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August 1, 2008 11:52 AM   Subscribe

Can you identify these common plants and animals? A study shows that increasingly, 9- to 11-year-old children can't. Quoth David Attenborough: "The wild world is becoming so remote to children that they miss out, and an interest in the natural world doesn't grow as it should. Nobody is going protect the natural world unless they understand it."
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] (164 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I couldn't identify most of them. Then again, I live in Ohio. Show me some cardinals and buckeye trees and I'll be all over it.
posted by cimbrog at 11:58 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Cool link. I have been mulling over doing something like this with the flora and fauna in my area. I always find one of the most unsettling things about travel is all the unfamiliar wildlife. In Texas, I can identify or at least have a name for most things I encounter on a daily basis, but when traveling, everything is new and different. I wonder how many children will miss out on this experience.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:58 AM on August 1, 2008


51% of children can identify bluebells? 88% can a woodlouse? Apparently 9-year-olds aren't the problem, I am. Though I do think the internet is to thank 90% being able to identify a badger.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:59 AM on August 1, 2008 [17 favorites]


Hey you kids, that thing you're standing on, it's called a lawn -- it's made up of grass -- get off it.
posted by wabbittwax at 11:59 AM on August 1, 2008 [13 favorites]


I felt dumb until I realized it was Anglo centrist, and that a lot of those animals are terrorists and dont live in America.
posted by BobbyDigital at 12:00 PM on August 1, 2008 [17 favorites]


The picture of a robin didn't look anything like the robins we have here in New York.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:01 PM on August 1, 2008 [7 favorites]


I did not do well, but in my defense, I am not a British child.
posted by Knappster at 12:01 PM on August 1, 2008


90% of kids correctly identified the badger. I suspect they also did well identifying mushrooms and snakes.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:01 PM on August 1, 2008 [14 favorites]


I've been living in New England on and off since 2002 and I'm still borderline illiterate when it comes to the flora. I feel vaguely ashamed of this.
posted by Kattullus at 12:02 PM on August 1, 2008


Seriously, you've got some crazy animals over there. Magpies? Daddy long legs with wings?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:02 PM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I didn't know a lot of those as I a lot of it is regional, but I do know that this is NOT an insect, it's a crustacean. They should fix that.
posted by DanielDManiel at 12:02 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think I only recognized about half of the lifeforms pictured. I was ok with the oak tree and the bigger animals like mooses and otters and badgers and frogs, but I don't know from birds and flowers and bugs.

I am a city boy and I make no apologies. Nature frightens me.
posted by wabbittwax at 12:03 PM on August 1, 2008


What bird is this?

An awesome one in a hilarious position.

Blue Tit (54% of children were correct)

Now you're just pulling my leg, as are 54% of your nation's filthy-mouthed children.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:04 PM on August 1, 2008 [14 favorites]


That ain't no robin or daddy-long-legs where I come from.
posted by dobbs at 12:04 PM on August 1, 2008


5 right, 10 wrong.

holy fuck, since when does a Robin Red Breast not have a red breast? Let's not even talk about the blue tit!
posted by shmegegge at 12:04 PM on August 1, 2008


The UK centrism here is hilarious. All us outdoorsy US citizens got a different shocking lesson from this!

But seriously, that is not a Daddy Long Legs. You are wrong.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:05 PM on August 1, 2008 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I should have mentioned it was regional. Did quoting Attenborough somehow not immediately have you reading the questions in a wonder-filled British accent?

I think I know how America will solve this problem: flash cards, and standardized testing.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 12:05 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


JaredSeth: The European Robin and the American Robin are unrelated.
posted by jedicus at 12:06 PM on August 1, 2008


Yeah, kinda weird. I went "elk," and it said, "deer," and I thought, "They sure do have some big-ass deer in the UK..."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:07 PM on August 1, 2008 [6 favorites]


The picture of a robin didn't look anything like the robins we have here in New York.

American and European Robins are quite different, having only the red breasts and being-birds in common. In addition, American Robins are Turdus migratorius, which is just another case of birds being goddamn hilarious.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:07 PM on August 1, 2008 [6 favorites]


Ah, the first half of the quiz was a lot easier. I know a danged frog when I see one. That's an elk. Kewt newt. But what's this? What's going on here? Do UK otters eat rats??
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:09 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Does identifying the rat the otter was dining on count in this test?
posted by hecho de la basura at 12:09 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I remember seeing a study where children scored nearly 100% identifying logos and recognizing corporate typefaces, but performed miserably when tested on trees, bugs, and birds. Lord knows I don't know even half of what my parents know, despite growing up in the same rural environment they did, but I'm doing my best to rectify that now because I can't help but think my own kids will be cheated of something special if their dad can't answer "What's that plant/animal called?" ten years from now.

Also, British robins and daddy-longlegses are different than NorAm ones.
And by different, I mean wrong.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:09 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


About forty percent of the kids don't know a frog when they see one? This will ruin some nursery tales.

and by the way, that is not a Robin, this is a Robin. ;)
posted by caddis at 12:10 PM on August 1, 2008


Four comments in, the predictable "get off lawn" line. It sometimes seems anything that suggests we improve education is considered old-fashioned and crotchety. How about we re-phrase the question posed in the FPP in such a way so to as avoid the "iz-our-children-learning" wisecracks: i.e., "we know many adults don't know enough about the natural world, or often even the basic taxonomical identities of everyday plants; would it not be a good idea to raise the bar to make kids as eco-literate and bio-literate as kids have ever been?"
posted by ornate insect at 12:10 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


And check out the crazy-ass Goldfinch they have over there. As opposed to our much more sedate Goldfinch.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:11 PM on August 1, 2008


I only got one wrong (I don't like flowers as I am a BOY), but I squarely blame my high level of nature exposure as a kid - we used to go camping a lot and do lots of nature/woodland/seaside/cliff path walks as that was all we could afford. I'm sure my peers that went to all the fancy foreign hotel trips to Spain, France and the like would be struggling.

I frequently get grief/abuse/disbelief from people that are surprised that someone who is as engineery as I am knowing what animals are what.
posted by Brockles at 12:11 PM on August 1, 2008


I can't name some of them, but I bet I could kill all of them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:14 PM on August 1, 2008 [25 favorites]


I'm 49, took two years of horticulture (tho that was about a quarter century ago) and I missed a whole bunch of them. Plants, not animals or bugs. And the oak tree pic...all i could hear was the Monty Python thing 'the larch. The larch.'
posted by merelyglib at 12:14 PM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


alternatively my friend's 3 year old kid just blows my mind, he can name off all the common birds in this area by their calls, and has an ever increasing grasp of most of the plants at his eye level... Course this is the same freaky kid you prefers raw tomatoes to ice cream so go figure.

