James Bond and the Genius

If you visited The Naturalist's Notebook two summers ago, you may remember that we honored James Bond. That is, we had a little display celebrating James Bond the eminent Philadelphia ornithologist, for whom writer—and avid birder—Ian Fleming named the fictional British agent otherwise known as 007. Fleming was a fan of Bond's definitive Birds of the West Indies, and thought the ornithologist's moniker was properly masculine for a suave, womanizing spy. I have read, however, that when the Philadelphia Bond discovered what Fleming had done, he was shaken, not stirred. He was not happy that he would have to spend the rest of a serious and accomplished career getting chuckled at every time he mentioned his name.

He got over it and is probably far more famous than he would have been if Fleming had named his spy Roger Tory Peterson. In any case, raise a martini glass to this great birder, who would have turned 111 today.

The inspiration for 007, and Ian Fleming's birding hero.

This is also the birthday of Sir Isaac Newton, considered by many the greatest scientist who ever was. I can't list a fraction of his accomplishments (O.K., well I can: designed first reflecting telescope, discovered that light is made up of a spectrum of colors, figured out gravity after watching an apple fall from a tree, came up with universal laws of motion, was an inventor of calculus). He would be turning 368 today if he weren't buried in Westminster Abbey in London. Perhaps you'll recall that his tomb plays an important part in The Da Vinci Code. Perhaps you won't recall that Harpo Marx once played him in a movie.

Sir Isaac

One more note for today (when SI editing and the need to meet an important botanist at The Naturalist's Notebook and a brilliant College of the Atlantic student in Bar Harbor have left scant time for blogging): I saw this seemingly misshapen, knuckle-like shell cluster at low tide the other day. Maybe you'll know it immediately; I thought I'd found something exotic and ran to tell Pamelia.

At first I though this might be some sort of genetic mutation...only to find out that it's quite common and natural.

Of course, she knew exactly what it was: A clump of slipper shells snuggling together for the winter. Individual slipper shells are cute things that look like little bassinets with the sheets folded halfway down. I guess they also look like slippers, if your feet are flat on top and rounded on the bottom.

They're also, it turns out, a type of sea snail, so they like to suction themselves onto rocks and other sea creatures, including each other. Perhaps that is why they are also known as, um, fornicating slipper snails.

At the far left you can see how slipper shells got their name.

One really last note for those of you who follow our Natural League baseball standings in summer (made up of the nine major league teams with names drawn from nature, such as Tigers and Orioles). The Natural Football League regular season is over, and the champions are the Atlanta Falcons (13-3), just ahead of the Baltimore Ravens (12-4) and the Chicago Bears (11-5). On behalf of nature, let's hope one of those teams survives the real NFL playoffs and makes it to the Super Bowl.