Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nature notes - November 2007

Those of you not on the enormous circulation list of the Old School News (our local newspaper covering the parish of Stoke Climsland) may not know that each edition contains a short piece on local fauna and flora plus a photograph (colour if we are feeling very rich) (and much else besides). To find out more use link to the Old school (see local links to left). Here is the offering for November 2007

The long dry early autumn period has produced a fantastic display of colour in the local woods though it looks as if it will be short lived. It remains a very barren time for mushrooms although just recently a few have started to appear.

I have noticed that often I see things in photographs that I failed to notice at the time. For example the spot of ‘milk’ on the underside of a milk-cap mushroom. This illustrates the difference between looking and seeing. Konrad Lorenz, the father of animal ethology, encouraged his students to learn simply by looking, for example at a bowl of goldfish, for months on end, so that they would learn to ‘see’ behaviour. It took me a long time to realise that there are two species of butterfly orchid in Greenscoombe woods that look very similar, but now I have learnt to see them and the many subtle differences between the two. Seeing is the prelude to knowledge.

Animals must have brain states without thoughts (cognitions in the jargon), a state of perpetual looking. We have thoughts that allow us to ‘see’ into the world although our thinking can sometimes interfere with experiencing. Perhaps the best mental state that a naturalist can achieve is to experience the world with knowledge but without thought, the aim of meditation. And thus I can recommend the former in the pursuit of the latter.

And so as our summer visitors depart, and our winter visitors arrive, and the newts look for safe hideaways, the last red admirals bathe in the sun and the myriad leaves carpet the ground, there is much to see and experience. Try it.

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