Natural history, a traditionally descriptive discipline, has been a key part of the development of the fields of ecology and evolutionary biology. However, the publication of such science has become more difficult over time as journals increasingly look to prioritize hypothesis-driven research. Such studies should, and do, form the backbone of published work in our fields. However, that does not mean that descriptive and opportunistic observations should not have a place within the literature. We see this issue in reviewer reports as editors reviews that find no fundamental issue with the science but feel it is too descriptive. We have actually always been happy to consider such work, but now we are formalizing that practice.

However, while we continue to apply our author-friendly philosophy of novelty being a subjective criterion, we are not looking for purely confirmatory accounts. Instead, the emphasis will be placed on unusual or undescribed accounts of ecology and behavior. These could be species-specific or community-focused, but we are looking beyond the routine and known. An analogy we like is to think of Nature Notes as the ecological equivalent of a clinical case report. For example, a report of a routine case is not worthy of publication. It needs to be some rare complication of a disease/unexpected reaction to a drug. Substitute in some relevant flora or fauna for drug, and you are there.

You’ve likely seen them along the water, perching perfectly still with long legs and an “S” shaped neck. You may have seen them quickly snag a fish. Yet, few people have seen where they nest and have young. Herons build nests in colonies, usually high up in mature.

sycamore trees along streams. Look for several large nests grouped in a single tree. This time of year, you will see them flying around as they build, repair, and protect the nests. Learn more about herons and their hood in this Discover Nature Note. There are thousands of ferns with creative names and healthy features. You can now officially go “gaga” over them with a newer genus of 19 plants named after Lady Gaga, inspired by a Grammy costume and DNA sequencing. Discover the resurrection fern. It comes back to life, has been to space, and is used medicinally. Learn more in this Discover Nature Notes blog.

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