Quotes on Nature
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.
– Robert Frost (1874-1963), American poet, in his poem Mending Wall, 1914
Over time, stone walls are covered by large moss cushions, and they often constitute valuable habitats for many different plants and animals. These walls are both from Sweden, from Halltorps Hage, Öland (top) and Kristianopel, Blekinge. In the bottom picture, common polypody (Polypodium vulgare) also grows on the wall, while the fallen leaf is from Norway maple (Acer platanoides). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
”On Hirsholmen [one of a group of islets in northern Kattegat, Denmark] there used to be a community, complete with a school and everything. (…) It is a brilliant bird locality, also called ‘Isles of the black guillemots.’ This little, blackish-brown auk with a large white wing-patch and bright red legs is present here as never before. Anyone can see them, when the boat lays to in the tiny harbour. If you arrive in the morning, black guillemots are swarming around the stone jetties, in which they breed. (…) For hundreds of years, the sandvich tern has been constantly present on this island, breeding in the thousands.”
– Jens Gregersen (b. 1952), Danish artist and author, in his book Årets ring. Fuglene og landet (’Circle of the Year. Birds and landscape’), 2008.
The quote Isles of the black guillemots refers to a Danish book, entitled De Sorte Tejsters Øer, written by C.A. Rasmussen and published in 1932
The black guillemot (Cepphus grylle) breeds abundantly on the stone jetties in the tiny Hirsholm harbour. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
” For hundreds of years, the sandvich tern has been constantly present on this island, breeding in the thousands.” – Sandvich tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis), Hirsholm, 2017. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Long ago, two travellers, Tissiak and her husband Tokoyee, were quarrelling with each other. He became so enraged that he began beating her, which made her so angry that she hurled her basket of acorns at him. As they stood facing each other, they were turned to stone for their wickedness.”
– Ahwahneeche legend, relating the origin of some of the rock formations in Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California. A rock called Tissiak (today Half Dome) is stained with her tears, while her acorn basket (Basket Dome) lies upturned beside Tokoyee (North Dome). The English name Half Dome refers to the peculiar shape of this rock. One side is a sheer rock face, while the other three are smooth and round, making it appear like a dome, cut in half.
Read more about Yosemite National Park on the page Plants – Mountain plants: Plants of Sierra Nevada.
Half Dome and Merced River, Yosemite National Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
”Far into the 1800s, most botanists only recognized one species of butterfly-orchid [in Europe]. However, in 1862, Charles Darwin, in a masterly way, describes in his work: On the various Contrivancies by which Orchids are fertilised, that the tiny differences in the sexual organs are so significant that, biologically speaking, there must be two species (lesser and greater butterfly-orchid). (…) In the early 1800s, the brilliant biologist Salomon Th. Drejer, in Flora Danica, described a new butterfly-orchid, the long-spurred butterfly-orchid, which is larger than the more common lesser butterfly-orchid. It blooms two weeks earlier than lesser butterfly-orchid, despite growing in dark hardwood forests, as opposed to lesser butterfly-orchid, which grows in moors and dry grasslands.”
– Bernt Løjtnant (b. 1946), consultative biologist, in his and Jens Gregersen’s book Blomsternes Danmark (‘The Denmark of Flowers’), 1999
A spruce plantation near Hjortsballe Gavlbanker, central Jutland, Denmark, harbours a huge population of greater butterfly-orchid (Platanthera chlorantha), besides many other interesting plant species, such as southern marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. integrata var. junialis, also called D. praetermissa), and perhaps the largest population in Denmark of round-leaved wintergreen (Pyrola minor). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Lesser butterfly-orchid (Platanthera bifolia) is more slender than greater butterfly-orchid, growing in drier areas, such as heaths and dry grasslands, in these pictures from a military area near Jægerspris, northern Zealand, Denmark, together with heath spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata), common stitchwort (Stellaria graminea), and common sorrel (Rumex acetosa), among others. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Today, the long-spurred butterfly-orchid (Platanthera bifolia ssp. latiflora) is regarded as a subspecies of lesser butterfly-orchid, growing in forests. As its name implies, it has a very long spur, which is almost completely straight. This one was photographed in the Vrata Valley, Triglavski National Park, Slovenia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Morning has broken like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
– Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965), English poet and children’s author, text written to a traditional Scottish Bunessan hymn, first appearing with English words in the second edition of Songs of Praise, 1931. The editor, Percy Dearmer, had asked Farjeon “to make a poem to fit the lovely Scottish tune.” The song was popularized by British singer Cat Stevens, alias Yusuf (born 1948).
The following 8 pictures show dawn at various places around the world.
Hindu Brahmin, greeting the sun at dawn, Ganges River, Varanasi, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sunrise behind the peak of Annapurna II (7939 m), central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Traffic at dawn, Bahawalpur, Sind, Pakistan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sunrise behind a giant baobab (Adansonia digitata), Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. Read more about this species on the page Plants: Ancient and huge trees. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sunrise behind Gunung Abang (2155 m), the third-highest mountain on Bali, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Early in the morning, sunshine is beginning to penetrate fog near the town of Weining, Guizhou Province, China. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Morning sky above Lake Mono, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Condensed exhaust from a jet plane is reddened by the rising sun, but not the cloud above. – Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Sabine’s gulls are moderately irascible, performing a reserved attack, while displaying superb elegance. Their voices are sharp and reserved as those of terns. Their flight is soft and elegant, butterfly-like as that of the little gull. [Hydrocoloeus minutus] Grafically, too, they are magnificent, displaying a staunch colour scheme. I am referring to their hood, which is of a unique colour; steel-violet, I would call it. Around the eye is a succulent red colour, repeated around the gape. The yellow point of the bill is a gradual dissolvement of a dark bill colour.”
