The short story: I’ve lived with nature my entire life, and, following this interest, went to university for biology. After several years as a traveling field ornithologist, I began to turn my focus to a (hopefully) more stable home-based freelance career in writing. I live with my longtime boyfriend, our two dogs, and three cats in a log home on 130 acres located west of Perth, Ontario.
The long story: I grew up on five acres in the countryside west of Toronto. Nature was always part of my life. As a child, I remember looking for fairy shrimp (we called them “gillfish”) in the cold, shallow water of our small vernal pond in the spring. I recall watching deer feed on the windfall under our ancient, spreading apple trees on a bright winter night. Of tapping the maple trees for syrup, and stargazing on clear nights with my dad. We spent most of our free time outside, my sisters and I, and I think it was this early and complete immersion in nature that really fostered my love of it.
When it came time to go to university, I chose to go into biology, my favourite subject in high school. I graduated with an Honours in Zoology and spent several years working as a field ornithologist. I traveled a lot, my contracts taking me from California to Quebec, British Columbia to Ohio. Finally I decided I’d had enough of the road, and wanted to settle down, spend a full season someplace. Unfortunately, there weren’t many places hiring ornithologists, and I wasn’t keen to restrict myself to a cubicle anyway, having spent these past years with nature as my office. I took some local contracts with bird research still, but I began turning my focus away from ornithology and into something that I hoped would still allow me the flexibility of self-employment but without all the travel.
You could argue that the turning point occurred in 2008, when my boyfriend and I decided to leave Toronto. Mostly by chance, we ended up in a house overlooking a small lake on the borders of Frontenac Provincial Park, north of Kingston, Ontario. It was love at first sight, and we moved in that summer. The area where we now found ourselves seemed to offer an embarrassment of natural riches, with rare or interesting species at every turn. We spent a lot of time outside that summer and autumn, drinking it all in. Though circumstances forced us to leave the following year, we left our hearts behind there. We currently live on 130 lovely acres at the edge of the Canadian Shield, but while I love to hike around them and make new discoveries here, they don’t call to my soul the way the Frontenac Arch does. Eventually, I know, I will return there.
I left my ornithology contracts behind in Toronto, so I began to focus on developing my new career. Prior to the move I had collaborated with my friend David Beadle on a new project, a field guide to moths. I think I used up a good deal of my career karma when Houghton Mifflin Harcourt bought the book for publication in their Peterson Field Guide line. For the last few years that’s been my primary focus. However, I’d always had the desire to eventually break into literary nonfiction, to write the sort of books that authors like Scott Weidensaul or Tim Flannery, idols of mine, wrote. This continues to be a goal of mine, and since completing the manuscript for the moth field guide I’ve been working on some draft materials along these lines.
In the summer of 2009 I discovered fiction. I’d always been a passionate reader since my mom taught me to read at a very young age, but I had made few attempts to actually write any myself, aside from a few short stories my sister and I produced when I was about 12 (I wrote; she illustrated). I’m not sure anymore what the stimulus was; I can’t even recall if it was a deliberate decision to try writing fiction, or an impulse that overcame me, perhaps struck by a story idea as I was driving to visit family (all of whom are more than an hour away, leaving lots of time for the mind to wander). Whatever it was, I gave in to it and started to write a novel. And I loved it. I had an absolute blast writing that first story, thrilling with each new discovery of plot twists and revelations. In retrospect it was a pretty cliched plot with weak character development. But it was fun. I finished it in about six months, and promptly started in on another novel. I fell in love with it all over again. By the time I finished novel number two I knew I was hooked. I got the same sort of addictive rush from writing fiction that I did from reading an absorbing page-turner. I’m now revising novel three (number two having had similar shortcomings to one). Whether or not I ever sell any fiction, I suspect I’ll be a writer for life.
Outside of these pursuits I also maintain a blog about my experiences and observations in nature. I started this in January 2008 during a bout of cabin fever, but it’s one mid-winter project that’s stuck. It’s changed how I view the world while out on walks. I now pay a lot more attention to details that I might once have passed over, the plants and the insects and fungi and everything else. It’s also forced me to learn a lot more about nature than I would have done without it. I don’t often go for walks without my camera now, and I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting things. I use a Canon Digital Rebel XTi and three lenses to take all of the photos found on this site. You can read more about my equipment here.
47 thoughts on “About Seabrooke”
I enjoy your site and hoped to see your work at the link above.
It doesn’t seem to be working?
