Posts Tagged ‘national geographic’


Photo: Laurie Wolf at National Geographic
A screech owl in a Florida backyard was caught cohabiting with a duckling.

My sister had an idea that I’d like this story about an owl and a duckling, and she was right. Nature has a way of delighting us even if we’re grumpy, and according to a new Gallup poll, Americans are grumpy lately. Writes the New York Times, “Americans are among the most stressed people in the world. … Last year, Americans reported feeling stress, anger and worry at the highest levels in a decade.”

I can identify with that. But as it’s too rainy today for me to calm down with a walk in the woods, I will indulge myself in a vicarious bit of nature therapy from National Geographic.

Jason Bittel interviewed the amateur photographer who captured the scene above in her backyard.

” ‘Oh, we have an owl chick. This is wonderful!’ These were Laurie Wolf’s first thoughts when she noticed something small and fluffy bobbing up and down inside the nest box in her Jupiter, Florida, backyard. An eastern screech owl had taken up residence in the box about one month before, so she suspected it was an owl hatchling. But the truth was far stranger.

“As a storm rolled in and the sky darkened, Wolf and her husband caught a glimpse of the mother owl poking her head out of the nest box. And right beside the owl was a tiny, yellow-and-black duckling.

“ ‘The two of them were just sitting there side by side,’ says Wolf, a wildlife artist and amateur photographer. ‘It’s not believable. It’s not believable to me to this day.’

“Concerned that the predatory owl might eat the wood duck chick, Wolf contacted a raptor expert, who confirmed the duckling might be in danger. A local wildlife sanctuary agreed to care for the animal if she could catch it.

“But just as Wolf and her husband were about to intervene, the wood duck chick leapt out of the box and ‘made a beeline’ to a nearby pond, and she hasn’t seen the little critter since. …

“ ‘It’s not commonly documented, but it certainly happens,’ says Christian Artuso, the Manitoba director of Bird Studies Canada, who made a similar observation back in 2005 while he was studying eastern screech owls for his Ph.D. In that case, the female owl was actually able to incubate and hatch three wood duck chicks. …

“Parent ducks will sometimes lay an egg or two in someone else’s nest—usually another wood duck or another closely related species. …

“But shouldn’t the female owl be able to realize she’s sitting on the wrong eggs? After all, wood duck eggs are not only more oblong in shape than owl eggs, they’re also about twice the volume.

“Artuso says it’s impossible to know what a wild owl is thinking, but that it could be a case of what scientists call supernormal stimuli.

” ‘The parents might be thinking, Oh my god! This egg is huge! We’re going to have the best baby in the world!’ ”

More here.

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One of my grandsons goes to a Montessori school where the four-year-olds make lots of maps. They use templates to trace the continents (above).

Which is why I was intrigued to see a delightful National Geographic article about the map juvenalia of professional cartographers.

Betsy Mason wrote, “So many of the cartographers I’ve gotten to know while writing about maps seem to genuinely love their jobs.

It’s one of those professions with a disproportionate number of people who are really happy to be there.

“I suspect that one reason for this could be that many of them have loved maps since they were kids, and they’ve managed to turn that love into a career.

“This collection of childhood maps made by eight professional cartographers backs up that theory. I interviewed each of them about their early mapmaking, how they found their way into cartography, and what they love about their jobs today.

“Their stories all have their individual quirks, but there are some common threads. Several of them recall spending family trips poring over a road atlas in the back seat, for example. And some can still recall the precise moment when they knew they would make maps for a living.”

Here is Mason’s report on one of the two female mapmakers in the article.

“A class assignment to map out a family fire-escape plan probably seemed like more than just an exercise to young Rosemary Wardley. A couple of years earlier, some sheds behind her house had caught on fire.

” ‘I’m sure that was in the back of my mind,’ she says.

“And that’s likely why none of the paths she drew for her family members went out the back door toward the sheds. On the other hand, she deemed it perfectly safe to direct her oldest sister to jump into a pine tree outside of a second-story window …

“The hallway outside of ‘Rosie’s room’ was covered in U.S. Geological Survey topographical maps, and this wall was often Wardley’s first stop after a drive or a hike.

” ‘I always kind of went back there and had my dad point out where we had gone,’ she says. ‘Thinking back, that’s definitely the biggest thing that influenced me as a cartographer. It just made me have that love of geography.’

“Today, Wardley works at National Geographic, where she says the cartography is very collaborative. She makes maps for stories such as a photographer’s trek across China, but a lot of her time is spent editing and working with the data that goes into the maps. It’s the variety that appeals to her most, she says.”

Click to see maps the cartographers made in childhood.

Thank you for putting the link on Facebook, Asakiyume. I wouldn’t have known about this otherwise.

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I recently saw a National Geographic special about money and the central bank. The documentary took viewers into the vault at the NY Fed, where gold bars are stored. Although the security is really tight, anyone may sign up for a tour there. The film also went to places where cameras are usually not allowed, like the National Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which prints dollar bills.

It also went to offices deep underground in the gold and diamond district of New York City. I thought Suzanne would be interested to see the broker who buys gold. Being in the jewelry business with Luna & Stella, she naturally is aware that gold has been expensive since the economic downturn. The film showed the multilingual broker buying small bags of gold objects, which were then shown being melted down and made into a gold bar.

National Geographic has also blogged about the movie: “What Jake Ward of Popular Science magazine discovers in this one hour special is that without the engines that power the world’s financial systems, that world would grind to a halt.

America’s Money Vault follows 55 million dollars worth of gold as it makes its way down into the most valuable gold vault in the world. Hidden deep under the streets of New York City, hundreds of billion dollars in gold bars  …

“Jake goes behind the storefronts to see how everybody from the street level to the brokers make their money buying, selling and even finding gold. He meets Onikwa Thomas who calls himself the urban miner and claims to earn up to four hundred dollars a week off of gold specks found in the cracks of sidewalks.”  More from the documentary.

P.S. Speaking of Luna & Stella, Suzanne’s birthstone jewelry company, gold vermeil angel wings can make a lovely gift for the right person.

Photograph: National Geographic

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