It is not the kid's fault if they are nature illiterate, it is lazy or overworked adults. We need a society in which the can be an ok standard of living for a one income family. I believe strongly that nothing substitutes for having a constant, stable, loving parent that is available.
posted by edgeways at 12:15 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's hard for nature to compete for kids' attention when they have the option of playing video games in front of the air conditioner while scarfing down Ding Dongs and chugging soda by the liter. Everything in our culture is telling them to consume consume consume. The concept of preservation is completely foreign to them.
posted by HotPatatta at 12:16 PM on August 1, 2008


I think I know how America will solve this problem: flash cards, and standardized testing.

No. We will invade and kill off your impostor robins and daddy-long legs! What if they used those false credentials to get into our country?
posted by cimbrog at 12:17 PM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Phew... Now I don't feel so bad at getting only 4 or so correct (and that is a freakin' elk!)
posted by Debaser626 at 12:21 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seriously, that's a robin? Not like the ones that hang out in my yard. Also, that deer looks like a caribou, the whitetails we have around here look a lot different. The goldfinch....

Two countries seperated by a common language?
posted by fixedgear at 12:22 PM on August 1, 2008


Why are you people all wrong about Daddy Long Legs?

I'm in Vancouver and the place is lousy with them, or at least it will in another couple weeks, wings and all. And as far as I can tell, they exist solely to plump up the spiders, who don't even have to build webs of any skill or intricacy to catch them.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:24 PM on August 1, 2008


Please. I live in the City and I have no problem identifying rats, pigeons, and squirrels. And designer dogs.
posted by monospace at 12:26 PM on August 1, 2008


England and United States: separated by a common language and uncommon wildlife.
posted by Cranberry at 12:26 PM on August 1, 2008


edgeways: "alternatively my friend's 3 year old kid just blows my mind, he can name off all the common birds in this area by their calls, and has an ever increasing grasp of most of the plants at his eye level."

Ah, so the problem isn't a total lack of natural knowledge. The problem is an increase in the concentration of natural knowledge. It's commonly known that one tenth of one percent of the world's population are able to identify 80% of our flora and nearly 75% of fauna. Clearly, there must be an effort to redistribute this informational wealth!
posted by Plutor at 12:27 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think I got 2 right, and I love nature and support any effort to preserve it. What now?
posted by Vindaloo at 12:29 PM on August 1, 2008


Okay, I stand corrected on the robin issue.

For everybody bitching about the daddy long-legs though (and this one I knew), there's the daddy long-legs (technically a crane fly, which is probably what Keith Talent is talking about), the daddy long-legs spider, and the harvestman (also sometimes called a daddy long-legs).

I know it's strange, but I happen to like spiders (and rats and snakes). I'd make a damned good vampire.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:29 PM on August 1, 2008


Funny thread. I think we've proven that knowing the names (which vary by geographical region) of plants and animals isn't really very important.

I am out in nature all the time and while I know most flowers and trees, I couldn't name bird species. Why do I need to? (Unless I plan on being an ornithologist). I never learned no bird species in school.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:34 PM on August 1, 2008


Well, I got them all correct, and I'm not even British. Neener-neener-neener.
posted by briank at 12:35 PM on August 1, 2008


mrgrimm--I quite agree that there's no practical or immediate reason for most people today to know this information, since most people do not even work outdoors let alone work with plants and animals, but I think there is a real sense that, in the long-term and given the possible eco-suicide our species is currently committing (re: global warming, pollution, species eradication), it is in fact a good and sound idea to attempt to ensure some basic modicum of collective common knowledge regarding the environment is realized--if for nothing else than to reinforce the notion that we as a species are not, despite the outward appearances of how our society operates, disconnected (agriculturally, environmentally) from the world we live in.
posted by ornate insect at 12:41 PM on August 1, 2008


Metafilter: I never learned no bird species in school

I gave up after the first few. I just don't enjoy feeling dumb like I used to.
posted by Outlawyr at 12:47 PM on August 1, 2008


I hope the kids he was quizzing were from the same area as the animals in the test. Unfair! Sputter sputter.

I'm impressed 54% of the kids knew what a blue tit was.

Newts look like this.

Primroses look like this or possibly this.

This is an elk or something. Deer look like this.

That's not a daddy long legs- that's a mosquito hawk.

(Are woodlouses the same as sow bugs?)

Also, English robins are the cutest.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:50 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


At least they didn't ask children to name the "sneaky fucker".
posted by tybeet at 12:53 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Frog, berry, flower, lizard, badgerbadger, wet cat, bird, yodelling moose, bird, 'nother bird, black & white bird, flower, bug, roly-poly, tree.

How'd I do?
posted by Floydd at 12:53 PM on August 1, 2008 [8 favorites]


Regarding the elk:

The elk, or wapiti (Cervus canadensis), is one of the largest species of deer in the world and one of the largest mammals in North America and eastern Asia. In the deer family (Cervidae), only the moose, Alces alces (called an "elk" in Europe) is larger, and Cervus unicolor (the "Sambar" deer) can rival the elk in size. Wapiti are almost identical to red deer found in Europe, of which they were long believed to be a subspecies; however, mitochondrial DNA evidence from 2004 strongly suggests they are a distinct species.

They had the naturalists fooled for a few hundred years, so you can be forgiven for calling that ginormous deer an elk.

/The more you know...
posted by TungstenChef at 12:56 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


What insect is this? - A woodlouse is a crustacean, not an insect.

They are the same as sowbugs. We called them rollybugs when I was a kid.

(Wikipedia just told me there are over 3,000 known species of them. I had no idea.)
posted by wadefranklin at 1:00 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hey! We call them pillbugs here! I did get that right!

All right, you live for now, little pillbug. But don't let me catch you when I don't know your name again.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:06 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


They are the same as sowbugs. We called them rollybugs when I was a kid.

We called them sowbugs, too, but pronounced it "SAWbugs."

Other kids called them roley-poleys, but I always thought that sounded undignified.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:08 PM on August 1, 2008


Actually, I'm sitting here in my cubicle thinking the children did amazingly, almost unbelievably well -- and I was raised on a rural farm.

I realize this says more about me than it does about them...
posted by LordSludge at 1:09 PM on August 1, 2008


I would have done at least one better if they'd included Conkers. Now there's some flora I can stand behind.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 1:10 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am out in nature all the time and while I know most flowers and trees, I couldn't name bird species. Why do I need to? (Unless I plan on being an ornithologist).