– Jens Gregersen (b. 1952), Danish artist and author, in his book Arktisk sommer (‘Arctic Summer’, published in Danish), 2014
Sabine’s gulls (Xema sabini) on their breeding ground, Kosa Ruskaya Koshka (‘Russian Cat’s Spit’), Chukotka, Siberia. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“(…) the racket-tailed drongo is a never-ending source of pleasure and interest for, in addition to being the most courageous bird in our jungles, he can imitate to perfection the calls of most birds and of one animal, the cheetal [spotted deer, Axis axis], and he has a great sense of humour. Attaching himself to a flock of ground-feeding birds – junglefowl, babblers, or thrushes – he takes up a commanding position on a dead branch and, while regaling the jungle with his own songs and the songs of other birds, keeps a sharp look-out for enemies in the way of hawks, cats, snakes, and small boys armed with catapults, [the author’s reference to himself] and his warning of the approach of danger is never disregarded. His services are not disinterested, for in return for protection, he expects the flock he is guarding to provide him with food. His sharp eyes miss nothing, and the moment he sees that one of the birds industriously scratching up or turning over the dead leaves below him has unearthed a fat centipede or a juicy scorpion he darts at it screaming like a hawk, or screaming as a bird of the species he is trying to dispossess does when caught by a hawk. Nine times out of ten he succeeds in wresting the prize from the finder, and returning to his perch kills and eats the titbit at his leisure, and having done so continues his interrupted song.”
– Jim Corbett (1875-1955), hunter, writer, and conservationist, in his book Jungle Lore, 1953
Greater racket-tailed drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), feeding on flowers of a coral tree (Erythrina stricta), Periyar National Park, Kerala, South India. This picture clearly shows, why the bird is called ‘racket-tailed drongo’. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
”A genuine Danish term, [rather than the American ’Indian Summer’] describing the late return of the summer, is ’Flying Summer’. On calm and sunny days, the stubble fields are covered in myriads of young spiders’ webs, creating a transparent silk carpet, as far as the eye can reach. And it reaches far on a glass-clear September afternoon.”
– Jens Gregersen (b. 1952), Danish artist and author, in his book Årets ring. Fuglene og landet (’Circle of the Year. Birds and landscape’), 2008
”(…) myriads of young spiders’ webs, creating a transparent silk carpet, as far as the eye can reach.” – Nature Reserve Tipperne, Ringkøbing Fjord, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
”In June and early July there will be the delicate, three-petaled flowers of the mariposa lily. This plant has a bulb-shaped root that tastes a great deal like a potato. Native Americans used it widely as a food source, as did thousands of hungry Mormon settlers in Utah, who were so thankful for its presence in those early years that they ended up making it the Utah state flower.”
– Gary Ferguson (b. 1956), American author, in his book Rocky Mountain Walks, 1993
Calochortus (from the Greek kalos = beautiful, and chortos = grass) is a genus of lilies, almost exclusively found in the western United States. It can be divided into three distinct groups: mariposa tulips, or mariposa lilies, which have open, wedge-shaped petals; globe lilies with globe-shaped flowers; and cat’s ears and star tulips, which have erect, pointed petals. The following five pictures show various types of Calochortus lilies.
Kennedy’s mariposa tulip (Calochortus kennedyi) comes in two colour forms, red and yellow. Both pictures were taken in Arizona. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Arizona mariposa tulip (Calochortus ambiguus), Mazatzal Mountains, Arizona. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
White globe lily (Calochortus albus), Point Lobos State Park, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The flower of elegant cat’s ear (Calochortus elegans) does indeed resemble a hairy cat’s ear. – Leggett, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Behold, there he is standing behind our wall,
Gazing through the windows,
Looking through the lattice.
Until the cool of the day,
When the shadows flee away,
Turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle,
Or a young stag on the mountains of Bether.
Song of Solomon, 2:9, 2:17.
“Turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle.” – Gujarat gazelle (Gazella christii) in morning light, Rajasthan, India (top), and southern gerenuk (Litocranius walleri), Samburu National Park, Kenya. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Of birds there were many varieties, and of flowers there was a great profusion, the most beautiful of which was the white butterfly orchid. These orchids hang down in showers and veil the branch or the trunk of the tree, to which their roots are attached. One of the most artistic nests I have ever seen was that of a Himalayan black bear, made in a tree, on which orchids were growing.”
– Jim Corbett (1875-1955), British author, hunter, and conservationist, in his book The Temple Tiger, And More Man-eaters of Kumaon, 1954
“These orchids hang down in showers…” – The orchid, which Corbett is talking about, is shining coelogyne (Coelogyne nitida), here photographed in the Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal (both). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“To me, the extirpation of an animal species is a criminal offence, in the same way as the destruction of anything we cannot recreate or replace, such as a Rembrandt or the Acropolis.”
