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Nature Watch: Everything from Armadillos to Zebra Butterflies

From A to Zinnia

If there's one surefire way to make the new year a good year, it's to spend lots of time outdoors enjoying North America's natural diversity. With that in mind, eNature offers a list of nature-watching ideas organized from A to Z.

Alpine regions contain some of the most amazing flora imaginable. Not all of it is immediately obvious, however. Practice a little "belly botany" and study diminutive summer wildflowers up close.

Bladderworts and other carnivorous plants, such as pitchers plants and sundews, are best appreciated in the wild rather than at nurseries.

Chipmunks come in twenty-two varieties and deliver nature right to your backyard.

Ducks and geese can be found almost anywhere. Their migrations, dawn and dusk flights, and feeding behaviors make great wildlife watching.

Evergreens firs, pines, cedars, spruces, and the like provide food and shelter for all sorts of birds and mammals, including owls, crossbills, squirrels, and porcupines. Check out an evergreen grove near you on a regular basis.

Frogs live in trees, ponds, and underground. Rainy nights often produce the loudest frog choruses.

Goldenrods and asters, two beautiful autumn wildflowers, not only enliven the countryside but also provide nectar for multitudes of butterflies, bees, and flower beetles.

Herring and alewives "run" in springtime rivers and streams. It's a very entertaining show.

Indigo Buntings, the favorites of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, are common in many places from spring through fall.

Jingle Shells wash up on the Atlantic and Gulf coastlines. Most appear golden or silvery, but once in a while you'll find a black one.

Kangaroo Rats have big feet and long tails. They're hard to see, though, and venture forth only at night. If you see one, pat yourself on the back.

Lizard watching is fun and a whole lot easier than lizard catching. And the lizards prefer it, too.

Monarchs and other migrating butterflies fly south on sunny fall days.

Nighttime is the right time for watching constellations and other celestial bodies. Make it a family affair.

Oyster Mushrooms and most other mushrooms are especially plentiful from late summer through fall. A few days after a soaking rain is best for mushroom hunting. Just remember that picking mushrooms requires care and caution.

Peregrine Falcons nest in many North American cities. Crane your neck to look for a nest site.

Quahogs, whose purple shells were the source of wampum, can be found in shallow saltwater bays.

Red Foxes come in three color phases: red, black ("silver"), and "cross." Try to see at least one in 2001.

Sea Otters have made a big comeback in the West and provide a daily attraction at many Pacific coastal areas.

Tidepooling is the perfect way to enjoy sea stars, sea anemones, and many other ocean creatures in their natural setting.

Underwater habitats can be enjoyed with a mask and snorkel or through the floor of a glass-bottomed boat.

Violets represent some of the most abundant spring wildflowers. Get out early in the season to enjoy them at their fullest.

Whale watching is hard to beat as a family nature experience.

Xeric landscapes like deserts should be explored early in the morning, when animals are most active and the temperatures still relatively mild.

Yellow Warblers, dragonflies, and polliwogs are just a few of the many delights at freshwater marshes from Canada to Texas.

Zinnias, a favorite nectar source for all kinds of butterflies, should be planted in the summer.