Thursday, March 29, 2012

Kung Fu Pandas. For Real.

When the going gets tough, the tough watch panda videos. Not that things are particularly tough. Just hectic. If there were three of me to go around, it would be fantastic. In the meantime, thanks to The Mary Sue for always keeping me entertained while I catch up on the latest news. Here's a little panda video of twins practicing their aquatic kung fu that Susana Polo posted there yesterday. While you enjoy, I have to get back to work on my deadline for The Ravens Crossing (TRC). And, when you're done watching, don't miss the chance to win a $20 Amazon gift certificate by heading over to TRC and helping us pick a prom theme for Wildwood High's 2012 Prom.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Inspired by the Raven

Young A'lala by Amanda Corlies Sandos
It wasn't just Edgar Allan Poe who inspired my  fascination with the raven, though he very well may have started it. Of course, in my youth, I had no idea how to tell a raven from a crow from any other Corvid. But, I soon learned, because the idea that a bird could be smart really sparked my imagination. So, I was pretty young when I started making friends with all things raven. I tried to talk my mom into letting me have one as a pet. That idea, sadly, never flew. Probably, because I'd already tried to talk her into all kinds of other pets, and she was wise to my antics.

Begging Baby A'lala by Amanda Corlies Sandos
Anyway, as you know, I eventually ended up working with birds, and I was always quick to volunteer for work with any member of the Corvid family. About midway through my zoo career, I landed a coveted internship with The Keauhou Bird Conservation Center on The Big Island of Hawaii.

Yes, I actually convinced my boss to send me to paradise for an extended stay and pay me for it, too. Officially, I went there to learn about incubation and hand rearing techniques for all of the highly endangered Hawaiian native species. Secretly, I was over the moon at the chance to work with Alalas. Also, called The Hawaii Crow, the Alala is now extinct in the wild. Though Keauhou has been trying a release program to restock the wild population, the release efforts have not yet been successful. For now, they continue to work towards freeing the environment of disease vectors and introduced species, and they are keeping the population alive entirely through their captive breeding programs.

Feeding with a puppet by Amanda Corlies Sandos
Getting to know these amazing birds was an adventure. They are incredibly smart, smarter than my imagination even gave them credit for, and each one has a very distinct personality. I made quite a few Corvid friends in Hawaii, and they continue to spark my imagination in more ways than one.

Ravens and Crows continue to frequent both my visual art and my writing. When I sat down with Andi Lea and West Thornhill to brainstorm a new young adult scifi fantasy adventure series, we quickly came to the decision that we wanted all of our characters to go to the same high school. Of course, this meant finding a mascot. In my book, you can't find a better mascot than a raven.

As it turns out, we named the whole project The Ravens Crossing, and I'm extremely proud of it! 
         And every time I hear the name, I am reminded that the inspiration came from my friends the Alalas.

Alala by Amanda Corlies Sandos

Thursday, March 22, 2012

If You Build It, They Will Come: Help Save Monarchs.

Photo by Amanda C. Sandos
Several years ago, I made a trip to Michoacan, Mexico specifically to see the Monarch Butterflies in their wintering grounds. Got2BeGreen published my article about that adventure, if you want to read all about it. Speaking from experience, the monarch migration is one of nature's most spectacular phenomenons. There are only a hand full of specific areas within the same state of Mexico where all the world's monarchs return in order to survive the winter and complete their breeding cycle.

Photo by Amanda C. Sandos

After standing literally in A World of Butterflies, I find the reports of the monarch's decline particularly disturbing. Of course, part of the problem has to do with protection of their habitat in Mexico. Researchers like Dr. Lincoln Brower of Sweet Briar College, and many others at numerous organizations continue working to protect their habitat south of the border. But, the problem is not just in Mexico, so saving the pine forests there is not going to be enough. Not by a long shot. It's easy to look at the situation and point a finger at people elsewhere. It's easy to think there is nothing you can do. But, neither of these things are true. There is something you can do and it's not difficult, or expensive at all.

Photo by Amanda C. Sandos
Current research by Craig Wilson of Texas A&M suggests monarch numbers will decline by 30% this year. That's even more frightening when you look at the trend over the last few years. Last year, the numbers declined by 25%. And one of the biggest causes of this decline is happening right in your back yard along with the decline of an estimated 100 million acres of their food and host plant supply. Milkweed and wildflowers are what monarchs need to survive. But, with the rise of herbicide use and mowing, not to mention the conversion of dormant land to herbicide resistant soybean and corn crops, monarchs are  running out of food and host plants.

Photo by Amanda C. Sandos
So, please, this year, won't you do something easy to help save monarchs. It really doesn't take much on your part. All you have to do is plant milkweed, one of the most important plants to monarchs, on your property and make sure it is clearly marked so it doesn't get mowed or sprayed. You can even add a wildflower patch around it, if you want more color. Neither takes a large amount of your money or your time. All you need are a few packs of seed, a sunny spot in your yard, and a little bit of water now and then if it doesn't rain. Then, you can sit back and enjoy watching the monarchs and numerous beautiful butterflies and moths. I promise, if you build it, they will come.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Bit of Spring in Your Step

Yes, today is the one day equal to its night. I love it when that happens. In honor of spring, I give you the birds and - well not bees. How about just a whole lot of animal loving on a fabulous spring evening. And speaking of love, you can read a sweet love story I wrote, called Morgan & Holly, over at The Ravens Crossing. Find out what the birds have to tell my ladies. I would love to hear your feedback. Feel free to leave us your comments, and please, if you know anyone who enjoys young adult, sci-fi, fantasy fiction, consider passing our website along. There are free stories posted 6 days a week.