Thanks for bringing that to my attention, Nina! I recently bought a domain, and it seems the application of the domain to the site has caused the previous address to stop functioning? I’ll have to look into that, but in the meantime the link should be fixed now.
What a wonderful blog you have here, thanks for commenting on my winter wren picture! I’ll add you to my reader. It looks like we share many common interests!
Thanks, Tom! I’ve enjoyed following your blog, too, keep up the good work! :)
I happened upon your blog by following a link from Laura in NJ. Yours is beautifully written and superbly illustrated. I like to read what fellow Canadians are writing.
Thanks, Ruth, glad you enjoy it! I do like reading what others from Canada, and particularly Ontario, are seeing, too.
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Hello – I’ve just come across your site from the Nature Blog Network – wonderful photographs, great descriptions. I look forward to reading and learning a lot more about nature through another Torontonian’s eyes!
Thanks, Mungo! Glad to have you stop by!
Very cool new photo header! Makes me want a canoe!
Thanks, winterwoman – I wanted something from our new home that was more representative of the area I’d be posting about, but with all the great scenery around here it was hard to settle on a photo to change it to!
For the second summer now we have a very loud, nocturnal creature in one of our trees in the city of Guelph, Ontario. It starts making its noise when the sun goes down, and can keep it up all night until early morning. Last year it began mid July and would make its sound as long as the temperature was 15 C or above – until around Hallowe’en.
It says “chicka-chicka” four or five times, pauses, then does another set. Perhaps a beetle or a frog – but it must be huge, its so loud. It can keep us up at night, and this year’s version is louder than last year!
It has moved from our back yard last year to our front yard this year. It began its noise a week ago (August 22). If a flash light is shone directly on it, it seems, it will go quiet, but a light shining on the tree, cars or people going by do nothing to stop it.
We’ve never seen it; we’ve tried to shake the tree, poke through the tree with a long pole, throw small stones, shine a spot light all night, stared up into the branches until our necks are sore…
Would you have any idea what this might be? I think if I could see a picture, it might help me tolerate the noise, although the neighbours wouldn’t be so forgiving!
Would there be anyone interested in hearing this creature and identifying it, perhaps at the University of Guelph? Last year, no one seemed interested when I called.
Thanks for your time,
Could very well be a Gray Treefrog…for the longest time, I thought we had a chipmunk trapped in our eavestrough!!! I was running around like mad trying to find something to rescue…..my daughter and I located the Gray Treefrog on our porch a week later. Took a bit of patience and a flashlight. Here is a website that allows you to listen to the sound of the treefrog…see if it matches!
I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer, Lori. My first reaction is that it’s an insect of some sort, possibly a katydid, which is related to grasshoppers and crickets and can make loud nighttime noises by rubbing its wings together. It’s interesting that there’s just the one making noise, however. Frogs can be pretty loud, too, but I’m not sure of one that makes the sort of noise you describe. You can listen to different frog calls at the Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-a-Pond website.
I think you got it – I also asked a friend who is an exterminator, and with more searching in his handbook and on the Internet, we found a picture and most importantly, an audio recording – it matches exactly.
We’ll have to wait for the frost to sleep well. Thank you for your help.
Wow, such an enjoyable site for biologists and nature lovers who are native to Kingston or Ottawa and Ontario n general. Also, really fun for photographers. Hope you enjoy my photostream on flickr. I’m definately bookmarking your site. Great Job!
Many many thanks for putiing this out for the world to see. You are a amazing, where you find the time eludes me…. again amazing, love it. New to the blogging world, usually outdoors until bedtime. I will make exception for regular visits to my new favorite nature site. Jami
Stumbled on your site by searching for info on the White Spotted Sawyer Beetle. Very enjoyable to read. I took a photo of one of these beetles in Denali National Park in Alaska. It too, had the cluster of red mites. Interesting. Thanks again.
Great blog, loved the Yellow-breasted Grosbeak write-up!
great site. how lucky to be seeing so many species of animals/plants everyday…. great pictures too… :)
I just read your bio and see that you are working on a field guide to the common moths of northeastern North America. WOW. That is soooo needed! I have Petersons but it is very difficult to use and find myself going to web sites. I will really welcome a guide. Once I discovered Moths and their beauty I was transfixed and have taken hundreds of photos from my corner of West Virginia, USA. Can’t wait to see the field guide.