– Gerald Durrell (1925-1995), British writer and environmentalist, in his book A Zoo in my Luggage, 1960
Are elephants and rhinos going to be the next large animals to be extirpated because of people’s thoughtlessness and greed? – These pictures show African elephants (Loxodonta africana), drinking from a waterhole in Etosha National Park, Namibia (top), and black rhinos (Diceros bicornis), greeting each other, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The woods are lovely,
Dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
– Robert Frost (1874-1963), American poet, in his poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, 1922
Frozen pond, Massachusetts, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“… a great deal of U.S. Forest Service land is designated as ‘multiple-use’, which is generously interpreted to allow any number of boisterous activities – mining, oil, and gas extraction; ski resorts (137 of them); condominium developments; snowmobiling; off-road vehicle scrambling; and lots and lots and lots of logging – that seem curiously incompatible with woodland serenity.”
– William Bryson (b. 1951), American writer, in his book A Walk in the Woods, 1998
Transportation of coniferous logs, Vernon Lake, Vancouver Island, Canada. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“No one who looks into a gorilla’s eyes – intelligent, gentle, vulnerable – can remain unchanged, for the gap between ape and human vanishes; we know that the gorilla still lives within us. Do gorillas also recognize this ancient connection?”
– George B. Schaller (b. 1933), German-American biologist and environmentalist, in his article “Gentle Gorillas, Turbulent Times”, National Geographic, 188 (4): 66, 1995
Resting female mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei), Bwindi National Park, Uganda. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The wintry hedge was black
The green grass was not seen;
The birds did rest
On the bare thorn’s breast,
Whose roots, beside the pathway track,
Had bound their folds o’er many a crack
Which the frost had made between.
– Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), British poet, in his poem The cold earth slept below, 1815
“The wintry hedge was black…” – Hedge of pruned poplars (Populus) in winter, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“One of the creatures that intrigued and irritated me most was the dung beetle. I would lie on my stomach with Roger, my dog, squatting like a mountain of black curls, panting, by my side, watching two shiny black dung beetles, each with a delicately curved rhino horn on its head, rolling between them (with immense dedication) a beautifully shaped ball of cow dung. To begin with I wanted to know how they managed to make the ball so completely round. I knew from my own experiments with clay and Plasticine that it was extremely difficult to do, however hard you rubbed and manipulated the material, yet the dung beetles, with only their spiky legs as instruments, devoid of calipers or any other aid, managed to produce these lovely balls of dung, as round as the moon.”
– Gerald Durrell (1925-1995), British writer and environmentalist, in his book Birds, Beasts and Relatives, 1969
Dung beetles, making balls from horse dung, Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“(…) yet the dung beetles, with only their spiky legs as instruments (…) managed to produce these lovely balls of dung, as round as the moon.” – This dung beetle is rolling a dung ball towards its nesting hole, where it will bury it and lay eggs in it. – Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In Ancient Egypt, Khepri was a solar deity, connected with the dung beetle, or scarab beetle (Scarabaeus sacer), which was sacred, because these beetles roll balls of dung across the ground – an act that the Egyptians saw as a symbol of the forces, which move the sun across the sky. Dung beetles became very popular as amulets and impression seals, called scarab, and they were often depicted on temples, graves etc.
This picture shows cartouches with reliefs in the Death Temple of Queen Hatsepsut, depicting dung beetles, a falcon (which was a symbol of the god Horus), an ox, a barn owl (Tyto alba), a bee, a pintail (Anas acuta), a sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus), and a horned viper (Cerastes cornutus), besides various tools and other items. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“As I stepped clear of this giant slate, I looked behind me over my right shoulder and – looked straight into the tigress’s face. (…) Her head, which was raised a few inches off her paws, was eight feet (measured later) from me, and on her face was a smile similar to that one sees on the face of a dog welcoming his master home after a long absence.
Two thoughts flashed through my mind: one, that it was up to me to make the first move, and the other, that the move would have to be made in such a manner as not to alarm the tigress or make her nervous.
The rifle was in my right hand, held diagonally across my chest, with the safety-catch off, and in order to get it to bear on the tigress, the muzzle would have to be swung round three-quarters of a circle.
The movement of swinging round the rifle, with one hand, was begun very slowly, and hardly perceptibly, and when a quarter of a circle had been made, the stock came in contact with my right side. It was now necessary to extend my arm, and as the stock cleared my side, the swing was very slowly continued. My arm was now at full stretch and the weight of the rifle was beginning to tell. Only a little further now for the muzzle to go, and the tigress – who had not once taken her eyes off mine – was still looking up at me, with the pleased expression still on her face. (…) the movement was completed at last, and as soon as the rifle was pointing at the tigress’s body, I pressed the trigger.
(…) For a perceptible fraction of time the tigress remained perfectly still, and then, very slowly, her head sank on to her outstretched paws, while at the same time a jet of blood issued from the bullet-hole. The bullet had injured her spine and shattered the upper portion of her heart.”
– Jim Corbett (1875-1955), British author, hunter, and conservationist, in his book Man-eaters of Kumaon, 1944
“(…) on her face was a smile similar to that one sees on the face of a dog welcoming his master home after a long absence.” – Tigress (Panthera tigris), Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
”The fragrant growth of pasque flowers and red clover in the meadow surrounded my small person like a heavenly wave, while I stormed ahead, not being stopped by even the widest ditches, and when finally I reached the brook, lying like a wonderful and breath-taking carpet of rolling velvet and satin in front of me, my swelling boy’s heart was filled with an inexplicable happiness (…).”
