and can also be a meal for a lucky bird or fish. It reminds me of a caterpillar with the bright color and with its 10 legs that it uses and the two claws in the front. It also reminds me of a scorpion with segments similar to the Bay Ghost Shrimp. These shrimps have so many things sticking out as they have antennae, the legs, claws, and tail which makes them look a bit strange. The color of the Bay Ghost Shrimp really sticks out. I didn’t live my whole school life as a shy shrimp, I overcame that and now I stand out like the colors of the Bay Ghost Shrimp. I started watching videos online and that kind of changed my personality, but what really made me what I am today is that I learned that being a human, you easily make a lot of mistakes, but that’s okay. And with that idea, I started changing my personality from a shy shrimp to someone who would talk in class a lot. When I moved to a new school in 4th grade, I made more friends who brought that “not afraid to be weird” personality that I have now. I started standing out instead of hiding away. When you see a photo of the Bay Ghost Shrimp, one that sticks out, literally and metaphorically - a massive claw on the front of the shrimp! When you compare it to the other claw, it’s more than double the size. A reason why this claw is so big is because the Bay Ghost Shrimp is not actually a shrimp but related to the crab family. This claw is not actually reported to do something in their lives. Scientists’ biggest guess is that they 28

Hiding is a big part of the Bay Ghost Shrimp. They live in the ocean, and when a wave picks them up and carries them onto the surface, they tunnel down without thinking.

are used to mate. Males have bigger claws than females that support this theory. As other animals, the males always try to attract the female with color, a noise, and in this case, a big claw. The claw is so big that it could be 25% of male’s weight and 10% of females! These claws can also help dig sand. I remember that I was at the beach and wanted to build a sand castle next to the water so that we would need to build a moat to defend it. When the moat eventually reached a depth, I saw this bright color emerge. I thought that it was just sand that was colored but when I dug a bit more and I touched it, it was hard and wiggled around a lot until hiding again. I realized It was a Bay Ghost Shrimp! After that encounter, I have made many more moats and found many more shrimps. I even once got to hold one. There was also a time that I was at the beach and dug one of these up. I put it in my hand and it wiggled until I brought it to my dad. These little shrimps can survive without water, which is essential to them, for six whole days. When I brought the shrimp to my dad, he was talking to a friend and the friend said that you could use the shrimp and bait, but we didn’t catch any fish. The Bay Ghost Shrimps are also the opposite of me. While I am quite lazy - curling in a blanket all weekend eating food that lay in my pantry, the shrimps need to constantly dig for food and only eat plankton which are incredibly small. The shrimp can be seen so many ways from a bright color to the massive claws. It can look like something not from this world, a caterpillar, or a scorpion and spider. Next time you are at the beach, you can try to dig one up and appreciate how different every creature is. Just make sure it still lives a long life. When I see pictures of the bay ghost shrimp, I remember memories that keep in my mind, like my first encounter, or when we went fishing. The thing that the bay ghost shrimp has taught me is that there are so many different animals in this world, from a peacock that wants to stand out to attract females, to a bay ghost shrimp that only hides and eats. It has helped me appreciate the different animals and how this would be made. It also taught me that standing out is a normal thing to do, even in the animal kingdom. 29

Flame Skimmer Dragonfly (Libellula saturata) BY LUCIA V. G. When I was younger, me, my sister, and my mom would go out into our garden, next to the patch of poppies, and all of the dragonflies would be out. Dragonflies have always been so fascinating to me, whether it’s their stunning iridescent coloring or their fast and sudden turns in midair, thanks to their outstanding eyesight. Once or twice, we saw a flame skimmer, a native dragonfly species from the scientific family Libellulidae, which is a relatively large family. Male flame skimmers are entirely a bright and robust shade of orange, with mosaic wings with delicate patterns. Like certain other species, however, females aren’t the same striking orange, but a lighter, browner orange shade with yellow markings. But nonetheless, they’re still gorgeous to look at. Imagine if you and your family’s race wasn’t called “white”, or “black”, but “bright neon orange”? How would we, as a human species, react? If only we would treat them like a flame skimmer, a natural wonder and beauty of its kind. If only we would treat our race as Libellulidae, a huge family of coruscating and lively dragonflies, or skimmers, that are never exactly the exact same color as one another, but loved for who they are. Copulation is what you would call it when two dragonflies, one male and one female, mate. The flame skimmer does this in a brilliant way that truly reflects the legacy of the flame skimmers. Females flick water droplets containing the eggs into a body of water, such as a lake, shallow pond, or sometimes even a hot spring. In a way, flame skimmers are like a content pet. For most pets, if they get all of their needs met - like exercise, food, water, love, cuddles, etc. - they’re happy, calm, and content. For flame skimmers, this means just having a good food supply of small, juicy insects and a nice water body to lay their eggs. A very unique process, right? Though it might not be too unique to hear that male flame skimmers, of course, are territorial - over habitats and preferred perches - with each other, it may be unique to hear that their habitats change often, sometimes even daily. This is done by putting on elaborate flight displays and long strides in the air, with the dragonflies buzzing and fluttering their wings. Believe it or not, these branches are actually pretty useful for flame skimmers. You might have heard before, or seen, that most dragonflies catch their prey in midair. Dragonflies mostly prey on small insects such as flies. But unlike other dragonflies, flame skimmers perch on twigs and branches, and then wait and stock their prey until the best moment comes. Everyone bickers and argues sometimes, including the flame skimmer dragonfly. Everyone bickers and argues sometimes, and no one is perfect. Sometimes we make decisions that aren’t the wisest, and sometimes we do things that we didn’t mean to do. Sometimes we feel bad about the outcome of an action, and sometimes we regret what we did. Sometimes we feel as though we should be perfect, but being perfect isn’t possible. Sometimes we just have to settle upon being perfectly imperfect. Sometimes we make mistakes, and sometimes we fail. Sometimes we act hard on ourselves. Sometimes we take out our frustrations and emotions on others, as the flame skimmer dragonfly does when it fights over territory. Everyone bickers and argues sometimes, including the flame skimmer dragonfly. In Hinduism, the idea of taking out frustration on others is considered part of your cycle of karma. Your future fates and outcomes are determined by your past decisions, actions, and outcomes. According to many historians and scholars, Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion. It’s also the third largest religion today. Many Hindus use a twelve point energy system throughout their bodies called chakra. In Sanskrit, chakra translates to wheel. The chakra system is made up of twelve energy points throughout the body, each associated with its own color and spiritual qualities. The second chakra, or the Sacral chakra, is located around your lower abdomen. It’s associated with the color orange and symbolizes many things including your gut instincts, wellness, and sexuality. If you see a flame skimmer, consider your wellness. What parts of your body and life need nourishment? What can you do to help your body thrive? If you see a flame skimmer, consider your instinct. Do you ever think twice about decisions because of uneasiness or nervousness? What does your instinct say to you in times like this? Have you made wise decisions, and has your wellness impacted this? What were the outcomes of this decision? When you do see a flame skimmer, consider all of these things. Think if you’re at peace with yourself. Think if you’re at peace with others. Reflect. Decide. Change. Are you? Are you? Let the message of the flame skimmer stay with you. Remember that nobody is perfect; but we can make choices that are for the good of all of us, though everyone makes mistakes. Let the message of the flame skimmer stay with you. Remember to celebrate uniqueness and differences, for our world would be dull without them. Let the message of the flame skimmer stay with you. Remember to trust your instinct, trust yourself, know that you can make a difference in the world. Let the message of the flame skimmer stay with you. Let the message of the flame skimmer stay with you. Remember to bring peace to your world, however small or large. Let the message of the flame skimmer stay with you. Remember to be your best self so that you can spread the positive vibes. Let the message of the flame skimmer stay with you. Remember to reach for the stars, or - the branches. Let the message of the flame skimmer stay with you. Remember to zip and zoom and care. Let the message of the flame skimmer stay with you. 30

Male flame skimmers are entirely a bright and robust shade of orange, with mosaic wings with delicate patterns. Like certain other species, however, females aren’t the same striking orange, but a lighter, browner orange shade with yellow markings. But nonetheless, they’re still gorgeous to look at.


Sunset comes, Bats come out, Looking for food, Navigating. Bats come back, Full of that— Bugs. Sunrise comes, Bats go in, Ready to sleep­— Sleep.


Mexican Free-tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) BY ATTICUS L.

Some time ago, I was going to see some bats. I’ve been obsessed with them since first grade, when we were the “Bio Bats”, or “Bioluminescent Bats”. That year I was a bioluminescent bat for Halloween, with that glow-inthe-dark paint you can get from craft stores. That Halloween night, I was trick-or-treating with my friend Reed, probably, and I was flapping my wings around and running around, door to door to get candy (I don’t really eat candy anymore). Then I went back home and went to sleep. I forget how it happened, but I was staying with my nanny, Lisa. She had been my nanny since I was three months old. Somehow we were going to see some bats in a cave somewhere in California. And somehow it never happened. I don’t know the details of where I was going to go, but it just makes me want to go more. Mexican Free-tailed Bats can fly as fast as 99 miles per hour and can fly as high as 10 thousand feet in the air (1.89 miles, or 3.04 kilometers). That’s really high and fast! They also eat pests that annoy farmers like the cotton bollworm moth, which eats crops and costs farmers one billion dollars each year. One billion! That means if we hosted more Mexican Free-tailed Bats, we would gain one billion dollars (In food, of course)! Not only do they eat pests, but their poop (guano) is natural fertilizer! Without even trying, they drop pounds of fertilizer from the sky. If you get up close, you can see that their faces are like dogs’, with teeny teeth that look as sharp as a knife. Their wings are like the webbed feet of ducks. Their ears are perked up, like danger is coming. They use echolocation to find their prey and navigate through the dark night by releasing a very high pitched sound that is out of the human register. If you lower down the frequency, it sounds like a chirp. It bounces off of objects and comes back to their ears where they make sense of them. I remember someone coming in and playing bats’ echolocation in first grade. We were interested. The largest colonies have around 20 million bats. In Texas, there are colonies like in the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, or in the Bracken Cave in San Antonio have outflights that last for hours. This attracts tourists that want to come and see bats. People travel from all around the world to wait until just the right moment, when a dark cloud of bats flies overhead, sometimes spraying some of their natural fertilizer. But people don’t mind, they just want to see the bats. The estimated revenue for Texas from bat tourists is about 10 million dollars each year. The bats not only bring in money, but also consume up to 1000 tons of insects each night. Imagine having your legs and arms broken so you can’t go to the grocery store and get food. You can’t walk to the telephone to ask for someone to help. You would starve and die of thirst, right? White nose syndrome is very bad for bats, but luckily in California there has not been white nose syndrome detected. (Of course, you have someone else to help you nearby, but imagine you didn’t have someone to help you get food.) White nose syndrome makes bats’ noses white and makes holes in their wings. That makes them unable to fly and get food. Then they die off. It’s pretty much starvation. Since white nose syndrome has not been detected (yet), bats don’t have to die this brutal death. If you ever want to see them, like I did, you can go anywhere in the world except Antarctica, but the most efficient way to see them is going to the largest colony in California, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area! If I went to see bats, I would go to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area because it’s not that far and I would probably go with Lisa, as her house is in Davis, California. Caves are not the only places bats live in. They can also live in abandoned mines, bridges, and even buildings. Baby bats are packed so tightly that there are 500 babies per square foot. If a cave is 50 square feet of surface area, that means there are 25,000 babies! With that many babies, it would be hard to find your own. But their mothers know their unique calls! After six months, though, the babies can fly. Then they can find their own food! Mexican Free-tailed Bats can fly 100 miles just to find delicious food. Now, thinking about bats, I realize I really want to see the dark cloud of bats flying out of their roost and looking for food. I want to actually see them close up. I want to have that fun outing, waiting for dark. I want to stay up, seeing the bats. 33

Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) BY GWENYTH Z.

I have been very interested in birds since third grade. It all started when my dad bought a bird feeder and hung it on a persimmon tree in our backyard. Everyday, I would see chickadees and other small birds peck at the feed and occasionally drop several seeds. Other bigger birds who were too big to perch on the feeder swooped in and fed on the smaller birds’ leftovers on the ground. That was also about the time when we got our day old chicks. As my chickens grew, they did not seem to mind that when occasionally, we forgot to refill the bird feeder, the flying thieves would sometimes steal the chicken feed. From my view at the window, I got to know the appearance of the Carolina Chickadee well. It is very similar to the Black-capped Chickadee. They have a black fur cap on the top of their head and a black beard. Their eyes are a similar dark black shade. In between their cap and beard is a thin white strip the color of snow. Their feathers, a gradient shade of silver and black, overlap on their back like weaving many little wisps of hair together. The Carolina Chickadee is a tough bird that doesn’t migrate, therefore needing to eat 20 times the food in the winter than in the summer. The longest known lifespan of the Carolina Chickadee was at least 10 years and 11 months. Birds can also predict weather. Most birds have something called the Vitali Organ. The Vitali Organ can sense very small changes in atmospheric pressure. Scientists have also figured out that humans and songbirds show each other how they are feeling in different levels of vocalization. Birds have two different types of cries. Chirping and singing. Birds chirp when they hear danger coming and communicate. When birds sing, it’s often to mark territory and attract mates. Chickadees were named because of their familiar chick-a-dee-dee-dee sound Chickadees are also known as hoarders, but in a good way, they will take the seeds and hide them. They will remember every crevice in which they hid their food for up to several weeks using complex vocalizations as well as memories. The Carolina Chickadee lays white eggs with reddish-brown blotches. The female lays on the eggs for 12-15 days until the whole brood hatches. Heat waves have been endangering the chicks in the nest and still are. Both parents will feed the chicks until they are old enough to get out of the nest. The nest is made of dry moss, feathers and dry plants. They make it in the limbs of dead trees. If they are disturbed while sitting on the eggs, they make a hissing sound like a snake. I have heard my chickens do it when I try to collect their eggs. Some pairs of Carolina Chickadees only stay together for a single season, but it is found that most chickadees mate for life. Like the common domestic chicken, the Carolina chickadee share many of the same predators such as hawks, owls, and shrikes. These predators will catch adult chickadees but the chicks in the nest are more vulnerable to tree-climbing animals, such as cats and racoons. Chickadees will choose several different nest locations before building their nest. If predators and a problem, they will move to a different location and build a nest there. If a chickadee spots a predator, they will make an alarm cry to warn other birds around. Chickadees use their calls to drive the predators away. When the Carolina Chickadee is in flight, their shiny tail feathers look like the shape of a fan. Their wing feathers, when they are flying at an angle, look like a silver flower with long smooth petals. The Carolina Chickadee is known to be a very curious bird. Curiosity is something that I value and I wish to be more curious. Curiosity is pushing yourself further, the more you know the more you want to learn. There are many things in the world that are still a wonder. Maybe you can try to be more like the Carolina Chickadee. Who knows what you can accomplish with that. 34

There are many things in the world that are still a wonder. Maybe you can try to be more like the Carolina Chickadee. Who knows what you can accomplish with that.


We are both solitary beings. Kelp Perches live either individually or in small groups during most of the year. They only come into larger groups during the summer months.


Kelp Perch (Brachyistius frenatus) BY HARRY C.

When I was in preschool, I didn’t have that many friends. I was just like a Kelp Perch dwelling in the deep depths of the ocean, unable to see the other fish surrounding them. I wanted to make more friends, and go up to the surface, but like a lot of people, making friends is very difficult. Instead, I felt lost inside a dark kelp forest, tangled up and unable to find friends in the maze. Unlike me, Kelp Perches can easily find their way around the dark kelp forest. They usually hover around the edges, finding their way, and then breakthrough with quick bursts, navigating the seemingly impossible-to-decipher maze. Maybe they have more brain cells than me? Aside from that kind of obvious fact, something that we both share is how we are born. Unlike most other fish, Kelp Perches don’t lay eggs and wait for them to hatch. Instead, they give live birth to a sardine-like baby perch that pops out of its mom’s underside. Unlike me, it already knows how to do everything immediately, taking to the water naturally, and swimming a circle around its mom. We are both solitary beings. Kelp Perches live either individually or in small groups during most of the year. They only come into larger groups during the summer months. I’m the opposite in that way, spending most of the summer months alone and coming together during the school year. Another way that we are not the same is that they are “cleaner fish”, which means they eat parasites off of other fishes. When I was young, I hated cleaning up. I would have hated it even more if I had to lick stuff off other people. Ugh. Disgusting. We are also different in our physical appearance. While I have the appearance of most other people, the Kelp Perch has a mixture of golden brown to red scales all trimmed in dark black. They look like a child trying to draw something in thick black marker but somehow actually succeeding. The color of their body is also very shiny. They lack barring and stripes, unlike, say, clownfish, who have stripes almost everywhere. This makes them look very smooth if it weren’t for the outlined scales. They have a sharply upturned mouth in the middle of their head which reminds me of a water pitcher, or a juice pitcher, or a whatchamacallit pitcher. But all that is a little hard to see due to their puny length of 22 centimeters and 0.13 kilograms in weight. During the summer months, when the Kelp Perch come together in small groups, they use their mass to evade their predators. They move as a large ball through the water, trying to trick the seabirds that leap into the water to pick them off. They also bundle together to outsmart their other predators such as the Kelp Bass which tries to ambush their prey. But they still can be easily gulped by seabirds. A lot of species of seabirds decide to dive for a little snack. When I was young, I was like the Kelp Perch: solitary, small, shiny, born-alive, all that kind of stuff. But things have changed over the years, and now I am like a Kelp Perch in the summer, who can be found in large groups. I hope to have even more friends than a Kelp Perch will EVER have.


California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) BY EVA Y.

The California Sea Lion also known as Zalophus Californianus is a territorial, social, intelligent, species. Despite their playfulness and apparent clumsiness, they are graceful and fast swimmers and excellent hunters. Sea lions are not that different from us humans, they are loud, social, smart, animals. When I was young, I used to live in the City of San Francisco, where my grandparents, aunt, uncle, toddler cousin, and soon to be baby cousin now live. There were lots of sea lions and I would go visit them at the piers by the Ferry Building because that is where my family and I would go shopping. Sea Lions usually congregate in groups that are called herds or rafts and are very social creatures. Watching all of the sea lions play and talk with each other reminded me of myself talking and playing with all of my friends which is one of the reasons why sea lions fascinated me so much when I was younger. Sea lions also do something that is called rafting. Rafting is when the sea lion goes on their back in the water to rest or regulate their body temperature. It often looks like the sea lion is caught in a net, but it’s not. When a sea lion is rafting it will hold its flippers above water for a long time motionless. If you do not see a buoy or net gear the sea lion is probably rafting. When the sea lion rafts, it reminds me of myself because sometimes I feel like I’m caught in a net when I want to write a story or just overall, but then I realize that I am not actually caught in a net but instead just rafting and overthinking. When I was in kindergarten I had moved out of the city and no longer got to go visit the sea lions regularly. Though I could not still see the sea lions in the city as often, I still managed to see them. Every summer, I go to my grandparents’s house with my cousins on my mom’s side and we just hang out and do fun activities together. Because my grandparents live in Connecticut, I fly to New York first most of the time since New York is a really fun place to be and my parents used to live in New York so they like to see how it has changed over the years and there is almost always a new building that they don’t recognize. After a few days in New York, I would drive to my grandparents’ house after a few days of hanging out and relaxing in New York. When I am in New York I like to go to Central Park Zoo. In the center of the zoo there is an area where the sea lions swim. In the area where the sea lions swim, I typically want to always watch them because they sometimes look at you and splash you playfully. They also do really cool tricks when getting their food which has inspired me because when I used to look at these loud, stinky, seals with ears, I would never have thought of them as intelligent or easily trained. Though sea lions are considered eared seals, there are many reasons that a sea lion is not a seal. The main reason being, sea lions have little ear flaps. If you look closer into the differences between the sea lions and seals you will notice that sea lions use their fore flippers to swim where seals rely mainly on their back flippers to swim. Juveniles are born with cream or tan colored fur and look almost like a puppy with flippers but at 4-5 months they shed their fur and their fur is replaced with their adult coat/skin,Young adult/adult males have a crown or a crest. Sea lions are actually extremely intelligent and are easily trained. Sea lions are usually compared to dogs because they tend to make barking noises, are very social, good hunters, and smart. Sea Lions are MMPA protected throughout its range and can be seen at zoos or aquariums and have a lifespan of 15-20 years old in the wild or 25-30 years old if under human care. They are native to North America and the West Coast. Sea lions are considered extinct in Japan and are usually found along the Shore of California to Mexico. The main areas that they are found are the Galapagos Islands and Baja. California sea lions used to also be found in the Southern Sea of Japan but are now extinct in Asia. Sea lions are actually really good hunters because they have amazing eyesight, can hear very well, sensitive whiskers (also known as vibrissae), a good sense of smell, and can dive as deep as 1,000 feet. Sea lions have developed the ability to see underwater with reduced light levels, you may be wondering how they don’t go blind above the water and this is because when they are above the surface the sea lion’s pupil becomes as small as a tiny pinhole to protect their sensitive retinas.