Because they're cool! And they give you something to look at and contemplate while you're waiting at the bus stop, or whatever. In San Francisco, I've seen peregrines and redtails and Cooper's hawks and Swainson's hawks and Golden eagles and lots of other excellent birds. From my back porch the other day, I watched as a pair of peregrines hunted pigeons over the hospital half a block away.

/bird nerd rant
posted by rtha at 1:10 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Cat – dog – cow – horses – tree- flower – fishies* – bunnies – monkeys. I think that’s the ones my daughter knows, but she is two. We're working on it.

*Inc. whales
posted by Artw at 1:12 PM on August 1, 2008


The estrangement runs both ways. In another survey, 100% of woodland animals couldn't produce even the most rudimentary html code. This may not exercise David Attenborough, but let me tell you: when we've made the complete transition to our habitation pods and we begin prosecuting our war on nature in earnest, little animals aren't even going to know how to supplicate properly.

That's scary.
posted by felix betachat at 1:12 PM on August 1, 2008 [13 favorites]


Dear Americans, this is a robin.
posted by Artw at 1:13 PM on August 1, 2008


I did pretty well on the animals, but poorly on the plants, which doesn't surprise me because plants are my enemy.

A couple point of agreement with others upthread, though: It's a crustacean, not an insect, it's an elk, not a deer, and why is that otter eating a rat?
posted by quin at 1:14 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


felix betachat - I bet they use fucking tables for everything.
posted by Artw at 1:14 PM on August 1, 2008


Sure sure, but how many of those pictures were of replicants? Clearly, the children of the future will fare much better on that test.
posted by mark242 at 1:15 PM on August 1, 2008


Dear Americans, this is a robin.

Actually, I think I see where the problem comes from, American Robins and British Robins are apparently two different things.
posted by quin at 1:16 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


The otter isn't eating the rat! He just saved the rat from drowing! THEY LOVE EACH OTHER!

Anyway, when I lived in England, my school (Swainswick Primary, just outside Bath) had a little fair, and, in one tent, you could pay money to see a water otter. We paid and went in. On a table in the tent was a tea kettle.

Because it makes water 'otter.

To this day, this is why I hate the English.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:18 PM on August 1, 2008 [15 favorites]


This causes a lot of confusion and incredulity when it comes to Batmans sidekicks choice of name, I can tell you. “A small round hopping bird? That’s not really crimefighter cool is it?”

Oh and my daughter also knows "froggies".
posted by Artw at 1:18 PM on August 1, 2008


Dear Brits, our robin will kick that little thing's ass.

It had to be done.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:18 PM on August 1, 2008


Where I come from, a daddy long legs is a spider. A spider with long-ass legs that feasts on the screams of children.
posted by katillathehun at 1:29 PM on August 1, 2008


This is an elk or something. Deer look like this.

Red deer are huge compared to most deer, stags can stand up to 54 inches at the shoulder. White deer, like the one you linked to, stand 36-42 inches. It's big, but still a deer.


...woodlouses the same as sow bugs?

Wikipedia says yes. And they're pill bugs in my neck of the woods.
posted by bonehead at 1:31 PM on August 1, 2008


That's a Harvest man. Which is fairly creepy sounding too.
posted by Artw at 1:32 PM on August 1, 2008


You know, I always wondered if Batman wasn't a little embarrassed by Robin.

"Say, Boy Wonder. I've been meaning to have a little talk with you. How to begin? Let's see. Well, you know how I got started in the caped crusager business, of course. Yes, yes, parents killed, all that. And you know why I picked a bat as my symbol?

"Yes, that's right. Because it is a fearful image. Because I wanted to striked fear into the hearts of criminals. I wanted them to think that I was some monstrous creture that preys in the night. I wanted them to live in fear of this hooded, caped creature that seemed bulletproof, and able to fly, and had an unlimited supply of specialized weapons and tactics.

"Now, here's the thing. I've never told you how to dress, or what to call youself. If you're okay with bare legs and, like, elf boots and a sort of a Renaissance Faire topcoat, and, what are those things anyway, like, green panties? Well, if that's the look you want, I'm not going to stop you. And if you want to persist in naming youself after a thrush that eats caterpillars and berries, well, do that to. But I want you to ask yourself, except for a few criminals who have some sort of phobia about songbirds, is this really the sort of thing that you thinks strikes terror into the heart of the underworld? Because, frankly, I see you in that outfit, and I think 'gay Robin Hood.' Maybe that's just me. But I seriously don't think that Gotham's most wanted are cowering in terror, telling each other to watch out for a woodland nymph named after a common migratory bird.

"Now, don't give me that. What do you mean, we'll talk when I stop throwing around batarangs and using bat-cuffs? Those things are very menacing! Yes, yes, we've already talked about the Bat Shark Repellent, and I agreed that it was not a very good name choice. Listen, Dick, can we not make this about me ... ?"
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:33 PM on August 1, 2008 [14 favorites]


The "Nightwing" name and get-up isn't much better...
posted by Artw at 1:34 PM on August 1, 2008




What bird is this?

An awesome one in a hilarious position.

BEEFCAKE!
posted by TungstenChef at 1:38 PM on August 1, 2008


"Frog" was pretty inexact. That would be like calling the bluebells "flowers". So in that case I got a LOT more right.
posted by yeti at 1:43 PM on August 1, 2008


I confess to not recognizing a number of those plants and creatures, but I have to call foul on the oak tree. I can recognize an oak tree-- the leaves have big round lobes and it's got acorns on. A blurry photograph of a tree half a mile away, however, does not provide me with sufficient information.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:44 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Number 1 ... The Larch.
posted by Artw at 1:46 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not even the British Museum knows what to call this thing.
posted by ornate insect at 1:47 PM on August 1, 2008


I grew up calling woodlouses "potato bugs".
posted by yeti at 1:48 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dumb. Sure, I couldn't name 2/3 of those animals and plants. Can the guys who made that quiz tell me what weapons are most effective against each of the alien types in X-COM? No, no they cannot.
posted by Justinian at 1:48 PM on August 1, 2008


All I know is, if it weren't for the American Robin, the European Robins would all be speaking German by now.
posted by shmegegge at 1:48 PM on August 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


ROLLY. POLLIES.

That's what they are.

Not sowbugs or pillbugs or woodlouses. Rolly pollies.
posted by katillathehun at 1:53 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


To be serious for a moment, even though it hurts, I would be more interested in this quiz if it reported the most common incorrect responses.

If 49% of children call bluebells lavender, that's a lot less worrying than 49% calling bluebells sunflowers.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:02 PM on August 1, 2008


Not sowbugs or pillbugs or woodlouses. Rolly pollies.

