The Amazing American Eel

By Regina Montana – Nature Friend Magazine, February 2023

The Amazing American Eel

by Regina Montana | Feb 1, 2023 | 0 comments

View the February 2023 Nature Friend Magazine

American eels swimming
American eels. Photo © Michael Wood/Dreamstime.com.

Far away in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is a sea called the Sargasso Sea. It is a gigantic clockwork of currents called a gyre, where millions of American and European eels are born every year. Over one hundred species of fish, snails, crabs, turtles, and eels make their homes and are born in the mats of seaweed called sargassum. These mats of seaweed can stretch for miles. The baby eels, called larvae, ride the ocean currents till they reach North America and Europe, sometimes taking up to a year to arrive on the American shores. Scientists do not know why some larvae drift toward American shores while others drift for two more years toward Europe.

Now one of nature’s most incredible transformations begins. The skin and internal organs of the eels change in order to adapt to living in fresh water after living in salt water.

Following the larva stage, the eels become glass eels. They are now 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) long with elongated bodies, prominent black eyes, and developed fins. They are between seven and twelve months old when they reach coastal water.

Glass eels then turn into elvers. They grow several more inches and develop pigmentation, becoming dark gray, and form a thick and slippery mucous layer. If you try to pick one up, you will learn they are as slippery as an eel!

The elver stage is followed by the juvenile or yellow eel stage, and finally by the silver or mature adult eel, which can reach lengths of 2-5 feet (.6-1.5 m) Their coloration can vary.

The American eel usually hunts at night. During the day, it hides in gravel, sand, masses of plants, or other forms of shelter. In the winter, eels burrow under mud and enter a state of torpor, or inactivity. However, they may become active at times.

These eels can travel up to 4,000 miles (6,400 km) in a lifetime. American eels can live up to thirty years, and, at the end of their life, they swim back to the Sargasso Sea. Some scientists believe the Earth’s magnetic field helps eels find their way back home. Once again their bodies undergo dramatic changes. They stop eating; their skin thickens; their eye size doubles, improving their vision in deep, dark water; and their pectoral fins enlarge for the long swim back. After months of travel, they produce new offspring. These larvae will begin their life’s journey. The adult eels’ work is done.

Now that is one fantastic voyage.

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ADULT AMERICAN EEL – Photo by John M. Casselman, Dept of Biology, Queen’s University, Ontario, Canda

Writing Tips

A Detour from the writing journey

By Regina Montana

    In 2020 when the pandemic was in full swing and I was watching two of my grandchildren, I had the opportunity of eavesdropping on my granddaughter’s third grade virtual art class.  Her teacher was praising each of her students and telling them how beautiful their pictures were.  It was an experience I never had growing up in classes of 50 students.  I was quite delighted to see how my granddaughter was enjoying the encouragement of her teacher and how she continues to thrive and paint amazing pictures to this day.  Soon after that I heard about a book called How to Draw Without Talent by Danny Gregory.  I wondered if I could try my hand at some illustrations during a dry spell of writing that I was going through. I had heard about how veering off into other aspects of creativity can actually strengthen one’s present endeavors.  I had nothing to lose.  And so I started to draw with colored pencils, acrylics and finally some watercolors.  My family bombarded me during the holidays with gifts related to painting.  I didn’t have the heart to say I was just a beginner and that this new hobby probably wouldn’t last.  They knew that writing picture books and poetry were my main goals.  I was totally unprepared for some of the lovely comments I received while doing my sketches.  My husband would ask every night after arriving home from work, “Do any painting today?”  After showing him a few things, he would always remark, “Those are very good.”

    Even though I was sketching the pictures from existing pages and following guidelines in the book, I still felt creative.  And I was proud of the outcomes.  I never thought I could ever draw.  After writing a poem about the Painted Bunting, a magnificent multi-colored bird, I did an illustration of one and have attached it, along with some other pictures I drew of some birds, one of which is included in Danny Gregory’s book.  I highly recommend this book if anyone reading this article has ever been tempted to draw or feels they have no talent.  I think back to the day I overheard the wonderful voice of my granddaughter’s art teacher urging her students onward in their creative journey. As an 8-year-old I know I would have thought very differently about how creative I was.  I truly believe we are all creative when given the opportunity or desire to find out where our gifts lie.  I also feel that painting and drawing have helped me see my stories in a different light along with helping me visualize my characters and their journeys. 

Parrot from How to Draw without Talent

American Robin

Painted Bunting

My Poems and Articles

A Giant Turtle Rescue

A Giant Turtle Rescue

By Regina Montana

One day in south Texas

 the water turned frigid.

Our flippers felt frozen.

Sea Turtle Inc. put out the call:

Help needed.  Come quickly!

Fishermen and boaters

Kids and parents scooped us up.

And drove us to buildings.

They put us in kiddie pools

Onto pallets and into crates.

Vets then examined us.

Thanks Doc, we feel great!

A vessel then took us 30 miles out

where the water was warmer.