The sea lion’s whiskers (also known as vibrissae) can rotate forward and detect even the slightest of movements from prey...

Sea lions may have quite small ear flaps but do not be fooled - the sea lion can hear exceptionally well above and below the surface. The sea lions’ ears are valvular and they can close underwater. Sea lions, being incredibly social above water, tend to also be incredibly social underwater and are able to locate the source of the sound easily. The sea lion’s whiskers (also known as vibrissae) can rotate forward and detect even the slightest of movements from possibly prey, meaning that even if the sea lion did not have any of the senses above, the sea lion would still be able to catch prey in complete darkness and would still be a pretty good hunter (not as good without the rest of the senses but definitely not bad). The main threats to sea lions are entanglement, biotoxin algae blooms, or human caused injuries/mortalities. Sea lions can be caught by fishing gear such as traps, pots, or gillnets. They may swim or drag gear long distances that could result in fatigue, compromised feeding ability, reduced reproductive success, death or just overall severe injury. Sea lions are easy to view in the wild which means that there is a higher chance of human caused/related injuries or mortalities. If you ever see a sea lion please view from afar and do not feed/try to feed any sea lions that you see in the wild, it is illegal. feeding/trying to feed sea lions is illegal because it changes the sea lions natural behaviors, makes them less wary of people, or tends to make them associate humans as an “easy meal” which changes their natural hunting practices so they may end up taking food off of fishing gear and could possibly be shot (badly wounded or possibly killed) by angry fishermen, boaters, etc. Sea lions are very social and if you have ever/will ever go see them in person then you would/will probably understand what I mean. They are constantly making barking noises at one another and are very playful. When I look at sea lions I think they are like dogs or toddlers and even, sometimes, myself. 39

n e ir

ived from the Azt r e ec very old. sd i “ s c e oyotl,” which mean am



Coyote (Canis latrans) BY OLIVER R.

Sometimes I feel like I am a squirrel, an innocent, helpless squirrel. Sometimes I feel as if I am living my life in fear. Sometimes I feel like I can’t do anything to stop catastrophes. Sometimes I feel like I am a cornered squirrel, being hunted by a coyote. Sometimes I feel like I am a squirrel, but I wish I were a coyote. I wish I were strong. I wish I could run, and get back at my enemies. Sometimes I feel like a squirrel in life, like bullies can pick on me whenever they want. Sometimes I wish I were a coyote. I could get back at the bullies, but I would not abuse my threatening power. I would stand up. Sometimes I wish I was a coyote. Coyotes can be found in Central to North America. They can adapt to many different temperatures and habitats. You might know that coyotes are nocturnal. So, where do they go in the day? They don’t just disappear. Instead they sleep in rocky areas far away from threats of predators or humans. If you live in one of these areas you must always be on high alert. The average coyote weighs 15-46 pounds, because of their small size they primarily eat small rodents but sometimes even injure humans or small pets! One time I let my dog out into the backyard at night. She ran around the yard like usual, but then she started barking furiously, with a very deep and protective bark. My mom got out a flashlight and walked outside to investigate. She walked around for a minute, looking for our dog. She pointed the flashlight at the back of a tree and found her hiding there. She quickly moved the flashlight in the direction our dog was looking. What she saw was a mammal with long pointed ears and a slender body. My brother quickly cracked the door, looking for where my mom and our dog were. He quickly spotted them. My mom was struggling to get my dog to move—she was paralyzed by fear. My brother, with his special dog charm, called her in. He said in his special voice, “Come in, Skittles. It’s going to be okay!” She came dashing in at the speed of light, followed soon after by my mom. We were all happy she hadn’t gotten into any danger with the coyote. Even though coyotes have lots of prey, they also have predators. They are hunted by wolves and humans. Even though they are attacked by wolves, they are named after them. Some common names for coyotes are “prairie wolves,” or “brush wolves.” Their name is derived from the Aztec “coyotl,” which means very old. However, coyotes with all their threat and power don’t live very long. They can live only up to ten years (on average) in the wild, and up to 18 years on average in captivity. Coyotes have long thin and slender bodies, with black snouts. Their fur color is usually blond and tannish. Their face slightly resembles a dog with a snout and a black nose. Their ears point up as if they are eager to get into mischief. Coyotes are much smaller than their close relative, the wolf. However, they are much larger than a fox. You would think wolves and coyotes would be good friends, maybe hunt together. But no, they are sworn enemies. Republicans and Democrats, the Giants and the Dodgers, dogs and cats. But with badgers they are friends. They do work together. Like peanut butter and jelly. They do hunt together. On the surface they are ham and cheese. But deep down they too are enemies. Badgers hunt under the earth. And coyotes hunt above. The two leave no escape for small prey. Although, in the end, there is only one meal, and only one of them can have it. Then they go, to probably never see each other again. Sometimes I feel like a coyote. Sometimes I feel like I am a squirrel. Sometimes I wish I were a squirrel. Sometimes I wish I were a coyote. And sometimes I wish I were something totally different. There are ups and downs for a squirrel. There are ups and downs for a coyote. If I were a squirrel I would be alone. No friends. No family. Just enemies. And I do have friends. But enemies too. I am not a squirrel. Squirrels split apart. Coyotes and badgers stay together. Coyotes stay together. Sometimes I am a badger, but deep down, I am a coyote. Sometimes, I am a coyote. Always, I am a coyote. 41

Starry Flounder (Platichthys stellatus) BY BEN K.

The Flounder, a bottom feeder living thousands of feet under the ocean, quietly laying on the sand waiting for a prey to swim near it. I remember when I was about 8 years old, I went fishing for flounders. When the line was dropped, I remember looking over the edge, seeing the weight and the bait that was hooked onto the line, falling deep into the ocean. A few seconds later, I heard a slight thud as the end of the line hit the ocean floor, and I remember thinking to myself how quiet and peaceful it must be down there. In Tuvaluan mythology, there is a story called “te Pusi mo te Ali,” which explains how the flounder got its flat body. Tuvalu is a country that is made up of a small chain of islands. Tuvalu is located in the Polinesian region. This story is about the eel and the flounder, who were once great friends. One day, the flounder and the eel decided to test which one of them was stronger. They decided to determine their strength by lifting a heavy rock. When the eel tried to lift the rock, the rock rolled on its back, making the eel’s body grow thinner, allowing the eel to fit into the small cracks in rocks. When the flounder tried to lift the rock, the massive boulder was too heavy for her, making the flounder’s body flat like a pancake. In the story, it shows that at the end of the competition, the flounder and the eel both leave in shame, never to be friends again. What the story doesn’t explain are the Starry Flounder’s unique markings. The starry flounder’s body is immediately recognizable with its distinct yellow and black stripes on the fins and its body, which is about only an inch thin. The flounder’s body is light tan and their stripes are dark black. It spends most of its life under the sand. All flounders’ bodies are covered with a rough pattern that mimics the sand in which it lays under. Some flounders such as the peacock flounder can change color to blend in with its surroundings. To get under the sand, it wriggles its flat body, into the bottom of the ocean. But, it burrows itself not deep, but rather shallow, giving it the freedom to leave rapidly, when necessary. Once out from the sand, it can only travel at a speed of about ~.80 kilometers per hour. The speed of the flounder is slow compared to the average speed of fish. When lying under the sand, the flounder is not just resting. Its eyes are the only part of its body that peeps out, and it looks for prey. The flounder is a predatory fish that feasts on the small creatures that swim near it. Once a fish is near, the flounder strikes by thrusting itself towards the fish with its mouth wide open. At just one glance, you may think that the flounder doesn’t hunt for its food, as it doesn’t have the sharp claws like a crab, or the hundreds of rows of teeth like the shark. Yet, the flounder’s have small, but spiky teeth, just big enough to grip the small fish and crustaceans that it eats. The flounder is one of the most underrated fish. Not popularly eaten like the salmon, or tuna. Not kept in zoos often because it hides itself under the sand. This limits the world from seeing its beautiful stripes, covering the fins, the uniqueness of its body, or the hunting method that is not found among other species of fish. One of the only times a flounder has been a part of mainstream media was when it was depicted in The Little Mermaid, but unlike what it’s name “Flounder” suggests, the fish is actually a tropical yellow fish with teal/ blue stripes on its body. Like many people in the world, the flounder is extremely underrated. Its best qualities are hidden from the world, as they aren’t appealing, but truly, the flounder is a very interesting creature. From its flat body, to its distinct stripes, the flounder is not a very known or seen creature. Its introverted personality makes it not seen to the world. Sometimes, like the flounder, I wish I could hide under a layer of sand. When I have an embarrassing stain on my shirt, or during a bad hair day, I just want to hide under the sand, hiding myself from the outside world. 42

In Tuvaluan mythology, there is a story called “te Pusi mo te Ali,” which explains how the flounder got its flat body.


The mountain lion is an aggressive slinky waiting to unleash right at you, but that specific day in the San Diego Zoo I saw them as the sleepy animal that no one ever thinks about.


Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) BY FELIX P.

I remember when I was 8 years old walking into the San Diego Zoo with my elephant poop notebook in hand. I was with my mom in the blistering sun hoping to learn some great facts about elephants, lions, and most importantly mountain lions. The mountain lion is an aggressive slinky waiting to unleash right at you, but that specific day in the San Diego Zoo I saw them as the sleepy animal that no one ever thinks about. I saw the lion when it was in a zoo, not when it was in its natural habitat in the wild feasting on animals and marking its spot as the king of its territory. There was one moment in my life from when I was 5-7 and I was playing hide & seek with my brother and babysitter. We were told to only hide inside, but I didn’t hear that so I went outside and hid. When my mom came home later she told us that there had been a mountain lion sighting in our area, which completely freaked me out. Other people have had much tougher experiences like hearing a mountain lion with its ear-piercing call constantly changing pitches every moment. Or seeing a mountain lion and having to stare it down, and convincing it not to strike. The mountain lion lives in the western part of the United States as well as the majority of South America. These animals can run up to 50 miles per hour and jump up to 15 feet up a tree. Mountain lions are very athletic felines that are very light on their feet, so when they stalk up on their prey their prey does not notice them. Mountain lions usually eat deer, but sometimes will eat things like moose, elk, and even a porcupine if they need to. Mountain lions have very fierce screams that sound like every single tree in the forest singing its song at different times and places. It sounds like your worst nightmare scorching with fire. Seeing a mountain lion can be scary, but all you have to do is stare right into its soul and make yourself look as big as possible because mountain lions, like humans, can be scared. Mountain lions require a lot of space, 40 times as much as a bobcat. The reason that the mountain lions require so much is that they are very territorial, meaning that they do not like any other lions on their hunting land. This means that each mountain lion will need the same amount of space to survive as a group of Llamas. Mountain lions usually live in places with a lot of deer and places like forests and high mountains. You may have heard of cougars, pumas…, but these are all actually mountain lions. The mountain lion is known to have a lot of names, the most common being cougar, puma, painter, el Leon, and catamount. Mountain lions usually live up to 13 years old, but in captivity, they can sometimes live twice as long which is very different from other animals. The expert thinks mountain lions live longer in captivity because all of the threats of the wild are not there. Some of the main causes of death in the wild for mountain lions are car strikes, fights with other lions, accidents killing prey, and other threats from humans. Mountain lions are currently labeled as least concerned which means that they are far from extinct. Currently, in the United States, there are 30,000 mountain lions. Mountain lions are like lions, the kings of their world. I think this because mountain lions are top predators meaning that their only predators are bears and themselves. I also think this because the biggest predator of our world, humans, are scared of mountain lions. We, humans, give strength to the mountain lions who are only 150 pounds and live up to 10 years. I wish I could be like a mountain lion being able to be scared and aggressive at the same time, able to live a great life while still protecting myself from all of the disasters in nature. I wish I could be more like a mountain lion with different songs for a different moment, always changing and never staying the same. I wish I could be more like a mountain lion, charismatic, strong, and smart. I wish I could be more like a mountain lion. 45

Grey Whale (Eschrichtius robustus) BY ALICE N.

It was a bright November morning in Southern California, the boat slicing through the glistening blue waves. The wind was whipping, making my hair fly into my face from the hood of my jacket. I looked down, watching the dolphins playfully swim near the edge of the whale watching boat. The microphone crackled, then I heard the captain explain what whales we’d see and how they knew. The Dana Point boat would communicate with other harbors up North, and would be told how many whales and what type have been spotted an hour or so ago up the coast. Only a few minutes later, we approached the supposed location of the whales. I kept my eyes peeled on the surface, looking for a spout of water. First the spout of water comes, then the dorsal hump or fin. Lastly, the tail flukes, which is when the tail splashes back in the water. The Captain said that after the whale goes underwater, you count for a minute or more and the whale would come back up fifty-sixty feet further ahead. Grey whales can hold their breath up for twenty to thirty minutes long, but while traveling, they would hold it up to five minutes. I hear someone shout, then the captain replies saying that a gray whale has been spotted. I see a spout of water shoot up from the waves. Only a few seconds later the whale’s tail swoops up, then crashes back down into the water. Grey whales are named after their distinctive greyish color. But they are not only grey; white spots cover most of their body. Those spots are made up of barnacle and cyamids, which can make up around four-hundred pounds of the whale’s body. Females are larger than males, and can grow up to 49 feet long and weigh up to 80,000 pounds. That’s about the size of five to six full grown African elephants! The whale’s eyes are located near the corner of its smiling mouth. Grey whales don’t have a dorsal fin, instead they have a dorsal hump that’s located two thirds down its back. There are six to twelve bumps called knuckles between the dorsal hump and the tail. The tail flukes are the two triangular shapes on the tail, and can be up to ten feet wide. The point where the two flukes meet is called the notch. The pectoral fins, which are the fins on the side of the whale, are the shape of a paddle with pointed tips at the end. When a grey whale comes up, above the water, only the mouth at first, then its body comes sweeping through in a graceful backflip. Its tail then finally splats down into the water with a big SPLASH, as the whale waves goodbye. You can only catch the moment of the grey whale’s mouth coming up in a perfectly timed photo, which looks like a wet rock split down the middle. Grey whales are known for their friendliness and curiosity towards humans, especially in places where whale watching is frequent. Their mouth looks like a happy, sly, yet slightly somber smile. Sort of like the smile of when you’re sitting outside on a summer day. However, they become quite aggressive when being harpooned or when their calf is in danger. This is why they were given the nickname, “devil fish”. Even though they may be found in small groups traveling, or together in feeding and breeding grounds, it’s quite rare for grey whales to create life long bonds. These small groups are typically unstable and don’t stay together for long. Like many other baleen whales, grey whales are predominantly bottom feeders, which means they feed on the seafloor. They have 130-180 cream colored baleen plates. Grey whales eat by slowly swimming on their side and sucking up food and sediment. Their diet consists mainly of amphipod crustaceans. Grey whales nearly became extinct in mid-1800 and early 1900 due to commercial whaling, which is the practice of hunting whales and killing them for meat and fat trade. Luckily, by the 1930’s and 1940’s, grey whale preservation action started. Currently, the population is stable, and is in the least concerned section of the Endangered Species List. Grey whale migrations are one of the longest of any mammal. Round trip, it can be anywhere from 10,000 to 14,000 miles long (5,000 to 7,000 each way). During migration, whales face many challenges. Some of 46

Their mouth looks like a happy, sly, yet slightly somber smile. Sort of like the smile of when you’re sitting outside on a summer day.

those threats include vessel strikes, which is when any type of boat and any marine animal collide. That can cause severe injuries or death to the animal. The US West Coast has some of the heaviest marine traffic in the world, which makes vessel strikes more common. The average lifespan of a grey whale is currently unknown, but one female was estimated to be seventy five to eighty years old. Some estimations are around fifty to sixty years. Grey whales reach maturity (the age at which they can reproduce) between five and eleven years of age. Females can only give birth to one calf at a time, and have a gestation period of twelve to thirteen months. This is why the females are so protective of their young, unlike many other mammals, and become very aggressive when their calf is in danger. Regardless of whether they’re migrating, grey whales face many threats. Some common threats include getting tangled in fishing gear, vessel strikes, whale watching disturbances, underwater noise, climate change, and habitat degradation. When a grey whale gets caught in fishing gear, they might have to drag the gear for long distances. That can cause problems with feeding, lead to severe injuries, or cause fatigue. Fishing gear may also trap them in place, which can lead to starvation or death. Whale watching can sometimes disturb grey whales behavior or comprise certain routes during migration. Ocean noises, man-made or natural, can interrupt grey whale communication, increase stress levels, and displace them from their habitat. Oil spills can lead to habitat degradation and affect foraging behavior. This isn’t just a problem with whales, but for many animals all over the world. Some of this habitat loss or degradation may be caused by climate change, but the effect of climate change on grey whales is currently unclear. In the future climate change may lead to change in behavior and foraging. Which might have similar outcomes as underwater noises. Sometimes, I wish that I could be like a grey whale, swimming thousands of miles. I don’t really have a lot of endurance, especially while swimming. Considering, when I swim, sometimes it’s more of thrashing rather than swimming. But watching a whale flip backwards is truly a magical experience. It’s so strange seeing such a large creature flipping and flying through the air. Or seeing the tail fluke, ending with a satisfying crash back into the waves. Sea foam bubbling where the tail collapsed back underwater, like smoke floating through the air after a torch has burnt out. 47

If you look inside of a halibut’s mouth, you will find thousands of little sharp teeth to chomp down a mollusk or a small crustacean. Indeed, halibuts do bite!


California Halibut (Paralichthys californicus) BY ANDREW L.

Camouflaging in the sea sand, CA halibuts live where no predators search for food to hunt or snack on. The California halibut is the shortest living, the shortest in length, and the lightest compared to their related species - the pacific halibut. Also, California halibuts can be found all over the coast of California. However, the other related species, the Atlantic halibuts, are endangered and very close to extinction. California halibuts mature and reproduce at an early age to avoid being overfished or endangered. Across all regions, all halibuts ranging from the coasts of California, Alaska or Atlantic Ocean all look alike and behave largely the same. First, they spend most of their lives hiding on the sandy ocean floor ready to ambush and snatch a small fish for a fulfilling meal. Second, most of the halibuts have their eyes migrate to one side of their body having more vision on top of their head. Third, while halibuts may look weak on the outside, they are very strong inside. If you look inside of a halibut’s mouth, you will find thousands of little sharp teeth to chomp down a mollusk or a small crustacean. Indeed, halibuts do bite! My first real encounter of a whole live halibut was at Homer, Alaska, also known as the Halibut Fish Capital of the World. At a pier in Homer, I saw a fisherman clean and filet around 15 pacific halibuts, the largest species related to the California halibut. Every year, pacific halibuts are targeted for commercial fishing for highly marketed fine dining. California halibuts are rarely served at fine dinner meals. Almost all of those 15 halibuts I saw were youngsters, about 4-5 years old and about 30 pounds. However, a full-grown pacific halibut could be up to 8 feet long and up to 800 pounds, more than 25 times the size I saw. Could you imagine seeing an 8-feet long halibut? But you don’t want to have them as your everyday meal. They are loaded with mercury and other harmful substances. At the end of my trip in Alaska, I got to taste a fresh pacific halibut. It was so tender as if it melted in my mouth. I devoured the dish in a few minutes. While the Alaskan or Pacific halibuts are humongous and hefty, the California halibut is much lighter and can only weigh up to 72 pounds. Furthermore, the largest California halibut ever found is only 5 feet in length, 3 feet shorter than their corresponding species - the pacific halibut. The California halibut’s average lifespan is around 30 years old, again much shorter than the pacific halibut lifespan of 40 years. At the beginning of the California halibut’s life, they look like most other regular fish, but after 30 days of their life, one of their eyes begins to migrate around to join the other eye on a single side of the body. Often than not, the “eyed,” side of the California halibut is brown or brown-black so they can camouflage in the sea sand. In addition, the California halibut can change their colors according to the sea sand so they can easily ambush a small crustacean or get away from a predator. California halibuts may seem to be a lazy fish, but in fact, they are very active. California halibuts are widely observed swimming in anchovy squads (anchovies are a type of small fish that California halibuts like), swallowing many of them in whole. They have been observed even leaping off of the water while chasing an escaped anchovy. Sometimes I wish I could be just like a California halibut too, ready to hide and camouflage into the deep-sea sand when being threatened. I also sometimes wish to be hidden and ready to ambush, just like a California halibut, especially when I feel ready to prank someone on April Fool’s Day. Especially in school when I am playing tag, I love to ambush and surprise my opponents when they are off guard, to tag them and run away. When I am outside of school, I like to be in the open wild and observe my surroundings, just like a halibut hiding at the bottom of the sea. Sometimes I just want to be alone, sometimes I want to be tricky, sometimes I want to be hidden in nature, just like a California halibut. 49

Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) BY HUXLEY E.