This is a perennial debate and one which is unlikely to be solved here. Or elsewhere. All I can say is that, in 6th grade I ate one on a dare. It tasted like squirmy fingernails. For all his woodland lore and vocal talent, I guess I know at least one thing about nature that David Attenborough doesn't.
posted by felix betachat at 2:06 PM on August 1, 2008 [10 favorites]


I just finished my Montessori Elementary I (6-9 year olds) botany and zoology training last week, and we didn't focus on identifying specific animalsand plants, but rather discussing classification, parts of animals in specific families, stuff like that. I don't think you teach your kids to memorize a ton of plants and animals. I think you give them the basics, teach them to use a field guide, and provide both the guides and many opportunities to be outside and observe.
posted by booksherpa at 2:06 PM on August 1, 2008


Not even the British Museum knows what to call this thing.

That's a stinkbug. They coulda used me.
posted by jimmythefish at 2:07 PM on August 1, 2008


This is what I've always called a daddy longlegs. That other thing is a mosquito hawk or, if one unexpectedly flies into your face with an audible smacking sound, it's a Lovecraftian vision of evil that'll make you yelp like a five-year-old girl.
posted by cmyk at 2:12 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I honestly believe better, more varied nature shows on TV is the answer. Granted, I don't know the nature show situation in the UK, but I guess it's sharks, monkeys and the Serengeti all the way down.

Fascinating animals, of course, but it's a skewed perspective. Nature shows nowadays are like bland and ultra commercial pop, safe and regurgitated entertainment. They've been seen before. They're allright if you'd like to pass the time, but you seldom get the feeling that you've learned something new and that you've had a profound experience after watching them.

Sure, all of Sir David Attenborough's (I call him God and proudly own a couple of his DVDs) specials are fantastic, but more can be done. If somebody would do informative and gripping documentaries about, say, the animals that can be found on UK backyards, I'm sure people would watch them. And that would lead to more love for the outdoors.

To continue with the pop analogy, sometimes (I would say all the time, but that's just me) you need a little bit of indie, punk, DIY, homegrown weirdness, etc in your cultural diet. Something unexpected: "'Shark Week' has been cancelled, instead we'll give you a magpie special!" Todays nature shows don't provide that bit. And it's a shame.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:13 PM on August 1, 2008


By the way: he's not Robin anymore.
posted by cmyk at 2:15 PM on August 1, 2008


Sadly, the education of the youth of amerika is declining in more than one way. The other day I was at the grocery store and the checker was unable to identify a portabello mushroom.
posted by flod at 2:19 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nature shows are something Britains always done well. Sir David Attenborough's one reason why. It's a pity David Bellamy turned into an unpleasant nutjob though.
posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on August 1, 2008


Technology has played very little part in making nature education irrelevant. Cultural values have done most of the job, as they assure us that technology has a solution to any given problem (often true) that is unique or better than any natural approach (often false).

My friend's father, who works for the Department of Agriculture of Illinois, had a pest problem in his backyard vegetable garden. He solved it to his satisfaction by introducing dragonflies to his backyard. Nature education is useful precisely because it would teach us that not every issue nature hands us needs be faced with chemicals, or radiation, or wanton destruction.
posted by invitapriore at 2:24 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's hard for nature to compete for kids' attention when they have the option of playing video games in front of the air conditioner while scarfing down Ding Dongs and chugging soda by the liter.

Nature can easily compete - playing a video game in front of the AC has not a chance against playing a video game in your secret underground fortress, which you know is secret because you and your friends built it with your own hands, and took special care to not be observed.

I think a bigger problem is that kids are not allowed to be outside or alone unchaperoned these days. Even 9 year olds around here are often not allowed past the end of the street without an adult, or discouraged.

Of course kids don't like playing outdoors or going for walks - what passes today as "playing outdoors" is a curtailed, regulated, supervised and stupid activity that any right-thinking kid would despise.

Nature in the modern imagination is a place full of frogs, flowers, birds, boggets, child molesters, murderers, and kidnappers.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:24 PM on August 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


I don't find this alarming at all, I go camping and hiking a lot (I live in southern Indiana and that's pretty much all we have to do) and I took a college lvl birds course and I had trouble identifying a lot of that stuff.
posted by BrnP84 at 2:24 PM on August 1, 2008


Robins are for pussies; our ivy kicks your ivy's ass!
posted by TedW at 2:28 PM on August 1, 2008


Yeah, Daddy Long Legs are itty bitty spiders when I was growing up. I thought that was a dragonfly shot from a weird angle.
posted by Talanvor at 2:29 PM on August 1, 2008


Robins are for pussies; our ivy kicks your ivy's ass!

But where are all your Stinger Nettles?
posted by Artw at 2:39 PM on August 1, 2008


Also, those "daddy longlegs" are really Crane Flies (although I first thought of Ichneumon wasps), and the "blackberries" look more like dewberries to me. I think that Attenborough fellow needs to learn more about life on earth.
posted by TedW at 2:40 PM on August 1, 2008


Why are you people all wrong about Daddy Long Legs? I'm in Vancouver and the place is lousy with them

Weird thing is, I've lived in BC all my life and I've never known those as Daddy Longlegs; when I was growing up they were called 'leatherjackets', and now I always refer to them as crane flies. A Daddy Longlegs, to me, is a long-legged spider with a small body, like we always used to find in our basement.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 2:40 PM on August 1, 2008


if we're not talkin' scientific names, i don't even see what the point is. plus, half the time, they're only identifying it down the the family of plants or animals. that's like showing a picture of an orangutang and a picture of a human and making the answer hominid for both.
posted by snofoam at 2:43 PM on August 1, 2008


hmmm. actually, frogs are a whole order. that's kind of like showing a photo of a lemur and a photo of a person and calling them both monkeys.
posted by snofoam at 2:44 PM on August 1, 2008


English is my second language, which made this much harder than I imagined it to be. At least I got "Frog".
posted by ymgve at 2:46 PM on August 1, 2008


But where are all your Stinger Nettles?

Hey now! We live on the same side of the pond, if not the same side of the continent. It appears that nettles are shared pretty widely, so everyone gets some! Nettle trivia: the medical name for hives is urticaria; derived from "Urtica", the genus name for nettles.
posted by TedW at 2:49 PM on August 1, 2008


Actual conversation I have had with another adult:

Me: Hey, look at that laurel hedge... it's completely full of bushtits. There's hundreds of them in the leaves.

Friend: What's a laurel?

Me: That row of shrubs over there.

Friend: Oh, I see the birds. Ha ha ha! Bushtits.

Me: Heh. Seriously, those birds, the grey ones the size of golf balls... they're called bushtits.