– Jeppe Aakjær (1866-1930), Danish poet, in his autobiography Fra min Bitte-Tid (‘From my Tiny-Time’), 1928
”The fragrant growth of pasque flowers and red clover (…)” – Common pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris), Beijershamn, Öland, Sweden. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
”(…) a wonderful and breath-taking carpet of rolling velvet and satin.” – Stream with aquatic plants, Connetquot River State Park, Long Island, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“(…) a herd of buffalo, one hundred and twenty-nine of them, came out of the morning mist under a copper sky, one by one, as if the dark and massive, iron-like animals with the mighty horizontally swung horns were not approaching, but were being created before my eyes and sent out as they were finished.”
– Karen Blixen (1885-1962), Danish author, in her book Out of Africa, 1937
A herd of African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in morning mist, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
”Thus I recognize many a tree, many a heather-covered hill, and even the dead boulders, which stand here unchanged for millennia, watching one generation after another grow up and vanish.”
– Steen Steensen Blicher (1782-1848), Danish poet, in his short-story Brudstykker af en Landsbydegns Dagbog (’Fragments of the Diary of a Parish Clerk’), 1824
Damestenen (‘Lady’s Boulder’), or Hesselagerstenen (‘The Hesselager Boulder’), Funen, is Denmark’s largest erratic boulder, left here by a glacier during the last Ice Age. It measures 45 m circumference, volume c. 370 m3, weight c. 1000 tons. – As legend has it, an ogress, living on the island of Langeland, who was annoyed by the tolling bells of Svindinge Church, hurled this huge boulder, aiming at the church spire, but missed. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Slingestenen (‘The Sling Boulder’), another erratic boulder, Paradisbakkerne, Bornholm, Denmark. – According to legend, this boulder, too, was hurled at a church. An ogre, living on the islet of Christiansø, aimed at Bodil’s Church, using a silver cord, which left an indent around the boulder. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“A grove of giant redwood or sequoias should be kept just as we keep a great and beautiful cathedral.”
– Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), American president 1901-1909
The magnificent giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) are presented in detail on the page Plants: Ancient and huge trees.
Giant sequoias, Sequoia National Park, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“A hundred divine epochs would not suffice to describe all the marvels of the Himalaya.”
– Sanskrit proverb
An almost Full Moon, rising behind the sacred mountain of Machhapuchhare (‘Fishtail Peak’) (6,993 m), Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Early in the morning, fair-weather clouds are passing above the peak of Thamserku (6,608 m), Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Changabang (6,864 m) is a striking white granite mountain, situated in Nanda Devi National Park, Uttarakhand, India. This national park comprises a wilderness area, parts of which are closed to the public. In the foreground, old-man’s-beard lichens (Usnea) are draped around branches of a Himalayan birch (Betula utilis). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Morning sun penetrates a thick layer of clouds, which almost hides the peak of Annapurna III (7,555 m), seen from the Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. (…) How can you buy or sell the sky – the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. (…) We do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water. (…) Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. (…) When the buffaloes are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the views of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires, where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone.”
– Part of a speech, allegedly given to the American President, in 1854, by Duwamish chief Si’ahl (Sealth, or Seattle) (c. 1786-1866). There is a great deal of controversy surrounding this speech, and many scholars question the authenticity of it. To me, however, it is not so important who gave the speech – under all circumstances it is of great poetic beauty.
Landscape Arch is a natural bridge in Arches National Park, Utah. The cause of these bridges are thick layers of salt, deep in the underground. These layers are unstable because of the tremendous weight of sediments, resting on them. The layers sometimes move, causing the rocks in the overlaying sediments to crack, often along parallel lines. In these cracks, alternating temperatures loosen small bits of rock, which are removed by rain and wind. In some places, underlying, softer sediments are eroded away, leaving natural bridges of harder material.
The slender and fragile Landscape Arch may fall anytime. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
And I serve the fairy queen
To dew her orbs upon the green,
The cowslips tall her pensioners be,
In their gold coats spots you see,
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their saviours,
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.
– From A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by British poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616), in which a mischievous puck, or spirit, Robin Goodfellow, meets a fairy, asking her what she is doing. Modified into today’s English, she says:
I serve the fairy queen,
Adding dew drops to her flowers in the grass.
The tall cowslips are her servants.
In their golden coats you can see spots.
Those are rubies, gifts from the fairies.
Their sweet smell comes from those freckles.
Now I must go to find some dewdrops,
And hang a pearl earring on every cowslip flower.
Cowslip (Primula veris) is dealt with in detail on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry. Many other primrose species are presented on the page Plants: Primroses.
Cowslip in morning light, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“The Sioux tribes (…) stalked buffalo and dried and pulverized the meat and mixed it with bone-marrow grease and wild berries and packed it in buffalo skin bags. The pemmican lasted indefinitely and had ten times the nutrient value of fresh meat. Tanned bison hides gave the Sioux shelters and bedding, moccasins, leggings, shields, boats, buckets, even vessels to boil food in. Horn and bone gave spikes, drills, knives, scrapers, axes, and spoons. Ribs and jawbones provided children with snowsleds. The hooves furnished glue, the scat heat. When a Sioux finished with a buffalo, he had used all of it, even its spirit, for it was the bearded buffalo (…) that stood at the heart of the rituals and religion of the Plains Indians.”
