I've often mentioned the flock of wild turkeys wintering at our house. The number has shrunk from two dozen to just eight (not sure where the others went), but those survivors are both hearty and seaworthy. This week Pamelia looked out and saw them roaming and pecking in the low tide. Perhaps they were gobbling up sand, pebbles and crushed shells—good grit for grinding grub in their gizzards.
A bit farther south, in Montville, New Jersey, an owl has been keeping Sarah Markwood awake some nights with its hoots. Her dad, Scott, reports that when he was out chopping ice in the driveway at dusk the other day, he saw the silhouette of something large perched in a tree. He says it was size of a huge raccoon, with two ears sticking up. Then he realized that it was an owl—"much larger than I imagined an owl could be," he says. From his description (about two feet tall), it may have been a great horned owl, an aggressive hunter and, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the only animal that regularly eats skunks. A (literally) smaller possibility is the long-eared owl, which stands only about 15 inches tall but has a resounding voice that might keep someone awake: Its call can be heard three-quarters of a mile away. Scott says his daughter, a budding naturalist, put the sighting in context: "Sarah reminded me that the original name for the area (English name, taken from the local Indians' name for the area) was Owl Kill. And the town crest still has the owl on it."
Veggies Vs. Fruit (Cont.)
As promised, after the last post about the scientific differences between fruits and vegetables, my botanist friend weighed in—and confirmed (whew) that legumes are indeed fruit. So green beans do qualify. He added this note:
"During one of my programs as an interpretive ranger at [a national park], I would have everyone sit down beside a carriage road, and we would discuss fruits vs. vegetables (with appropriate props). One of the items I brought along on the walk was a can of Veg-all, which really should be called 'Veg-half' because four of the eight main ingredients are fruits. I recall that at least one of them was a legume. Another misnomer on store shelves is V-8. It’s pretty close to being correct because the only non-V is the tomato. But, in the interest of accuracy, the ad should say, 'I could have had an F-1/V-7.'"
A thank-you to my longtime friend and colleague Roger Jackson for flagging this tale of a cat burglar in California that had stolen 600 items from neighbors' homes—and turned out to be an actual cat: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110216/od_afp/uscrimeanimaloffbeat_20110216210804
Answer to the Last Puzzler:
What has two big arms and three smaller arms and be seen only at night? The Milky Way galaxy. The arms are the arms of its spiral shape.
A memory builder: Study these animal names for 30 seconds, then look away and try to write them down in the same order. Porcupine Mink Squirrel Badger Porcupine Deer Badger
A tongue twister: Say "Good grit for grinding grub in their gizzards" three times, fast.
Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish astronomer who made the revolutionary discovery that the Earth revolves around the Sun (instead of the other way around), would have turned 538 years old today. Amazingly, he had so many talents and occupations (including mathematician, diplomat, jurist, translator, military leader and economist) that astronomy was essentially just one of his hobbies.
Francis Galton, a half-cousin of Charles Darwin who coined the term "nurture versus nature," created the first weather map, and invented the silent dog whistle, would have been 189 this week. A former child prodigy, he was prolific in his ideas and research, coming up with the concept of statistical correlation, exploring and mapping southwest Africa, and pioneering the study of inherited intelligence, meteorology and even fingerprints. He did not coin the phrase "can of worms," but in coming up with the term eugenics and believing that selective breeding could raise the intellectual level of humans (apparently without considering the full consequences of that idea), he opened one of the largest such cans in history.
Alessandro Volta, the Italian physicist who in 1800 invented the battery (and was the namesake of the volt), would have been 266 yesterday. His historical significance was recognized a few years ago by Toyota, which produced a prototype hybrid sports car that could go from zero to 60 mph in four seconds and was called (what else?) the Alessandro Volta.
Buffy Sainte-Marie, the Canadian-born, Cree Indian folk singer who grew up in Maine, turns 70 tomorrow. Her environmentally-themed songs include No No Keshagesh, about the despoiling of the planet through greed; keshagesh is a Cree word for a puppy that tries to eat everything.
And finally, Jackie Gleason, the comedian and early proponent of space travel ("To the moon, Alice!"), would have been 95 tomorrow.