Thursday, 12 February 2009

Jellyfish for Darwin

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.


Darwin, of course, wasn’t the only man born on February 12th 1809. There was another rather famous man born that day too.

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.

11 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What an intersting post Shirl.

Pam Kersting said...

Great post Shirl! I enjoyed it very much. Happy Birthday to two great men and two great thinkers!

Kerri said...

Oh what a delight to see those lovely jellyfish undulating to your perfect selection of music, Shirl! Thank you! :) I haven't seen jellyfish since I left Australia (except perhaps at an aquarium).
A fitting birthday present for Mr. Darwin.
Happy birthday to both him and Mr. Lincoln - two great men!
I've noticed that our purple and house finches have a fatter beak than the little siskins and goldfinches.
You have quite an assortment visiting your feeders. I love your wonderful duck and bird photos in the post below.

Roger B. said...

What a delightful jellyfish ballet!

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Darwin must be chuffed to bits, or would be if he was still alive, to get jellyfish for his birthday. A very unusual birthday present. ;-)

BTW you can find Piet Oudolf on Youtube, there are 3 vids about his garden and he's in them too. The bad news is, it's all in Dutch.

Susan Tomlinson said...

Wonderful post--and now I am definitely jealous of your birds!

ShySongbird said...

Hi Shirl,

Another lovely informative post and a stunning video of the jellyfish.
I am envious of your sightings of the Mistle Thrush and Fieldfare and also your visits from Siskins. We had Siskins visit for a while around this time last year which was very unexpected as living on the northern edge of the Cotswolds they are not a bird we would normally see. We also saw Bramblings for some weeks at about the same time, but so far this year there have been no sightings of either.

Anna said...

A most interesting post Shirl. What a great piece of music to go with your video. It was sad to hear on the national news last night, that one species of giant tortoise on the Galapagos Islands is the last of its line :(

Lindab said...

Very interesting indeed. I learned a lot from it - I'm afraid I just snapped and ran when I took photos for my Darwin post (http://occasionalscotland.blogspot.com/2009/02/lost-world.html), so your post has filled gaps in my knowledge!

shirl said...

Hi again Lisa, Pam, Kerri, Roger, Yolanda, Susan, ShySongbird, Anna & Linda :-)

Lisa – Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it :-D

Pam – Thank-you! Yes, I agree two great men that made a difference to our world :-D

Kerri – Thank-you, I often take a while to choose the music but got it right first time with this one. I just love editing and making these short films! Ah... I’m glad to share these jellyfish with you too. Yes, I hoped so. Yes… perhaps there are small differences in the beaks of our visiting finches too. Yes, it is fantastic that we have such assortment visiting. Believe it or not a pheasant may have wandered through again – I noticed it on my neighbour’s front lawn! What a strange sight it was there. I put seed on our path outside the garden gate and more behind it but it doesn’t look like it found it. I should emphasize that I live in a housing estate with tiny gardens on one side and just lawn on the other! Thank-you, I was thrilled with my ducks photos and have so many more to sort too. Great to see you visit again :-D

Roger – Thank-you, it was fun to do and it does make me smile :-D

Yolanda – I do hope so, yes… no ice cream at this birthday party ;-) Ah… thanks for the thumbs up on Piet. I’ve just had a look but it is tricky for me to follow - its great to see him talking in a garden though ;-)

Susan – Thank-you., no really you shouldn’t be! You’ve got a wonderful variety of birds visiting your garden :-D

ShySongbird – Thank-you, I was thrilled to finally have a excuse to use this footage ;-) Well, I have to say I’m actually amazed the Mistle Thrush and Fieldfare have appeared in my garden! I am in an ordinary housing estate with houses packed in around me. I am even more surprised that the pheasant was back wandering in our street this morning! It was weird to see flying up to the roof of a neighbours shed. I am only a few streets away from the edge of a small town that has a pretty sizable new High school being built near me at the moment. I am guessing that this is causing the birds to move into areas they wouldn’t normally be in. It’s great for me to see but I’m hoping it won't disturb the birds in this area too much especially with nesting building coming up. Yes, the Siskins are great to see but I envy your sighting of the Bramblings in your garden – they are on my wish list BTW. Mm… that list is getting bigger each month ;-D

Anna – Thank-you, it was fun to do. Yes, I missed that but funnily enough we had just been watching a programme on them earlier this week. They are incredible and what an age they can live to too. That is sad :-(

Linda – Excellent, so did I ;-) Ah yes… I too have learnt the lesson of taking many more photos than you need. I loved your story non the less :-D

easygardener said...

The jellyfish are fascinating - like living flowers (that can swim under water!)