To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.

Blake, "Auguries of Innocence"

Take a second look …

The yellow eyes of the Saw-whet Owl are so startling, their gaze so steady, that we tend to ignore everything else. It’s easy to miss the trace of blood just below the owl’s bill, a smear of something that changes the way we look at the bird, that deepens our understanding of it. What discoveries might we make if we took that second look more often, if we trained ourselves to see?


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Photo of Lucienne Boyer from 1939.

Parlez-moi d’amour: Is this the most romantic song ever recorded?

I’ve been listening to Lucienne Boyer’s recording of “Parlez-moi d’amour” (1930) on and off for about twenty-five years and have never grown tired of hearing it. I came to the song through a two-disk CD I bought of chansons françaises, the type of music performed in the cabarets and music halls of Paris over the first half of the 20th century. This was the milieu in which singers such as Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Aznavour, and Juliette Greco were formed. Madame Boyer, because of the clarity and warmth of her voice, and to no little degree thanks … Read more

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Feature photo for the Prothonotary post.

Nature’s Narcissist: The Prothonotary Warbler

At some point over the long course of its evolution, the Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) developed the peculiar habit of staring at its reflected image in the still waters of the swamps that it calls home. This mirror gazing does nothing to advance either of the bird’s main aims in life, which are to eat and reproduce. We have to assume that the Prothonotary, like many of its human admirers, is subject to the vice of vanity. Like Narcissus in the ancient myth, this warbler is infatuated with its own reflection. But how is it possible to fall in love … Read more

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Photo of a Bramble Mason Wasp.

Wasps Are Wonderful! Especially the Flower-visiting Kind

Over the past summer, I became fascinated by flower-visiting wasps, especially the solitary kind that build individual nests, either by burrowing into the ground or by fashioning small mud-nests that they attach to plants or artificial constructions. For one thing, these wasps are plentiful where I live in Toronto, Ontario. Throughout the summer and into the fall, I see dozens of them, and usually of several different species, every time I visit one of the local parks or natural areas. All I have to do is find a stand of milkweed or boneset, or goldenrod and asters, and there are … Read more

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Winged Creatures Photo Gallery