Yarrow. Or is it Queen Anne’s lace? Maybe Poison Hemlock? Hmm, it looks like them. But that’s only on the outside. On the inside, it smells nothing like them. Poison hemlock smells musty and unpleasant. Queen Anne’s lace smells of carrot, because it is wild carrot. But Common Yarrow, who has many look-alikes, like these two, smells distinctly like fresh pine needles. It fits in, but if you look closer, you can see that it is different. It’s not poisonous. It’s not a carrot. But if you can tell it apart from its lookalikes, you can use it to work miracles. If you look closer at a Yarrow flower, you can see a toddlers “art work,” sculpted clay, with the little circles of hole-punched left overs from an adults business file glued on to the clay, to make the small bundles of flowers. Just stick in some green pipe cleaners as stems, and you’ve got a gift for your parents. I used to do this type of art project with my younger sister, Quinn. We made them for our mum for Valentine’s day, and for our dad on Father’s day. Art has great powers just like yarrow. Yarrow is like a mini artwork, with its little flowers placed delicately on a stalk. Yarrow is a masterpiece, just waiting to be told apart from other cheap fakes, made for money. Yarrow is the diamond in the rough. The real jewel in a pile of rhinestones. The surgeon among the nurses. Yarrow really is a doctor, healing others. My sister always wanted to be a doctor. Not just to be a doctor in the game Hospital I used to play with her, but a real doctor, a pediatrician. It has always been her dream. For me, I don’t really want to be a doctor, but I do love natural healing. I have a whole shelf of books about crystal healing, medicinal herbs, and foraging guides. Yarrow is featured in all of them, except the crystal healing ones. Yarrow has always been a healer during times of war. Native Americans used it and we still use it now. They crushed the plant and applied it to burns or cuts to help it heal faster. They dried the leaves and brewed it in tea to help with colds, fever, and headache. Yarrow is an old doctor, who seems as old as earth, but uses kind words to make you feel safe, ready to do anything. Gives you power from its knowledge. And it gets that knowledge from time. Yarrow also has a fashion sense from a long time ago. It’s clumps are attached to a small group of branches that look like a triangle, and with the flowers like an upturned dress from medieval times, a woman’s hair in the french revolution. A wool scarf, keeping the branches warm. And just like Yarrow creates its own “clothes,” I make ones for my sister. I make her dresses, pants, skirts, shirts, and lots of different things. Then I style her hair to go with it, also like yarrow. She loves it, and I like making the clothes. Yarrow makes its clothes out of flowers and stems, I make mine out of fabric. Yarrow does delicate work, and so do I. Yarrow makes beautiful outfits, like I wish I could. All plants and animals have similarities and differences, just like humans and yarrow. Just like me and yarrow. I have a connection with it. I have seen it many times in Tahoe, their flowering heads blowing in the wind. There I really feel them. Waiting for someone to tell them apart. Just like a young child, waiting for a teacher to tell them, “You have potential.” or “You are a good student.” just like yarrow, waiting, waiting. And just like us, humans. Sometimes our potential won’t be seen. Sometimes, we won’t be seen. But we are ourselves. We will be seen. Our powers, which, yes, may not be medicine. They may not be fashion sense. They may not be timely knowledge. But if we stick to who we are, we will be seen as who we are. Not pretending. Not acting. Not lying. But being ourselves. Yarrow has found its way. In books, it’s known as “the lost herb.’’ It has magic. Yarrow has magic. It has magic in who it is, not pretending. Like we do. We all do. Magic. That’s what it is. If you can be one hundred percent you, then you can be one hundred percent magic. Just magic. Just you. 50

Common Yarrow, who has many look-alikes, smells distinctly like fresh pine needles. If you can tell it apart from its lookalikes, you can use it to work miracles.


Hunting. Hunting. Hunting. It’s all about hunting for the Great Horned Owls.


Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) BY BEN R.

When I was younger, my dad would bring me up to our mountain cabin in the Trinity Alps. When I was there, my dad would show me the tall, tall redwood trees. He would point to them and describe how they could only grow to become massive if they were growing in a group but I wasn’t paying attention to the trees. I noticed that the tree’s branches were home to owls. Then and there was when I became obsessed with owls, and how they could sleep in the daytime but would soar through the skies at night. As I got older my dad would start to not bring me up to the mountains but I still heard them at night. I heard their sad but magnificent hoots, as they echoed throughout our neighborhood. Then when we bought a house up there and, wow, it felt like I was in a whole other world and at last, all I could hear was the sound of the owl’s hooting at night, in the daytime, everything that I heard was from my brothers. The Great Horned Owl is a nocturnal bird (a bird that sleeps in the daytime and is active at night) who has some amazing capabilities like how its feathers are made so that its wings don’t make a sound when it flies. Another thing that I find cool about its appearance is that they have these little tufts of feathers at the top of their heads but nobody knows what they are used for. Hunting. Hunting. Hunting. It’s all about hunting for the Great Horned Owls. The great horned owls hunt at night usually, and they won’t stop until they get enough food for themselves and their family. They use their amazing hearing to their advantage. The Great Horned Owl’s hearing is about ten times stronger than a human’s hearing. Their hearing is so powerful that they have the ability to hear things that are up to ten miles away! Their ears tell the eyes exactly where to look. One of their ears is placed a little higher than the other one, and this helps them get the exact location of the source of the sound. Then the owls use their wings, which make no sound, to swoop down and grab their prey. The Great Horned Owl is a non-migratory bird, meaning that they stay in the same place year-round. The female can often be seen incubating her eggs in February covered with snow, while the male goes hunting and provides for the family. The great horned owl is an aggressive and powerful bird while in action in hunting. The babies may leave the nests and hop on some of the nearby branches at the age of only 5 weeks old! Great horned owls like to live around golf courses and even sometimes in parks. They are usually pretty lazy when it comes to nest building. They like to use a variety of different things as nests; they include Old nests of hawks, tree hollows, tree stumps, abandoned structures, and even sometimes caves. The great horned owls tend to have 2-5 babies per family so the males need to get enough food for a lot of people this is why the great horned owls always need to put hunting as their #1 priority. I hear them everyday, and how they are always there for each other. Always looking out for each other, as they fly through the night sky. And as I listen to the owls as they fly through the night sky, I can’t help but to think about one thing, and one thing only, what if we could fly.


Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) BY ELLA Y.

The Chumash, a Native American tribe, say that Hutash, Earth Mother, grew us from magical seeds she planted in the channel islands, Limuw, or the Island of the Blue Dolphin. Sky Snake, the Milky Way, and Hutash’s husband saw that Hutash was pleased with her creation and gave her people fire. Eventually, though, Hutash thought there were too many people on the island. She told them that they had to go to the mainland, and live there. They doubted her. “What if we fall?” They said, “We will drown!” Hutash said that she would take care of them. She created the rainbow bridge and the people crossed, carrying baskets containing their belongings. Some of them fell, and when they hit the water, she transformed them into dolphins, where they had all the fish they could eat and where they could swim forever. I wonder if those who fell wish they hadn’t, or if those who didn’t wished they jumped. The common bottlenose dolphin is a marine mammal. They eat squid, fish, shrimp, are 10-14 feet in size, and live around 45-50 years. A group of them is called a pod, and they weigh around 1,100 pounds. They form bonds that last decades, and can swim as soon as they’re born. All bottlenose dolphins invent a unique whistle to be identified by when they are born tail first, and they can jump up to twenty feet in the air. As they are social and playful mammals, they surf waves, the wake of boats, and even make bubble rings to swim through. A group of dolphins will even work together to create a ring of mud that traps fish, while the dolphins wait outside the ring for the fish to try to escape, gobbling up any who make it out. One really unique fact about them was that they shed the outer layer of skin every two hours! There are layers to each and every animal that resides in this world. Speaking of the world, common bottlenose dolphins reside in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian ocean. Much like other animals, they use echolocation/sonar systems. Echolocation is high frequency clicks that hit an object. When they hit that object, they come back and tell the dolphin size, shape, speed, distance and location of the object, whether it is a fish to eat or a rock to watch out for. The common bottlenose dolphin is one of 30 species. They can communicate from birth, hold their breath for ten minutes and are fast swimmers, which is more than I can say for most humans. Once, in an aquarium in Hawaii, a mother dolphin and her baby communicated from separate tanks, via underwater audio link! They are a unique species with a unique language and unique behavior. The common bottlenose dolphin appearance includes a head similar to that of a harbor porpoise, but there is one distinct difference. The harbor porpoise, much like the beluga, has a round, flat snout, whereas the bottlenose dolphin has a slender, almost beak-like one at the end of its face, with a mouth curved into a smile. It’s long tail and flippers are paired with a wave-shaped dorsal fin and playful yet knowing eyes that dare you to approach. It has a sleek and elegant form, perfect for slipping in and out of the crashing waves. Bottlenose dolphins take part in many activities, and quite a few are for sheer entertainment. They often swim through self-made bubble rings, and have fun surfing in the waves and the wake of boats. However, their playful aura is not all there is. Dolphins have been found saving humans from sharks and other predators, and also work together. In one particular case, a pod of dolphins circled some surfers who happened to be the prey of a great white shark. They did this for hours, until a search and rescue team came and saved them. Another thing about their behavior is that they migrate, much like monarch butterflies, or birds headed south for the winter. There was a dolphin that scientists were tracking called Smootch that traveled and migrated further than any other dolphin. She was photo-tagged by San Diego researchers in 1984, once seen with a calf that gave them a clue about her gender. Her swims are longer than any other bottlenose dolphin, and she could be the poster dolphin for northward range expansion. 54

The Chumash, a Native American tribe, say that Hutash, Earth Mother, grew us from magical seeds she planted in the channel islands, Limuw, or the Island of the Blue Dolphin.

When I was little, my family went to Hawaii, just like every summer before. This time, we were headed toward the Big Island, which is, you guessed it, the largest island in Hawaii. We were at the Waikoloa resort and they had a lagoon that was connected to the ocean. There were turtles, all kinds of fish and even an eel! But the highlight of my trip was something that my mom signed me up for. It was a program called Dolphin Quest and basically, you got to interact with the dolphins at the resort. It was an amazing experience. Other than that one time, I watched the dolphins from behind a fence. It was a large pool, but it was so much smaller than the bay, or the sea. Another time, my family took a boat out to a spot where there were spinner dolphins! It was amazing seeing them out in the wild, splashing in the same waves we were swimming in. And then we left. The common bottlenose dolphin is one of the many fascinating wonders of the bay area, a hot spot for marine, plant and animal life. While it is a small part of the many dolphin species, only one species of the dolphin/whale family, and a miniscule fraction of marine mammals in the Bay Area, they are a significant, vital part of our ecosystem and cannot be replaced. They are a miracle, in a way, meant to be beholden from afar or from close by. In a way, they are us. In a way, we are them. 55

The bell, of course, looked like there was a cracked egg, but with a milky white cloudy covering.


Egg-yolk Jelly (Phacellophora camtschatica) BY KYLIE E-M.

The end of the summer before my 5th grade year, I’m excitedly waiting for my end of the summer trip with two of my friends, Xochi and Elisa, and their moms. We were going to go to Yosemite National Park, but due to that horrible drought in California, we had to reroute our trip. My mom stayed up late at night on a call with their moms, hoping to find a spot that was COVID-safe yet good for us to stay. I remember walking casually into the room she was in, claiming only to want to snuggle my cat but secretly eavesdropping on her conversation. As I slowly walked upstairs, I would think about what I heard. As I lay in my bed, waiting for her to come to me, I would think. I would wonder. I was anticipating the news of when she would walk to me and announce our destination. I think there were about 15 of us kayakers when us 6 went on our kayaking ride in Elkhorn Slough. Our tour guides would point out the sea otters, and I could see all of that cuteness of them. The Harbor Seals, a couple million of the lounging on the shore. Both would swim in the water and stick up their nose a little bit. I now wonder if maybe a couple of them did so to amuse us. There, on that kayak ride, I also tried my first piece of genuine, fresh-out-of-the-bay seaweed. It was salty and strange, if I remember correctly. Very, very salty. All of these amazed me. All of the above. It was amazing to see the masses of these, floating and lounging and swimming and enjoying life. I kept thinking about how much my little sister would love it. She would be in awe, as I was. The Egg-yolk Jelly is a type of Jellyfish, usually found in temperate waters and a range of Alaska to Southern California. Our tour guides never said the Egg-yolk Jelly was a common jellyfish species in that Monterey area. When you see it floating on the surface, It looks like someone (or something!) cracked an egg in the water and it’s floating around. It actually spends most of its time either motionless in the water or pushing its bell slowly with its tentacles drifting behind it. Something you can’t see as easily is that there are 16 large lobes alternating with smaller lobes, and each lobe has about up to 25 tentacles. It’s tissues are about 95% water, and surprisingly, even when it’s dead, it’s tentacles can still sting, so people must be cautious around one. The Egg-yolk Jelly doesn’t just live in its waters—it does things for the environment too. For one, they are like vehicles to the “hitchikers” like crabs and amphipods, though it’s not free of cost—experts think they eat parasites that could damage the jelly’s bell. Egg-yolk Jellies can also feel physical traumas from ocean currents in their bell, and they are prey to animals like marine mammals, sea turtles, and sharks. It gets its food by having the prey swim into its sticky tentacles. It’s carnivorous and eats mostly gelatinous zooplankton and other jellyfish, but it also catches and eats copepods, fish larvae, and arrow worms. Like I said before, as it slowly drifts through the water, it captures prey with it’s sticky tentacles. When we were in Monterey, one of the things we did was go on a kayak ride. I was so glad I didn’t skip going on that outing. When we got there, us three 5th-graders were all frustrated. Xochi, Elisa, and I wanted to ride in a 3 person kayak, but I believe we were supposed to go with an adult or something else, so we all ended up going with our moms in 2 person kayaks. I was amazed—I saw a couple million harbor seals lounging and a lot of sea otters. The tour guides talked about the jellyfish too, and even though it was rare I was wondering to myself about how amazing it would be to see one. Of course, I saw one of our tour guides next to the shore. She called out to our group, saying that there was a dead Egg-yolk Jellyfish. With eagerness, my mom and I paddled over to see, and she told us we could touch it. I was hesitant to touch it, because it was a jellyfish, and it wasn’t something you could touch at the aquarium. But despite the thoughts, I told myself to touch it and was amazed by the texture. It felt so liquidy yet smooth with just a tint of sliminess. The bell, of course, looked like there was a cracked egg, but with a milky white cloudy covering. I imagined something more slimy and strange-feeling but I mostly proved myself wrong. It was a rare experience and I truly wished I could have one jelly bulb near me every day to touch. Later on that amazing kayak ride, one of the tour guides called out to our group yet again -- and this time to steer clear -- shockingly, there was another one - an alive, Egg-yolk Jelly! It was amazing to see it floating motionless, just bobbing along near the surface, not exactly as I would think a jellyfish in the wild to be. All this was amazing and is an experience I will remember for a long time. 57

Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) BY MIA T.

When I was younger, I would walk upon the cliffs with my brother, Nana, and Nani. My brother would take out his binoculars and birdwatch while I would climb up the coastal cliffs and watch the harbor seals flap their flippers and give mamma bear hugs to their pups. For years, I would take this for granted, thinking that these seals were sea otters. It wasn’t until years later when I discovered that these seals were harbor seals. They are not the seals that are charming with their appearance, rather the seals that are bruised and wounded for protecting their pups when predators open their mouths to catch their prey. Their skin, dull as wood with dotted speckles like salt. Or, their skin, like cookies in cream with cherries—the more, the better. Or their skin, bloodshot red and innocent. These seals are different then any seal you would imagine. They are protective, just like us. On the top of a cliff, the sun shines it’s blinding light and a seal exhales all its breath, getting ready to make a big dive into the water. Three pups watch mama, reassuring them that they will be okay, giving them one more big mama hug before the big dive. Endorphins flow through all three seals, faster than a zipline. And then, the mama seal dives off, with the top of her chin. Her fins take off like an airplane, gradually gliding away from the body. The wave breaks as the seal falls down at a rapid pace. It splashes like a cannonball and the seal gets ready to inhale and exhale all its breath in less then a second. And then in one motion, the seal gulps down nine fish and swallows them whole. It pushes the fish between its mouth for the pups to eat. And then, it swims at a speed of 12 miles per hour, dodging all the whales and sharks that come to catch her. But she is unstoppable, nothing dare come close to her or she will swallow it whole. Nothing ever comes close to her pups or she will dive with them deep into the sea. The pups wait patiently for mamma to come back with food galore, ten whole pounds of fish just for them. They wait, hoping that no polar bears, white sharks, or killer whales come with mouths full of spit, growling “Come here, I won’t hurt you, just come here, little seal,” with their wicked voices. But one thing they know is that, however tired mamma will come to them, she has the persistence and resilience to arm wrestle that shark to death. And while her fins may look delicate and like glass, they are powerful enough to face the wrath of churning, ice-cold water. As I watch the seals from the top of the cliff, I decide to walk down further. Carefully, I step over the mix of gravel and sand, intertwined with each other. I watch my step closely, making sure to not alarm the seals. When I come closer, my eyes get fixed upon the pepper and salt mixture of their skin. Some seals have bloodshot red mixed with the like-dalmatian skin that survived a blizzard with heavy arms of snow. Some seals have a mixture of vanilla and cookies and cream ice cream. These seals have a wide range of color from the lightest of grays to the darkest black in the galaxy. But there are more aspects that give Harbor Seals their distinctiveness. Perhaps second in uniqueness is their blubber layer that accounts for thirty percent of their body mass in the winter. This loose, spongy, and fat tissue under their skin helps provide some thermoregulation and nutrient reserve for fasting periods. The closer I get to the seals, the more I can hear the booming echoes of their voices. Underwater, they use a series of clicks, like a typewriter to echolocate fish to eat. On land, I hear some versions of these clicks, but mostly the grunts of couples during breeding season. But not only do I hear these wild roars, clicks, and grunts of this seal, I hear their breath exhaling strongly like a current of wind. Perhaps people may say they bark and roar, but no. Their voice is as delicate as silence, 58

They wait, hoping that no polar bears, white sharks, or killer whales come with mouths full of spit, growling “Come here, I won’t hurt you, just come here, little seal,” with their wicked voices.

wavering in the wind. Harbor Seals rely on their blood tissues and lungs for oxygen when they dive deep into the water as the vast currents of the sea break—one more reason they are quiet. I wish I could dive down, deep into the ocean where no one could hear me. So when I heard comments about racism and violence, or my family, jailed in Nicaragua for innocence, I could dive down into the ocean where tears would fall down my cheeks and camouflage with the ocean-blue color of the sea. And the world would function nearly the same without me, the life cycle would go on. Down deep in the sea, I could live my life and not be covered with shame from pretending no one was around me. No one would say, “Change will happen, we just have to wait,” instead, the change would happen and I would be one step ahead - working on the next problem to solve. Last year, I visited my grandparents in San Diego. They live three minutes away from the beach, walking distance so me and my brother would walk to the nearby cove and watch the sea lions. We would walk onto the sea shore and climb up the cliffs to watch the seals protect their pups, pulling them into a big hug. We would watch upon the flipper waving and diving off the nearby coast. One time, I walked down to the La Jolla children’s pool to find a little pup stuck on the sand, flapping its flippers to try to push itself into the ocean. Push, pull, flip, pound: it repeated these steps for 17 straight minutes. It didn’t even take a break to catch some breath. I watched eagerly, trying to smooth out the surface for the seal to safely journey into the water. Suddenly, one seal dived out of the water onto the shore to help the little newborn pup. They pushed and pulled each other into the ocean like a mamma and pup, even though they didn’t even know each other. I thought about community, how we could help each other in times of hatred. What about the turtle whose legs are caught in a fishing net? What about the bird who leaves trails for the seals to find prey? What about the seal pup whose only hope is to find help? Shame on those families who do such disrespectful things without even noticing. Shame on those families who do not protect their home world. Why do humans need so many reminders? Why does one not look for change? Why does one not help a cause like a harbor seal, who didn’t need a time of war to help another. Who did it in times of happiness, and who did it in times of sorrow. Who did it all the time? Why can’t we know that we are connected? Why do we not know that we are connected? Why? Why? Why?


Ground squirrels are so amazing, bright eyed, and nimble.


Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) BY CATRIONA C.

