Movie Preview: Wings of Life
Last summer we were fortunate enough to receive a visit at The Naturalist’s Notebook from director and cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg, who had just finished shooting a movie for DisneyNature on pollinators and flowers. In a recent talk at the TED conference, Louie showed several minutes of the footage from that film, Wings of Life, which will be released soon. It’s among the most extraordinary nature footage of any sort that I’ve ever seen. Check it out by clicking above.
The Notebook Countdown
The sign below says it all. Stay tuned, because we’ll soon be revealing some of our summer plans, programs, events, merchandise and special contributors.
Took a walk the other day and saw people who weren’t there. Just as some folks see the imagined faces of saints in their morning French toast, I sometimes spot human faces in trees and plants. See if you can make them out in these photos:
Paper Roll Art
A Notebook contributor passed along a link to the paper-cut masterpieces of French artist Anastassia Elias—who frames her work inside old cardboard rolls.
For more photos of Anastassia’s work, click on this link:
A couple of years ago we spent an evening plucking barbed porcupine quills out of the paws and face of our Wheaten terrier, Wooster, with pliers, an experience I hope never to have to repeat. A year earlier we had lost a spruce tree because a porcupine had eaten the bark off it. Nevertheless, I find porcupines (or “quilled pigs,” to use the French root of their name) interesting to watch. The North American variety, of which we have plenty in Maine, is the largest of the species and each one can have as many as 30,000 quills. A porcupine waddled by as I was leaving the house on Saturday. His rear quills looked like spiky blond hair—and in fact quills are hair, coated in keratin, which also makes up human fingernails. I followed Blondie into the woods, where he scooted up a dead tree like a cute little bear. A lot of people around here shoot porcupines, or are happy to see them turned into roadkill. (Porcupines are attracted to salt, including—unfortunately for them—leftover residue from the winter’s road salt.) I’d prefer that our current porc stays alive, of course. It’s a myth that porcupines shoot quills at their enemies from a few feet away, so I just have to keep Wooster far enough from this one that she doesn’t stick her nose into the walking pin cushion.
Answers to the Last Puzzlers:
1) What was the bird shown in silhouette (the state bird of Missouri and New York)? See if you can tell from this photo we shot the other day. The color kind of gives it away.
2) How much would sea levels rise if all of Antarctica’s ice and snow melted? The answer is 203 feet.
1) Which of these statements is NOT true:
a): The word magnet comes from the Greek town Magnesia, near which magnetic ore was first found.
b) The name lima beans comes from Lima, Peru, where they have been cultivated for 8,000 years.
c) The color magenta was named for the 1859 Battle of Magenta, which was fought in what is now Magenta, Italy.
d) The name maple comes from the Latin term for sweet teardrops.
2) While visiting last weekend’s open house at the delightful Wendell Gilley bird-carving museum in Southwest Harbor, Maine, we saw new saw-whet owls carved in basswood by several artists under the tutelage of master carver Steve Valleau. Below is a lovely one carved by Paul Haertel.
The quiz question is, why is that type of owl called a saw-whet?
a) Because it likes to nest in trees freshly felled by the saws of loggers
b) Because the skieu! call it makes when alarmed sounds like a saw being sharpened
c) Because it was raining heavily when a naturalist first discovered the species in 1683; he literally saw the bird when he was wet
Ole Worm, the Danish physician, natural historian and teacher, would have turned 423 years old on Friday. Though his name makes him sound like a 21st century rapper, Ole Worm was very old school. He was the first to describe in detail the extra bones in skull that are now called Wormian bones, determined that unicorns were not real (the “unicorn” horns that had been found were from narwhals, he concluded) and disproved the then common belief that lemmings spontaneously generated from the air (he identified them as simple rodents).
Georgios Papanikolaou, the Greek-born doctor and cancer researcher who invented the Pap smear test, would have been 128 on Friday. He had already immigrated to the U.S. by the time he first asserted, in 1928, that cervical cancer could be diagnosed through a vaginal smear; his findings were not accepted by the skeptical medical community until 15 years later. Since then Pap smears have saved an estimated 6.3 million lives. And both women and doctors can be grateful the name was shortened from Papanikolaou smear.