200 years ago today the British naturalist Charles Darwin was born. Mm… a jellyfish would definitely not be the first image that would spring to mind when you hear his name is mentioned. Back in 2004, on a trip to Berlin Zoo, I captured the video footage of moon jellyfish below. I have been waiting for the right time to include this in a posting. Today, I would like to dedicate this film to Charles Darwin .
Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace formed the theory of evolution. This theory is based on ‘natural selection’ which is a process which favours the best adapted members of a species. I’ll not go into the details of findings, evidence and theories here. However I would like to share one ‘story’ that caught my eye and which is relevant to the birds that visit my garden.
During a visit to the Galapagos Islands back in 1832 Darwin discovered 13 species of finch. Today, in my small Scottish garden I have 4 species of finch visiting. Chaffinches are the highest in numbers followed (at the moment) by Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Siskins. I am on the lookout for two others – the Brambling and the Bullfinch.
Sorry, back to Darwin…
It was the different beak shapes of the finches on the Galapagos Islands that caught Darwin’s eye. He noticed that these beaks were suited to the eating habits of the finch. Darwin believed that these finches had gradually evolved from a single species long before. A small beak would be suited to eating seeds and insects where other stronger ones were more suited to crushing big seeds or a sharp one for catching small insects. I don’t believe there are many differences in the beak shapes of the finches that visit my garden at the moment. However, I can see differences between other species that visit with the ground feeding birds having longer sharper beaks more suited to pulling up worms!
Dried fruit on the snow covered ground caught the attention of many birds in my garden today. Blackbirds with their larger sharper beaks can pick them up very easily and practically swallow the pieces of fruit whole. Starlings will often take away a few pieces of fruit in their sharp greedy beaks! As I was editing my film for Darwin, in all honesty, I looked out my window to see what I thought was the Mistle Thrush feeding at the fruit with the Blackbirds and Starlings. Excellent, I went for my camera. Aw… the bird was gone!
Discovering new species of birds arriving in my garden has always amazed me. Just where do they come from and how do they find it. I am guessing one species watches others finding food, follows them, and then this circle spreads out. A couple of comments in my last posting queried if my Mistle Thrush was in fact a Fieldfare. We are agreed that it was the Mistle Thrush which did visit the trees again today. However, after looking through my book again, I flicked past the Fieldfare page and low and behold today I actually had a Fieldfare visiting and eating dried fruit on the ground! Aw… no photos! I watched the garden as it ran around (unfamiliar with the layout) looking for fruit. I really am astounded at the timing of this bird’s visit. So now, I will think of both the Moon Jellyfish and the Fieldfare, my newest garden visitor, when I see Darwin’s name.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America, shares the same birthday. He too deserves a mention today. I am guessing there will be a few celebrations in American schools today.
Finally, if you are in the UK you might want to checkout Darwin200. You will also find a list of more than 300 activities across the country which will run throughout the year.
“Darwin200 is a national programme of events honouring his scientific ideas and their impact. The celebrations have already begun and will continue until 24 November 2009, the 150th anniversary of the publication of his famous book, On the Origin of Species.”
Wither you are celebrating the 200th Birthday of Darwin or Lincoln I do hope you’ve had a great day.
The photos above are both courtesy of Wikipedia and can be seen in the links given.