In the meantime, here is some love of the animal kind to add a little spring in your step. 

Hope your make time to enjoy the great outdoors!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Kiss for St. Patty's Day!

Via Reddit
May the luck of the Irish bring you sweet kisses today. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

If you are looking for something to read, head on over to The
Ravens Crossing for a free young adult, sci-fi, fantasy adventure series I'm writing with Andi Lea and West Thornhill. It's lots of fun.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Michael Nichols and A National Geographic Assignment

Over at Nat Geo there is a fantastic series of images about life on the Serengeti by amazing photographer Michael "Nick" Nichols. and an article showing what it's like to be a field photographer.

In case you don't know about "The Indiana Jones of Photography," as Nick has been dubbed, he has been a Nat Geo photographer since the 90s. The winner of numerous awards, he has been featured in articles for almost every major magazine. In 2008, he was named Nat Geo's Editor at Large.

Here are a few of Nick's photos from this gorgeous Serengeti series.

Thanks Nick for enriching my life with your images!

To see this entire series go here!

To get the cool Nichols App  for your ipad, go here.

To see Nick's 2011 images for "Orphans No More," go here!

If you have a few minutes for an enjoyable young adult sci-fi adventure read, check out my fictional stories over at The Ravens Crossing. They are absolutely free and there are two other talented authors writing stories in the same fictional world. I promise you it's a ton of fun!

Thanks for stopping by.

Have a great Sunday.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dolphins Stranding Around the Globe.

From Cape Cod to Brazil, strange and repeated incidents of beached dolphins are happening in frightening numbers. Yesterday, a fantastic group of quick thinking beach goers saved thirty dolphins. The whole thing was caught live on film. I stumbled onto this video on Youtube while looking up the latest information on Cape Cod. After watching in horror for the past month while hundreds of dolphins strand and die off the east coast, this video is uplifting and wonderful to watch!

Researchers are still trying to figure out why so many marine mammals are continuing to strand this year. I think it has to do with global warming, and the rise in temperatures of our oceans. This is causing currents to change, and I would venture to guess food supplies for these animals are either diminishing or changing location, taking the hunters into dangerously foreign territories. Granted this is just my opinion. I can find very little academic discussion published about this, yet. I continue to seek out the latest theories. To find out about The Cape Cod strandings check out The Huffington Post. And thanks to all you fantastic Rio beach goers who helped to save the dolphins. You people made my day!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Up Close and Personal with Lions!

Photo by Will Burrard-Lucas
In 2009, two brothers set out on a wildlife safari in Africa armed with their new invention, The Beetle Cam. It's a  remote-controlled, ground-level buggy designed to take unique close-up photos of African wildlife. Will Burrard-Lucas and his brother Matt have gathered some amazing images since then.

Last year, armed with their new and improved Beetle Cams, the brothers have "taken on the lions of the Masai Mara." They recently released some of their latest photos and video footage. Check this out!

Will speaks about his work on his blog:

"I’m a professional wildlife photographer from the UK. Through my photographs I aim to inspire people to celebrate and conserve the natural wonders of our planet. When possible I work with my brother, Matt. Together we use teamwork and ingenuity to capture striking photographs of wild animals in their natural environments."

To see all the latest fantastic images, head on over the

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Stephen Kingfisher: Another Lover of Horror

Courtesy of the NC Zoo
A couple of days ago, a friend and former coworker sent me this lovely grey-headed kingfisher image. The bird in the photo also happens to be a good friend of mine. Meet Stephen Kingfisher. He lives at the North Carolina Zoo's Forest Aviary where I worked for ten years. He was one of my favorite birds, the king hunter of the exhibit.

Stephen was not adverse to killing. Then again, what kingfisher in his right mind is? He was constantly helping us with pest control. He was also really good at keeping the place clear of all small reptiles and amphibians who found their way into the aviary through the dirt floors or stowed away hidden on the tropical plants. Apart from the clever play on words, he got his name from the apparent relish with which he made his kills.

It wasn't uncommon to find him perched proudly somewhere showing off his latest victim. Often it was a dead anole with its legs and tail hanging limply out of his mouth. Stephen Kingfisher would then proceed to whack and pulverize it for an unusually long time before finally gulping it down. It seemed obvious that he liked having an audience for this, and the more they reacted the more he relished it. Yes, a bird lover of horror that does his namesake proud. It's really good to see him again.

I think a visit to the NC Zoo might be just the thing. It's about time I said hello to all of my friends there, furry, feathered and otherwise.

Paranormal Wastelands
Oh, and speaking of birds, over at The Ravens Crossing, we are participating in the Leap into Indie Blog Hop hosted by Paranormal Wasteland and Can't Put it Down to promote indie authors of young adult (YA) fiction. So, head on over to TRC. Leave a comment  and you are entered to win a $15 Amazon gift certificate. If you click the button to your right, you will find a list of twenty blog links who are participating in the giveaway. You can enter to win at all twenty places if you want. The blog hop runs through this coming Sunday, March 5th, 2012. We will announce our winner at TRC on Monday. Drop by to say hello and find some cool, YA indie stories. Happy March!