When I was studying the eggs of the house wrens that nested in my
yard, I learned of a Dutch scientist by the name of Niko Tinbergen.
Tinbergen seems to have been slightly obsessed, in the way of a true
scientist, with birds and their eggshells. In his various studies of seagull
eggs, he mixed white eggs in with camouflaged eggs; put eggs out
alone and accompanied by broken eggshells; placed fake eggshells of
varying shapes and colors in gull nests; and fitted nests with hollow
eggshells with broken edges glued to them. I delight in the image of
Tinbergen sitting in his lab gluing broken shell pieces to hollow eggs. It's
that sort of dedication that's given us most of what we know about bird
From time to time, though, I start to wonder if I've become like
Tinbergen myself, out in the yard, day after day, month after month,
studying the same fifth of an acre. I'm afraid I might be turning into one
of those people about whom I can only think—did someone actually
spend that much time on that? It's my hope that studying the yard will
lead me not only to a deep understanding of the ecosystem and an
abiding love for the creatures here, but also to broader insights about my
relationship to nature—but maybe I'm just crazy.
Anyway, here’s my bio:
M.A. Sheehan has been watching and writing about nature, in her
yard and elsewhere, for the past fifteen years. She is a participant in the
Smithsonian Institution's Neighborhood Nestwatch program, and her yard
has been certified as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife
Federation. As a member of the Code Enforcement Committee for the
City of Hyattsville, Maryland, she helped to write an ordinance, passed
on April 7, 2008, to protect wildlife habitats in her town. She also sits on
Hyattsville's Shade Tree Board. Her work on behalf of the yards of
Hyattsville was recently featured in a front page article in the Washington
Times, in a story that was picked up by the Associated Press and carried
by aol news and many other news outlets.
Ms. Sheehan has been a contributing writer for Audubon Naturalist
News, the monthly publication of the Audubon Naturalist Society of the
Central Atlantic States. In addition to her book reviews, excerpts from A
Year in the Yard ran for a year in the News, which, in an earlier
incarnation, published excerpts from Rachel Carson's The Sea Around Us
before the book was published.
A graduate of Williams College and New York University School of
Law, Ms. Sheehan has done significant public speaking in her
professional life, first as a trial attorney and now as the owner of her own
trusts and estates practice. She speaks frequently on estate planning and
has appeared on Eye to Eye and in The Baltimore Sun, The Miami
Herald, The Seattle Times, and Jet. She is a Lifetime Member of the
Washington Furies Women's Rugby Club.
Copyright 2008 by M.A. Sheehan. All rights reserved.
Who Would Do That?
A Year in the Yard