In-gene-ious Solutions
Photo by Dirk Martins/Unsplash

In-gene-ious Solutions

The Biological Codes of Nature
Szymon Drobniak
time 12 minutes

Honesty is just as important in nature as in a well-functioning human society.

In spring-time, the forest of the Bieszczady mountains is filled with biological codes. It’s like the Enigma machine itself: it pulses and rustles with secret messages, with the chirping of encoded hints, the croak of covert announcements, the hooting of camouflaged calls. If you’re lucky, you might literally trip over such a clandestine signal. In the undergrowth – still cool as the winter withdraws – we can find a fractal-shaped sort-of tree, a branched totem discarded by a stag. We, people, are used to sound communication, messages carried by the vibration of air. The bone candelabra of the antlers is more difficult for us to decipher. In order to understand it correctly – along with the message encoded within – we must travel a few months into the past, to a fog-enveloped mountain: September.

The love game

September has a very distinct smell. It’s probably one of the most geographically-determined months: it smells, very specifically, of a given place. The dryness of maple leaves on warm city mornings. The rain-soaked wind over an empty, ploughed field. The damp viscosity of mud, the earthy smell of thick clay smeared over mountain slopes and squelching against the soles of leather walking boots. I associate that last scent with a beech forest, the bristles on top of the drizzle-wet Bieszczady hills, slippery with autumn. At the beginning of spring, we go back to the very middle of September. As it slowly loses the memory of summer, the forest soaks up the morning; drops sway at the tip of every branch and every leaf that’s still attached to the stalk. It is a black wall with no


You’ve reached your free article’s limit this month. You can get unlimited access to all our articles and audio content with our digital subscription. If you have an active subscription, please log in.


Also read:

Feathered Flirts, Avian Advances
“Two Mallards near a Snow-Covered Lotus”, Ohara Koson, circa 1925-1936, Rijksmuseum (CC BY 4.0)

Feathered Flirts, Avian Advances

An Interview About Birds
Stasia Budzisz

So many birds, so many customs! Some are unfalteringly faithful, loving their mates until death do them part, while others cheat left, right and centre. Some drop their chicks into other birds’ nests and some defend their young with all their might. They have been mythologized, turned into symbols, and some have even become national emblems. Birds turn out to be more human-like than we, humans, would think them to be. Jacek Karczewski, author of the book Zobacz ptaka. Opowieści po drodze [See the Bird: Stories on the Way], talks about all things avian.

Stasia Budzisz: Many people believe birds to be a species of one monolithic pattern of behaviour. After all, they all do pretty much the same thing: they fly, go to the toilet in the least predictable moments, prey on mice and insects, avoid humans, and sing. However, in your books, you prove that each and every one of them does things differently. It turns out that birds have their particular preferences when it comes to lovemaking and in choosing lovers. Some birds are hermaphroditic, some homosexual or polyamorous, while others mate for life, divorce, or just plain cheat on their partners.

Continue reading