More Life Lessons from Nature

My last post mentioned a few life lessons I’ve learned from experiences in the wild. I enjoy spending time outdoors and will be actively following American Kestrels at the Blue Grass Army Depot over the next several months for my master’s project. I’m looking forward to having something wild happen, since my experiences with military bases include being held up at gunpoint by an mp, almost getting bombed by an army plane doing practice runs, a day of agony fighting with thick, thorny shrubs, and walking through tick sea (thousands of seed ticks crawling all over me). In case you’re wondering, the hold-up occurred when a military cop became suspicious and entered the woods where I was practicing bird counts with a co-worker. The guard was accompanied by a German Shepherd, who looked very friendly but would apparently lunge for my throat if I reached to itch myself. I quickly launched myself at the guard, using my momentum to execute a double-pump side kick to the head and cushioning my fall by rolling into a somersault. My left hand whipped out some beef jerky to distract the dog and then I ran toward a nearby cliff with a waterfall and leapt off the edge like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. There’s a chance I may have exaggerated a few details. Because we can learn so much from the natural world, here are some more life lessons I’ve learned from nature.

Just to be clear, I love German Shepherds (Photo from

My experience with being held-up at gunpoint taught me that birders are viewed as dangerous by the military. Life lesson? Watching birds in the woods makes you fearsome and threatening. I also mentioned about being swarmed by thousands of seed ticks. The ticks were so bad, I had to remove my clothes and thrash around for several minutes. The ticks were so tiny it was hard to find them all and I used duck tape to remove them from my clothes. Since duct tape tends to rip arm hair off, I was forced to scratch off all the ticks I could from my body. I tried getting some birds to help me, but apparently they weren’t hungry. Lesson? Sometimes nature bites and sucks. Also, duct tape is the solution to many of life’s problems.

Another time I was doing an early-morning point count for birds, when a robin started barking and a Red-eyed Vireo started making strange, raspy noises. I looked up to see them chasing an Eastern Screech Owl. If you’re not familiar with screech owls, they are capable of killing and eating songbirds. Several other birds joined in on the harassment and the owl was forced to vacate the premises. Life lesson? Teaming up with others who are different than you can lead to accomplishing important goals and protecting your family.

American robin eating holly berries   

Left – American Robin, Right – Red-eyed Vireo © Jim McCree, Bangor, Maine, May 2012.

Eastern Screech Owl from the World Bird Sanctuary.

While watching my kestrels (and other birds of prey through webcams), I’ve noticed that the parents are very attentive to their young and will spend countless hours hunting for food to satisfy the raging appetites of the chicks. Life lesson? Feed your children well and they will grow up to be efficient killers great members of society. I also think about how male penguins will protect eggs from the frigid Antarctic weather and how some animals will give their lives to defend their young. Life lesson? God’s creation gives us examples of what true love and devotion looks like. Of course there are exceptions, like the cowbirds which conserve energy by dropping their eggs off in the nests of other birds. Life lesson? Give all your kids up for adoption and let others take care of them so that you are full of energy. Another life lesson is that you should probably not take everything I write seriously.

Click here to see an example of good parenting by a kestrel

I’m going to write one more post on life lessons from nature this week, but for now, I encourage you to enjoy the beauty of creation and spend time outdoors! Watch the behavior of the animals you encounter and you might be surprised what you learn. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch a webcam of Peregrine Falcons feeding their chicks.

Peregrine falcon feeding three small chicks at nest




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