Planted Tank Obsessed
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Jackson TN, U.S.A.
Paint is for ugly wood, it would be criminal to paint such pretty wood. At the same time, sealing it is a really Good Idea.
I have done some woodwork (not a lot, just some), in addition to the other suggestions I would add polyurethane (I've seen some gorgeous results from it with birch). Shoe polish gives a quick, waterproof finish. If you want involved-but-stunning results, look up linseed oil finishing. It takes some doing, but the results are astounding on nice wood like that.
Since you have scraps, you could experiment with them until you find a finish you like.