July 27, 2012 Beauty is in the Eye

C. and I took an ecotour of a section of the Mississippi along eastern Iowa last night along with a dozen members of my reading group and a few of their partners. With our naturalist tour guide who navigated the pontoon boat, we spotted a half dozen great blue heron during our 90-minute ride. Each time we came close to one of these introverted creatures, the group issued a pleased “Ahh!” while the bird slowly spread its wings, revealing blues and grays, and meandered to a perch further down the river.

When we spotted a few turkey vultures drifting lazily above, someone said "They’re so ugly.” Another person quipped “Their breath must really stink” after the guide reminded us they eat carrion, serving as nature's clean-up crew. She also told us that if a vulture is in danger, it will vomit on its predator, stinging its eyes long enough for the vulture to fly away. Pretty crafty if you ask me, and personally, I love the sight of their fringed wings riding the wind current.

I’ll admit that the sight of hundreds of double-crested cormorants nesting in trees on an island in the Mississippi did give me an eerie feeling. There were so many of them, and their bodies seemed too heavy for perching on trees.  

The tour guide defended the double-crested cormorants. “They’re considered ugly by some, but they have the most beautiful turquoise eyes.” When I googled “cormorant eyes” today, I was indeed struck by the intricate beauty that I saw in several photos. What a color palate Mother Nature uses with that brilliant combination of blue, turquoise, and yellow!

We can assign our hierarchies to nature’s creatures, but nature just…is.

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