Wowsers! Just found you through our mutual bush buddy Mungo and I’m hooked! What beautiful work you create! Refreshing to see such a nice following of peeps from the Ottawa, Toronto and Kingston areas too. I’m gonna Stumble you too. I Love spreading the word about really good stuff. :-)
All the best,
Enjoy your blog & photos. I’ve gone back to school recently so my blog posts at Reflections from Hog Hill have been more about those topics and less about nature this summer, but I’m hoping to get back to it. A way to share them would help raise my enthusiasm level, so I was pleased to read about the Moth Carnival! Would it be OK to send ones from early this summer or last summer?
Hello! I cannot wait to see your new moth guide. What a huge, gaping void you are about to fill with that! Thank you for a terrific site-great info, pictures and writing. I’ll check back often. Diane Tucker, Estate Naturalist, Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, CT USA
Seabrooke, your website is beautiful! I don’t want to put much for public reading here and could not access your e-mail, but plan to keep viewing The Marvelous in Nature. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos.
I came across your site through Bug Eric.
Very interesting, especially the diversity shown in your Monday Misc. post! Love the soft hues in the butterfly pic.
Fantastic blog – came to it by way of the Natureblog Network. Excellent reading and great images. Looking forward to reading about your adventures in Peru!
Hi Seabrooke….I stumbled on your blog thru John’s DC Birding Blog and really enjoyed it! A moth girl, how damn refreshing!!!!!!!! No yucky bugs for you… :) I am so psyched you are working on a new Moth Guide thru Peterson, it’s been needed for so damn long!!! Can’t wait to see it….I’m sure it will be an instant hit as there is clearly a pent up demand for something useable on moths.
John came to my annual Moth Night two weeks ago that I run in one of our local parks and invite the whole community to come out to. I’m guessing our town’s population is a bit more than yours in rural Ontario, since we have just about 50K. We get about 50-75 people out each time to check out my sugar bait trail and my MVL, including lots of kids and families. It’s a blast! I’m attaching this link to the newspaper article with a story about it. I also close a road each year in the spring so that spotted salamanders can migrate across it without getting hit by cars and also invite the whole town out for that too. We typically have so many people we dont have enough parking! Getting everyone involved, especially the kids and families is what it is all about for me. Here is the article link about this year’s moth night:
And, I thought you might also enjoy a new website that I just put online last week, my first foray into the whole website thing. It is called Bug Addiction: Confessions of a Bug Addict and is for all those people out there that need a fix when they are in bug withdrawal, or simply want to share their problem with others! It’s totally devoted to insects and I hope will become a great resource for people with similar issues like I have…it’s at http://www.bugaddiction.com It’s only been up for less than a week, but I think it has a bunch of cool stuff on it and I’m adding new things pretty much daily. Unfortunately, pesky things like work and family keep getting in my way of working on it.
Well, thanks for your very cool and interesting blog and for keeping the banner flying about moths!! Look forward to hearing from you…Dave
Senior Vice President
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Hi Seabrooke, tried to shoot you an email back, but it keeps getting bounced back from some reason. I wanted to share with you a video of my research on the Tiger Spiketail and what I have been able to tease out about its ecology over the past few years studying it. It’s on the ESA Youtube page at http://www.entsoc.org in the Discovery Category and also on my website at http://www.bugaddiction.com
Here is the email I sent:
Hi Seabrooke, nice to hear from you…the wonders of modern cyber technology, things get sent out and we sometimes never know where they ended up…and your response went into my junkmail folder and I stumbled upon it right before hitting delete!
I saw you are looking for volunteers to write something up for your monthly spot, I’d be happy to do one if you still need someone…Your site is really great! I’ve been working on mine intermittently, but it takes so much time…pesky work and family seem to keep intruding :)
Too bad the book process takes so long! A good moth guide is so damn needed…
I think you might really enjoy this…It is a 2 minute video of my research that I submitted to the Entomological Society of America Youtube video contest….It boils down three years of research into 2 minutes! There are also other insect videos that are awesome. Check out the vibrating chrysalis!!
BTW, be sure your speakers are turned on, it has a cool sound track!!!
If it wont pop open when you click on it, you’ll have to paste it into your browser at the http location
Senior Vice President
75 Fleetwood Drive
Rockaway, New Jersey 07866
973 366-9500 x 107
973 366-9593 (fax)
732 236-2992 (cell)
P Think globally. Act locally.
Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail
I love your blog! I’m adding it to my list of links for sure. Best of luck with the book too. I can’t wait to check it out!
