Even with the handful of field guides I have, and the resources of the internet at my disposal (God and frontier communications willing), I'm often perplexed by the question of "what am I looking at?" It's not that I can't sort out flowers from grasses from trees and ducks from crows and things like that. It's that, until recently, I had never noticed how many similar, but different, flowers and birds etc. there are. Here's one example using flowers with yellow petals and dark centers.
Helianthus pauciflorus (Stiff Sunflower)?
I thought they might be Black-eyed Susans or, possibly, Brown-eyed Susans, but, if you look closely, you can see there's more than one flower per stem. Maybe they're stiff sunflowers? That was my initial choice, but I'm not sure. At least to me they don't look exactly like this field of what I think are Black-eyed Susans that bloom every year at the other end of our road.
Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan)?
For the past several years, I've been "sure" that these birds are purple finches.
purple finches? at feeder
But then this year, someone who seems to have more, or darker, red on his head and breast showed up. House finch? I don't know (sorry about the poor photo).
house finch? (and gold finch) at feeder
I vaguely recall Darwin writing about the changes in bills of Galapogos finches. I can understand those functional differences but wonder how males and females sort out which of the 14 species match with them, just as I wonder about pollinators trying to sort out the different "look-a-like" flowers, or maybe they don't need to. It's been years since I took fundamentals of ecology. Maybe I need a refresher, or new glasses and a better telephoto lens. Or, maybe I need to pay more attention to details like basel flowers and things rather than just looking at the flowers or purple feathers or whatever else passes for a bright shiny object that attracts my attention. But I still wonder why differences are often so similar. I'm in good company though.
IHis holyslowlymulled overmatternot all “deliriumof delight”as were the forestsof Brazil“Species are not(it is like confessinga murder)immutable”He was often becalmedin this Port Desire by illnessor rested from speciesat billiard tableAs to Man“I believe Man…in the same predicamentwith other animals”IICordilleras to climb—Andeanpeaks “tossed aboutlike the crustof a broken pie”Icy windHigher, harderChileans advised eat onionsfor shortness of breathHeavy on him:Andes miners carried upgreat loads—not allowedto stop for breathFossil bones near Santa FéSpider-bite-scauldFeverTended by an old woman“Dear Susan…I am ravenousfor the soundof the pianoforte”IIIFitzRoy blinked—sea-shells on mountain tops!The laws of changerode the seaswithout the good captainwho could not concedeland could rise from the seauntil—before his eyesearthquake—Talcahuana Bay drained out—all-water wallup from the ocean—six seconds—demolished the townThe will of God?Let us prayAnd now the Galápagos Islands—hideous black lavaThe shore so hotit burned their feetthrough their bootsReptile lifeMelville here latersaid the chief sound was a hissA thousand turtle monstersdrive together to the waterBlood-bright crabs hunt tickson lizards’ backsFlightless cormorantsCold-sea creatures—penguins, sealshere in tropical watersHell for FitzRoybut for Darwin Paradise Puzzlewith the jig-saw gistsbeginning to fitIVYears… balancingprobabilitiesI am ill, he saidand books are slow workStudied pigeonsbarnacles, earthwormsExtracted seedsfrom bird dungBrought home Drosera—saw insects trappedby its tentacles—the factthat a plant should secretean acid acutely akinto the digestive fluidof an animal! Yearstill he publishedHe wrote Lyell: Don’t forgetto send me the carcassof your half-bred African catshould it dieVI remember, he saidthose tropical nights at sea—we sat and talkedon the boomsTierra del Fuego’sshining glaciers translucentblue clear down(almost) to the indigo sea(By the way Carlylethought it most ridiculousthat anyone should carewhether a glaciermoved a little quickeror a little sloweror moved at all)Darwinsailed outof Good Success Bayto carcass-conclusions—the universenot built by brute forcebut designed by lawsThe details leftto the working of chance“Let each man hopeand believewhat he can”
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