Tag: EarthSky website

Summer solstice 2020.

As old as time itself!

holding-the-sunThe point at which the sun reaches its farthest point north of the equator is the Summer Solstice, well it is for the Northern Hemisphere. This occurs annually on June 20 or June 21, depending on your time zone.

Here in Southern Oregon, the moment of the Summer Solstice will be at 2:43 PM or 14:43 PDT on Saturday, i.e. today! For the United Kingdom it will be at 22:43 BST on the same day or 21:43 GMT/UTC.

A quick web ‘look-up’ finds that the word solstice is from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the Sun appears to stop at this time, albeit momentarily.

At the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge in Southern England, the prehistoric monument that took Neolithic builders an estimated 1,500 years to erect, for many years the Druids have celebrated the Solstice and, undoubtedly, will be doing so again.

AMESBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 21: A man stands on top of Stonehenge as the sun rises over Salisbury Plain on June 21, 2006 in Amesbury, England. Police estimated around 17,000 people travelled to watch the sun rise ove the 5,000 year old stone circle to start the longest day of the year. The all-night party to celebrate the Summer Solstice passed with only four arrests being made. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
AMESBURY, UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 21: A man stands on top of Stonehenge as the sun rises over Salisbury Plain on June 21, 2006 in Amesbury, England. Police estimated around 17,000 people travelled to watch the sun rise over the 5,000 year old stone circle to start the longest day of the year. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

There’s a good article over at EarthSky on this year’s Solstice. I would like to quote a little from it:

At the June solstice, Earth is positioned in its orbit so that our world’s North Pole is leaning most toward the sun. As seen from Earth, the sun is directly overhead at noon 23 1/2 degrees north of the equator, at an imaginary line encircling the globe known as the Tropic of Cancer – named after the constellation Cancer the Crab. This is as far north as the sun ever gets.

All locations north of the equator have days longer than 12 hours at the June solstice. Meanwhile, all locations south of the equator have days shorter than 12 hours.

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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 the day. After all, the sun is the ultimate source of almost all light and warmth on Earth’s surface.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you might notice the early dawns and late sunsets, and the high arc of the sun across the sky each day. You might see how high the sun appears in the sky at local noon. And be sure to look at your noontime shadow. Around the time of the solstice, it’s your shortest noontime shadow of the year.

If you’re a person who’s tuned in to the out-of-doors, you know the peaceful, comforting feeling that accompanies these signs and signals of the year’s longest day.

Is the solstice the first day of summer? No world body has designated an official day to start each new season, and different schools of thought or traditions define the seasons in different ways.

In meteorology, for example, summer begins on June 1. And every schoolchild knows that summer starts when the last school bell of the year rings.

Yet June 21 is perhaps the most widely recognized day upon which summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere and upon which winter begins on the southern half of Earth’s globe. There’s nothing official about it, but it’s such a long-held tradition that we all recognize it to be so.

It has been universal among humans to treasure this time of warmth and light.

For us in the modern world, the solstice is a time to recall the reverence and understanding that early people had for the sky. Some 5,000 years ago, people placed huge stones in a circle on a broad plain in what’s now England and aligned them with the June solstice sunrise.

We may never comprehend the full significance of Stonehenge. But we do know that knowledge of this sort wasn’t limited to just one part of the world. Around the same time Stonehenge was being constructed in England, two great pyramids and then the Sphinx were built on Egyptian sands. If you stood at the Sphinx on the summer solstice and gazed toward the two pyramids, you’d see the sun set exactly between them.

How does it end up hotter later in the summer, if June has the longest day? People often ask:

If the June solstice brings the longest day, why do we experience the hottest weather in late July and August?

This effect is called the lag of the seasons. It’s the same reason it’s hotter in mid-afternoon than at noontime. Earth just takes a while to warm up after a long winter. Even in June, ice and snow still blanket the ground in some places. The sun has to melt the ice – and warm the oceans – and then we feel the most sweltering summer heat.

Ice and snow have been melting since spring began. Meltwater and rainwater have been percolating down through snow on tops of glaciers.

But the runoff from glaciers isn’t as great now as it’ll be in another month, even though sunlight is striking the northern hemisphere most directly around now.

So wait another month for the hottest weather. It’ll come when the days are already beginning to shorten again, as Earth continues to move in orbit around the sun, bringing us closer to another winter.

And so the cycle continues.

Indeed, so the cycle continues as it has for time immemorial!

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Wherever you are in the world, are you able to participate in this?

As first seen on the EarthSky site.

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Great Backyard Bird Count February 16–19

By Deanna Conners in EARTH | HUMAN WORLD February 9, 2018

Scientists need your help counting birds for the 21st annual Great Backyard Bird Count. It is free and easy to participate. Find out how here.

Bird watching in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Image via National Park Service.

The annual Great Backyard Bird Count, now in its 21st year, is set to take place February 16 to 19, 2018. During this popular citizen science event, people from all over the world head outdoors to count birds and the data are used by scientists to track the health of bird populations.