Friend: You're making that up.

Me: Nope. They're the smallest passerines we have around here, except hummingbirds.

Friend: What's a passerine? We have hummingbirds around here?

Me: Yup, we do. Passerines is just a subcategory of birds. Hummingbirds are even smaller than those bushtits, which each only weigh about six grams.

Friend: How much as a gram?

Me: It's... about the weight of a raisin?

Friend [acting like I am seriously putting him on]: Bushtits weigh six raisins. You're so weird.

So (joining rtha on the bird nird bench), I don't think ignorance of the natural world (or the metric system, for that matter) started with those born in the 1990s. Furthermore, if the average 10-year-old doesn't know what a frog is, it is not the 10-year-old's fault. I remember a study that came out when I was 18 showing that something like 1/3 of high-school students couldn't find the United States on a map, and folks my parents' age decrying how stupid, stupid, stupid my generation was compared to themselves.

However, my high school World History textbook also did not tell us how the Vietnam War ended, because at the time I took World History, my textbook was two decades old. My class was also never issued atlases because the only ones the school had to distribute were so old that Africa had been completely rearranged in the meantime (although the Republic of the Congo is back now--sayonara, Zaire!)

Holding children responsible for their own ignorance is playing dirty pool, but every time a story like this breaks, it seems that's what people do: insist that, as children, they were wiser and more worldly that the current round of kids. This is conveniently impossible to prove without time-travel.
posted by cirocco at 2:54 PM on August 1, 2008 [6 favorites]


I've yet to see a single stinger nettle in NA - do they have them on the east coast?
posted by Artw at 3:04 PM on August 1, 2008


I grew up in the woods of New England and the best that I can do is identify things that are going to make me itch. I can spot poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, mosquitoes, black flies, deer flies...

This is all of the categorization I've found to be necessary in my life. Everything else is a birdie or a tree or a froggie or a flower. And to me, that's all it needs to be, provided it does not bite me and cause a rash. Then I want names.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:16 PM on August 1, 2008


I've yet to see a single stinger nettle in NA - do they have them on the east coast?

Yes. And I sat on one once. I don't recommend it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:17 PM on August 1, 2008


My British husband calls them woodlice which makes me want to get the lawn disinfected.

A few years ago, we went to the London Zoo, and saw a crowd of people ooohing and ahhhing over some exotic animal in a habitat display.

I worked my way to the fence to see this marvelous creature for myself.

It was a skunk. A FREAKING SKUNK.

He was a very proud skunk, too, perched proudly on a rock, nose in the air. I nearly died laughing.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 3:27 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


It was a skunk. A FREAKING SKUNK.

You have no idea how ridiculously impressed I was, having moved to Seattle from London, to see Raccoons in the tree across from my bedroom.

(Later on they tried to assassinate the cat and we’ve been kind of at war with them since, but the first time we saw them it was cool)
posted by Artw at 3:30 PM on August 1, 2008


But that spider has a skull for a face. It's face is a SKULL don't you get it? We need bigger guns.
posted by Zack_Replica at 3:30 PM on August 1, 2008


"I've yet to see a single stinger nettle in NA - do they have them on the east coast?"

Oh, man, they're all over the upper Midwest. Few things in clearing out a new plot for gardening are as nasty as grabbing a nettle without gloves. And we had a dog growing up who used to get into them all the time, and there was nothing to be done except wait it out.
posted by klangklangston at 3:33 PM on August 1, 2008


Friend [acting like I am seriously putting him on]: Bushtits weigh six raisins. You're so weird.

I am falling down laughing.

I have had similar conversations with non-bird-geek friends.

The thing is, when I was a kid (1970s), I didn't know the names of a lot of things. I spent a lot of time outside, and I got Ranger Rick magazine and watched Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau when I grew up.

Actually, I did know the names of a lot of things, but most of them weren't birds. That didn't happen until quite recently. Hmmm.
posted by rtha at 3:37 PM on August 1, 2008


You know how the Al Gore word for crisis is “danger” combined with “opportunity”? that’s kind of how we saw big patches of nettles when I was a kid, and we used to roam the countryside with sticks looking for things to hit.
posted by Artw at 3:41 PM on August 1, 2008


To conveniently hijack the thread, given that we have a lot of self-described "bird nerds" all up in the house, if I wanted to start "birding" in my suburban southern California neighborhood, is there a particular field guide I should aim for? So far I've spotted crows, mockinbirds, hummingbirds, little brown things that I think are sparrows, and little black-headed things with pointed little crests on their heads that I'm told are phoebes. Also, a shit-ton of green parrots, but I don't think they count because they're not native.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:43 PM on August 1, 2008


You know how the Al Gore word for crisis is “danger” combined with “opportunity”?

Ah, yes, "crisitunity."
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:44 PM on August 1, 2008


Also, a shit-ton of green parrots, but I don't think they count because they're not native.

They may not count, but they sure are noisy little so-and-so's.
posted by blucevalo at 3:58 PM on August 1, 2008


I grew up in the middle of a freaking forest, and I played outside all the time. And I still couldn't tell the difference between two kinds songbirds or two kinds of flowers. I can tell you what a crow looks like, and a pigeon, and a gull, but other than that, they were all birds. And flowers that don't come from a florist are, for the most part, 'wild flowers'. I don't think this is a massive failing of kids these days. Did kids ever give a shit about primroses?
posted by jacquilynne at 4:01 PM on August 1, 2008


Ogh, she knows "crow" as well, as a subset of Birdie.
posted by Artw at 4:07 PM on August 1, 2008


That's what they call a daddy long legs in the UK? When i was a kid I was told these ball-shaped spiders (with the requisite long legs) were daddy long legs. these things I guess.
posted by delmoi at 4:24 PM on August 1, 2008


Did kids ever give a shit about primroses?

Sure, lots of kids know the names of all sorts of stuff, be it dinosaurs, flowers, whatever. I knew tons of flowers and animals when I was a kid; they showed up in the books I read, the wild places I roamed, and in gardens of people I knew. I mean, it's not that much more difficult to remember "daisy" or "starling" than it is to remember "flower" or "bird".
posted by oneirodynia at 4:30 PM on August 1, 2008


I've yet to see a single stinger nettle in NA
Is a stinger nettle distinct from a plain old nettle? They're pretty common in the PNW, but I haven't seen them growing in Seattle proper.
sowbugs … roly-polies …
We called them roly-polies when I was growing up, except for some kids who called them potato bugs, but those kids were WRONG. Okay, only the ones that roll up are roly-polies. Wikipedia tells me that there are pill millipedes which look very similar to woodlice, despite not even being crustaceans:
When rolled into a ball, G. marginata can be distinguished from a rolled–up pill woodlouse by the asymmetrical ball it rolls into; pill woodlice roll into much more perfect spheres.
posted by hattifattener at 4:31 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


these things I guess.