We slid down a giant slide

Back home into the sea.

People of South Padre Island

Our flippers salute you.

We’ll never forget.

You’re heroes to us all.

My Poems and Articles

The Kinglet Bird

Photo by Jacob McGinnis


I'm called a Kinglet.
Have you ever seen me?
I make funny sounds,
Tse, tse, tse, tse.

I'm the tiniest bird
that perches in trees.
When winters are frigid,
I try not to freeze.

My gold crest looks flashy
and feels quite regal,
although I'm not famous
like the bald eagle.

I love tasty insects
and forage non-stop.
Wait! A caterpillar!
Yum, yum, hop hop.

At night I tuck my head
in feathers so deep
and huddle with my friends
so I can find sleep.

Sometimes a squirrel
leaves his nest in a tree.
It's empty.  I'm so cold.
Please don't tell on me.

Although I'm tiny,
I feel like a star.
Just follow your dreams
and you'll go far.

When God picked up his pallet.
He knew just what to do.
He chose the brightest colors
To make a bird like you.

The blue is so majestic,
A redbreast to amaze,
Your wings chartreuse and purple
Deserve the highest praise.

Kaleidoscope of brilliance,
A wonder to behold,
Wrapped up in one small bunting
Creating joy untold.

O herald of such music,
You trill your song so sweet
You grace earth with your presence
I pray that soon we'll meet.

And if my prayer is granted,
I'm sure that I will say
I saw a bit of heaven
On loan from God this day.
A Painted Bunting
My Painted Bunting

My Poems and Articles, My Poems and Articles



  Techno Critters appeared in Kids Imagination Train, an online magazine published by Randi Mrvos.

Techno Critters

If a Frog wants to blog,
he can sit on a log
and spend the whole day,
blah-blah- ging away

If a T-Rex sends a text,
who knows what's next.
But if a selfie comes through,
you'd better skiddoo!

If a Spider is bright
and has a website,
he can sell his prey
and have a fine day.

If a Robin tweets,
"Bird sitters, let's meet!"
she can leave her brood
and look for some food.

If a Zebra skypes,
and shows off her stripes,
she'll look quite cute
in her black and white suit.

If Critters are cool
and stay in school,
they'll pass their quizzes
and be techno-whizzes!

My Poems and Articles

A Squirrel’s Lucky Day

Hurrah!  Finally dear readers, a poem I wrote entitled “A Squirrel’s Lucky Day” was submitted to Kids Imagination Train and accepted for publication in their online     children’s magazine.  I am most grateful to Randi Mrvos, Editor of Kids  Imagination Train who worked with me and never gave up hope that this poem would meet the requirements of their excellent children’s magazine. 

           A Squirrel’s Lucky Day

I live in trees
and on the ground.
I hunt for food 
and race around.

We squirrels
enjoy the great outdoors.
We have big nests
and nutty chores.

The park is full
this time of year,
with lots of picnics,
spring is here.

I hope to find
some tasty scraps
like cheesy chicken
sandwich wraps.

A baseball game
has just begun
The kids rush off
to join the fun.

But wait, what's that
beside the tree-
an ice cream cone
left just for me?

Hurry, scurry
down the branches.
Creatures don't get
too many chances.

Grab it, take it
up the tree
Hooray, I made it
Yay, yippee!

This treat is heaven
so cold and sweet,
Even acorns 
cannot compete.

Why  do people stare at me?
stare at me?
Can't a squirrel
have privacy?

So Mother Nature,
won't you please
make ice cream cones
that grow on trees?

My Poems and Articles

My Name is Rylai



They call me Rylai and I’m a chinchilla. My name rhymes with Hi-Lie! I live with the Faranda family in Croton-on-Hudson, New York.  Josie Faranda makes sure I have enough to eat. My diet consists of fruit,nuts and seeds. We are herbivores and eat mostly plants In the wild I eat grass, roots, leaves and bark.

Guess how old I am?

Forty-one million years ago my ancestors were some of the first rodents to appear in South America. You could say we chinchillas are 41 million years old!

Brrr.  It’s chilly here in Chile!

In the wild I live in the Andes Mountains of Chile, South America where the temperature can dip as low as -5 degrees Centigrade (that is 23 degrees Fahrenheit, or below freezing). That’s why I need very thick fur to keep me warm. I have on the average 65 hairs per follicle; that’s a sac or gland holding each hair in place. Humans only have between 2-3 hairs.

Yipes! Is that a Snake?

We like to stick together in herds of between 14 and 100 to warn each other about snakes, birds of prey and other predators.   Yes, we have big ears, but we rely on them to keep us safe. Our strong sense of smell also protects us from skunks.

I’m in Trouble

People love our soft fur and that’s why there are not many of us left in the wild. Only chinchillas should wear chinchilla coats! No one else. We don’t want to become extinct. Do you know any other animals that are endangered?

No Water Baths Please!

