Category Archives: Nature Notes

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin​​​​​​​

Celebrate Charles Darwin’s Birthday

Charles Darwin, the British naturalist who forever changed our view of life on earth, was born on February 12, 1809.
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Like Darwin, I was a shy and quiet child, with an insatiable curiosity for the natural world, spending my childhood collecting grasshoppers, fireflies and crawdads in the meadows and rivers of my home. Like Darwin, I curated a cabinet of curiosities filled with shells, minerals, fossils and bones and like Darwin, I was an undisciplined student, daydreaming in class about what trails I would explore on my horse that afternoon.

I have not been lucky enough to visit any of the places Darwin did on his 5-year voyage of the Beagle, but in my wanderings, I have seen the same evidence he saw that led him to develop his theories of evolution, such as fossils on top of mountains, the incredible geologic forces of earthquakes and volcanoes, similar species on adjacent islands, and was awestruck at the incredible biodiversity of coral reefs and rainforest.

You can learn more about his life and contribution to science at the International Darwin Day website, where educators can also find outstanding resources for their students.

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A quote from Darwin’s Origin of Species

“It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been provided by laws acting around us.

These laws, taken in the larges sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct acting of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms.

Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed laws of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”
-Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (1859)

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Halloween Greetings

Boo and happy All Hallows’ Eve to you! I’m a little jet-lagged, as I’ve just returned last night from Borneo where we were scouting for next year’s wildlife and birdwatching tour (you’re invited!) As a naturalist, Halloween is my favorite holiday and there’s no better place to spend it than deep in a spooky rainforest jungle. We… Continue Reading

Spooky Nature Facts: Orange and Black Wildlife

Spooky Nature Facts: Orange and Black Wildlife

Wildlife Dressed for Halloween Have you ever wondered why so many animals follow a Halloween-themed dress code of orange and black? From the American Redstart to the Monarch Butterfly, and thousands of species in between, this is indeed a common color combination. Below you’ll find a slideshow I created of photographs that my partner took on our… Continue Reading

Spooky Nature Facts: The Darlingtonia Midge

Spooky Nature Facts: The Darlingtonia Midge

The Darlingtonia Midge & Its Murderous Accomplice Who would believe that an insect and an insect-eating plant could have a mutually beneficial relationship?  Surprisingly, that’s exactly the case in the unlikely union between the mosquito-like midge and the carnivorous California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia californica), which is found in serpentine seeps in northern California and Oregon.… Continue Reading

Autumnal Recrudescence

Autumnal Recrudescence–Say What??? Suddenly it feels like Spring again. Why? I’m awakened by the birds in our neighborhood at dawn, singing as if it’s June.  The Pygmy Nuthatches, Townsend’s Solitaires, robins and hummingbirds are all pitching in to the dawn chorus. Perhaps you’ve noticed it too. So what physiological reason can we attribute this to?… Continue Reading

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