That's what we call a Harvestman. Presumably because giant ones will harvest your soul.

Is a stinger nettle distinct from a plain old nettle?

It's specifically this bugger. Looks like you get a different subspecies from the UK?
posted by Artw at 4:37 PM on August 1, 2008


Some of these questions are very poorly designed. Let's see:

1. Frog - how many kids said toad? You can't really tell from the picture, which kind of sucks.
2. Blackberries - it's really easy to get this wrong and say raspberries if you haven't been terribly familiar with the plants. Unless you've picked them yourself, you won't know that they start lightly colored and darken as they mature. Not to mention that blackberries are kind of uncommon and expensive and a lot of kids probably haven't ever eaten one.
3. Identifying a specific flower? That's the kind of thing you learn in botany, in college, and do it with a guidebook.
4. Newt - easy to confuse with any kind of salamander really.
5. Badger - this is fine which is probably why it had such a high success rate.
6. Otter - this is fine, except that the only way you'll ever see an otter is in a zoo or if you go way out of your way just to see one. You can't really complain that this has to do with kids being kept indoors.
7. Blue Tit - Identifying specific songbirds? The only adults who have ever been able to do this with more than a couple of really common species are birdwatchers.
8. 'Deer' - Europe's red deer are most like our elk, so if you thought this was an elk, don't beat yourself up. Probably an OK question in Europe.
9. Robin - note that this is a European robin, not like ours, US people aren't going to get this one unless they're birdwatchers and like to read about other continent's birds. Robins are really well known, like robins here, so this question is ok.
10. Goldfinch - another random songbird. Have adults ever been able to identify random songbirds since they started living in cities? Most adults would fail this.
11. Magpie - Another random songbird, this gets bonus points for being a bird that most people don't even like. But at least it's common.
12. Bluebells - Yes, let's show a really crappy picture of a flower from several feet away! What are people going by, the color? Not to mention that there ARE other plants that look similar.
13. Crane Fly - Yes, let's show it from the bottom, the angle no one ever sees and conceals most of the details that might make identifying it easier.
14. Woodlouse - this is ok.
15. Oak - Sure, let's identify a plant without being able to see the leaves, the bark, the blossoms or the fruits.

I think the problem lies in most of these pictures being designed to look nice, not to assist in identification. Look at the oak picture - it's a very pretty picture. However, a guidebook photo, which is what would actually help you identify it, would have a leaf, some bark, an acorn, etc. The frog pic shouldn't obscure the frog's entire body. The flower pics shouldn't include any other plants, should be closer up, and should include leaves. This seems like a really poorly designed test, probably designed by a non-teacher to help them grind some sort of axe about kids and nature, not something that would actually perform any kind of reasonable assessment.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:45 PM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


What kind of horrible, stunted, Victorian chimney sweep style life does a kid have to head not to have picked blackberries by age 9?
posted by Artw at 4:47 PM on August 1, 2008


Crane Fly - Yes, let's show it from the bottom, the angle no one ever sees

Except when they gather on your windows by the hundreds.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 5:01 PM on August 1, 2008


Metafilter: Bushtits weigh six raisins.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:04 PM on August 1, 2008


Artw: What kind of horrible, stunted, Victorian chimney sweep style life does a kid have to head not to have picked blackberries by age 9?

I don't know about you but I hadn't even seen wild blackberries until I was 27, despite spending a fair amount of time outdoors. They don't grow everywhere, you know.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:05 PM on August 1, 2008


Eh? AFAIK They grow fucking everywhere in the UK, with the possible exception of some blasted inner-city wasteland, whose inhabitants really should be bussed out to lok at a tree or soemthing every once in a while. Where'd you grow up?
posted by Artw at 5:14 PM on August 1, 2008


Artw: Eh? AFAIK They grow fucking everywhere in the UK, with the possible exception of some blasted inner-city wasteland, whose inhabitants really should be bussed out to lok at a tree or soemthing every once in a while. Where'd you grow up?

In the middle of a desert in Wyoming, which may have had something to do with it. We don't have blackberries anywhere here that I know of (the ones I saw were probably escaped cultivated ones) and you have to go out of your way to find wild raspberries or strawberries. Plus you have to know where to find them (not always easy, especially for strawberries), when to go (also not easy, depends on the year) and you have to get lucky (a drought absolutely eradicated all of the strawberries, raspberries, and edible mushrooms the last time I lived in a place where I knew where to find such things.)
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:19 PM on August 1, 2008


It's a UK quiz. Presumably the Wyoming equivalnt would have buffalo or something instead.
posted by Artw at 5:21 PM on August 1, 2008


"What kind of horrible, stunted, Victorian chimney sweep style life does a kid have to head not to have picked blackberries by age 9?"

We had raspberries, black raspberries, mulberries and dewberries right out our back door, but I think I only saw a blackberry patch at camp.

My thought for those was immediately black raspberries.
posted by klangklangston at 5:22 PM on August 1, 2008


Also, a shit-ton of green parrots, but I don't think they count because they're not native.

Those are probably conyers! I've seen them in San Francisco, Berkeley, and London!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:25 PM on August 1, 2008


UGH. I meant "conures."

ME GO HOME NOW
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:26 PM on August 1, 2008


sigh. Can we get someone in from Saudi Arabia to complain that the quiz is unfair because all they had around when they grew up was sand, or is it only Americans who drone on like this when something isn't in the context they recognise?
posted by Artw at 5:27 PM on August 1, 2008



Unless you are a naturalist or gardener, you don't learn these things through observation and repetition. I am not a totally indoors person -- I go on walks and hikes, but don't stop to identify everything. Usually my family takes the precaution that everything green and shrubby with groups of three leaves is poison ivy (which the British don't have).

"DON"T TOUCH THAT! IT'S POISON IVY!"

This is why Americans don't learn their shrubs and trees (poison ivy can grow into a small tree under the right conditions).
posted by bad grammar at 5:32 PM on August 1, 2008


A poorly designed test unless the purpose of the test was to show how ignorant of the natural world British children are. I'm surprised that more kids didn't identify the Blue Tit it is quite distinctive looking and has such a excellent name. Not identifying a Coal Tit or a Great Tit I could understand.

Also in my experience Blackberries are far from expensive, they are free but picking them invariably means scratches from the thorny brambles.
posted by electricinca at 5:34 PM on August 1, 2008


7. Blue Tit - Identifying specific songbirds? The only adults who have ever been able to do this with more than a couple of really common species are birdwatchers.

