Bugs for Birders: Learning to Love Invertebrates

Despite my diversity of interests, I have to admit to having a lifelong vertebrate bias. I've always been much more drawn to things like birds, mammals, reptiles, and their fossil kin than the all the creepy-crawlies buzzing and crawling around. In university I did take an invertebrate zoology course, but I took many more on vertebrates. I also have to admit to being more than a little squeamish around many bugs, worms, and other such animals. Shame, I know.  Some people might argue that it's natural to have a backbone-bias, since vertebrates tend to be A. more noticeable to the human eye given their size and B. more similar to us in their biology (even things like fish have much more in common with us than insects, arachnids, and so on). You also hear it argued that we're evolutionarily programmed to feel repulsed by most invertebrates which might sting, bite, or infect us, however this doesn't seem to stop many human cultures and indeed other primate species from maki

Quack-Up: A Guide to Alberta Ducks

Have you ever stopped to think about how many ducks are out there in the Alberta wilderness? For a northern, landlocked region, we aren't short on ducks or duck species. While many folks might first think of plain white farm ducks when considering these web-footed birds, our wild ducks come in a great variety of shapes and sizes. While some are widespread and found all over the province, others are more specialized, preferring prairie sloughs, boreal bogs, or swift mountain streams. Let's take a glance over Alberta's different duck varieties.  First of all, what is a duck? Silly question, everyone knows  what a duck is. But what makes ducks different from things like geese and swans? All these birds are in the family Anatidae, the duck-billed, web-footed, water-loving group of birds that arose in the late Paleogene period, although duck-like birds existed near the end of the age of dinosaurs. Within this, geese and swans are more closely related to each other, both belongin