– William Least Heat-Moon, also known as William Lewis Trogdon (born 1939), American author, in his book Blue Highways – A Journey into America, 1982
“Thirty years ago, millions of the great unwieldy animals existed on this continent. Innumerable droves roamed, comparatively undisturbed and unmolested (…) Many thousands have been ruthlessly and shamefully slain every season for the past twenty years or more by white hunters and tourists merely for their robes, and in sheer wanton sport, and their huge carcasses left to fester and rot, and their bleached skeletons to strew the deserts and lonely plains.”
– In the Prime of the Buffalo, Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine, 14 (83), p. 515, 1889
American bison (Bos bison), Badlands National Park, South Dakota, United States. The lower picture shows a bull, rubbing on a fence. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Huge heaps of buffalo hides, Dodge City, Kansas, 1874. (Photo: Public domain)
“By this time, the sun was driving broad golden spokes through the lower branches of the mango trees; the parakeets and doves were coming home in their hundreds; the chattering, grey-backed Seven Sisters, talking over the day’s adventures, walked back and forth in twos and threes almost under the feet of the travelers; and shufflings and scufflings in the branches showed that the fruit bats were ready to go out on their night-picket. Swiftly the light gathered itself together, painted for an instant the faces and the cart-wheels and the bullocks’ horns as red as blood. Then the night fell, changing the touch of the air, drawing a low, even haze, like a gossamer veil of blue, across the face of the country and bringing out, keen and distinct, the smell of wood-smoke and cattle and the good scent of chapaties, baked on ashes. The evening patrol hurried out of the police station with important coughings and reiterated orders; and a live charcoal ball in the cup of a wayside carter’s hookah glowed red while Kim’s eye mechanically watched the last flicker of the sun on the brass tweezers.”
– Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), English writer, in his novel Kim, 1901
Ox-cart and evening shadows, S Pakistan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Jungle babblers (Turdoides striata) are gregarious birds, which forage in family groups of six to ten birds, a habit which has given this species the popular name of ‘Seven Sisters.’ – This bird is enjoying the evening sun in Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dewfall on the first grass.
– Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965), English poet and children’s author, text written to a traditional Scottish Bunessan hymn, first appearing with English words in the second edition of Songs of Praise, 1931. The editor, Percy Dearmer, had asked Farjeon “to make a poem to fit the lovely Scottish tune.” The song, whose opening line begins with the words Morning has broken, was popularized by British singer Cat Stevens, alias Yusuf (born 1948).
Silent rain, falling on a red ginger (Alpinia purpurata), Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. This plant is native to the archipelago east of New Guinea. It is widely cultivated in the Tropics due to its showy red bracts. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Raindrops, clinging to a common burnet-saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga), near Berchtesgaden, southern Germany. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Morning dew in grass and spider’s web, Jughandle State Park, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“The woodchuck (Arctomys monax) of the bleak mountains is a very different sort of mountaineer – the most bovine of rodents, a heavy eater, fat, aldermanic in bulk and fairly bloated, in his high pastures, like a cow in a clover field. One woodchuck would outweigh a hundred chipmunks, and yet he is by no means a dull animal. In the midst of what we regard as storm-beaten desolation he pipes and whistles right cheerily, and enjoys long life in his skyland homes.”
– John Muir (1838-1914), Scottish-American writer and environmentalist, in his book My First Summer in the Sierra, 1911
In the days of John Muir, it seems, the highland marmot, or woodchuck, was regarded as the same species as the lowland woodchuck, or groundhog, Arctomys monax, now named Marmota monax. Today, however, the highland marmot is regarded as a separate species, the yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris).
Yellow-bellied marmot, resting on a rock, Sequoia National Park, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
‘Our sun has become cold,
We are at the mercy of winter
And dark days.
But now the decline has come to an end
And there is a gleam of hope,
Yes, a gleam of hope,
Because the sun has turned,
And now the light and the long days are returning.’
– Johannes V. Jensen (1873-1950), Danish writer, in his poem Solhvervssang (’Solstice Song’), 1917
Mute swans (Cygnus olor) resting on ice, waiting for milder weather, Roskilde Fjord, Zealand, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“So many things die in Africa, and many more shall die. But not everything should become deserts, farms, villages, cities, and empty, dry savannas. In at least one small area the world should remain as wonderful as it was created, so that black and white people can fold their hands here in silent worship. Serengeti shall not die.”
– Bernhard Grzimek (1909-1987), German zoologist and environmentalist, in his and his son Michael Grzimek’s book Serengeti Shall Not Die, 1960
Rain, falling on rocky outcrops, named Simba Kopjes, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
During their annual migration, white-bearded wildebeests (Connochaetes mearnsi) and plains zebras (Equus quagga ssp. boehmi) quench their thirst in the Grumeti River, Serengeti National Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Should I, once again, for God knows which time, write about the completely mindless excesses of an animal called the human being, about the immense filth, created by the most dangerous animal in the world?”
– Claus Bering (1919-2001), Danish artist and writer, in his book Grønbenede rørhøns (’Moorhens’), 1974
Scrapped and stacked cars, Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Now the Elder spreads its cool Hands towards the Summer Moon.”