I'm from Ireland, not the UK, but when I was a kid blue tits were all over the types-of-birds posters and leaflets and chapters available in school and at home. I'd guess many 30-somethings over that side of the pond would recognize a blue tit, which may be why it's there. It's definitely one of the few birds I could identify, although when I looked at the photo I did think "wow, haven't heard of them in a while!"

I didn't get the goldfinch or the primrose though.

You have no idea how ridiculously impressed I was, having moved to Seattle from London, to see Raccoons in the tree across from my bedroom.

Yes! On a recent visit my parents were much more entertained by the black squirrels and raccoons in and around our garden than any of the museums, shows or restaurants we took them to.
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:39 PM on August 1, 2008


What kind of horrible, stunted, Victorian chimney sweep style life does a kid have to head not to have picked blackberries by age 9?

Where'd you grow up?

is it only Americans who drone on like this when something isn't in the context they recognise?


Stop trolling, Artw. And here in the sunny palm lined streets of my 72 degree Southern California beach community, there are no wild blackberries. Just pleasurefruit trees and magicgrass and delight-o-vines so pbbbbbbbbbbbbt!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:45 PM on August 1, 2008


infinitywaltz: the encyclopedia for bird nirds these days is the Sibley Guide to Birds, but it's so freaking huge I never take mine into the field. However, when I looked it up to tell you about it anyway, I found out that David Sibley figured out a few years ago that no one could carry his book around, and thus he has produced several more portable field guides, including one for western North America.

Caveat: trying to look up a bird you don't know in the Sibley guide, and most guides, is like trying to look up a word you can spell. You can do it, but it takes a long time. When I was starting out I had more luck with one of the new Audubon Society Field Guides. The birds are identified by photographs rather than technical paintings, and they are organized by color. This drives true bird nirds batshit insane because, for example, the female and male mallard are listed separately because they are different colors. So this guide is more useful if you don't know your nares from your auriculars (these are parts of a bird face) but it gets no respect.
posted by cirocco at 5:57 PM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


> 27. What insect is this? 28. Woodlouse.

Is it Attenborough or the Independent that thinks the woodlouse/pillbug/sowbug/roly-poly is an insect?
posted by jfuller at 6:02 PM on August 1, 2008


Infinitywaltz: The Sibley guide is where it's at, guide-wise.

But the easiest and best way to start learning birds is to go with people who know more than you do. Go on some local Audubon walks, and check local nature centers/parks for guided walks with a docent or ranger. It can be really hard to start by yourself because it's easy to get lost in a guidebook - looking for a bird with a lot of yellow on it, for instance - where you'll find a zillion birds with yellow. It helps to know that you want to look in the warbler section, or the finch section, or whatever other species have yellow.

I got started on birds by volunteering with a hawkwatch organization (we count & ID migrating hawks in the fall). Hawks are big and easy to see. It's all kind of downhill from there!

/birdnerd hijack

*observes cirocco through binos, waves*
posted by rtha at 6:15 PM on August 1, 2008


Oh, and back on topic - when I was a kid, I could name and identify a huge number of dinosaurs, despite never having seen one. This is because someone showed me how interesting dinosaurs are.
posted by rtha at 6:17 PM on August 1, 2008


Stop trolling, Artw.

Heh.

Now, have I mentione the great turtle/tortoise UK/US child rearing nomeclature debate before?
posted by Artw at 6:24 PM on August 1, 2008


You have no idea how ridiculously impressed I was, having moved to Seattle from London, to see Raccoons in the tree across from my bedroom.

Agreed. This was short lived when they started to come in my bedroom door (off my deck) at night and prompted me to cover the gate with wire mesh. Risking stepping on a hissing Raccoon at 3am when going for a sleepie pee-pee is not top of my 'enjoying wildlife' moments.

2. Blackberries - it's really easy to get this wrong and say raspberries if you haven't been terribly familiar with the plants.

In England, Raspberries are red, as long as they are ripe. There's not that much confusion where the quiz is based. There are no other black fruits, and no other colour for raspberries (except all fruit being green when not ripe).

4. Newt - easy to confuse with any kind of salamander really.

Not in the UK.

7. Blue Tit - Identifying specific songbirds? The only adults who have ever been able to do this with more than a couple of really common species are birdwatchers.

Hardly. It's an extremely common bird and is found in most gardens, especially in autumn. This kind of proves your point (the Goldfinch would be a better one) but it really doesn't take a bird watcher to know "What that bird I keep seeing" is. Not everyone - especially in the UK - lives in cities, but Blue tits are found there too, as it happens.

11. Magpie - Another random songbird, this gets bonus points for being a bird that most people don't even like. But at least it's common.

What has "whether they like it or not" got to do with identification? The fact that it is common is exactly the point. Very common.

15. Oak - Sure, let's identify a plant without being able to see the leaves, the bark, the blossoms or the fruits.

The shape is extremely distinctive on its own and it was enough for me to find it instantly recognisable. It is also a very common image often associated with my country. Being able to identify it from the bark, fruit or leaves is, I'd argue more advanced than identifying it from a basic shape found on many company letterheads and logos.

God. I'm bored of pasting. You DO realise that this was to illustrate the lack of ability of UK children to identify UK native species, despite their very much common nature? I can't help but feel that you have completely missed the point (as have many people here) by a significant margin. It's not about whether foreigners can identify them, it's about whether you (or, more pertinently, your children) could have identified your local equivalents. There is nothing wrong with the questions (save, perhaps, the woodlouse) when taken in context.
posted by Brockles at 6:33 PM on August 1, 2008


Doodlebugs. Doesn't anyone call them doodlebugs?
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:13 PM on August 1, 2008


"Not to mention that blackberries are kind of uncommon and expensive and a lot of kids probably haven't ever eaten one."

And all the Western Washingtonians laugh ruefully before going back out to the yard to try to eradicate the damned Himalayan blackberry sticker vines. (Growing up in Seattle, we knew they were blackberries, but mostly called them "sticker bushes.")
posted by litlnemo at 7:14 PM on August 1, 2008


In no particular order:
I spent a lot of time outside, and I got Ranger Rick magazine and watched Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau when I grew up.
rtha, I'm pretty sure we had the same childhood.

Living in the N. American midwest, when I think "sowbug" (pillbug, roly-poly), I think of this, whereas each plate of the woodlouse's carapace in the Attenborough slide show appeared to have a distinctive flair at the distal end. Not the critter I grew up with.