If you want me for a pet, I need special care. Chinchillas don’t take water baths. We like to take special dust baths in pumice, a kind of gray volcanic stone used to clean. You have to dry me off right away if I get wet. Otherwise, my fur can develop a fungus or an infection.

I’m a Natural Acrobat!

Chinchillas have tails that  help us balance and we can climb tall mountains and rocks in the wild. I can jump from high places, up to 6 feet! How high can you jump?

The Better to See You!

My eyes look big, but they are not well-developed. Luckily, my whiskers help me move around and feel things. They are almost half as long as my whole body.

If I Get scared

I hope you won’t scare me if you see me. We lose clumps of fur if we are stressed. You can calm us down and soothe us though and we’ll be all right. You can pet me, but I don’t like to be picked up by strangers. I like to be by myself in a cage and hide in my nesting box that’s filled with hay. I like to gnaw on the hay and eat it for roughage like you eat salad.

We love the Night Life!

We sleep a lot during the day and are active at dawn and dusk. We like safe wooden toys to play with and chew on. We need exercise like you do, so we enjoy running around in our cages.

How was your Day?

Josie sometimes asks me, “How was your day Rylai?” I can’t talk, but I love to nuzzle and bury my soft fur in people’s arms when they pick me up. We also like to nibble. That’s how we show our affection. If I nibble too hard, Josie says gently, “No, Rylai!” Then I get a raisin if I behave. I’m lucky to have the Faranda family take care of me. I’m a very happy chinchilla.



  1. Interview with Faranda Family: Josie, Brigid and Tom, November 1, 2017
  2. Other books and articles upon request






Read to Me

sad dog

Read to Me

by Regina Montana

An article about a new program sponsored by the ASPCA recently appeared in the newspaper.  It described how volunteers are reading to abused dogs in preparing them for adoption.   I was very moved and wrote the following poem.

Read to Me

People hurt me.

I never knew why.

I want to forget.

I have to try.

I’m in a shelter now.

It’s different here.

They bring lots of books.

I have less fear.

If you read to me,

you’ll see my heart.

Your voice will heal.

I’ll find a new start.

I’m just a dog.

Don’t throw me away.

Please read to me.

I’ll be whole one day.




Black Racer arrives

On July 2, 2016 an uninvited guest showed up in our front yard.  I was aghast as my husband called out to come quickly to the top of our driveway.  He had been weeding alongside a small evergreen tree when his gloved hand came within an inch of a four-foot long black snake that then slithered away from us as we looked on in amazement.  But not before it stopped and coiled up, ready to strike in case we dared come any closer.

I grabbed my iPhone and began to videotape the snake as he made his way toward cover, narrating for my grandson the arrival of this most unwelcomed visitor.  Attempting to mask the fear in my voice, I told him the snake was just being a snake and trying to get away from us.   We watched as the nearly 48-inch-long, maybe even 60 inch-long, black creature disappeared into some low-lying brush.

My cousin, a Master Gardner, later said it might be a Black Racer and if it were, it would be beneficial for our yard since this species will eat small rodents, frogs and voles.  I have to admit it’s a very cool name for an animal that does not summon a lot of positive feeling when seen in the wild, or in one’s backyard.  I like to think of my surroundings as a haven for robins, cardinals, chipmunks and squirrels, not crawling reptiles.

I prefer to see them in a controlled environment – behind glass in a zoo.  I have no problem with an occasional garter snake;  they are fairly cute.  Last year one made his home in a narrow opening between a sliding door and cement step leading out to a patio.  I could peer out at him every so often and see him in the crack where he apparently enjoyed some welcomed shade.   I made up stories about him for my grandson and named him Sherman.  When we no longer could find him, I explained he had most likely returned to his family in the woods.

This year may be different.  I’ll have to come up with an endearing story, this time about the four-footer.  It won’t be easy, but calling him a Black Racer (even if he is not that species) will light up the eyes of this five-year-old, hopefully making him less fearful and allowing his imagination to run wild, conjuring up all kinds of possibilities as to the snake’s whereabouts and activities.  I, on the other hand, will be very happy never to see him again.  The reality is, however, that he is very likely somewhere in the yard, as afraid of meeting me as I am of him.

Black Racer makes it into our local newspaper, The Gazette

Black Racer.JPG


My mother-in-law Marie

Marie Montana

On December 16, 2015 we lost our beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother, mother-in-law and friend, Marie Montana. She will be missed forever by many people and looked up to as a role model by just about anyone who had the privilege of knowing her.   I loved her as if she were my own mother and will remember her gentle style, loving care, concern, modesty and kindness.  She had it all and then some.   I have no memory of a negative or critical comment toward me, her daughter-in-law.   Sandy, Jerry and I all called her “Mom” since there was never a question in our minds that she was like a mother to each of us.  She would always say, “Isn’t that beautiful” if you related the most ordinary event to her.  Of course looking back some of the ordinary events in life are the most beautiful.  Thank you, dear mother Marie, for all you gave and all you were to us.  We will never forget you and we look forward to being with you again in heaven.