– Johannes V. Jensen (1873-1950), Danish writer, in his poem Envoi, 1921
Zealand, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Here in the Smokies (…) the National Park Service in 1957 decided to ‘reclaim’ Abrams Creek (…) for rainbow trout, even though rainbow trout had never been native to Abrams Creek. To that end, biologists dumped several drums of a poison called rotenone into fifteen miles of creek. Within hours, tens of thousands of dead fish were floating on the surface like autumn leaves. Among the thirty-one species of Abrams Creek fish that were wiped out was one called the smoky madtom, which scientists had never seen before. Thus, Park Service biologists managed the wonderfully unusual accomplishment of discovering and eradicating in the same instant a new species of fish.”
– William Bryson (b. 1951), American writer, in his book A Walk in the Woods, 1998
Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Natural beauty of a country is a national treasure, from which generation after generation shall benefit through centuries. One single generation can destroy it; not dozens of generations can restore it.”
– Carl Wesenberg-Lund (1867-1955), Danish zoologist, in his book Bondelandets Fauna (’Farmland Fauna’), 1927
Fortunately, it is not quite as bad, as Wesenberg-Lund predicted. In later years, in Denmark and other countries, a number of drained lakes and other wetlands have been restored, which today harbour a rich wildlife.
Lake Selsø, Zealand, Denmark, was re-established in 1996. This picture shows a view over this lake from Selsø Church, with blooming marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris) and a colony of great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo ssp. sinensis). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Indeed, I think that anyone not fond of elephants cannot be of sound mind.”
– Peter Matthiessen (1927-2014), American writer and environmentalist, in his book Sand Rivers, 1981
Elephants are described in detail on the page Animals: Rise and fall of the mighty elephants.
This bull savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, is waving his ears, indicating his annoyance with the presence of our vehicle. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Asian elephant cow (Elephas maximus) with a small calf in a breeding centre near Chitwan National Park, southern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
– Robert Frost (1874-1963), American poet, in his poem Nothing gold can stay, 1923
Flowers and new leaves of field maple (Acer campestre), Zealand, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Kunwar Singh was by caste a Thakur, and the headman of Chandni Chauk village. (…) What endeared him to me was the fact that he was the best and the most successful poacher in Kaladhungi, and a devoted admirer of my eldest brother Tom, my boyhood’s hero.
(…) It was now Tom’s turn to shoot, and to shoot in a hurry, for the pigs were fast approaching the tree jungle, and getting out of range. Standing four-square, Tom raised his rifle, and as the two shots rang out, the pigs, both shot through the head, went over like rabbits. Kunwar Singh’s recital of this event invariably ended up with: ‘And then I turned to Budhoo, that city-bred son of a low-caste man, the smell of whose oiled hair offended me, and said, “Did you see that, you, who boasted that your sahib would teach mine how to shoot? Had my sahib wanted to blacken the face of yours he would not have used two bullets, but would have killed both pigs with one”.’ Just how this feat could have been accomplished, Kunwar Singh never told me, and I never asked, for my faith in my hero was so great that I never for one moment doubted that, if he had wished, he could have killed both pigs with one bullet.”
– Jim Corbett (1875-1955), British author, hunter, and conservationist, in his book My India, 1952
“The pigs were fast approaching the tree jungle, and getting out of range.” – Wild boar (Sus scrofa), Ranthambhor National Park, Rajasthan, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“When we hear his call [the crane] we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.”
– Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), American writer and environmentalist, in his book Marshland Elegy, 1937
The sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) is dealt with on the page Animals: Sandhill cranes are a threat to Siberian breeding birds.
Cranes often call simultaneously, here Eurasian cranes (Grus grus) at Lake Hornborgasjön, Sweden. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
During their spring migration in March-April, about half a million sandhill cranes – c. 80% of the total population – spend the night on sand bars in the Platte River, Nebraska. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Conversation on the mountain
You ask why I stay on the green mountain?
I smile, but do not answer, my heart is at peace.
A peach blossom is carried far off by a flowing stream,
In this world apart from the human world.
– Li Bai (Li Bo) (701-762), Chinese poet. This poem has been translated in various ways.
Clouds, illuminated by the morning sun, behind the jagged peaks of Lhotse (8511 m), Khumbu, E Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
(The white men) “have a mind to till the soil, and the love of possession is a disease with them. These people have made many rules that the rich may break, but the poor may not. (…) They claim this mother of ours, the earth, for their own and fence their neighbours away; they deface her with their buildings and their refuse.”
– Tatanka Iyothake (Sitting Bull) (1831-1890), Hunkpapa Lakota shaman
“These people have made many rules that the rich may break, but the poor may not.” – Sign, Long Island, New York. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“They claim this Mother of Ours, the earth, for their own and fence their neighbours away.” – Entrance gate to a ranch, Redford, Texas. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
– John Muir (1838-1914), Scottish-American writer and environmentalist, in his book Our National Parks, 1901
At dawn, sun beams spread star-like into space behind the sacred peak of Ama Dablam (6856 m), Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
His legs are like pillars of marble,
Set in sockets of finest gold.
His posture is stately,
Like the noble cedars of Mount Lebanon.
Song of Solomon, 5:15.