Entomology Ph.D. Student, University of Arizona
Your blog is great! I also write, illustrate, love and photograph nature, and have a blog. Mine is called Middlewood Journal. I hope you will check it out: http://www.middlewoodjournal.blogspot.com.
All the best!
I love your blog! I’ve been having fun watching and capturing on camera the visitors to our feeder – including a night visit from a bear. Now I’m looking forward to the return of the Bullocks Oriole and Western Tanager. I’m going to try making some suet from scratch. Hairy, Downy, and Flicker are going through out store-bought cakes very rapidly. Of course the deer love to lick the suet cages and the sunflower seeds and the raccoon comes once in awhile. We may have a Cedar Waxwing a day or two as well as Evening Grosbeaks.
Great photography and an obvious love of nature. All this in a pretty girl – will you marry me ? :P
great job, want more.
Hello Seabrooke…Great blog…love your photos! Makes me wish I was in S. Ont again…(Oakville origins).
I think you may be the one to answer my question…I have a photo of two bees/wasps or what appear to be, abdomen to abdomen on the trunk of a tree. Is this some behaviour that
is common, or are they in fact, not bees. I can certainly send a photo. Anything I remember about bees tells me they don’t mate this way! Help!
I’ve been reading your blog, and really enjoying it!
When I saw that it only went back as far as 2008, I was sure I could go through the archives and catch up but man-oh-man do you publish! :P
I’ve gone through a good number of the old ones, and I’ve learned quite a bit of interesting things! I wish I had followed it from the beginning! You’ve made me really interested in moths, which I’ve always found neat, but never realized how much fun it can be to learn about them! I’ve subscribed through RSS, and I’m looking forward to lots more posts!
Myself, I’m a botany student, and I keep my own blog that you might like! Feel free to add it to your blogroll!
(Ukraine)Дуже гарно!Очень красиво!
I have created an educational and conservation based website, http://www.JUNPonline.com . Nature focused photographer’s like yourself can document the biodiversity of a region and share wildlife sightings here in a public database and promote their own website (themarvelousinnature.wordpress.com) at the same time.
We provide a free account/webpage which can promote your website, listing details of your organization alongside submitted wildlife sightings. Any submitted photographs can include a watermark credit and are linked to your account page.
Here are two sample account pages:
Here is a sample wildlife sighting:
I hope your find the websight useful for documenting wildlife sightings to share with the public and to promote your organization. If you have any questions please contact us anytime.
I am from eastern ontario too and found this wild orchid blooming today near Westport at water’s edge… Strange forget me nots were growing close by… I think it is a wild orchid.. what do you think
My family and I were mezmerized yesterday packing up our campsite in Inland Central Maine by an amazing hub of activity of bees (muliple species) and ants on the bark of a young Balsam. It was not a bee hive, and the bees acted as they do when feeding on flowers…..not aggressive and alighting from one spot to another on the same area of a balsam tree trunk. Larger Black Ants ants seemed to be defending the trunk from bee landings. Meanwhile, there were areas of the 5″ diameter balsam that was coated with a small possibly winged and possibly larval forms of insect that moved together when disturbed, as though the bark were coming alive momentarily when disturbed. The bee activity was substantial enough to offer an audible buzz from twenty feet away, much like an active flower patch teaming with bees in summer. Any thoughts as to what we were observing?
Great blog, Seabrooke! I found your site while researching snakes, particularly the eastern milk snake. I am a physician, but originally got a BA in Zoology and Microbiology. I still love just about anything about nature. I have a farm in west Tennessee, and I’m learning about the animals and insects I’m finding there. I have a cool-looking moth photo I took a month ago that I have not ID’ed yet. I’ll try to send it to you through email. Thanks!
Your blog is awesome! I really admire your postings…
I like this post …. I am too a nature lover
Best you could edit the page title About Seabrooke the Marvelous in nature to something more generic for your content you create. I loved the blog post still.
I came across your site on a hunt for info about Charles Covell, Jr., who was a counselor at a camp I attended in North Carolina. He’s pictured in the Camp Yonahnoka catalogue from 1954 a couple of times as an assistant counselor in Nature Study. He was a student at the University of north Carolina at the time.
If for any reason you’d like a copy of those pictures, let me know and I’ll either send them to you at your request in an email or post them (eventually) to my Flickr site and let you know when they’re up.
I have e’er been believed in common people with innovational ideas who can compose great articles.
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