Kingfishers have stout bodies, very short tails, short, rounded wings, large heads and long, dagger-like bills.
Their feet are very small, with the two outer toes partly fused together. They nest in holes tunnelled into earth banks. There is only one UK species, but many more worldwide, most of which are dry-land birds rather than waterside ones like the UK kingfisher.
Posted by Deborah Byrd in Astronomy Essentials | Earth|December 15, 2019
December solstice 2019 arrives on December 22 at 4:19 UTC.
That’s December 21 for much of North America. High summer for the Southern Hemisphere. For the Northern Hemisphere, the return of more sunlight!
Late dawn. Early sunset. Short day. Long night. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the December solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year. Meanwhile, on the day of the December solstice, the Southern Hemisphere has its longest day and shortest night. The 2019 December solstice takes place on Sunday, December 22, at 04:19 UTC (That’s December 21 at 10:19 p.m. CST; translate UTC to your time).
No matter where you live on Earth’s globe, a solstice is your signal to celebrate.
When is the solstice? The solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth. In 2019, the December solstice comes on December 21 at 10:19 p.m. CST. That’s on December 22 at 04:19 Universal Time (UTC). It’s when the sun on our sky’s dome reaches its farthest southward point for the year. At this solstice, the Northern Hemisphere has its shortest day and longest night of the year.
Just remember: you’re translating from 04:19 UT on December 22. For example, if you live in Perth, Australia, you need to add 8 hours to Universal Time to find out that the solstice happens on Sunday, December 22, at 12:19 p.m. AWST (Australian Western Standard Time).
What is a solstice? The earliest people on Earth knew that the sun’s path across the sky, the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. They built monuments such as Stonehenge in England – or, for example, at Machu Picchu in Peru – to follow the sun’s yearly progress.
But we today see the solstice differently. We can picture it from the vantage point of space. Today, we know that the solstice is an astronomical event, caused by Earth’s tilt on its axis and its motion in orbit around the sun.
Because Earth doesn’t orbit upright, but is instead tilted on its axis by 23 1/2 degrees, Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. The tilt of the Earth – not our distance from the sun – is what causes winter and summer. At the December solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is leaning most away from the sun for the year.
At the December solstice, Earth is positioned in its orbit so that the sun stays below the North Pole horizon. As seen from 23 1/2 degrees south of the equator, at the imaginary line encircling the globe known as the Tropic of Capricorn, the sun shines directly overhead at noon. This is as far south as the sun ever gets. All locations south of the equator have day lengths greater than 12 hours at the December solstice. Meanwhile, all locations north of the equator have day lengths less than 12 hours.
For us on the northern part of Earth, the shortest day comes at the solstice. After the winter solstice, the days get longer, and the nights shorter. It’s a seasonal shift that nearly everyone notices.
Where should I look to see signs of the solstice in nature? Everywhere.
For all of Earth’s creatures, nothing is so fundamental as the length of daylight. After all, the sun is the ultimate source of all light and warmth on Earth.
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you can notice the late dawns and early sunsets, and the low arc of the sun across the sky each day. You might notice how low the sun appears in the sky at local noon. And be sure to look at your noontime shadow. Around the time of the December solstice, it’s your longest noontime shadow of the year.
In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s opposite. Dawn comes early, and dusk comes late. The sun is high. It’s your shortest noontime shadow of the year.
Why doesn’t the earliest sunset come on the shortest day? The December solstice marks the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and longest day in the Southern Hemisphere. But the earliest sunset – or earliest sunrise if you’re south of the equator – happens before the December solstice. Many people notice this, and ask about it.
The key to understanding the earliest sunset is not to focus on the time of sunset or sunrise. The key is to focus on what is called true solar noon – the time of day that the sun reaches its highest point in its journey across your sky.
In early December, true solar noon comes nearly 10 minutes earlier by the clock than it does at the solstice around December 22. With true noon coming later on the solstice, so will the sunrise and sunset times.
It’s this discrepancy between clock time and sun time that causes the Northern Hemisphere’s earliest sunset and the Southern Hemisphere’s earliest sunrise to precede the December solstice.
The discrepancy occurs primarily because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis. A secondary but another contributing factor to this discrepancy between clock noon and sun noon comes from the Earth’s elliptical – oblong – orbit around the sun. The Earth’s orbit is not a perfect circle, and when we’re closest to the sun, our world moves fastest in orbit. Our closest point to the sun – or perihelion – comes in early January. So we are moving fastest in orbit around now, slightly faster than our average speed of about 18.5 miles per second (30 kilometers per second). The discrepancy between sun time and clock time is greater around the December solstice than the June solstice because we’re nearer the sun at this time of year.
The precise date of the earliest sunset depends on your latitude. At mid-northern latitudes, it comes in early December each year. At northern temperate latitudes farther north – such as in Canada and Alaska – the year’s earliest sunset comes around mid-December. Close to the Arctic Circle, the earliest sunset and the December solstice occur on or near the same day.
By the way, the latest sunrise doesn’t come on the solstice either. From mid-northern latitudes, the latest sunrise comes in early January.
The exact dates vary, but the sequence is always the same: earliest sunset in early December, shortest day on the solstice around December 22, latest sunrise in early January.
And so the cycle continues.
Bottom line: The 2019 December solstice takes place on Sunday, December 22, at 04:19 UTC (that’s December 21 at 10:19 p.m. CST; translate UTC to your time). It marks the Northern Hemisphere’s shortest day (first day of winter) and Southern Hemisphere’s longest day (first day of summer). Happy solstice, everyone!
Well for many in the Northern Hemisphere the worst of the winter weather is yet to come.
This was seen on the photographic forum Ugly Hedgehog and I just loved it.
It is fully republished with permission.
I took our little dog for a woods walk after the snow.