It was the first time I’d been to Pacifica, and I was so excited. As I stepped out of the car, I could feel the cool breeze on my face. After walking for SIX minutes, I arrived. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a little furry animal running around and going into burrows. Later, I found out that those cute little animals were called ground squirrels. They kept coming up to me, looking at me, begging for food. As I bent down to give it to them, I could see the squirrel coming closer to me, little by little, until my hand almost touched the ground. Then, it came up and ate the piece of mango out of my hand. After that, more squirrels started coming and by the end, I could make them stand on their hind legs, and jump up a little to get the food. It was so amazing. Soon it became dark, and we started to leave. I threw my last piece of mango to my favorite squirrel there; it had dark stripes on the side of its body, a some-what long, bushy tail, and had brown fur on its head. It was also very quick and fast, and was the first squirrel that came to get my food. Then, we got in our car and drove off, likely to come back and meet the squirrels again. I was so lucky to get close to ground squirrels and their burrows. They are so amazing, bright eyed, and nimble. I want to be like them, being able to run fast and free and no one telling them to stop. I want to be like them, being independent, and going out to find food for themselves. Thinking ahead, and storing nuts for the winter. I want to be like them, making their own houses by themselves, and when they leave, providing a shelter or a home for another wandering creature. Ground squirrels are smart and intelligent, and I would want to be like one. After I met the ground squirrels, I researched more about them. They keep 100 feet from their burrow, and it’s a big part of how they survive in the wild, and escape from any predators. This reminded me of myself, when I go into my room after school. My room or burrow is a place of protection, in which I do most of my activities. If there’s something that’s threatening me, or making me sad, I retreat to my burrow, and calm down because I know I’m safe. If I didn’t have this, then it would be hard to feel safe and protected, and for the ground squirrel, they wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild. But they are also their own animal, and are different from me in some ways. Ground squirrels almost never go 150 feet of their burrow, and I like to travel around the world. If I had those restrictions, I wouldn’t be who I am. Me and ground squirrels are different, and similar, but no one can be just like them, because they are unique and themselves.


Bat Ray (Myliobatis californica) BY SKYLER L.

In the depths of dark and gloomy waters, the bat ray uses its snout to sift through the ocean floor, in search of a meal. Lunch time is spent searching for clams, mollusks, and crustaceans. The bat ray glides through the water, using its fins to only exert enough energy to cut through the currents. Its tail remains motionless as it glides, equipped with sharp spines to defend itself if it feels threatened, frightened, or is being attacked. I wish that I could elegantly swim all day, traveling wherever I want through stunning places. Instead, I spend my time turning through my dance studio with my friends who over the years have become my sisters. We often move together in our studio, just like bat rays. Bat rays travel in groups of thousands, exploring their environment together. Even though we only have 20 students in our class, we still feel like we can learn and explore new moves as one. Dancing has always been my way of disconnecting, and being myself. I have been dancing since I was around four years old, and it has always been one of my favorite hobbies. When I am feeling emotional, or I am feeling stressed, I come back to why I started and have continued dancing. It is through my dedication towards dancing that I learned what it means to put effort and care into something. This has led me to take action on other topics I am passionate about. One topic I wish that the world cared about is our aquatic life. I wish that we would help creatures in the ocean. My family loves traveling, and every year, we try to get out and explore places we have been before, and find other places around the world that we enjoy. Most years, we go to Hawaii, and I think that I am very fortunate to be able to go there so often. Just like me the bat ray loves traveling and exploring new environments. When I am in Hawaii I almost always go snorkeling, and my favorite island to snorkel is The Big Island, also known as Hawaii. The wildlife underwater is filled to the brim with spectacular species. When I was eight or nine years old, I was snorkeling in Hawaii, and I saw a bat ray. I was very young back then, and I was naturally scared. My dad had told me that bat rays could be dangerous, and I thought he was messing with me, but then, I could tell that I should probably swim away. When I got out of the water, I told my parents and they thought it was so cool that I got to see something like that. But they warned me to not go into the water for a little bit. Bat rays are one of the most interesting animals I have ever researched and learned about. Female bat rays stay together and travel with other bat rays in groups of thousands alongside other rays in the eagle ray family. When bat rays are sifting through the sandy ocean floor to find food, they can create up to 4m long and 20cm deep pits. It might seem like bat rays live a comfortable life, but they don’t. Like any other animal, bat rays have three main predators, including the California sea lion, the great white shark, and broadnose sevengill sharks. The underside of the bat ray is also where their mouth is. When bat rays eat, they pick up large chunks of food, pull it apart and chew all the meat and shoot out the rest of the food that they don’t want. To support themselves while they eat, they place their wings on the ocean floor in a way that makes it look like they have legs. Bat rays live in kelp forests and close to coral reefs, where it is easy to find food. Staying close to the ocean floor, it’s like the bat ray drowns out all the noise, all the shouts, all the judgement that could come from above. I always feel grateful when I can be myself and I can feel like I can dance without being judged, either by the way I dance or by my skill level. Many people in this world, including dancers of color, have been overlooked. People have judged these dancers by their skin color before they even saw their dancing and true qualities. Bat rays swim through the ocean, swimming past anything that tries to threaten them, but when they can’t take it anymore, they fight back. But most of the time, they stay close to the ocean floor to avoid threats. Just like me. But when I dance, I don’t feel like I need to worry about that. I feel safe. 62

Lunch time is spent searching for clams, mollusks, and crustaceans.


Snowy Plover, Fluffy and Calm, Pecking along, Shuffling on. Shuffling on, You see some food, So as you do, Keep shuffling on.


Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus) BY KATELYN D.

When I was younger, I would often find myself asking my parents or older siblings for more. More food, more toys, more TV, more everything. I would be told no sometimes, and be upset. Not just be upset, I would throw a temper tantrum. But the Snowy Plover, it would not. As graceful as the Snowy Plover looks walking, you would expect none the less it looks graceful eating as well. The Snowy plover diet consists mostly of insects, crustaceans, and worms. When a Snowy Plover sees food they will quickly shuffle on one foot towards it and peck at the ground. When the female lays eggs it will most commonly be 3 eggs, sometimes 4, and very rarely 2. The Snowy Plover lays its eggs in their nest which is actually on the ground. The snowy plover makes its nest out of seashells, feathers, and other things that blend into their surroundings causing many people to ruin their nests. The Snowy Plovers will usually live on flat white sand beaches as a shore bird. That is also where the baby Snowy Plover hatches. The Young Snowy Plover is a very interesting bird. They hatch on the ground, so they can leave their nest immediately. If it was in a tree it wouldn’t be able to do that because it does not learn to fly until it is 28-32 days old. The egg they are inside usually takes about 26-32 days to hatch. They are very independent as their mother sometimes abandons them and their father when they are hatching. The young Snowy Plover leaves its nest just 3 hours after hatching. It goes and gets food for itself, fights predators and things that could potentially mess up their nests. Some of these creatures include falcons, raccoons, coyotes, and owls. There are also animals that humans bring and attract like dogs, crows and more things like that. This bird has snowy white fur with splotches of grey, black, and sometimes brown. It is usually a quite plump bird when it is older and has very fluffy fur. The Snowy Plover’s legs stay the same size their whole life which means when they are young they have very long legs compared to their tiny size. The snowy plover also has a very rounded head and a thick pointy beak. The Snowy Plover egg looks almost like the snowy plover rolled up into a ball. It is a mostly off-white cream color with dots of brown and black. It has a sphere shape instead of an oval. The mother Snowy Plover carries the egg, one at a time, in her beak. The mother also watches the egg during the day as the father watches it at night. The Snowy Plover likes to run all around the beach with its long legs to look for food. Now that I look back on it, I realize that Snowy Plovers, along with many other animals, don’t have the option to ask for more, and they have to get their own things and entertain themselves with very few things. The Snowy Plover would not even be upset, they would be calm and go and get what they need. Being a Snowy Plover would be stressful and hard but would be a good experience -- that you don’t get everything you want or even need, and have to have a positive mindset.


California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma california) BY REED C.

Scrub-Jays always look as if they’re waiting for something, and they always look anxious. Scrub-Jay’s seem like they run busy lives, and are not shy about getting what they want. They show their colors so boldly, and their cry could not be louder. Sometimes when I am in a large and bustling crowd, I shut my ears and walk away, but Scrub-Jay’s would probably dive right into the crowd and explore. Just as much as they are bold, they can also be very naughty. They often steal many acorns from each other and can be very annoying to other birds who find food. Sometimes I wish that I was more like a Scrub-Jay, not covering my ears and walking away from the crowd, but jumping in and getting right to the point. Scrub-Jays look like a perfect shade of blue that reminds me of a cloudless sky on a warm day. They can also appear with seeds inside their mouth which they have probably fought over. To eat these seeds, they use a slightly hooked beak so they can open the seeds easily. They only stay 5-15 feet above the ground as if they aren’t scared of predators like snakes. They are also known to be the “blue jay of the parks” in many places and are very adventurous to go into whatever backyards they find. This only adds more to their personality of being very bold and unfazed, moving around wherever they want without thinking of the risks. One way they move around is by hitching a ride on mule deer. They do this to get a quick snack from all of the tiny insects that they find in the fur, meaning that Scrub Jays and mule deer have a mutualistic relationship. When Scrub-Jay’s do this, it looks as if someone started riding an elephant. In keeping with their brash personality, they are not picky eaters at all. I am also not a picky eater, so I understand why Scrub-Jays don’t care about what they eat. Their normal diet includes insects that they can find, seeds of many varieties, and what they can scrounge from the bird feeders that they find. As I said, Scrub-Jays are very mischievous. They remind me of a misbehaving child that refuses to listen to the teachers and makes distracting comments during class. If they’re on top of a Mule Deer or perched on top of a branch, you can probably hear a Scrub-Jay’s cry. To me, their cry sounds like someone is trying to assert something important. Some have thought that Scrub-Jay’s cry sounds like a sharp pitch of sweet notes, but others have thought that it sounds like sharp rapping. Their personalities remind me of when I feel slightly angered and there is a lot of work to do. I normally would just work through a lot of assignments in a short amount of time. When Scrub-Jays are still juvenile, they have gray feathers that have a cotton-like texture to them, and they also are not very capable of flying at a young age. As they get older, however, they become very good flyers because their wings are strong and feathery, which gives them the ability to get off the ground easily and fly for longer distances. If you’d like to see a California Scrub-Jay, they are generally found in different types of scrubs, oak woodlands, and many suburban yards in California. The oldest California Scrub-Jay lived to be 15 years old, which is pretty old for a bird. When they have eggs, they are a nice shade of light green with some gray-black spots, which surprised me. I would’ve thought that their eggs would have been blue because their feather color is mainly blue. Winter is a hard time for Scrub-Jays. Their winter diet is more limited because they don’t have as much food availability. Sometimes, if they don’t have enough to eat, they will starve. They can only find limited acorns and seeds and the occasional bug, but still, their diet isn’t even close to as plentiful as it is during the spring and summer. Winter has not been their only problem. Since we humans have cut down so many trees, their environment and lifestyle have been impacted greatly. Can you imagine your entire home gone in the blink of an eye? This has been happening to all birds around the world. Not just birds, but many species of animals. If this pattern continues, we may lose the loud cry of the Scrub-Jays. If they go extinct, their attitude and regular appearances of the Scrub-Jay around our yards will also disappear. They don’t have a small population yet, but humans continue to chop down forests and destroy homes, thousands of species would become endangered and go extinct. I hope this does not happen because there are things we can learn from the Scrub-Jay.. Sometimes, you just want to get all of your feelings out, and Scrub-Jays do that so often with their obvious cry and their boldness. I wish that I could express myself and not worry about what others thought. Scrub-Jays have something special by not letting anyone change their personality, and I think it means that animals can express themselves in ways humans never could. 66

Tiny and small Trying to stand tall Flapping your wings To rise above them all Boldly entering And showing yourself proudly Impatiently waiting To show yourself to all


... a resourceful plant that has multiple uses.


California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica) BY NICHOLAS S.

California Sagebrush (Artemisia Californica) is a resourceful plant that has multiple uses. It is slender and flexible so it is much harder to break than other plants. Still, throughout history many people have found ways to break it apart to use its unique properties. The plant was first used by the Native Americans for medicine. They would sometimes use the plant by burning it, although it was typically mixed with other plants to produce a medicine that was used to cure toothaches, wounds, and even asthma. The form of this medicine could even be tea. It is drought-tolerant, meaning that it can survive without water for an incredibly long time. Additionally, miners used it to get fleas out of their beds because the fleas disliked the sagebrush. The miners, and many other people, also don’t like the smell of skunk farts when they were sleeping outside. It burns your nose and is awfully disturbing. So people used this plant to get rid of the smell of skunk fart (although the burnt plant smells almost just as bad.) This plant is also used for filling in cracks in roads, along with stopping soil from eroding. This is why you can see Sagebrush on the sides of highways and roads that go through mountain areas. It also has many qualities that help the environment, and scientists have not found any way that it harms the environment. For example, this plant gives materials for many birds to make nests including threatened ones, such as the California Gnatcatcher and Bell’s Sage Sparrow. This is an important job that the Sagebrush does by providing the materials for a habitat for these birds to eat and live in. Summer isn’t my favorite season, but I do enjoy having sunny days (when it stays sunny the whole day) because I don’t like when the weather changes in the middle of the day. I am not mentally prepared or gear-prepared and I become unsatisfied with the outcome. I also like it when it is sunny because when it is raining I get wet and that is not ideal. Like me, California Sagebrush likes full-sun days, and thrives in dry foothill environments that get days and days of sun. With proper sunlight, it can grow to be 5 feet to 8 feet tall. Sometimes I wish I could grow as tall as the California Sagebrush because then I could tower over my sister while she cowers in fear and begs for mercy. If you ever want to find this plant, the California Sagebrush looks like a bunch of greenish-gray hair or a bunch of long sticks shoved into the ground. The leaves can also be very hairy. This plant is also highly aromatic, so you can smell it very well. Although I have not had any personal interactions with this plant, I would guess that this plant smells like a redwood leaf. Although redwood trees are not part of the sunflower family, California Sagebrush is surprisingly a part of the sunflower family. This plant blooms in the late summer, and when it blooms, there are tiny clusters of flowers that look like brains with yellow veins popping out. Sometimes the blooms have some lime in them. It is also very sensitive to pollution in the air. Many animals eat California Sagebrush like domestic sheep, elk, horses, mule deer, and more. Some smaller rodents also eat it, like the Dusky-Footed Woodrats. This plant spreads mostly by seed distribution which is how grass also spreads. This plant adapted to fires so if only part of it is burned it will grow back after. But if the fire is very bad, it is most likely to not survive. The California Sagebrush is a very interesting plant and many people use it for various types of things. This plant has many uses but when I first saw pictures of it, it looked like a boring bush that you could see anywhere. A few weeks ago, if I saw California Sagebrush, I would pay no attention and proceed with my day. But now that I know about it, I would pay attention to it and it would be worth my valuable time.


Northern Raccoon (Procyon lotor) BY JANE J.

What do you think about in the morning? Probably going back to sleep when you check your clock and realize it’s only 5:00 am. Or maybe you are a morning person (something I wish I was), and you are thinking about making waffles or pancakes for breakfast. I highly doubt that you think about avoiding coyotes, wolves, hawks, bears, bobcats, mountain lions, and pumas, all of which would rip you to pieces in seconds. And I seriously doubt that you are thinking about a nice breakfast of fruits, plants, nuts, berries, insects, rodents, frogs, human food scraps, eggs, and crayfish. Well, this is what raccoons think about when they wake up early. By early I mean like 1:00 am. For us, 5:00 am is when we could wake up and be productive, but we usually don’t because we are too warm and cozy in our beds (guilty as charged). But for raccoons, this is like waking up at 3 am if we went to sleep at midnight. That’s because raccoons are nocturnal, meaning they go out of their dens at night, but sleep during the day. By day they are lazy balls of fluff, but by night they are fluffy robbers ready to turn your trash into raccoon takeout. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or in this case, one man’s trash is a raccoon’s breakfast. Raccoons really live up to their names as trash pandas and bandits armed with fluff. They look like miniature bandits due to their bandit-like patch of darker fur that covers their eye area. But don’t fret, as they mostly stick to their dens and your trash cans, so they rarely will cause you harm. I have encountered a raccoon maybe once. I was about 7 years old when I went outside on a cold dark night to get my backpack from the car and tripped over a small ditch. I saw something move out of the corner of my eye and I, being 7 years old, was paranoid about kidnappers. So, I rushed to stand up when the thing moved again but I was so caught off guard that I plummeted to the ground. I banged my arm, and started screeching, and crying. In my head I was thinking to myself, “It’s a kidnapper, it’s a kidnapper.” But when the motion sensor light turned on and I saw a little bandit mask in the distance , I started shaking so hard I thought I was having a seizure. I quickly changed my hypothesis to, “it’s a burglar, it’s a burglar!” As I said, I was seven and thought all burglars have masks and striped outfits like in the movies. Now I know that burglars wear normal things like hoodies and stuff like that. I was expecting my parents to rush outside and save me but they stayed inside watching tv. Raccoons are masters of disguise, unlike their lazier counterparts, red pandas. This is not a very rare story as raccoons tend to not be scared of humans. As a matter of fact, it is not unheard of for raccoons to be so curious as to waltz right into peoples houses if they leave the door open. Raccoons just love human houses. It might be that we have air conditioning in the hotter months and heaters in the colder winter months. It might be because we have fluffy beds and comfortable sofas. Or it might just be that the raccoons got tired of their unwanted roommates, the squirrels, and came in search of food and comfort. Raccoons live in small, yet useful dens, spread out in neighborhoods. They can have up to 21 den sites at a time! That’s a lot of houses. They protect their dens by hissing in a way that is similar to that of a cat. They also spread their scent around their den sites to tell other animals to buzz off and find their own house. Raccoons build their dens in tree hollows to blend in unlike our houses. Like a raccoon, I would like to hiss at my brother when he tries to invade my room. I’d like to hiss at myself when I forget to do homework. I’d also like to hiss at the person at Taco Bell who, even though they ordered after me, got their food first. Hiss. 70

By day they are lazy balls of fluff, but by night they are fluffy robbers ready to turn your trash into raccoon takeout.


As I came closer I saw more of it, a large patch of green, sitting on the endless marsh. Being six, I thought it was a cucumber, and ate it, even though I was not sure it was edible.


Pickleweed (Salicornia virginica) BY AVIVA S.

I first saw pickleweed when I was six years old. I was on a trip to the marsh with my day camp group when I spotted green sprouts coming out of the ground. As I came closer I saw more of it, a large patch of green, sitting on the endless marsh. Being six, I thought it was a cucumber, and ate it, even though I was not sure it was edible. I found out minutes later that it was, so I ate more. Pickleweed has a funny taste. Over half of my group spit it out after trying it, but I was one of the few people that didn’t. It tastes like an extremely salty cucumber. Pickleweed has a green color, and each sprout branches out into smaller stems. The physical appearance of pickleweed is very similar to ‘alien fingers’, with it’s green, skinny, yet bumpy, thin stems. People have been using pickleweed for quite a long time. The Native American tribes—specifically Chumash and the Tongva-Gabrielino—used the ashes of pickleweed for the production of soap and glass. They also used the green tips as a vegetable. On the camp trip when I was six, I also thought of pickleweed as a vegetable. Which to a certain extent, it is. Originally, after I ate it, I thought something horrible was going to happen because I didn’t know if it was good for me or not. I had a horrible realization then. Just like pickleweed was burnt to ashes, but for good use, I found out that I had eaten something I thought was bad, but it turned out to be good. Pickleweed is actually quite good for you, and It is a great source of electrolytes. It grows mainly in salt marshes and salt flats. It can also be found in extremely salty soil. Because pickleweed grows in such salty places, it handles salt in two ways; a salt excluder, and a salt accumulator. Some salt filters out through the roots using sodium-potassium pumps in it’s membranes. The rest of the salt is pumped by other cells to storage cells (vacuoles). Once a cell is full, the segment of pickleweed that holds the cell will turn red, and it will fall off and die, but only that segment specifically. Pickleweed obtains its nutrients (not salt) through photosynthesis, so it grows best in places that are less shady. Pickleweed, and other members of the salicornia family, are succulents. As a marsh plant, being a succulent may be an odd characteristic, but if you think about a marsh’s connections to fresh water, it’s pretty much a desert. The Native Americans weren’t the only people who enjoyed pickleweed. Today, you can even microwave it and it still tastes pretty good. Although humans eat it, we are not the only ones. The endangered Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, which is only found in San Francisco bay marshes, eats it and lives in it. Just like pickleweed uses photosynthesis to grow, and branch out, I use school as a way to learn and connect with others. Pickleweed allows the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse to live off of it. Even though the mouse may eat it, it is still reaching out to others. Pickleweed lives in an interesting environment. With a diverse scale of birds and rodents, but lots of plants as well. Like pickleweed lives in this diverse environment, we, humans, live in a diverse world as well. With many different kinds of people, and other things too. Such as cars, houses, books, and so much more. In regards to its name pickleweed can be pickled, and in my opinion, it tastes the best fresh or pickled.


Brush Rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani) BY IVAN C.

Sticking to small groups was already a part of me when I arrived at Nueva in kindergarten. In preschool, we learned that to thrive, you should either stick to small groups or go solo. But being alone was lonely, so I decided to join small groups and stick with them; sometimes even making my own small group. If you were to be in a large group, you could be left out or maybe even kicked out because you weren’t one of their “close friends”. That’s when I learned that I didn’t want to be in large groups, but right when I came up with that pre-school had already ended. My small group usually consisted of my closest friends, meaning they were my friends from the start (kindergarten or 1st grade). But some of my friends got into Nueva in 3rd or 4th grade. Being in a small group doesn’t mean that your connections are smaller or weaker. They are many times even stronger than those in larger groups. But it doesn’t always feel this way. Brush rabbits are altricial, meaning that they develop slowly and will need parental guidance in most cases. Brush rabbits are cute animals with a cottontail so fluffy everyone who sees it would want to touch it. Brush rabbits are also not fortunate to be the natural carrier of the myxoma virus. Brush rabbits are nocturnal animals, which means that they sleep during the day and are active at night. Sometimes I wish I could be active at night if the school day were bad or embarrassing, or I just wanted to take some time away from society. Brush rabbits originally got their name from a Columbia river in Oregon, which is fantastic. I think I’m altricial, I like my parents and I hope that they are always there to guide me. Brush rabbits have 13 different subspecies, all different and unique in their way. That is like having 13 different brothers and sisters! Thick brushy habitats are a requirement for brush rabbits, and usually by the side of a river. Let me paint the scenario for you. If you walk one step forward; you bump into a bush. You walk one step behind, another bush, you stop walking; you are in a bush. You run out of the bush, you fall into the river. You give up and you decide to jump off a cliff, you land in a bush. You decide that you want to defy gravity and you jump across the world, you land in a bush. That is the type of habitat that Brush Rabbits live in. Brush rabbits have a brown, black, and grey look. Their body looks like the habitat that they live in, bushy and brown. This helps them blend into their environment. Brush rabbits usually enjoy eating grasses but will sometimes eat leaves, herbs, and scrubs—like a wild rose and blackberries—but they prefer green clovers. They enjoy cowering at the sight of their predators including bobcats, weasels, and various raptors and snakes. Brush rabbits can even grow to 1 foot and 2 inches! Enjoying hikes is a thing my dad says our family does, hikes are good for you and will lighten your mood. But after a few years of disobeying my dad, I began to enjoy taking hikes and walks in brushy habitats because it would take my mind off whatever is happening. I enjoy calling brush rabbits the guardian of the bush because I love Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy (RIP Tony Stark), brush rabbits remind me of ants (not in a bad way) because they are basically everywhere in their habitat but we just don’t notice them. I always wonder how they hide in bushes when the bushes will hurt your skin when you scrape against it. I could imagine walking and seeing a brush rabbit jump out of a bush to surprise the heck out of me. Friends are supposed to be special, and if they don’t treat you well just don’t be friends with them anymore. If you are ever lonely, just remember that brush rabbits are mostly alone, YOU have friends there for you. 74

Thick brushy habitats are a requirement for brush rabbits, and usually by the side of a river.


I stepped up to the first tee at The Preserve Golf Course, surrounded by 20 thousand acres of protected land, and saw something moving in the brush to the right of the hole.


Bobcat (Lynx rufus) BY RYO S.

I stepped up to the first tee at The Preserve Golf Course, surrounded by 20 thousand acres of protected land, and saw something moving in the brush to the right of the hole. I looked over and could not quite make out what it was. Once it stopped, I saw its short brown tail tipped with white and small black spots on its body and realized it was a bobcat. I paused to observe it, as it walked confidently around knowing it owned this land. I watched as it paced through the brush and seemed as though it was looking for food. “That’s so cool! Another bobcat,” I thought. I was not very scared because I had seen a lot of them at The Preserve before, but it had been quite a while since then. Another frequent place where we would see bobcats was driving out of the golf course in a flat area where there were bushes just to the left. I might only catch a quick glimpse of it as it leaped into the bushes. It has slowly become more rare to see them even at The Preserve. Bobcats live for 15 years on average in the wild, and 18 years in human care. This makes me think how they are declining in population and how that is possible while living longer than a house cat. The year before, I would see a bobcat almost every time we went to play golf. Now when I play, we have to be very lucky to see one. Bobcats have an interesting appearance. Physically, they usually weigh between 9 and 33 pounds and are one and a half to two feet tall. They look as though they are three times as big, got their fur, and then were shrunk down again. They have many little spots that can be either black or white while the rest of their fur is generally brown with tints of red. Their black spots can be used as camouflage to hide from anything unwanted. When I saw the bobcat off the golf course, it naturally knew to stay amongst the rocks and yellowish and brown brush. They also have very fluffy hair below their jaw which gives them the droopy jaw look. Bobcats also have white spots on their ears and tail, which it uses to guide its kittens. If a kitten does fall too far behind, then the mother will wave her tail with the white spot on the underside of her tail encouraging the kitten to catch up. When bobcat kittens are born, they look like they can do no harm--just an innocent ball of tan fluff with legs and blackish ears poking out. They can’t open their eyes for the first nine days. They nurse for four months and then the kittens’ mom teaches them to hunt at five months of age. Kittens leave to go live on their own at eight months old. Bobcats’ dads do not help with raising their kittens. Being patient in life whether you are a human or a bobcat is very useful. Patience comes in handy whether you are waiting in line, talking about something that you’re not passionate about, or hunting a rabbit. Bobcats need to be very patient. They can end up walking seven miles in one night when looking for their food. Bobcats are also very stealthy as they put their back paws in the same place as their front paws to reduce noise. While they can walk extremely slowly to sneak up their prey, they can also sprint very fast up to 30 miles per hour. They are so agile they can jump and catch low flying birds. While they most commonly eat rabbits and hares, bobcats sometimes eat mice, rats, chickens, and bones. They can also hunt domestic animals like dogs, cats, sheep, and goats that stay outside. This is not good, but it is partially our fault because they used to live where we are. Bobcats prefer to live alone. They mark their territory with the scent of their urine and feces, while respecting other bobcat’s areas. If another bobcat does invade their area, they use facial expressions and body postures to deter them. One of the biggest threats to their territory is humans creating developed, busy cities. Bobcats need wide plots of land to thrive because they are territorial animals, but humans are intruding on parts of the bobcats’ land. They are having to get so close to humans that they sometimes end up eating rats which ate rat poison, and this then poisons the bobcat. Another threat to bobcats is humans hunting or trapping them for their fur. Almost 30,000 skins were exported from 2000 to 2006. This was shocking to me because I assumed it was illegal, but trapping bobcats for their fur is actually legal in 38 states. So then you may think that this is the biggest threat to bobcats, but you would be wrong again. The largest threat to bobcats is their land being taken away from them. That is why I think places like The Preserve are so important because they give bobcats a place to thrive. 77

Bullwhip Kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) BY ALON H.

Once, I went on a trip to Hawaii. One of the most exciting activities was supposed to be scuba diving. I remember this part because it went terribly. The beach we went to was full of urchins so we couldn’t move anything or we would be pricked, and I was just floating there like a dead body until we finally went back to shore. But I did see Bullwhip Kelp ahead of me, even though I forgot about it,but now that I am doing this project, I realize that I have seen it. This was the main reason that I chose this organism. Bull kelp is an annual seaweed, meaning it grows from a spore to maturity within a single year. I am 4 feet tall, that is pretty short, I am actually the shortest person in the fifth grade and my plant is over 28.75 times taller than me. That is insane, that means that this plant is 115 feet tall! The human fingernail grows at the same speed the continents move(AKA 2.5 millimeters each month) but the average bullwhip kelp Growth rate is an average rate of 10 cm (4 inches) a day and can grow up to 18 cm (7 inches) in a day. That is fast!! If it never stopped in 22.3698630137 years it would reach the height of the Burj Khalifa. That is awesome because usually you would need hundreds of people to build the Burj Khalifa but bullwhip grows on its own. Bullwhip kelp (AKA nereocystis luetkeana) has a very stick-like shape at the bottom portion, like a support base for the main thing just like the legs of a paralyzed one legged human who is so ill that their legs are yellow/green. There is a balloon-like gas ball, that looks like it is about to explode into a million pieces. Blades stick out of the top, like hair or a threat to any human who dares come near. “Swoosh swish” these are the sounds of bullwhip kelp swinging in the waves moving with the wave. Sometimes I am like the bullwhip kelp going with the crowd. Sometimes I am the opposite of bullwhip kelp going against the crowd not doing the normal things that everyone does. The kelp doesn’t have any enemies, and it protects its friends in return for nothing like shielding some otters. I am like bullwhip kelp, sometimes protecting my friends from anything and helping them grow. Sometimes I let them grow by themselves, alone. If I was in China I wouldn’t be able to find bullwhip kelp but in California you would! That must be rare! NOPE, it is actually pretty common where it is found. There are alot of species like this abundant where it is found but some species are very widespread and uncommon, or even uncommon and not widespread. I was lucky that my species was common and I could remember seeing it. Bullwhip kelp is important to the survival of many species and different animals protecting from predators or becoming food for humans, but swish they also move with the waves, and splash it moves the waves changing it little by little. Over 1,000 species would probably go extinct if kelp was to just disappear, that is 0.011494252873563218 of the world’s species. What if one of those species was essential for humans (I am not saying they are)? That could lead to the collapse of the human race without kelp in the world. Some people actually eat bullwhip kelp. The bulbs and stripes, for example, can be pickled, while the blades can be dried into chips and added to soups and other meals such as a salad. Of the weight of the kelp 15.3% of it is protein, 1.3% of it is crude fiber, 42.7% of it is ash, 1.9% of it is crude fat, and 38.8% of it is carbohydrates. A single stalk of bullwhip kelp can weigh more than 20 pounds. That is 3.06 pounds of pure protein. That is insane!


If it never stopped growing, in 22.3698630137 years it would reach the height of the Burj Khalifa.


Hello world Peaceful under the sea Safe and content Happy, and glee. I do not know About the world I don’t live up there Where people come And get impearled.


Oyster (Ostreidae) BY RAFI P.

I love oysters!! A lot of people think that they are slimy and disgusting, but I am not one of those people. Just a couple of days ago, my family and I had oysters for dinner. My mom bought three types: Miyagi, Standish, and Hump Island. Standish oysters are from the warm waters of Massachusetts, Miyagi oysters are from the colder waters of Washington, and Hump Island oysters are from the cold waters of Alaska, and just as I predicted, we all liked the Hump Island oysters the most. (I am not saying that Standish oysters are bad, but they are just a little sour, not as sweet as the oysters that come from colder waters.) This dinner proved my former information: oysters from cooler waters are sweet and crisp, and oysters raised in warmer waters are sour and meaty. You might be thinking “Uhhhh, what’s the fuss? Oysters are just edible slime inside of a shell.” Well, did you know that oysters are probably a better water filtration system than yours at home? A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. Oysters can also change their gender, including their reproductive functions! I imagine that if humans had that ability, the book Seveneves would not be written. Also, here’s a tip, if you are ever going to eat oysters, make sure that they were farmed in a month with the letter “R” in its name, studies show that oysters are meatier in months that have “R” in its name, so why not get more meat for your money? In case you do not want to figure this out by yourself, the months with “R” in their name are September through April. One thing that I learned about oysters throughout this project is that oysters get sweeter as the temperature of the water they are raised in gets colder, I learned this from a website that I found and when my mom realized that I was doing my project on oysters, and got oysters for dinner, I seized the chance to conduct research. I loaded three of each of the three different types of oysters onto my plate. The three different types were Standish, Miyagi, and Hump Island. Hump Island oysters were the best. I learned during that dinner that, because they are very good for you and incredibly tasty, they are expensive, they can cost up to 77 dollars per oyster! But it wasn’t always that way. I did some research and found out that oysters were very common during the gold rush! In fact, Mathew Booker, a Researcher at North Carolina State University said that oysters were the Big Mac of the time. With that information, I came up with the theory that oysters were in such high demand that the local population of oysters decreased dramatically, making it so that you might have to pay for the shipping fees when you order oysters from other places. One other thing that led me to believe this is an article saying that most of the oysters that we eat here in San Francisco are not native to the San Francisco bay, they are mostly found naturally from southern Alaska to southern California. One of the most dominant species of oyster from southern Alaska to southern California is called the Olympia oyster. The Olympia oyster is very small, only about the size of a half-dollar. Outside of their cost and appearance, oysters have a lot of lore around them. One legend about oysters is that the Greek goddess of love rose out of the sea floating on an oyster. That really stood out to me, because I like Greek Mythology. Aphrodite was the only God or Goddess that was not born but created by nature. Many ancient Romans also believed in oysters, some people were said to eat 50 or 60 raw oysters a day! We now know that oysters truly are good for you, they are rich in Zinc, Copper, vitamin D, and Manganese, which help the body form connective tissue, bones, blood-clotting factors, and hormones. I remember that I always liked tidepooling, and being in the water in general. I can connect to an oyster deeply because I have always felt completely safe and comfortable underwater, like I have a little shell protecting me from all of the hazards and craziness of the world above. Underwater, I can not hear anything, just peaceful bubbles and my own thoughts. I like thinking that I am in my own little world, where nothing can disturb me. But then, just like an oyster, I meet my fate of eventually being pulled out of the soft water, and into the glaring light and unpleasant sounds of the above world.


Dusky-footed Woodrat (Neotoma fuscipes) BY DIANA P.

I am sitting in my car, and we’re driving home. The sound of harsh rain on the roof is like a million footsteps at once, all running away or towards something. I reach for my sketchbook to draw, when my eyes catch onto something. I see pieces of trash lining the bay side—all over the grass, the bushes and even floating leisurely in the water. It is at these times, where I wish I could be like a Dusky footed woodrat. If I could pick all this trash up, and build this into something else. A home. I first found this adorable rat on the internet. As I was scrolling through other species native to the bay area like the California red-legged frog and the dungeness crab, I saw something that inspired me. A small rat with a furry tail and large eyes looked up at me from the screen, tail poised as if for a picture. The more I looked at it, the more I was entranced. As most humans are on a bad day, the dusky footed woodrat will rest in their nests for hours at a time when they are tired or under the weather. Their nests are large and carefully constructed. They will run around for hours at a time, diligently trying to find the perfect piece of debris for their den. Their dens can be up to seven feet in height, and five feet in width. Most are much smaller, but it is still incredible to me that such a small creature can make something so magnificent and imposing. I like to do collages. Just like the woodrat, collage is looking at something that would otherwise be junk, but then piecing it together to make something beautiful. I learned this from the fall, when curtains of gold, red, auburn leaves would fall down and make closely knit carpets of color. The leaves that fell down were always so confident, so sure that the ground would catch them. That they would land in the right place. Or what would happen when a gust of wind blew them away? Would they be able to find their way back, or would they have to find a new home On a freezing monday, november 1st, I am walking up a set of wooden stairs, wet from the continuous rain. To the left of the slippery steel bars I see a small figure. I glimpse large ears and a furry tail. I wonder if it left it’s nest that day, and if it’s pups and mate are still there, waiting for it. They probably don’t know that it’s long gone. These rats also have to overcome global warming. Because of fires, lush, cool oak forests burn away. The rat’s ideal habitat. The fires also burn away debris which they use to make their nests and what they eat. If there are too many fires, the Neotoma fuscipes species will rapidly drop in population, even though right now they are thriving and the least of our worries. A lot of other species are in this same boat, because their habitats are being destroyed by humans making space for other settlements and buildings. I also watched a documentary about woodrats. In the video, they skittered around, building nests and gathering food for winter. Occasionally they would disappear into leaves and mulch, never leaving a trace behind, only slats of brown and orange. They communicate using squeaks in which they have a large variety of. They also have body language and smells, to make sure they are talking to each other and not an imposter from another nest. There are a lot of dusky footed woodrats in captivity, kept in small cages in museums. The average lifespan of this adorable little rodent is less than usually one, two, or three years. This means they will keep changing the rats out, just for show and reputation. Replacing, replacing, replacing. You can do small things like turning off the lights and unplugging chargers to help national wildlife. If species do go extinct, we can write movies, speeches, documentaries. But I personally think, and I think that a lot of people will agree with this perspective, that witnessing and interacting with nature is better in person. 82

As most humans are on a bad day, the dusky footed woodrat will rest in their nests for hours at a time when they are tired or under the weather.


The gray fox darts this way and that, cunningly escaping its predator. The arctic fox digs a shelter in the snow, its skillful paws moving quickly. The swift fox swiftly bounds across the meadow in search of its tiny prey. But the red fox cares and nurtures, and is both cunning, skillful, and swift.


Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) BY TIAGO S.

During the break that we always have in classes at the school I go to, we sometimes play tag. I was never very fast, and am sometimes tormented and screened by some of the other kids playing. I sometimes think that a red fox could have gotten away, could have escaped the screening, could have managed to tag people without earning a reputation for being slow and easy to tag so that even my friends play easy on me. Sometimes I wish I had the cunning skills of a fox. The red fox is a mammal, a canid of the genus Vulpes. It has survived well and is considered least concerned as its conservation status. Members of this species live in forest, woodland, and grassland, as well as desert, tundra, mountains and farmland habitats. Foxes have a lifespan of about 11 years in captivity, but only 3 years in the wild. Their top speed can reach 48 kilometers per hour. They make their homes in the northern hemisphere, including North and Central America up to the Arctic, and in Asia and Northern Africa. Red foxes have even been introduced into Australia. They are more widely distributed than almost any other land mammal or canid. Red foxes are solitary animals, as well as being terrestrial, nocturnal, and territorial, and they are also known for being very cunning. Fox dens are usually made from enlarged dens of other animals. In the den live one adult male, usually one or two adult females, and their young (which can be called cubs, pups, or kits). They communicate using sounds, vocalization, expressions, and scents, which are also used to mark the territory. Foxes also have great senses. Orange-red-brown on the upper parts with a white underside, red foxes are brightly colored animals. They have black legs and a white-tipped tail with a gland, and black ears. They also have amber eyes, a dark nose, a thick tail, and very long fur. Varieties of fox colorings like cross foxes, reddish-brown, or silver foxes, which are silver or black, have even more colors. Red foxes are the biggest fox type, with the males being slightly larger than the females, and are 1 meter long, including a tail-length of 40 centimeters, 40 centimeters tall, and 10 kilograms in weight. Foxes are omnivores. They eat mostly small game, including rodents, rabbits, mice, birds, squirrels, and voles, but also eat fruits and vegetables, worms, grain, insects, carrion, and livestock frequently. Predators of red foxes, including coyotes, wolves and racoons, mostly eat cubs, but not always. Like most other animals, humans are the cause for most deaths. Winter is mating season for red foxes. Most foxes mate only once, although this is not always the case. The pair usually sleeps in the same den, and almost always with only one male, even though there can be multiple females. The brown and gray pups come in litters of up to 12 fox pups. Both parents help care for them. The pups stay in their den for five weeks and drink milk for about 70 days before coming out of the den in the fall of the year they were born in. Like a snake ready to strike, the red fox waits, fully sensing its prey. The mouse nibbles at the grass, unaware of its predator and its impending doom. Then, faster than a spring, the red fox leaps, pinning the mouse beneath its paws while it delivers the killing stroke. This is just one example of the cunning and skillful way a fox behaves. Another is how the red fox finds its den. Instead of hollowing out earth and soil, like a hard-working ant, a red fox takes over dens other animals have already made, like a scavenger instead. Although I have never seen a red fox in person, I am fascinated by how they behave, and have looked at multiple pictures of them. Around two weeks ago, our neighbors saw a fox in their backyard and took a picture of it and then sent it to us. Whenever I think of getting out of tricky situations, I think of the red fox, clever and skillful and cunning, graceful and crafty and wily. 85

Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) BY KARSH N.

How I wish that I could be a great white shark. When I feel threatened. When I feel stressed. When I feel under pressure. I wish I could be like the great white shark, free of worries, and full of confidence. Someone tough enough to inflict fear when needed, someone strong enough that people would think twice before crossing their path. Someone sneaky enough to blend in when needed, and someone alarming enough to stand out. The great white shark is the largest predatory fish in the world. Its body looks like a gray curvature possessing a white underside, with fins sticking out of it like knives, and the shimmering ocean light radiating beautifully on its skin. Its pitch-black mouth seems like it’s always open, ready to catch a tasty snack whenever there’s a chance. The great white shark sits atop of the food chain, a commanding creature and a deathly predator to anything (or anyone) below it. It has established itself as a creature you should not mess with or get in the way of. When you take a look at its 300 terrifying razor-sharp teeth, you will see why. Great whites are on their own from the start. After being born, they immediately leave their mother, who may only consider them as prey. Their first year is generally their hardest, since there are a multitude of bigger fish roaming the sea that are possible threats to their very existence. Most don’t even survive their first year, because they have no one to rely on or to team up with. Once they grow older, and significantly larger, they can fend for themselves, and the only ones causing them deaths are humans. Great white shark babies are called pups. Pups are usually 5 feet and weigh about 77 pounds when they are born. When they grow up, their size varies from 15 feet to almost 20 feet, and they can weigh up to 5,000 pounds! They feed on a wide variety of creatures: from miniature fish to sea lions and even dolphins. They sneak up under the prey and then swim upwards at a rapid pace. Their body is shaped like a torpedo to enhance their speed and agility. Some great whites can even reach up to speeds of 35 miles per hour in these short bursts! Even with their hundreds of deadly teeth, instead of chewing their prey up, they rip the prey up into edible pieces that are about as big as their mouth, and then proceed to swallow each of these pieces whole. It is a very gnarly and bloody process. Even though the great white shark has a reputation for being a scary, violent, bloodthirsty beast, that might not be correlated with its fatal attacks on humans. It is actually one of the most misunderstood animals. Its vision is poor, so it can sometimes mistake humans for seals, especially if the humans have flippers on. So next time you swim in an area infested by sharks, keep in mind that it is best not to wear flippers. Else, you could be shark chow! Sharks are very important for the ecosystem and for keeping the population of fish and other ocean animals balanced, as well as a few types of plants too. They have been roaming the ocean for longer than even the dinosaurs have. But recently, the great white population has been declining because of humans and the negative impacts they can have on the ocean. In life, I have noticed that you generally find more success when you are patient. Before you can leap into action, you have to humbly wait for the right moment. Like how the great white shark depends on its patience for survival. We should all try not to rush into our lives, but instead take it slow, because we know that very soon, our moment will come. And it feels super satisfying when you seize the moment, so most times, it is worth the wait. We all know how it feels to be misunderstood. Accused of something you didn’t mean to do. Sometimes by hypocrites who do much worse things to you. Then consider how a great white shark must feel. There were a mere 10 reports of sharks attacking humans last year compared to the 100 million sharks that we make into soup, kill for money, or kill for fun per year. Many times in my life, I have been misunderstood. It doesn’t feel good at all, nor does it feel comforting. I think that we should consider the viewpoints of all creatures, no matter how big or small. When I am in danger, or I’m just uncomfortable, I try to use my great white shark stare. Fierce, scary, and providing a warning. If I don’t like something that is happening, I can resort to that glare that tells people to back off. The glare that tells you: I’m the ruler of this ocean. Don’t mess with me. The glare that can make people stop doing whatever they were doing before. Almost like a scowl, but not quite. More like a protective glare that is only used in dire situations, but its effect is valuable. The great white shark reminds us to take control of our lives. If it gets out of hand, we give it that look that says: I’m the boss of my life. Not you. 86

Some great whites can even reach up to speeds of 35 miles per hour in these short bursts!


Banana slugs are one of the coolest creatures on earth, and even scientists agree.


Banana Slug (Ariolimax) BY ANYA W.

At Nueva, we have many hiking trails for kids to walk on. Zubin shows the lower school kids all of them, some of which he has made, and Jason takes kids on hikes in some of the paths during PE sometimes. After days when it rains for hours, trails become quite muddy, the perfect habitat for banana slugs to slither around. Banana slugs live in muddy and moist areas. The best place for them to live is the Pacific Northwest. If they dry up, they can die. But if they can’t get to another place that’s habitable for them soon enough, they can kind of hibernate for a while. When I walk on the hiking trails when they are muddy, I usually see lots and lots of banana slugs or sometimes even banana slug guts. Banana slugs have many uses for their slime. For example, if they are covered in debri, they can move that debri to their tail and release it as slime. Later, they can go back and eat that slime! Gross, right? But if you eat banana slug slime, your tongue goes numb. This was developed by banana slugs to scare off predators. Banana slugs can also use their slime to send notes. The slime can give off chemicals that other slugs can detect, so that both slugs can meet up somewhere to mate. As I’ve mentioned, banana slugs reside in muddy and damp areas. It’s their natural habitat—where they can survive. However, if it’s too dry in their habitat all of a sudden, they will cover themselves in slug slime and dead leaves to wait everything out until the climate has taken a turn for the better. While I can’t cover myself in my own self-produced slime, I also like to find places to wait things out. Well, my slime and dead leaves of choice is my blanket. Sometimes when I’m sleeping, and it’s too cold, I will wrap myself in my blanket, surrounding myself with warmth in my little rolled-up tube of a blanket. Banana slug guts usually look pretty disgusting, but recently, I’ve been looking at them up close, and since they can’t slither away even though they’re the slowest animal in the world, you can see what they look like. A banana slug has three holes in its head. One hole is for breathing; they have one lung in their head, with a hole in their head that shows said lung. It is kind of like a fish’s gill. The other two holes are for reproduction. The banana slug has two sets of tentacles. The first set is the iconic one on every slug, on top of its head. It is the eyes, two tiny dots at the end of the tentacles. The second set is for feeling and touching, lower on the head. As its eyes barely work, making it quite blind, the banana slug will use the other set of tentacles a lot to get around. Even though banana slugs are more known for being a disgusting animal or uninteresting, the banana slug is actually quite famous! It’s famous enough that it is the mascot of a school—UC Santa Cruz. It is also the name of a band—Banana Slug String Band. Banana slugs are famous for being the slowest creature in the WORLD! The average Banana slug covers 6.5 inches per minute, meaning it will take seven days for it to cover a mile. Overall, banana slugs are one of the coolest creatures on earth, and even scientists agree. Banana slugs have one arm connected to the bottom of their body which propels them forward, and scientists are currently studying this to make advancements to the generic model of a train. While they might go extinct because of global warming, a lot of people are being notified about climate change, and lots will try their best to stop it and take care of the earth, meaning banana slugs have a chance to not die out anytime soon, and live long, happy lives.


Saltwater Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris) BY MICHAEL S.

I remember a time when my family went to a beach right next to a marsh. I looked at the marsh waters, and thought I saw a tail. The tail vanished as soon as I saw it. I looked again, but it was gone. The tail may have not belonged to a Saltwater Harvest Mouse, but it also could have. I never had been up close to a mouse, so it got me wondering if mice had a good strategy for surviving. The mice may destroy some things, but there are better, more natural things that you can use to ward off the rodents. Even though it might seem like the mouse is a sitting duck, it can survive very well in its habitat. The fact that it can float makes it good for avoiding animals that are faster than it, like cats. The birds are the biggest threat as they are faster than the mouse and can fly, letting them go over water. But their homes are a ball of grass, making it hidden in the marsh with the plants. The birds above will just see grass and pickleweed instead of the brown mouse. Even with all of this, the main reason they are dying out is because humans are continuing to build into their marshes. This beautiful creature has a white underside as well as fur the color of cinnamon. It looks like a marshmallow coated in hot chocolate. It has hands no bigger than your pinky finger nail. The little fingernails, so tiny they can’t be cut. They look like they belong to a mini chicken. Each little fingernail on the fingers looks like a small mirror, showing the mouse the correct way. It’s eyes are like black ink, reflecting what it is looking at. Though tiny, the eyes add a lot of detail to the mouse’s body. I could probably make a version of the mouse out of hot chocolate, marshmallows, and chocolate chips. The little cinnamon ball has very tiny limbs and a tiny tail. My animal weighs around 12 grams and is 3 inches long, slim enough to slip through cracks. This type of mouse snacks on pickleweed during the summer, and fresh green grass during the winter. It lives in the salt marshes that provide its food. It makes a small ball of grass as it’s home. The Saltwater mouse can drink both fresh and saltwater. The northern version of the mouse likes freshwater over saltwater, and it is the opposite for the southern version. The mouse does not burrow and can float on water if it needs to. They can fall 3-4 feet without getting hurt! The Saltwater Harvest Mouse’s behavior is interesting as it does not act like a mouse. It makes a nest out of grass to form a ball as it’s home. Most mice burrow, but this mouse doesn’t. The mouse is quite strong for a mouse being called a “small buff brown mouse”. It only interacts with other mice if they cross paths, or in mating season. This mouse’s favorite food changes as the seasons change, liking fresh grass in the winter, and then pickleweed in the summer. The mouse has a lot of predators and commonly only has 4 babies, so the mouse is in danger of dying out completely. Sometimes I wish I could be like this mouse and be able to get back up after falling down. I would be able to recover from bad things people have said about me. No one could hurt me or my friends, and the world would be a better place if people were able to recover from being hurt. This just goes to show that even just trying to be like the mouse will go a long way for you. I wish I could be like the Saltwater Harvest Mouse and hide away from predators, as more people are using the internet and video games, there are more dangers and mean cyberbullies. I want to hide a way from them, only emerging when nice people come and cross my path. Being bullied at an old school when I was 7. Thankfully people didn’t take anything, it was more mental than physical. Now people have moved online and it is better to stay off computers, but we are always compelled to come back to the computer. I wish that I was able to rebuild my bubble when it breaks, and have a wall keeping hackers and bullies away permanently. People will try to tell you bad things, making you sad. If you don’t see the messages, then you won’t have those bad feelings. The mouse may be beautiful, but it is still endangered. This means that seeing one is rare, and special, and these mice must be protected to ensure their survival. This tiny mouse in the salt marshes of the Bay Area may die out if we don’t help it. Luckily, people are taking actions to help the mouse regain its population. It is important to help these tiny mice, as no species should have to go extinct. The mouse lives in salt marshes in the bay area, so even just telling your friends about the mouse will make a difference.Hopefully soon, you will be like the Saltwater Harvest Mouse of the bay area. Be like the Saltwater Harvest Mouse. Everyone could be like the mouse and hide a way until the problems go away, making bad things have no effect. Try it, ignoring the mean people will help you get over being mentally hurt. Try it. 90

The tiny brown ball Survives the big fall The tiny fingernails Hide in the grass when it hails The little pink face Leaves without a trace The tiny grass ball Is a home for Fall


Pintail, Pintail. A hunter’s restriction, Almost extinction. Go on, be freed! Go into the field, With freshly planted seeds! Past the acres, land stretched far. How Bizarre. Waddles with a tail, pointing oh so high, And they can fly!


Northern Pintail Duck (Anas acuta) BY VALENTINA T.

I’m a 10-year-old girl who’s fascinated by ducks. So… I went to Redwood Shores—and guess what I found? I was surprised when I saw them. But that emotion turned into joy when I saw the little ducklings following their mother. They reminded me of cinnamon rolls, the freshly baked ones with a sweet smell that my mom would make on holidays or special occasions. The cute little cinnamon roll ducklings waddled around with their tails pointed high like royalty. The Northern Pintail duck is a California Native that migrates during the night, at speeds of around 48 miles per hour. They migrate to California from late fall to early spring. Then, they go around Alaska or Canada in the summer, where they nest. They nest there in the summer because that’s when all the ice melts. That’s a good time to go into all the ponds and rivers, mate, and carefully assemble their nests in the land next to the body of water. To create a nest, the female duck scratches into dirt many times, and when she is finally satisfied with the hole— typically 8 inches wide and 3 inches deep—she will fill it with dry grass and other plants she can find nearby. Female pintails usually lay up to ten eggs, the average being seven or eight. The eggs appear white with brown speckles on them. The male ducklings have a boring mix of black, brown, and white in chunks of colors clumped together on their wings, tail, and neck. The female ducklings are much more interesting—they have a white bottom coat with brown and black speckles everywhere. Female pintails’ coats can vary from colors and shapes, so mother pintails can tell which child is which. Northern Pintails are special because their underwings carry a varying metallic color. Males have a shiny green, and females have a bold bronze. There are three different types of pintail ducks; the northern pintail, the white-cheeked pintail, and the yellow-billed pintail. My personal favorite is the northern pintail. The white-cheeked pintail and the yellow-billed pintail are native to South America. Back to northern pintails; they live in seasonal wetlands, grasslands, ponds, lakes, prairies, murky waters, muddy grass, or basically any form of land with a body of water nearby. The mating happens where many male pintails look for a female, and then the female flies away. It’s the last lucky man standing for this challenge. The males—usually in groups of three to five—follow the female, who is faster than all of them. The males slowly lose stamina and decide that the female is not worth it, diving down back to land to find a different mate. If one of the male pintails catches up to the female, the other males have to surrender and turn back. Pintails can live up to 22 years—that’s twice the length of the average dog’s life! One human year is equivalent to around 1.82 duck years. In the early years of their lives, these ducks do what any human would do as a baby; cry out to their parents for food. These are generally very kind and gentle birds, unlike swans, of which can be irritated easily and are very strong. Pintails do tend to fight over females, where one of the males would threaten another, they will jab at each other with their bills until one of them backs down. Pintail ducks always move in groups, as if they are afraid of being alone. My greatest fear is being alone. If everyone else dies around me, and I’m the only one left on this earth—what will I do? I will remember the pintail duck. Pintail ducks are always with their “flush.” Their “team.” Their “group.” I am always with my friends. My classmates. My family. I remember when I was younger, I would always have this one nightmare where I was being pushed off of a cliff by some guards, and there was a crowd cheering, ready for me to die. I had no one. I desperately searched the crowd for my family, my friends, anyone I recognized … Nothing. I was alone. I’m scared of being left behind. But when I remember the Pintail ducks, I know I’m never alone. There’s always someone out there that loves and cares about me. 93

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) BY LEO H.

You may have seen a White-Crowned Sparrow before. These adorable little birds hop around and forage for food in groups like kids moving around a school. They can be found in California in all seasons, and in many other places across America, and Canada. They are commonly found in grassy areas, where they are traveling or foraging for food. These birds visit feeders and peck at the food. They mainly eat seeds, plants, and insects. These birds are slightly larger than the very common Song Sparrow found almost all across the country. I used to have a bird feeder that hung from the tree in my backyard. The feeder was a brown homelike shape and looked old. Occasionally I would observe the feeder, neglected over the years as we had not refilled it regularly. I had seen many birds eat from the feeder until one day, a harsh wind came and took the feeder away. Now when I look outside, there is no feeder, no birds eating from there, but only the occasional bird finding some seeds on the ground. When the White-Crowned Sparrow is born, their eyes are closed, like when you are sleeping. They weigh only a tenth of an ounce, almost as light as air. Their eggs are very small, as small as a cutie orange. They are less than an inch wide and long. They are also very commonly found hopping around. The bird learns to fly after one and a half weeks of being alive. Birds learn how to fly similar to how we learn to walk. Their parents will help them but it is mainly on the newborn to learn to fly. Then, they will go to feeders to eat sunflower and other seeds on their own. The immature sparrows are mainly tan and brown, whereas the adults have white and black stripes on their heads. Some people think that the white stripes look like a crown, hence the name, White-Crowned Sparrow. The adults remind me of racing car stripes and the immature seems as though all of their colors were sucked from them. The birds are slightly larger than the very common house sparrow. The adult WhiteCrowned Sparrow looks similar to the house sparrow but with white and black stripes, whereas the immatures look almost identical. The tail is so long that it looks like there is a blade coming out from the body. These birds only occasionally make short trips to get an insect midair like a war plane shooting another out of the air. These birds can be found in grassy areas in the winter. These birds are very persistent and won’t fly away from humans but will hop unless needed. Sometimes I see them eating in large groups on the ground, pecking at the ground like a jackhammer. When a person gets near them they try to hop away, but if they can’t, they will fly away. These birds are very commonly hunted by birds, as I have witnessed myself, but they will fly away out of harm’s way. Sometimes I wish I could fly or hop away from my problems when I run into an issue. When I wish I could fly away like a bird, I sometimes stop walking and stare at the crowned bird. These birds, no matter what, always seem to be tweeting, and adding a large sound for a small bird giving hope to the world and making me remember small things can be big. When I wish I could fly away like a bird, I sometimes just look out the window at the birds and hope that one day I can fly away. I may never become a bird, and may never be able to fly, but I always will wish that I can fly away like the White-Crowned sparrow.


The bird learns to fly after one and a half weeks of being alive.


What game do fawns like playing at sleepovers? Truth-or-deer. What is the name of Santa’s rudest deer? Rude-olph. Where did the deer go to fix its tail? The re-tail shop.


Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) BY IRIS B.

I am usually in a group like mule deer with their deerest friends. I don’t know if Mule Deer live near my house and I do see deer a lot in my neighborhood but I usually see deer on the long windy road to school. I mostly see two or three deer, not one. Mule Deer are social animals that typically stay in groups. Mule Deer fawns begin accompanying their mother within a few weeks after being born. (They are so adeerable) One morning I was going to school and on the side of the long twisted road I saw two female deer and after taking a closer look I realized they were probably mule deer. They had huge ears and their tails had some black and some white and the tail looked like an upside down raindrop. One deer stopped in front of the car and the careful deer walked away slowly but it did not seem scared. Mule deer can be found in many different places including desert regions as long as there is enough vegetation to hide in and to eat but they also live in rocky areas. They will move to higher elevations during the hottest parts of the summer and move to lower elevations during the winter months. (What kind of deer make great weather forecasters? Rain -deer.) They are most active in mornings, evenings and moonlit nights. Mule Deer are good swimmers and they swim like crocodiles with just their heads above the water. Mule Deer have no upper teeth like goats, moose, and giraffes. (Who puts money under a deer’s pillow when they lose a tooth? The hoof fairy) Mule Deer usually live nine to eleven years in the wild and can live to be much oldeer when they are in captivity. Their predators are pumas, coyotes, bobcats, eagles, bears, humans, wolves, and mountain lions. Where I live, I don’t see many of these animals, and humans don’t kill them that much either, so there are a lot of deer around. They have a very strong instinct to aggressively defend their fawns when people, especially people walking their dogs, come close. In other places people hunt them a lot and one place people hunt Mule Deer is Idaho. While they are always being attacked by other animals, Mule Deer only eat plants and they probably think plants are deerlicious. When I was in Napa I went hiking on a calm tree covered hill with my parents, my sister, and eight other friends. While we were hiking it was very overgrown and rocky but there was still a clear path and we saw some deer tracks. The tracks were not eroded yet so they were probably new. Some tracks overlapped so it looked like a herd of deer walked along there. I looked for deer but all I could see were birds, and one type of bird there was a vulture. When I asked if there were mountain lions or any other predators of deer they said they had never seen any so the deer there probably grow and thrive. Many types of deer look similar and some things help me recognise types of deer more than others. Mule Deer are named for their oversized ears that resemble a mule’s ears. Mule Deer ears can be the most obvious difference between white-tailed deer and Mule Deer is their tails. Mule Deer are mostly brown but there are white parts near their mouth. Female Mule Deer are usually smaller than Male Mule Deer. They have huge antlers. Male Mule Deer grow antlers in the summer and fall and shed them every spring. (It’s like they have a inner calen-deer.) I have seen Mule Deer even though I did not think I saw them and while learning about them I found some similarities between me and the deer and I found some differences between me and mule deer. We are usually in a group and we are sometimes very protective but also I don’t have predators and I don’t need to be scared of cars when I am on the side of the road. I still feel connected to Mule Deer because I learned about them and we are both social. 97

Short-beaked Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis) BY KAITO H.