Lebanon cedars (Cedrus libani), near Ermenek, Toros Dağlari (Taurus Mountains), Turkey. This tree is native to the eastern Mediterranean, found in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.”
– Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), American writer, in his book Walden, 1854
The ‘woods’, however, were not just any woods. In his book A Walk in the Woods (1998), American author Bill Bryson writes: “The inestimably priggish and tiresome Thoreau thought that nature was splendid, splendid indeed, as long as he could stroll to town for cakes and barley wine, but when he experienced real wilderness, on a visit to Katahdin [a mountain in Maine] in 1846, he was unnerved to the core. This wasn’t the tame world of overgrown orchards and sun-dappled paths that passed for wilderness in suburban Concord, Massachusetts, but a forbidding, oppressive, primeval country that was “grim and wild … savage and dreary,” fit only for “men nearer of kin to the rocks and wild animals as we.” – With the term “as we”, I (K.H.) guess that Thoreau meant ‘civilized’ people like himself.
Light and friendly forest: Hardwood forest in April, Clement Farm Conservation Area, Haverhill, Massachusetts, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Dark and threatening coniferous forest with moss-covered western hemlocks (Tsuga heterophylla), growing in a row on a fallen log, a so-called nursery log, on which they have found sufficient light to sprout. Western sword fern (Polystichum munitum) is growing on the forest floor. – Hoh Forest, Olympic National Park, Washington State, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“The mountains are enormous stones, cast by the gods of the Underworld into the garden of the Earth. The protective gods, however, do not allow them on flat surfaces.”
– Archimedes (c. 287-212 B.C.), Greek scientist
Sunrise behind Machhapuchhare (6993 m), Annapurna, C Nepal. In Nepali, the name of this mountain means ‘fishtail’ – thus named because of its twin peaks, which are connected by a curved ridge. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Over the blossoming virgin corn
With pollen-spotted faces
Chase one another in the brilliant breeze.
Over your fields of growing corn,
All day shall hang the thundercloud.
Over your field of growing beans
All day shall come the blessed rain!
– Hopi song
Needles of pitch pine (Pinus rigida) with raindrops, Pine Barrens, New Jersey, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“The owls appeared now, drifting from tree to tree as silently as flakes of soot, hooting in astonishment as the moon rose higher and higher, turning to pink, then gold, and finally riding in a nest of stars, like a silver bubble.”
– Gerald Durrell (1925-1995), British writer and environmentalist, in his book My Family and Other Animals, 1956
Full Moon and grazing cattle, western Nebraska, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“The concept of conservation is a far truer sign of civilization than that spoilation of a continent which we once confused with progress.”
– Peter Matthiessen (1927-2014), American writer and environmentalist, in his book Wildlife in America, 1959
Delicate Arch, in Arches National Park, Utah, is balancing precariously on the edge of an abyss, looking as if might fall any moment. In the background the La Sal Mountains. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower.”
– Albert Camus (1913-1960), French writer and philosopher
Gorgeous foliage of red maple (Acer rubrum). In autumn, the leaves turn orange, scarlet, or yellow – or sometimes all three colours on the same leaf. – Adirondacks, New York State, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sitting Alone on Jingting Mountain
Bird flocks vanish into the sky.
A lone cloud calmly drifts on.
We never tire of looking at each other,
Jingting Mountain and I.
– Li Bai (Li Bo) (701-762), Chinese poet. This poem has been translated in various ways.
Evening light on Merra Peak (6344 m), almost hidden behind clouds. – Kangchendzonga Conservation Area, E Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Japan and Hong Kong are steadily whittling away at the last of the elephants, turning their tusks (so much more elegant left on the elephant) into artistic carvings. In much the same way, the beautiful furs from leopard, jaguar, snow leopard, clouded leopard and so on, are used to clad the inelegant bodies of thoughtless and, for the most part, ugly women. I wonder how many would buy these furs, if they knew that on their bodies they wore the skin of an animal that, when captured, was killed by the medieval and agonizing method of having a red-hot rod inserted up its rectum so as not to mark the skin.”
– Gerald Durrell (1925-1995), British writer and environmentalist, in his book The Aye–Aye and I: A Rescue Mission in Madagascar, 1993
This mother leopard (Panthera pardus) is climbing a tree, in which her kitten is feeding on an impala (Aepyceros melampus). – Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
– Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), Danish poet
This little boy is blowing seeds off a dandelion (Taraxacum vulgare). – Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
– Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), American writer and environmentalist, in his book A Sand County Almanac, 1949
Following the introduction of modern, mechanized, chemical farming, the landscape in large parts of the world has been completely transformed, and people have lost their respect for – and close contact with – the soil. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Deep Peace of the running wave to you
Deep Peace of the flowing air to you
Deep Peace of the shining stars to you
Deep Peace of the quiet earth to you.
– Adapted from Gaelic runes.
Fallow field with thousands of common catchfly (Lychnis viscaria), Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“We have outsmarted ourselves, like greedy monkeys, and now we are full of dread.”
– Peter Matthiessen (1927-2014), American writer and environmentalist, in his book The Snow Leopard, 1978
Nuclear power plant, Krefeld, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
”Outside my window, some alders are growing so close to the edge of the water that their roots, like knotty old-man’s-fingers, cling to the pebbles on the shore, partly submerged in the water, even when the water level is low.”