We went for a walk in the woods behind our house this afternoon. We got about 3 inches of snow that stuck to the trees. Norah loves to run in the new snow!
By the stream. She doesn’t like to get her dainty paws wet.
I think these are wonderful.
The dog’s name is Norah as you may have gathered and she is a tailless dog. As was said on the forum: ” Her name is Norah. She’s the best (only) tailless dog we’ve every had! Our best guess is that she may be part Jack Russell but we don’t know. She’s a rescue dog.”
For next Sunday I’m going to repeat a few of these but using my Luminar photo-editing software. I have a feeling that a few of these wonderful photographs can produce some great edits.
Alex and Lisa have put together a remarkable video
Yesterday, in came an email from my son, Alex, about an amazing starling murmuration at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Lisa took the video and together they uploaded it to YouTube.
Having watched the amazing video I then did a little bit of research. I came quickly across the science of murmuration and have included it below.
Murmuration refers to the phenomenon that results when hundreds, sometimes thousands, of starlings fly in swooping, intricately coordinated patterns through the sky.
Maybe you’ve seen a murmuration video before. But this one is especially beautiful. It was shot earlier this month in Wales, at Cosmeston Lakes in the Vale of Glamorgan, and posted on Facebook by the BBC Cymru Wales. (It’s not included, Ed.)
It’s all about science. Just how do the starlings manage to fly in such an amazingly coordinated way?
A few years ago, George F. Young and his colleagues investigated starlings’ “remarkable ability to maintain cohesion as a group in highly uncertain environments and with limited, noisy information” — a nice description of what goes on in a murmuration.
Going in, Young et al. already knew that starlings pay attention to a fixed number of their neighbors in the flock, regardless of flock density — seven, to be exact. Their new contribution was to figure out that “when uncertainty in sensing is present, interacting with six or seven neighbors optimizes the balance between group cohesiveness and individual effort.”
Young et al. analyzed still shots from videos of starlings in flight (flock size ranging from 440 to 2,600), then used a highly mathematical approach and systems theory to reach their conclusion. Focusing on the birds’ ability to manage uncertainty while also maintaining consensus, they discovered that birds accomplish this (with the least effort) when each bird attends to seven neighbors.
A runner who broke her leg on remote moorland was rescued after her dogs raised the alarm.
Pita Oates, 48, was left unable to stand after she fell on a three-mile run in Lancashire with her blue collies Buddy and Merlyn.
One of the dogs stayed with her as she inched down the hill, while the other ran around barking for help.
This attracted the attention of another dog walker who contacted emergency services.
Ms Oates, from Leyland, said: “They were like a tag team, Buddy never left me while Merlyn went for help.
“I would have died without a doubt, I wouldn’t have lasted the night.”
When help arrived Ms Oates, who had left her mobile phone in her camper van, was drifting in and out of consciousness and starting to suffer the effects of hypothermia.
She said: “It was the tail-end of Storm Gareth, it was freezing and I was soaking wet. The winds were horrendous.”
Ms Oates broke the femur behind her left knee and tore her anterior and cruciate ligaments on the run on Great Hill near Chorley on 12 March.
“I couldn’t stand up, I was having to bum-shuffle all the way down,” she said.
“Every time my leg touched the ground I was in pain so I rigged up a sling using the dog’s lead to keep my leg up.”
It took her 90 minutes to get down the hill by which time it had gone dark.
“Buddy never left me and Merlyn kept barking back at him – when this man came with his dog he knew something wasn’t right,” she said.
Paramedics and members of the Bowland Mountain Rescue Team, as well as two from Bolton Mountain Rescue, arrived to help rescue Ms Oates.
She spent eight days in hospital and had a titanium plate fitted but still needs another operation.
Part of me is not surprised at the behaviour of Ms Oates’ dogs. Dogs show their care and attention in so many ways. But then again I was surprised because these two dogs knew exactly what to do. One to stay and one to seek help. Which is what they did.
It was a close-run thing (pardon the pun) as Pita was starting to fade away when help arrived.
The first weekend of this month saw Jeannie and me in Chicago. Then back home in Merlin, earlier this week, half-an-inch of rain fell to break a long spell of dry weather. I went out last Thursday morning to capture some sights of the first misty morning of Autumn. The contrast between our rural home and Chicago was dramatic; to say the least! Enjoy!
(P.S. I sensed there was no need to describe each photograph in terms of which one was taken in Merlin or in Chicago!)
On Monday when Jeannie and I went to our regular session at Club Northwest, Jean to her Rock Steady class, and me to spend 45 minutes with Austin Raymond, one of the fitness coaches, he and I were speaking of health in general and veganism in particular. Austin, Jean and I are vegans.
Austin mentioned had we watched the film The Game Changers on Netflix? I replied that we had not but we were subscribers to Netflix and would watch it in the evening.
Well what an incredible film! I mean really incredible!
P.S. If you are a Netflix subscriber then you may watch it without any fuss.
(So I taken time out from book writing to publish this post; I’m over 9,000 words already written in November!)
Here’s a YouTube trailer to the film:
Have you ever seen an ox eating meat!
But apart from the solid science that we never were meat-eaters were the facts about illness being so much prevalent in those eating meat compared to vegans. That was just one aspect of the film that grabbed our attention! There were many more.
Back to fundamentals!
Let’s examine one fact, the jaw shape.
Here’s the jaw of a dog.
and here’s another:
That is a mouth that has evolved to tear meat from an animal.
And here’s the jaw of a human:
and the picture of the whole skull.
Notice that the teeth have always been adapted to eat fruit and vegetables.
And that’s before we think how much land has been converted from natural land and forest to grazing land for cattle and sheep!
Now I don’t know how long the full documentary will remain for free on YouTube but here it is: