Monday, May 23, 2011

Phenology, the Serious Science of Taking Nature Notes

In the 1980s, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady was a bestseller. It wasn't a personal diary; it was watercolor sketches of the things the lady saw on her almost daily nature walks, and the poems about them she copied in calligraphy. It generated a small industry, and a fad for books of nature notes by living authors, like Richard Adams' Nature Diary.

I enjoy this kind of book. Read straight through, like novels, they can be boring...but it's interesting to look up someone else's entry for the weather and wildlife observed, on this day in some other place and/or year, and compare what they saw with what I saw. Such things always have the potential of documenting something of historic or scientific value.

Over the weekend, I read the latest Appalachian Voice and learned that professional ecologists agree with me about this. Nature notes now have an Official Scientific Name. When we blog about the first robin in the yard, the first snowflake, and so on, we are actually practicing the science of phenology...and it really can help scientists, especially with the debate about global warming.

So, this blog will now have a Phenology Category. I can't promise to document phenology every day, since I don't even have access to the Internet on most days, but I'll try to log nature and weather notes.