Watching snow geese soar high became an activity I cherished in my childhood home. Their predictable appearance — every October and every March — and behavior — in the fall to the south and in the spring to the north — became an incentive to learn more about them than just seeing them.
As I became more and more fascinated with birds, I maintained a great interest in dinosaurs. The books “Danny and the Dinosaur” and “The Enormous Egg” interested me enough to read them each more than once (several to many times actually!); but they only sparked my imagination and made me smile without really helping me learn anything about dinosaurs.
One day I was reading about trilobites—a group of oceanic animals that long predated dinosaurs—when I heard snow geese flying overhead. I went out to look up and admire them, the “World Book Encyclopedia” still in my hands and still open to trilobites.
With extinct trilobites swimming through my head and live geese flying before my eyes, I experienced a revelation that has grown relentlessly within me for the 60 years since.
The snow geese go away, but they come back; the trilobites have left, but they never come back.
In that epiphanic moment, I realized that bird migration was a recurring cyclical change, but extinction represented a literal dead-end one-way change.
Suddenly the whole world became much more interesting!
The transition from winter to spring, spring to summer, summer to fall, and fall back to winter implied something far more meaningful than just dates on a calendar. Seasonal change.
Hibernation and migration took on a new and more exciting character. Which animals overwintered and how? Which animals migrated and how? Survival change.
And that thing about salmon swimming upstream but not living to return downstream: what is that all about? Is that a migration? Do other fish do that too? Reproductive change.
Reading about such things, I came across the words “sleeping” and “sleeping” and learned about their application to seeds. The idea occurred to me to separate packets of morning glory, zinnia and corn seeds into small envelopes and date the envelopes. I then planted a few seeds every year to see how long the seeds could go dormant and still germinate when planted years later. Ten years later, the last seeds were still sprouting!
I also read about hares and weasels that turn white for the winter and brown for the summer. Seeing a white weasel and a white hare became a personal ambition.
But I only really began to understand how change exists as a natural process in the realm of life on Earth when I looked at metamorphosis. I caught some caterpillars, put them in a big glass jar, watched them make cocoons in the fall and emerge like moths in the spring.
And then I understood change as a part of life.
A moth doesn’t appear until a caterpillar disappears!
Talking about nature
Monthly wildlife programs at Loveland Public Library have returned to the Gertrude Scott Room, but will also be available via Zoom. Check the library website for access to the Zoom link. The program – “The Changing” – will be Wednesday, July 6 at 10am. The free program sponsored by Friends of the Loveland Library will present change as a natural process and explain and interpret its many effects on wildlife.