– Gunnar Brusewitz (1924-2004), Swedish artist and writer, in his book Strandspegling. Naturupplevelser i tid och rum, 1979
These exposed roots of common alder, growing on a lake shore in central Jutland, Denmark, resemble “knotty old-man’s-fingers.” (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Animals have the right to be left in peace for their own sake. Every species ought to be able to live in its own way; it has the same right to exist as any other species.”
– Oluf Bang Winge (1855-1889), Danish writer and environmentalist, in his book Jægernes skadelige Dyr (‘The hunters’ harmful animals’), which was written in 1886, at a time when each and every species, which in any way could be regarded as a competitor to humans, was ruthlessly persecuted.
One of these species was the great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), which, during the 1800s, was persecuted all over Europe, partly because it was competing with fishermen, partly because its guano was destroying the trees, in which it was breeding.
The generic name Phalacrocorax is from the Greek phalakros (‘bald’) and korax (‘raven’), while the specific name carbo is Latin, meaning ‘coal’, thus ‘the coal-black, bald raven’, where bald refers to the white crown of the great cormorant (which, however, is feathered) during the breeding season.
These pictures are from Nature Reserve Vorsø, Denmark, where the great cormorant re-established itself during the 1940s, after being eradicated from the island – and from almost the entire country – in the 1800s. Read more about this species, and about Vorsø, on the page Vorsø on my mind. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Nature manages growth and expansion in the most ideal way – and, furthermore, a divine way!”
– Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish biologist
Crescent-leaved sundew (Drosera peltata), heavy with monsoon rain. This species is distributed in montane areas, from Western Himalaya across Southeast Asia to Australia. – Langtang National Park, C Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“And bending across the path as if saying prayers to welcome the dawn, were long grasses which were completely overpowered by the thick dew.”
– Grace Ogot (1930-2015), born Grace Emily Akinyi, Kenyan writer and politician, in her book Land without Thunder: Short Stories, 1968
Morning dew in grass, Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“(…) it is a beautiful bush, whose white cotton wads, especially against the light, brighten the brownish and somewhat autumn-dark fen.”
– Gunnar Brusewitz (1924-2004), Swedish artist and writer, in his book Strandspegling. Naturupplevelser i tid och rum (1979), about the bay willow (Salix pentandra), which, as opposed to most other willows, spreads its seeds late in the autumn.
In this picture from Jutland, Denmark, seeds of bay willow are sailing into the wind. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Down in the valley a couple of lions are roaring, and the bullfrogs are serenading, accompanied by the cicadas’ finely tuned violins.”
– Bror Blixen (1886-1946), Swedish playboy and big-game hunter
Golden cat in golden grass. – Male lion (Panthera leo), Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester,
Give the buried flower a dream.
– Robert Frost (1874-1963), American poet, in his poem To the Thawing Wind, 1913
Fence, covered in rime, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“For epochs to come the peaks will still pierce the lonely vistas, but when the last snow leopard has stalked among the crags, and the last markhor has stood on a promontory, his ruff waving in the breeze, a spark of life will have gone, turning the mountains into stones of silence.”
– George B. Schaller (b. 1933), German-American biologist and environmentalist, in his book Stones of Silence: Journeys in the Himalaya, 1980
Morning sun and shadows on eroded mountains, Shila River Valley, near Honupatta, Ladakh, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Flitting from flower to flower
Ever remains mine,
I lose the one
That is netted by me.
– Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Indian poet, in his collection of poems, Fireflies, 1928
Peacock pansy (Junonia almana), Pokhara, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“We amplify and beautify the centers of congregation for fast redoubling human populations without giving equivalent thought to the living space of Man’s fellow creatures, or to the soil and ground water.”
– Robert Cushman Murphy (1887-1973), American ornithologist and environmentalist, in his book Fish-shape Paumanok – Nature and Man on Long Island, 1964
View south from Empire State Building, Manhattan, New York City, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“How could intelligent beings seek to control a few unwanted species by a method that contaminated the entire environment and brought the threat of disease and death even to their own kind?”
– Rachel Carson (1907-1964), American marine biologist and environmentalist, in her book Silent Spring, 1962
Farmer, spraying chemicals in a field of cumin (Cuminum cyminum), Zainabad, Gujarat, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“Year after year, our scenic treasures are being plundered by what we call our advancing civilization. If we are not careful, we shall leave our children a legacy of billion-dollar roads leading nowhere except to other congested places like those they left behind.”
– Omar Nelson Bradley (1893-1981), American general and environmentalist, quoted in the book Fish-shape Paumanok – Nature and Man on Long Island, 1964
Traffic jam on a highway, near Kassel, Germany. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“It has always amazed me that these people who are trying to learn and understand the world around us before it is bulldozed out of existence, have to work on piteously low salaries or on minuscule and precarious grants, while they do one of the most important jobs in the world. For it is only by learning how the planet works that we will see what we are doing wrong and have a chance to save it and ourselves as well.”
– Gerald Durrell (1925-1995), British writer and environmentalist, in his book The Aye–Aye and I: A Rescue Mission in Madagascar, 1993
Scientists, ringing forest birds, in their primitive field camp, Bwamba National Park, Uganda. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Danish biologist Ib Krag Petersen has removed a raven chick (Corvus corax) from the nest to ring it. – Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
(Uploaded April 2016)
(Latest update March 2019)