The American Robin is a thrush. I recall the nerd thrill of learning this when I was 9 or 10.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 7:52 PM on August 1, 2008


Brockles: It's not about whether foreigners can identify them, it's about whether you (or, more pertinently, your children) could have identified your local equivalents.

Yeah, but most of the species I complained about are cosmopolitan, and biological education usually is as well.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:01 PM on August 1, 2008


No, no, no. This is a Daddy Long Legs, and it isn't even a spider. There are too many people calling every long legged spider a daddy long legs.

And it is a mosquito dragon (never heard them called hawks before).
posted by eye of newt at 8:19 PM on August 1, 2008


the predictable "get off lawn" line. It sometimes seems anything that suggests we improve education is considered old-fashioned and crotchety.
posted by ornate insect at 12:10 PM on August 1 [+] [!]

No, it is whenever someone says 'kids these days', such as in "Kids these days couldn't identify a cuccuburro from a cucaracha. Why in my day, when I had to hike 5 miles up the mountain through the woods every day to get to school, and five miles back, uphill on the other side of the valley, if you didn't know hpw to recognize a Cassowary, you wouldn't make it home. I should know, it happened to three of my brothers."

You don't know this? Jees...kids these days! They don't care about nothing and they're always messing up my yard!
posted by eye of newt at 8:33 PM on August 1, 2008


There are no other black fruits

Blackcurrants are pretty black.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:38 PM on August 1, 2008


kookaburra--never did know how to spell that bird's name
posted by eye of newt at 8:40 PM on August 1, 2008


The fact that it is common is exactly the point. Very common.

Not to mention the fact that almost all British children used to learn a nursery rhyme/method of fortune telling that was predicated on the number of magpies spotted.

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told,
Eight for a wish,
Nine for a kiss,
Ten for a time of joyous bliss.

Eleven or more means Alfred Hitchcock has developed a sexual obsession with you and has cast you in one of his movies.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:45 PM on August 1, 2008


Blackcurrants are pretty black.
So are most of the fruits in my refrigerator.

AND I VOTE "ROLY-POLY". I will not be convinced otherwise.
posted by Flunkie at 8:49 PM on August 1, 2008


Also, a shit-ton of green parrots, but I don't think they count because they're not native.

Another example of the failing of our modern education system. In my day, all birds could count, no matter where they came from.
posted by Bokononist at 8:51 PM on August 1, 2008


Dear Brits, our robin will kick that little thing's ass.

If it weren't for the American Robin, the European Robins would all be speaking German by now.

I understand the species name given to the American Robin was actually given to honour the American tourist in Europe.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:54 PM on August 1, 2008


A bit more on the crane-fly/mosquito hawk/mosquito dragon/daddy long legs(?). Busts a myth I held--they don't eat mosquitos.
posted by eye of newt at 8:57 PM on August 1, 2008


Artw - It took us quite a while to get our kids to believe that whales weren't fish, and they went through a phase of saying "ya sure they're mammals" just to placate us. They still think the plural of fish is "fishies", as in "can we eat those fishies?". Which is pretty darn funny.
posted by sneebler at 9:42 PM on August 1, 2008


the easiest and best way to start learning birds is to go with people who know more than you do

Which rtha herself has occasionally done for Mefites, such that I can now identify a scaup. And a bufflehead.

Oh man, I just remembered something they have in Europe but we don't have here. Geese with stripes!
posted by tangerine at 10:06 PM on August 1, 2008


woodlouse? roly poly? they are 'slaters'.

and that magpie didn't look like the ones we get in Australia.
I guessed the Deer was an eolk but that too is quite foreign.
posted by mary8nne at 4:52 AM on August 2, 2008


Blackberries are extremely common and grow wild in even fairly urban areas. I used to go out picking them with my cousins in Wales and then learn to make pies. That makes me sound about 77 years old, heh. Also there was a bonus nature lesson in blackberry-picking when you bit into one and found a maggot.
posted by grapefruitzzz at 6:05 AM on August 2, 2008


Living in the N. American midwest, when I think "sowbug" (pillbug, roly-poly), I think of this, whereas each plate of the woodlouse's carapace in the Attenborough slide show appeared to have a distinctive flair at the distal end. Not the critter I grew up with.

Indeed. I thought those Brits were being unfair and slipping in a trilobite.

dc;e [doesn't count; extinct].
posted by climalene at 6:06 AM on August 2, 2008


The picture of a Robin didn't look anything like the Robins we have here in New York Gotham.
posted by liza at 11:31 AM on August 2, 2008


Up until fairly recently, considering I've spent a large chunk of my life living in the countryside, I was fairly useless on species identification. Now I've recently got back into photography a byproduct has been to rapidly up my knowledge by snapping interesting looking plants and animals and then identify back at home with the magic of google... It's bringing out the inner geek and becoming somewhat obsessive.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:44 PM on August 2, 2008


You have no idea how ridiculously impressed I was, having moved to Seattle from London, to see Raccoons in the tree across from my bedroom.

Agreed. This was short lived when they started to come in my bedroom door (off my deck) at night


In my Seattle Eastside neighborhood, I've come to start calling the raccoons the "Gambinos," because that's what it's like -- I'm living within the territory of a little crime family. If I don't bother them, they don't bother me. But every now and again, they steal something of mine or make little incursions around my house. A little rooting in the trash can. A theft from the apple and cherry trees. Nothing I can do about it. It's just the "protection money" or "the vig" I have to pay for the pleasure of living on their turf.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:31 PM on August 2, 2008


The way that, unlike other wildlife I'm used to, they'll just stand there and look at you if you try to shoo them off is quite unnerving. I've invested in a supersoaker, which seems to work (also great for seperating cat and enemy neighbour cat if a fight develops).
posted by Artw at 4:45 PM on August 2, 2008


I'm surprised at how different the British robin is from the American. It's so small and sweet, like our tiny red breasted nuthatch, whereas the American looks like a thug in comparison, lol.

I agree that the photos were terrible examples, most from odd angles or too far away. I got 4 incorrect: the blue tit, the woodlouse, the robin, & the daddy long legs creature, which gave me the willies, aack. Daddy long legs are spiders where I live, and I've never seen and don't ever want to see a crane fly *shivers & itches*

I don't think Attenborough has anything to worry about, kids still love nature, but they tend to love it their own way, with their own favourites, and not a set of standards dictated by authority figures. I have never met a child that wasn't an expert on some sort of animal or creepy crawly, plus they have nature lessons throughout grade school.
posted by zarah at 4:53 PM on August 2, 2008


I understand the species name given to the American Robin was actually given to honour the American tourist in Europe.

Oh, snap!
posted by zarah at 4:58 PM on August 2, 2008


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