When I opened Google this morning to enter "mating uropygi vinegaroon," the first thing I noticed (rather than the fact that most people would think my breakfasttime activities a little odd) was this:Today marks the 226th anniversary of John James Audubon's birth, and Google decided to honor him with a really cool doodle that I didn't even have to look up to understand the reference.
Hooray! I have to say, I really never knew much about John James Audubon for most of my life, but I do think he was one of the first people responsible for my interest in the natural world. He saw birds. Really saw them. Before Audubon, I didn't know an egret's neck even bent the way that it does. I remember first coming across a book or magazine article -- I don't remember which; I read everything nature-related I could grab since I was 5 and looked at it all before that -- and finding his illustration, Great American White Egret, with its neck lowered in a bizarre and beautiful curve. I don't think I'd ever been so captivated. He went on to illustrate over 700 North American bird species, but that was the one that started my love affair with his work. In a way, I think about that image every time I photograph birds.
Audubon has got to be one of the most influential naturalists, one of the best at combining art and science -- and it's not just because he was an amazing artist, although he certainly was. It's because he saw birds. He brought out the art that was already there.
Happy Bird-day, y'all. Enjoy my humble tribute.
A few hummingbirds:
A couple of great blue herons:
A black-crowned night heron:
And, of course, a great egret:
...all wish you a very happy bird-day indeed.
P.S. Check out Audubon Arizona, if you're local, or head over to the National Audubon Society page to find the group, effort, cause, preserve, or other nature coolness near you.
P.P.S. I did find the vinegaroons. Here is the act in question, though I wanted the hard (no pun of any kind intended) facts and had to keep searching. That's what everyone does over Froot Loops, right?