I was once going on a walk with my family to a cliff overlooking Baker Beach. It was about six o’clock, and it was starting to get dark. I saw some movement in the water. It was a dolphin! I told my brother and dad who were walking with me, but my brother, knowing that I like animals and that I sometimes exaggerate, thought that I was lying. My dad however, kind of believed me in that patronizing way. Then I saw the dolphins jump again, and I pointed them out again, and they saw it! I could tell that they were having a hard time believing what they saw. Apparently, neither of them knew there were really any dolphins in the Bay Area. Because of their markings, I’m pretty sure the dolphins we saw were the Short-Beaked Common Dolphins. Short-Beaked Common Dolphins weren’t always called by that name. Many of the dolphin species off the coast of California were called the Common Dolphin, when the Common Dolphin included only one individual species. This is no longer the case because there are now ten different species of Common Dolphins. You have to understand, back then, differentiation was hard and not as scientific as it is today. Imagine thinking way back when, “Wow, a pink 5 foot long dolphin is in the exact same genus as a 12 foot dark gray dolphin!” Though this was true long ago, it is no longer true today because we have specific species classifications. The Short-Beaked Common Dolphin has multiple bands of colors—dark gray to black on the top, brown/yellow and light gray splotches on the sides, and a darker “mask” on its face. Overall, it basically looks like a mini submarine. The penguin that you probably think of when you think of a penguin is likely the King or Emperor Penguin, and it has the same yellowish gray mark around its eyes as the dolphin. That’s because both animals have to camouflage themselves in the same habitat. Both have to camouflage themselves in cold, green waters, which are not as colorful as tropical waters, so their colors are darker. Both creatures also live and hunt in kelp forests, so their coloring matches the colors of kelp. Again, when I go on a walk with the rest of my family, I usually go to the cliff overlooking Baker Beach in the Presidio. I have a perfect view of the bay, and I only have to walk a mile to go to the beach. When I go on my walk, I don’t just see dolphins. I see seals, sea lions, sharks, and even whales, but I think dolphins are one of my favorites to see because they are peaceful. It always feels like something special when I see them. Like the Short-Beaked Dolphin, when I eat, I don’t usually eat alone. I am usually at the cafe or at home with the rest of my family. When they eat, they eat as a pod, too, not just with their normal pod. They have a community that they feed with, called a superpod, containing up to 10,000 individuals. Their pods on their own can be up to a hundred members, so some superpods only consist of about 100 normal pods. These dolphins eat small fish, shellfish, like crabs, oysters, shrimp, and they also eat squid. In some places, they literally are the expression “you are what you eat.” Prey, because dolphins aren’t always the predator. Orcas can hunt them down, some sharks are fast and vicious, but dolphins are smart and know their weaknesses. Therefore, they fend for themselves. Even though their name says they have a “short beak,” some have grown up to eight and a half feet long and weigh up to 450 pounds. Despite their size, they are very fast and agile. They can jump up to 8 feet in the air and swim up to 35 miles per hour. They are one of the many very playful dolphin species and like to swim in the wake of boats. They can swim at that speed for almost three days. They like to swim around continental shelves, underwater ridges, and seamounts. Humans live for a pretty long time compared to other animals, especially compared to most bugs that live for only a year, but there are some pretty long living animals. Take the Green-


I think dolphins are one of my favorites to see because they are peaceful. It always feels like something special when I see them.

land Shark, for example. They can live to almost 500 years. All that to say, we live to a measly 80 years old if we’re lucky, and these dolphins only get to live to 40 years old. The Short-Beaked Common Dolphin is the most common dolphin in the world, hence the name. There are almost a quarter of a billion Short-Beaked Common Dolphins out there. That puts them very far from endangered, especially when you add how little predators they have, how much we hunt them, their intelligence, and even their compatibility and ability to work together. They have a very low chance of extinction and that lets them basically do whatever they want. They can swim with boats, play whenever, and eat whatever they want. The species is not invincible, though. These species are a large victim of pollution. Every year, 300,000 sea creatures get tangled in nets and lines and other pollution that ends up in the water and die. If I were a dolphin, I would be pretty fast, so I would find any trash and then put it in some place where no one can find it, so nobody could choke on it. I wish I could be one of these dolphins for many reasons. I would get to play whenever I wanted to, even eating would be pretty fun. Orcas are considered dolphins. The fact that they are about 30 feet long and 6 tons, they have some serious power, even with food. I have seen them catch a penguin and flip it 50 feet in the air with the flick of their fluke. I would never have to go to school, never get a job, or any of those mandatory things as a human. The thing that I am most jealous of is the fact that they always have a playmate. Whenever they want, they can walk up to (or rather swim up to) another dolphin and swim and have fun without a care in the world. Dolphins don’t have to deal with one of the biggest human weaknesses. The biggest flaws in human society, as I see it, are war, terrorism, and crime. Dolphins also don’t have to deal with any bullies. I think that affects me because when I was young, before Pre-K, I was bullied a little bit, and I was basically suffering and didn’t learn much throughout my daycare-ish school setting. Looking back, I wish we could have a net of friendships without that much bullying or annoyance, so that I could pick somebody to be my friend. The Short-Beaked Common Dolphin is one of the many fascinating creatures of nature. We can learn so much from them and must remember to follow nature. That day that I saw the dolphins, I went home thinking “Wow. I wonder what I’ll see tomorrow,” Short-Beaked Common Dolphins (Delphinus Delphis)?


One time when I was nine, a family of Steller’s Jays decided to nest in the shady, plant-covered corner right next to our kitchen window.


Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) BY CHANNING L.

One time when I was nine, a family of Steller’s Jays decided to nest in the shady, plant-covered corner right next to our kitchen window. We’re used to birds nesting on our house because, well, we live in the forest after all. There’s always birds hopping on our yard and flying around and pecking at whatever looks edible. As a result, we didn’t pay much attention to the Steller’s Jays - screechy, crested birds that look like a blur of blue feathers when they fly. But when we saw three sweet little nestlings poking their thin, pink beaks out of the nest, I was enchanted. They stayed in their nest for about three weeks, but one day, they flopped dramatically out of the nest, never to be seen again. Unlike other birds, the Steller’s Jay lacks light colors. It’s bill and legs are both the color of charcoal, and the black head has almost imperceptible white streaks on the forehead and chin. The rest of its body is covered in deep blue or cobalt feathers, which are the lightest on the wings. The wings and rectrices have a pattern of black barring, and the wingspan varies from 45 to 48 cm. Female and male birds look the same, but the female is slightly smaller in size—most adult birds range from 30-34 centimeters. Among other things, Steller’s Jays are known for rarely parting with their mates. While I can’t directly relate to that, I’ve had the same friends since first grade, and when I get mad at them, (which doesn’t happen very often) I find it hard to stay mad at them for too long. Steller’s Jays are also known for being curious, bold and noisy, so much so that people might even think that they are aggressive. Steller’s Jays are often confused with Blue Jays, as both birds have bright blue feathers covering their wings and tail. In fact, the name Steller’s Jay only exists because they were discovered second as the name “blue jay” had already been taken by a species of bird living in the Eastern United States. The two bird species don’t only look alike, but share many of the same characteristics. They typically have about 3-4 eggs, and incubation time is 16 days. Females can lay up to one egg a day, and the first molt usually takes place in about 2 weeks. The eggs are bluish-green with black or dark brown spots. Both the male and female Steller’s Jays help build the nest, molding together mud, twigs, plant fibers, and rootlets into the shape of a cup. which is in the shape of a cup and made out of mud, twigs, plant fibers and rootlets. When they are nesting, they tamper their noisy behavior, becoming quiet and shy, so as to not attract too much attention to themselves. Unless, that is, they feel they are under attack. Then, they can imitate hawks, cats, and dogs to scare away any possible predators, like other Jays who may be coming to feed on their nestlings—some birds are known to do that, even the Steller’s Jay. You might think that the Steller’s Jay has the word “Steller” in its name because it is an exceptionally amazing jay, which it definitely is. Actually though, that word comes from a name - Georg Wilhelm Stöller was a German physicist, botanist, zoologist and explorer. He changed his surname to “Steller” upon moving to Russia, where he proceeded to document many of his amazing discoveries. He served on the ship St. Peter for one year as part of an expedition that aimed to map a path between Russia and North America. During that expedition, while stranded on a place that is now called Bering Island, he discovered many different species, some of which are unfortunately extinct. Some of the animals he discovered include; the Steller’s sea cow, the Steller’s sea lion, the Steller’s eider, the Steller’s sea eagle, the sea otter, the short-tailed albatross, and, you guessed it, the Steller’s Jay. When he finally returned to Russia with a few of his shipmates, he wrote many books about his findings. Some of those books include Journal of a Voyage with Bering, Eastbound Through Siberia, and Steller’s history of Kamchatka. Unfortunately, many of the species that Steller discovered on Bering Island are now extinct. While the Steller’s Jay is not currently considered an endangered species, if we humans do not continue to take care of their environment, they might one day become extinct.


Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) BY KEIRA C.

The sea otter’s fur is thick, but under it, the sea otter smiles. Under thick fur, short nose, and long whiskers, it’s an environmentalist, like me. Even if it doesn’t realize it, it’s helping us build a better planet. Even if it never leaves its habitat, it can make all the difference. But it needs our help. The environment won’t survive without us being involved. The sea otter helps its habitat, even when it’s looking for ways to survive. Even old otters are doing their part in keeping their kelp forests healthy. Sea otters help the environment in many ways. One is that since it is a carnivore, it eats creatures that cause harm to their habitat, like sea urchins. Sea otters live in kelp forests. These forests look like trees that have flowing branches that sprout all over the “tree” with water all around the forest, like the air in aboveground forests. Scientists have observed that in kelp forests without sea otters, urchins are destroying the kelp forests. These forests house a lot of different species, and some of them could go extinct if the kelp forests are being destroyed. However, in the kelp forests with sea otters, the otters have been seen munching on the urchins. The sea otter is not only getting dinner, it is saving other species while it’s doing it. Another way it helps is that their coat has pockets, so it doesn’t have to eat all these harmful creatures at the same time. The sea otter has a circular, furry face with a short nose, round eyes and ears, and long whiskers. It uses its whiskers while looking for food. Sea otters live in forests of giant kelp. Sea otters sleep wrapped up in these “branches”. Sea urchins eat the kelp, and the sea otters eat the urchins, preventing the destruction of their habitat. Most remaining kelp forests have sea otters. Since the sea otter population is about 3000, many kelp forests are inhabited by sea otters and other creatures. Left to themselves, urchins destroy the kelp, “tree” by “tree”. Sea otters use their bellies as tables while eating their urchins. Like us carrying a snack for later in our backpacks, the sea otter stores its tasty food in pockets in its coat. During the reproductive process of sea otters, males and females bond for three days. Males also have several different female partners a year, usually producing a single offspring each time. Multiple births are extremely rare among sea otters. When there are multiple births, often all but one baby perishes because the mother cannot care for them. Sea otters have the thickest and densest fur of any animal. They have approximately one million hairs per square inch. On your whole head, you have about 100,000 hairs. The fur of the sea otter is so dense and thick that their skin never actually gets wet, despite living in underwater kelp forests. This fur is practical too. The sea otter’s coat has pockets and they use them to store many different things, like food and rocks. These pockets mean that the sea otter can store a snack for later, like bringing a sandwich to school for lunch. Sea otters also store rocks here, so they can crack open their crabs, snails, urchins, clams, abalone, and mussels. After catching their prey, they don’t have to go look for a good rock to crack their food open, because they have one in one of their coat’s pockets. This saves time for the sea otters and ensures that their dinner doesn’t get a chance to escape. Since sea otters are carnivores they’re weeding out predators to their habitat. The sea urchin is the main predator that is destroying the forests, rather than what lives in the forests. Among others, some predators that eat inhabitants of kelp forests are crows, warblers, starlings, and black phoebes, which feed on the life in the kelp forest. The sea otter is perhaps the most important creature to the kelp forest that lives there, since it eliminates predators while just eating dinner. For all of these reasons, sea otters are helping their habitat and the world. They are helping the environment just by surviving. Even people who don’t know what they’re doing are helping. Everyone needs to help to save our planet. We’ll save our planet by working together and collaborating. Just like the sea otter, we need to help. 102

The sea otter helps its habitat, even when it’s looking for ways to survive. Even old otters are doing their part in keeping their kelp forests healthy.


Oh western fence lizard, Your scales shine like a pearl on a beach Your belly is as blue as the oceans waves and foam You bathe in a bath of sunlight and have eyes as black as obsidian. You sparkle and shine like tin foil and what your thinking of, no One knows.


Western Fence Lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis) BY NATALIE D.

When I was a kid, my friends and I would go lizard hunting during recess. Lizard hunting is when you go out in nature and look for lizards. We would always find lizards with blue bellies and I never knew what the blue bellies meant. Another time when I saw a blue belly lizard was when I was seven. I was about to go outside when I saw a lizard in my garage. I called over my parents and they helped me trap the lizard. We put the lizard into a small plastic container and poke air holes so it could breathe.. Then, my Dad and I drove to a nearby park and let the lizard free. At first, I thought that all western fence lizards have blue bellies, but I have learned that only adult males have blue bellies. This was pretty interesting because I used to think that the lizard that I had saved was a female. Since these lizards eat different bugs, I would go around and find dead flies and poke them through the small holes at the top of the lizard jar. I would also add some grass, dirt, and twigs to the container so that my lizard could have some things that it would have in its natural habitat. When it was time to release the lizard me and my dad took it to a park filled with trees and fresh grass. This park also had lots of bugs and a river. We opened up the container and tilted it a bit so that the lizard could just run out. Once the lizard runs out, I follow it just to make sure it’s safe and enjoys where it is staying. After that I drove home with my dad, we would throw away the container because it had holes in it. If I was at school and I caught a lizard, I would just let it go where I found it so that it could go back to its daily life. A few cool facts about western fence lizards are that they can eat ticks that can carry lyme disease, and unlike other creatures, they don’t contract the deadly virus.. Another cool fact is that they can grow up to 8.4 inches tall. They can change their scale color from grey, to tan, to black. They live in grassland, sagebrush, broken chaparral, woodland, and coniferous forest. You may also see them in cities now because they have been experiencing habitat loss. Living in the city has changed them so that they have shorter limbs and toes. These lizards usually breed in the spring and the females can lay up to 17 eggs. They also eat many different types of bugs including beetles, ants, flys, caterpillars, ticks, and spiders. Western fence lizards can look many different ways but most of them have black eyes that shine like obsidian and their claws are as sharp as a knife. Their posture makes them look proud and poised and the beautiful scales on their bodys shine like tin foil in the sun. The males’ blue scales look like the ocean in miniature form and they glimmer like glitter. When they bathe in the sun all of their beauty shows. But beauty is not the only thing that matters. When they eat the ticks that carry lyme disease, It makes it so less of us humans and animals don’t get lyme disease. These lizards really do a lot for us and they prevent us from getting a very deadly disease. When lizards are frightened they either run away, don’t move, or let their tail fall off. When their tail falls off, it does not hurt the lizard and they will grow the tail back in about 60 days. I sometimes feel like I want to be a western fence lizard so that I can release pressure and weight from myself just like the lizards when they lose their tails. I also want to be like a western fence lizard so that whenever I’m scared or just don’t want to deal with something I can run away super fast. If I was a western fence lizard I would sunbathe in a nice sunny spot and I would run around and go on adventures. This lizard is not just beautiful, it also is an amazing creature.


Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) BY KEPLER Q.

As one of the fastest-growing species, giant kelp can be huge. They can grow up to the surface of the ocean, and as they do so, they make an umbrella-like canopy that shades the ocean floor. Giant kelp is not a plant. It is an algae, in the protists family, which are similar to plants because it has some of the same plant-like properties. Like plants, giant kelp use photosynthesis as a source of energy, and they have root-like anchors (called holdfasts) that make sure they don’t drift away in some harsh current conditions. Giant kelp, like other kelps, have little gas-filled pods called pneumatocysts that drift upwards so that they stay straight. These underwater tropical trees are usually never found alone. They are usually in a group of tens of thousands of kelp plants. These algae can tower up to one hundred seventy-five feet above the seafloor. When some of the leaves die, they float down to the bottom of the ocean and provide nice nutrients and food to the fish life down below, helping the ecosystem so the fish can keep reproducing and not go extinct. Eating giant kelp leaves would be pretty interesting, but humans can’t digest them. I remember one time at the beach. I was walking on the smooth, warm sand when I stumbled onto a blade of giant kelp. I thought it was a dead fish because of the sliminess, so I instantly jumped off. It turns out that this was a piece of giant kelp that washed up onto the beach. It looked like it was relaxing on the sand. The pneumatocysts (or pods) like satisfying big bubbles, like those on bubble wrap. The thing about these pods though is that they are super slimy. I had to scrub my hands in freezing cold water for thirty seconds before I touched anything else, or that object would become slimy. In school, my nickname was Kelp. The name has stuck with me, and people use this a lot. I like the way that some letters in my name can be rearranged into the word kelp, too. When playing a game called Sharks and Minnows, my favorite part is being the wavy kelp. I get to stay still, and cool off, and still be in the game. One thing that I find difficult about kelp is that it is hard to draw or illustrate. It’s very natural, and smooth so that it is hard to replicate on paper. I want to be like this underwater tree so much. I want to grow and grow and grow, and even in the event that I stop, I will still find a way to grow. And even if I am down, I can still help people. You might think of kelp as a green, lush, natural, rubbery type of thing. It technically is, though it is sometimes not the green you would think of. Sometimes, kelp can be like a combination of autumn leaves and the spring sky. Almost like drowned corn. I’ve never swum in a kelp forest, but I want to. The forests seem as though they would be super relaxing to swim through. Almost like taking a peaceful walk on your favorite redwood trail. A nice walk, one that drags your worries away, and brings in the good things that are happening in your life. The leaves of giant kelp remind me of leather. They are super tough, but if you rip it from the precise angle, it gives away, and there is a satisfying noise that your brain creates, kinda like a vibration, even though you can’t hear the physical ripped leaf. Currently, I am still in school, I still love kelp, and I have been to the beach recently. As I research giant kelp, this project has helped me understand one of my favorite plants in the whole humongous universe. I have recently visited Pigeon Point to go crab fishing. We caught a total of ten crabs, all of them we were allowed to take home. To add to that, we got super wet while playing in the cold water. I didn’t wear swim clothes, so it was like I was dragging fivepound weights as I walked. As we were playing, we made up this thing called a “kelp harvest” where we went over to the huge patch of many different types of kelp and stood in it. As the waves brought the water back into the ocean, the kelp would be caught by our feet and legs, and we would pick it all up, and move it to a dry place where the water couldn’t steal it from us. I took pictures of the many different types of kelp, including bullwhip kelp, iridescent kelp, and lots of giant kelp blades. I hope that everyone will be as fast as kelp. To exceed and do something in the world. To make an impact and forget all the mistakes that we’ve made in the past, and focus on the future. I want to make a difference in the world. That is why I want to be like this large algae. To grow, and to succeed. And everyone else should too. 106

They can grow up to the surface of the ocean, and as they do so, they make an umbrella-like canopy that shades the ocean floor.


A bird call. That’s what I wish I could do. Just screech the importance of our birds... Remind him that spring is here. Show him that this is important, that life is happening right now.


Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) BY ELISA K.

The look of surprise or maybe frustration on my teacher’s face when nobody was looking for the bird nest we were told was around. The look of confusion when the teacher shows us a bird’s nest with three bright blue eggs. The look of disgust on my classmate’s face when he saw the bird’s ornately built nest. A bird call. That’s what I wish I could do. Just screech the importance of our birds into his disgusted face. Remind him that spring is here. Tell him to stay away. Show him why we are looking for a nest. Remind him of the importance. Tell him to just enjoy being out of the classroom for once. Show him that this is important, that life is happening right now. Just like the Red-Winged Blackbird. Remind him, tell him, show him. Remind him, tell him, show him. Like I said, the blackbird is mostly black, but with a shockingly bright red patch on their shoulders. The red is lined with a dull-ish yellow. This helps the blackbirds recognize each other when their ranges overlap with the tricolored blackbird. Like the nametags separating the new students from the old students in the rows of desks on the first day of school. Of course, like most birds, only the males are black and the females appear more like a sparrow. To make the small red feathers on their shoulders to puff out, they hunch their shoulders forward and open their wings. This is usually to impress a mate or warn an intruder. The display is often followed by a large cry. The blackbird lays 3-4 pale blue-green eggs in a nest latched tightly on tall grass blades, cattails, bulrushes or any standing vegetation. The nest is a bulky open cup made of grass, reeds, leaves, rootlets, lined with fine grass. The eggs are only incubated for 10-14 days. It’s like the little chicks just can’t wait for their turn to call for spring. I remember the pure frustration on a middle schooler’s face when she couldn’t tape the cup onto her locker door. I could only imagine the look of disgust on a blackbird’s face. The certainty that this wasn’t going to work. I could only imagine the blackbird shaking her head disapprovingly and flying away. A shake of her head for the boy who threw stones at a bird’s nest to knock it down. A shake of her head for the woman who usually had her window all the way open for the birds but her boyfriend closed it, resulting in poor Tommy’s broken wing. We don’t understand the bird’s evolution. We don’t give the fact that they can defy gravity a lot of thought. Even toddlers when asked to draw a bird will draw a boat shaped body with a thumb sticking out of it as the head. No thank you. They are swift with a sharp deadly beak, small feet and large wings. Oh, and they aren’t yellow.


California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) BY JULIETTA C.

