“Here’s my card”, she said as we exchanged information. I looked at it and the word “Naturalist” popped out like a sun ray on a cloudy day. Wow, a real self-proclaimed naturalist. “I love it”, I exclaimed. I own up to being an amateur naturalist, but here was the real deal. Oh sure, I know biologist, entomologist, botanist, mycologist and scientist, but a naturalist is a rare breed indeed.
We met online when she asked about locations and bloom times of blackberry because she wanted to find bees that were attracted to this plant. When she said she was monitoring bees for Discover Life, I immediately wrote back saying that I was going to do the same and would be in training next month. Well, one thing led to another and here she was in my house teaching me and a friend how to identify bees. She wanted to see my setup and teach me things they didn’t teach in class, to give me a head start. In turn, I would, show her my corner of West Virginia and help her find bees.
Our outing took us up to the Blue Ridge where we had lunch, swapped information, and told our adventure stories. We spoke of our bouts with Lyme disease like it was a badge of honor or an entrance into a select group. My friend was a little concerned and laughingly expressed fear about going into the forest. Almost in unison, we explained, oh, don’t worry, do this and this and you will be fine. The personal discoveries to be made while observing and learning about nature are well worth the risk. For instance, as we were leaving I found a Juvanal’s Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis) butterfly floating in water and pulled it out, thinking it was a goner for sure. I showed it to the Naturalist and she said it would live after it dried off. I thought, “Oh sure, I’ll just take it home for my collection in case you are wrong” and set it in a cup between the car seats. Sure enough, about an hour after everyone had left, I looked in the cup and, to my delight, saw it move. So, I took it out into the sun to let it recharge and soon watched it fly off. Who knew?...the Naturalist knew.
The lessons and analogies that I could take from such a small event are numerous. Naturalists are awestruck by the tiny details as well as the big picture of all life on earth. The twist of a young tree strangled by a vine, the hairy eye of a honey bee, the call of a hermit thrush, all have life lessons and fascination enough for a lifetime. Darwin expressed it this way, “The naturalist in England, in his walks, enjoys a great advantage over others in frequently meeting with something worthy of attention; here he suffers a pleasant nuisance in not being able to walk a hundred yards without being fairly tied to the spot by some new and wondrous creature.”
As the Naturalist and two amateurs departed, we spoke of a future foray into the forest. After all, it is spring and there will be migrating birds passing over head, new flowers emerging, and more bees to find. We are the monitors, the observers ready to sound the alarm if something is amiss. We are naturalists!
You can learn more about Discover Life at: http://www.discoverlife.org/