The California poppy brings up a specific memory whenever I think of it. Driving in my mom’s silver car, with my whole family: my mom, my dad, my sister, and me. We were stopped at an intersection because of a stop sign. The intersection had three, maybe four, parts of road branching off of it. They were empty except for the car my family was in. To the right, there was some light green grass. To the left, across the road, there were some trees and bushes. But before the road, there was a grassy area with a fence. Outside the fence were some California poppies. I remember my mom pointing them out to my dad, since my dad’s favorite flower was the California poppy. That memory is such a warming thought, of my family all together, having some fun together, while driving together. That memory is of a good time now past, although I still am with my family, still having fun, still going on drives sometimes. Like my small story, here is another interesting story, about the scientific naming of the California poppy. Adelbert von Chamisso, the man who did the naming, was aboard an exploration ship, the Rurick. He discovered the California poppy, and scientifically named them in honor of the surgeon and entomologist on the ship, J. F. Eschscholtz, though he spelled it wrong, leaving out the T in Eschscholtz. The flower of the California poppy is easy to get attracted to, but the stems are also beautiful in themselves, shooting wildly up from the ground, with the wiggling lines of the stems supporting leaves erupting out all along the way to the flower. The petals of that flower, the color of the bright orange (or sometimes yellow) from a child’s crayon box, seem to form a cupped wall protecting the inside. Although at a quick glance, the shape of those petals might seem perfect, if you look closer, the overall shape of the flower is wobbly, the gently curving petals shaped like waves about to break. California poppy seeds were introduced into English gardens in the 1800s. The unfortunate part is even though you can have them looking great in gardens, the petals of the flower fall off soon after it is picked. It is especially disappointing since the poppies look fantastic and many people might want to use them in bouquets. But even without petals falling off, California poppies are only found in spring and summer, usually along country paths and roads throughout California, so if you want one in winter, you’re out of luck. There is a central spot on the California poppy that absorbs ultraviolet radiation. It guides insects to the pollen because the rest of the flower reflects ultraviolet. But those pollinators have to fly up to two feet off of the ground to find that pollen, for California poppies grow up to two feet, twenty-four inches. Something rather well-known about these flowers is that they are the California state flower. They have been since March 2, 1903. But less well-known is that every year on April 6 is California poppy day. A day just for these magnificent Californian flowers! But although they are California poppies, they are also found from Western Oregon to Baja California (Baja California being the Mexican part of California). The wonderful thrill of seeing one of these flowers is enhanced by the subtle changes in color made by different oranges, yellows, shadows, and patterns across the flower. Then there are the uneven ends of the petals combining with the thinness of them, making the petals look like clumsily folded paper, almost as if I could make a perfect replica with some orange or yellow paper. But while it might be easy to think of the California poppy as simple in shape, in reality, the components of the flower are quite complex. That feeling from the appearance adds onto seeing my own dad’s favorite flower, and now that I know more about the California poppies, I can add on those interesting facts and stories I have learned, making that little burst of color that is a flower very special to me. I have that special little feeling about it even though I have not thought about it much before, and I have not celebrated, or even known about, California poppy day before. Now that I do know about it, maybe next time it rolls around, with me knowing all I know, I will celebrate that magnificent flower. And next time I run into one, with all my knowledge, all the sights to see, and knowing that more than I see with a quick glance is really right in front of me will make for a really fantastic feeling. 110

The California poppy brings up a specific memory whenever I think of it.


It felt like sandpaper and had dark black spots like a leopard.


Leopard Shark (Triakis semifasciata) BY LUCAS Y.

The first time I saw a Leopard shark was on summer break. My grandpa was fishing at the Bay and caught one. It felt like sandpaper and had dark black spots like a leopard. That shark looked flat and had fins sticking out of it. I was surprised that a shark could be so small. It was about five feet long and had its mouth at the bottom of its body. I was fascinated with the leopard shark when I saw it. Even though it might look scary, its teeth are small but they can have up to 55 teeth in their upper jaw and 45 in the lower jaw. On the top of the underside of the shark there are two deep holes that are the nostrils of the shark and just below it is a mouth with rows of small teeth. It looks like a face that is always frowning. A Leopard shark (pronounced leh-prd shaark) is a slender fish with silvery-bronze skin, patterned with dark ovals that stretch in a neat row across its back. These sharks have dark, saddle-shaped splotches along the fins and upper body. Leopard sharks are well-adapted to living near the ocean floor, spending most of their time a foot or so above the bottom. Male Leopard sharks are about 150 centimeters long and female leopard sharks are about 180 centimeters long. It takes about a decade to grow to maturity. Therefore, if people fish them too much then they might go extinct. Right now, their population is stable and they live in North America. Leopard sharks can have very large litters, with females giving birth to up to nearly 40 pups. They are also the most abundant sharks in San Francisco Bay, and are found from Oregon to Mexico. In a physical confrontation, it defends itself using a variety of tactics. Using a combination of powerful body slams and vicious bites, sharks pummel, disorient and tear apart their enemies. They are known to be docile to humans but not as much to other sea creatures. “They are attractive. They don’t bite people. They are the nicest sharks you are going to find,” said Sean van Sommeran, executive director of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation. They are also one of the least dangerous sharks on the ocean. It eats clams, fish eggs, fat innkeeper worms, crabs and fishes. In Australia, it is commonly known as a Zebra shark. Their skeletons are also made entirely of cartilage. A 6-foot leopard shark can reach more than 8 mph, although it usually cruises between 1 and 4 mph most of the time. Predators of the leopard shark include the broadnose sevengill shark but they are also dying because of a fatal brain infection linked to a fungus that may have been spread by the huge amounts of rain California received. The leopard shark is not at high risk, but the stability of their population does depend on conservation efforts. When leopard sharks get too much fresh water, their kidneys stop functioning, their immune systems fail and their breathing is limited which makes them become more vulnerable to fungi, bacteria and human pollutants such as fertilizer, pesticides and oil. The Leopard shark swims like a worm moving its tail side to side and moving smoothly through the water like a bird gliding through the air. From above, the leopard shark looks like it’s own shadow slithering around in the ocean. The Leopard shark’s population is decreasing partly because of humans. Even though species are going extinct, there are still many unique creatures on this planet such as the Leopard shark. I’m amazed that this small, flat, and long shark even exists. It shows that the world has many amazing things in it and that we should preserve and help them as much as we can. It reminds us that the world still has many great things in it. That even though we caused the population of animals to decline, we can still bring it up like it used to.


Western Bluebird (Silia mexicana) BY AANIK C.

The Western Bluebird has a big black eye that stands out on its blue body with a tiny white speck in the middle. It’s tail, silky light blue, pokes out in the open air. It’s talons are vulture-like with one toe sticking out diagonally towards the back. The brownish side of its belly looks like rust in a parking garage in San Francisco. It has a silver and white bottom that’s like a shaded bottom of a golf ball. The female’s tail looks like bent metal. It is very blue and is gray on the belly and on top of the head. The female is a faded version of the male and has a white eye-ring that the male lacks. The Western Bluebird’s diet is quite unique. It is an omnivore and eats about 80% berries,vegetables, plants,etc and 20% non-vegetarian. In summer, Western Bluebirds eat primarily insects. In winter, berries and small fruits become more important parts of the diet, with mistletoe, juniper, and elderberry all important food items. I connect to this because I am vegetarian and the Western Bluebird also eats vegetables and berries such as mistletoe,juniper,etc. This connects because sometimes before I became a full time vegetarian I ate mostly vegetarian but occasionally ate meat, which is very similar to the Western Bluebird’s diet. Western Bluebirds can spot caterpillars and insects at distances of over 100 yards in extremely tall grass. If you don’t know how far that is—it’s 300 feet. Imagine being in one endzone of a football field in tall grass and being a bird and spotting a small caterpillar in the other end zone stooping low far away! Western Bluebirds are the least migratory of the Bluebird Family(Eastern/Mountain bluebirds). Recently, I saw a Western bluebird perched on a tree. It stared me down, not wavering as I watched in awe. I scrambled for my mom’s phone to get a picture of the marvelous looking bird as it majestically flew away. I got the picture and zoomed in on it to view the beautiful bird. It was at least 100 feet away with remarkable sight as it spotted me behind a tree walking by. Western Bluebirds have a very nonchalant calm look but when there are territory battles between Western Bluebirds it can get bad. Western Bluebird males especially have a big temper. Western Bluebirds weigh only about 1 ounce on average so it allows them to be really fast in the air and they can get up to 45 mph!!! When in fights, the Bluebirds grab each other’s legs and tumble opponents to the ground then pin the opponent to the ground and start pecking at him with his beak. Western Bluebirds usually live for a few years and the oldest known male was 8 years and 8 months old when found. The Western Bluebird is a cavity nesting bird. Cavity nesting birds are birds that build nests, lay eggs and raise young inside sheltered chambers or cavities. The Western Bluebird is in the Turtidae family along with some other bluebirds such as Mountain Bluebirds and Eastern Bluebirds and many other types of birds. The Western Bluebird’s General Habitat is grasslands in which they are great at quickly striking insects and other food. The Western Bluebird is a Ground Forager and finds whatever it can near the ground such as low flying insects, fallen berries, or grasshoppers. The Western Bluebird call is a distinctive chirp that is sudden in the quiet after being silent for several minutes. The Western Bluebird’s call is a soft sudden call that is inquisitive and hangs in the air for several seconds. The Western Bluebird’s call is similar to others but comes quite suddenly after being quiet or silent or after a couple bites of food. When I see Western Bluebirds I think of a majestic bird that has a sharp beak and an orange belly that sticks out on it’s it’s blue back. Whenever I see one flying around I immediately watch it’s amazingly smooth flight path as it soars on and off it flies away into the distance. 114

The Western Bluebird’s call is a soft sudden call that is inquisitive and hangs in the air for several seconds.


The hummingbird also chitters to tell other hummingbirds to stay away from their territory. They are very protective and guard their territory like a crocodile leaping out of the water ready to strike.


Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) BY KACI G.

When I was younger, I always went to my grandmother’s house. Most of the time, I just played. I never bothered to look out the window to see the garden. I never noticed the hummingbirds flying around the house and landing on the flowers. If my grandma brought it up, I would always interrupt, saying “Let’s go to the park!” I never noticed all of the different hummingbirds. I never even thought twice about them. At the age of 5 I just thought that hummingbirds were birds that looked pretty. I never thought they were anything else. When I looked at these birds at the age of 6, I started to think that I might want to talk to them. I wanted them to be my best friends. I talked to them in English, thinking that they could understand me. If they flew away, I thought they were mad at me. I thought that I was always talking to the same three hummingbirds, but now I am pretty sure that they were different ones. Some of them I named, others I just tried to figure out their personality. Most of them seemed shy or mad. When the hummingbirds would fly away, they made a sound with their wings. The hummingbird can only make this sound with its wings if it flies really fast. It sounds like a fan blowing on high. This is not the only way that the hummingbird makes sounds. The hummingbird also chitters to tell other hummingbirds to stay away from their territory. They are very protective and guard their territory like a crocodile leaping out of the water ready to strike. All animals have a special mating process, so the hummingbird has a small one. The male will wait for a female to enter his territory. Then the male hummingbird puts on an aerial show that is very complex. It is about showing that he is fast and he is great. The male will fly back and forth often, doing loops and zig zags to catch the female’s attention. The male will often go as high as possible and will dive down as fast as possible. If you stare intently it looks like a bomb is speeding down. If impressed with his acrobatic strength and skill, the female will then join the male in a flight pattern of ups and downs, a sign the couple will soon mate. After all of this hard work they will mate for 3-5 seconds. Only long enough to produce an egg. I had heard about the wonderful mating process and the show. I started to try to get hummingbirds to come to me. I sat on a perch waiting. I climbed the tree as high as I could go. I climbed like a monkey. Or I thought I climbed like a monkey. Of course it never really worked. Because It did not work, I started to dress up as a hummingbird and pretended to fly on the ground. Then I did a dance and hoped they would come but they never did. To bring more hummingbirds into the yard, my dad finally agreed to get a hummingbird feeder. I was so excited! We planted flowers all over the ground. I wished that they would come. It took a very very long time to get the Hummingbird feeder. When it arrived, my sister and I noticed that there was no nectar to feed the hummingbirds so we had to make it. We got all of the ingredients out as fast as a lion running to catch its prey. When we made it I realized that there was sugar in it. I had never thought that there was any sugar in it. My family and I started to set up for the hummingbirds. My mom was very picky on where the feeder went. So it took us a day. In the end we decided to put it over our couch and there it stayed for a month before my mom said we needed to move it because birds started to poop on the chair. We decided to move it to a tree. Every bird has some sort of home and the hummingbirds have a nest. Like most other birds, hummingbirds use twigs and other plants for their nests, using leaves for a base. Hummingbirds also use moss and lichen to camouflage their nests and to make them softer. One thing to know is that the secret to hummingbird nests is spider silk. They use it to stick everything together. When the hummingbirds came to our house they always fought with each other, trying to get the nectar. I noticed that they were very aggressive to each other and began to wonder if there were any other really fun facts to learn. I noticed that different kinds of hummingbirds came, big and small, pink and green. I was shocked. I then decided to move the hummingbird feeder. It was fun to see the hummingbirds look so confused and then find the feeder. Unlike humans, birds lay eggs, big or small. In the hummingbird’s case it is small. The eggs are no bigger than a jelly bean. Eggs are generally white elliptical in shape and weigh less than a paperclip. The female hummingbird will lay two eggs at once, around 2-20 eggs a year, but it mainly depends on the weather that year. 117

Long-tailed Weasel (Neogale frenata) BY MEREDITH M.

Rewind to any Sunday, 2014. Sunnyvale, The Music Center. Look through the smallest window on the side, you’ll find a little girl, with small pink glasses playing piano with her friend and a teacher. You could see me enjoying my melody and tune, but nothing good would come out of my happiness. At the time, I believed it was too, and so I quit. Now I’m the one looking through the window at my friend, just a few months after I quit, watching her play amazing tunes I would have never thought possible, while I only played Do Re Mis. It was at this moment when I got my first taste of regret. I thought I was so much better and too good for music! my little mind thought. I thought that I was too different! I used to wish I could just blend in with the world. Looking through that window, I felt shame and jealousy. I wish I had never quit piano. I wish I had the will to keep going. I was just like the long-tailed weasel. They stand out with stripes, vibrant on their backs, but just like me, when the weather changes, they turn a plain, beautiful white, just like the snow. When times get worse, physically and mentally I blend in. Those were my “morals” for such a long time. Whenever I thought I was so much better, or so much worse, I would stop. I used to never be determined. I used to always quit. I had a fear. I had a fear of standing out. I wished I could blend in with the snow. Instead, I just quit. I wanted ease. I wanted a place my mind already knew. I was so bad I wanted to just blend in. I wanted to be average. I wish I could blend into the ice on the rink when I played hockey. I wished I could be the same as so many others I knew. But I was different. I thought I would never blend in. So I stopped. Now, those decisions have affected me. I aim sometimes to be better, but mostly I strive to be average. And how have I done, and how am I doing? Pretty well at that. Just like the long-tailed weasel, who changes from vibrant stripes in the winter to a plain, beautiful white, I blend in with my bold stripes gone, in a forever freezing winter. A long long time ago, I saw a long-tailed weasel on a trip north. I forgot where, and when, but I remember wanting it as a pet, saying it was so cute, brown, and pretty, and crying when we drove away from our hotel in the falling snow. I did not know anything about it, as my little mind could take in the snow, and the furry white “pet”. I knew nothing about the true nature of this animal. Nothing at all. Long-tailed weasels, unlike some other similar animals, do not hibernate. Instead of hibernation, they change colors. This is why some other animals also developed this perk of changing colors. It is a layer of white coat, it is not just color changing. The fur is thicker and warmer for the winter. That is another convenient perk of having this ability. Imagine a snow-white or cocoa-brown striped animal that looks almost like a combo of a cat and a mouse sitting in front of you crouching, and wiggling its little body, its cute beady eyes staring at you. You would see this as a cute little animal, that you could pet forever and ever. But if you see this beware, it may be a long-tailed weasel about to attack you! If you’re wondering, how could this creature, nine inches long, hurt you? Well, it could kill you. Its fur, white or brown is so beautiful, and it helps them hide from predators, but more importantly, attack prey. It sneaks up and attacks swiftly, and quietly. It takes the prey to its burrow, log, etc. and keeps it here if there is too much food, and keep in mind that too much food could be you. You see, its claws will penetrate through your skin, and well it could cause critical damage. Though the probability of this happening is low. These animals are pretty, but everyone sees them as cute harmless creatures. The ones who do not know will never understand the true danger of these animals. They will never know that they could have died, the day they saw that cute little weasel. Staring at them, with its nightmare black eyes. Though the long-tailed weasel is dangerous, it is also endangered. The long-tailed weasel is on the endangered list. Too hunted and killed, as a pet. Combined with the habitat of its disappearing meadows, forests, and valleys, the species 118

These creatures hide in their coats.

started dying out. With only some left to live. I used to see the long-tailed weasel pouncing for prey with their midnight black eyes, in contrast to the falling snow. I saw the determination in their hunter’s eyes. A symbol of strength. They wanted to pounce. I did not know it at the time, but they had a hunger. They seemed to dance in preparation for the strike, squinting their eyes, waiting for the perfect strike. Waiting for the perfect moment, then... Swish! I am not scared of stopping anymore, but the fear still lives in me, as a memory, and I will always share a part of me with the long-tailed weasel. I will always be that little girl, who hid from the big wide world. Never will I forget looking up at the skies above, but falling below. I will always be her. Even if I do not look like her, a part of me still is. It stays with me as a memory. Standing beside me for life and beyond. 119

Their plumage is darker the younger they are, which means that by looking at a picture of one, you can approximate its age.


Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) BY JAKE B.

Do you remember first learning to ride a bike? Biking with training wheels is easy, you just push the pedals. Biking without training wheels, however, introduces many new challenges and possibilities. You have to balance correctly so you don’t fall over. You have to go faster, as well as be able to steer carefully. At first, you might try to ride slowly, but riding a little faster is actually easier because your bike essentially becomes a giant gyroscope. But, going faster means that if you do fall down, you hurt yourself more. The only way to do it is to go straight at it. So when I simply declared one day that I was going to learn to ride a bike without training wheels, my parents were skeptical. I had never attempted it before, and they were a little concerned about me falling down and hurting myself. However, they encouraged my determination. My dad held on to the back of my seat, so in case I fell over he would catch me. I started pedaling, and then just said: “Ok Dad, let go.” And so he did. And I pedaled onward. I found it amazing that if I set my mind to something and tried my hardest, I could get it done. It wasn’t just about trying your hardest. It was also about having confidence and faith that you could do it. Learning to ride a bike was still hard, no doubt about it, but I just really gave it my all, and it worked out. The Great Blue Heron is the largest type of heron in North America. It’s two feet tall and has a 6-foot wingspan. It looks kind of like a gray flamingo, with an S-shaped neck, and a spear-like beak. Despite its name, the Great Blue Heron isn’t very blue. It is just slightly more blue than the rest of the birds in the heron family, all of which are mostly gray. Their plumage is darker the younger they are, which means that by looking at a picture of one, you can approximate its age. As they get older, they also develop black accents on the top of the head or the tips of the wings. Their beak is a bright orange, like a traffic cone. Meanwhile, their legs are long and spindly, like a spider. It takes about 275 days for baby humans to take their first steps. To actually walk, it takes more like 425 days. In contrast, the Great Blue Heron learns to fly in a mere 60 days. Looking back at when I first learned to ride a bike, I think about how it would be great if I was like the Great Blue Heron and could learn everything quickly. I also thought about the difference between when you first get started and when you are a truly experienced bike rider. When hunting, the Great Blue Heron stalks slowly. Once it’s ready, it quickly jabs its beak like a frog extending its tongue to grab its prey. The heron mostly eats fish, but it can also eat insects, frogs, and other small animals. Herons have eaten snakes and even baby alligators! It lives in the Neotropical region, which includes North America, Canada, South America, and the Galapagos. It migrates south during the winter, like most birds. When it flies, it tucks in its neck and sticks its legs backward. Its feathers shimmer slightly. The wings unfurl into a gigantic 6-foot long swath of feathers. The Great Blue Heron nests in trees and typically lay two to six eggs each year. The nests aren’t particularly interesting, just some sticks arranged in a circular shape like you’d normally see. However, the nests are pretty large! The nests are around 1.5 feet in diameter. Even at that size, it can get pretty crowded as the chicks grow. Usually, there are a couple of heron nests in any one tree. Occasionally on the weekends, I bike with my family in the Baylands, a salt marsh with some paved trails in the Bay Area. There aren’t very many people, and the path we take is 10 miles long, for a total round trip distance of 20 miles. Sometimes it would feel like we had the path to ourselves. I remember zooming past many things, mostly muddy salt marsh. Seeing the occasional seagull, power line, or speed limit sign. The most interesting thing I saw on that bike ride was by far a heron. It was just standing there, occasionally diving down to pick up a fish. It was like it was just my family and the heron. I watched it, not even knowing what kind of bird it was, not knowing that I would come to research it in a class assignment one and a half years later. Not knowing what I had in common with it. I hope that next time I have difficulty understanding something, I will think of the Great Blue Heron and give it my all.



We would like to thank writer Aimee Nezhukumatathil for inspiring these pieces; art teacher Reenie Charrière for her guidance in creating our species sculptures; science associate teacher Sabrina Garcia for her instruction throughout our work; and middle school division head, Karen Tiegel, for her original Writing Ecology Unit and her support of this new project. We also want to thank LiAnn Yim for her incredible cover artwork, graphic design, and interior layout. This book would not look the way it does without her talents. Lastly, we want to thank all of our families for providing us opportunities to find wonder in the natural world.




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