Gary Langham, Chief Scientist at the National Audubon Society, commented on the Great Backyard Bird Count on Audubon’s website. He said:

This count is so fun because anyone can take part—we all learn and watch birds together—whether you are an expert, novice, or feeder watcher. I like to invite new birders to join me and share the experience. Get involved, invite your friends, and see how your favorite spot stacks up.

The 2017 count was a huge success. Over 200,000 people participated from around the world, and they submitted a record number of checklists. A total of 6,259 bird species were spotted during the event, which was the highest number ever recorded over the 20-year history of the count. This number represents more than half of all known bird species on Earth!

Siberian stonechat photographed in Zhemgang, Bhutan, during the 2017 Great Backyard Bird Count. Image via Sancha Rai.

Participating in the 2018 Great Backyard Bird Count involves three easy steps.

First, register with your name on the event’s website at the link here. Registration is free. This website has a ton of useful information about birds and the upcoming bird count.

Second, spend some time counting birds on the weekend of the event at the location of your choice, such as your backyard or a local park. The minimum amount of time required is 15 minutes, but you can count for longer if you wish. During your count, simply record the start and end time, location, and number and types of birds that you see. You can perform counts in multiple locations too. Just be sure to submit separate checklists for each location.

Not to worry if you can’t identify the birds you see at first. Just take good notes about their prominent features, for example, size, shape, color, and unusual markings, or you can try to snap a close-up picture. Then, you can use a bird guide to look them up later. All About Birds and What Bird are two good online bird identification guides that are free and easy to use. Additionally, the free Merlin Bird ID App can be downloaded to your smartphone and used offline. Merlin will ask you five simple questions about the bird you are trying to identify and suggest matches for you—you can even upload a picture to Merlin and let the app try to identify it.

The third and last step involves uploading your data to the event’s website. This step usually only takes a few minutes to complete. While you’re visiting the website, check out the live map that displays dots in the various locations where people have uploaded a checklist. It’s fun to watch the data pour in from all over the world.

As an added bonus, there is a photo contest for those who want to submit pictures of the birds that they see during the event. You can even submit photos of yourself watching the birds. Hence, don’t forget your binoculars. If you do shoot some good photos, please share them with EarthSky too. We love birding photos!

Bluejay photographed in Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Canada, during the 2017 Great Backyard Bird Count. Image via Rose Pogoda.

Use the hashtag #GBBC to follow Great Backyard Bird Count conversations on Twitter and Facebook.
The first annual Great Backyard Bird Count was held in 1998, and the event has continued to grow year after year. Hopefully, 2018 will be another record breaker.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is a collaborative project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada.
Bottom line: The annual Great Backyard Bird Count runs from February 16 to 19, 2018. This popular citizen science project helps scientists keep track of the health of bird populations. Participating is free and easy, so why not give it a try?

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So, once again, the Bird Count starts on this coming Friday, the 16th, and runs through to the end of next Monday, the 19th.

Do please join Jean and me and many thousands of others in this very important survey.

And now pronking!

Yes, it’s a new word to me as well!

As I have been intimating previously, today is the start of my mother from London visiting us here in Oregon.  Thus, as one would expect, time for blogging is going to be restricted. Then in a week’s time, we are also joined by my sister, Elizabeth, who lives in Tokyo. So, dear reader, you will understand if there is a deficit of creative writing, assuming you find some of it creative, why that is.

Thus today, I’m leaning heavily on a recent item I read on the EarthSky blogsite.  It’s all about pronking! Yes, I hadn’t come across the word before.

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Does your dog pronk?

Among wild animals, pronking may be a way of avoiding predators. But when you see an animal pronk, you can’t but think it’s leaping for joy.
Among wild animals, pronking may be a way of avoiding predators. But when you see an animal pronk, you can’t but think it’s leaping for joy.

 

Alpacas, gazelles, some deer and baby lambs are all known to pronk. That is, they leap into the air as if leaping for joy, lifting all four feet off the ground at once. The fact that – in some species like sheep – young animals do it more than older ones does suggest playfulness. But, among wild animals, pronking may be a way of avoiding predators. It means something like, “Hey, I’m very fit so don’t bother chasing me.

But how about dogs? I didn’t find much online discussion about true dog-pronking, although many of us, at one time or another, may have seen our dog leaping for joy. I recall my own dog Snoop (rest his soul) released from the car in a South Dakota meadow, leaping and running like crazy through the long grass for maybe 20 minutes, until we called him back. It was one of the most joyful things I’ve ever seen, and definitely one of my best memories of Snoop.

So enjoy the videos below. And, by the way, although it is a survival strategy for some, the very word pronk comes from an Afrikaans verb pronk-, which means show off or strut. It has the same linguistic derivation as our English verb prance.

Original video from http://www.dogwork.com where you can also adopt homeless animals. You can also support shelter for dogs in Russia, http://www.facebook.com/helpadog

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“Pronking” seems to occur when an animal gets excited and jumps around his field, leaving the ground with all four feet simultaneousl, almost as though he had springs attached to his feet..Often these jumps can be high in the air.No-one really knows why llamas pronk. Certainly it is the response to some sort of excitement or disturbance. It is often infectious; sometimes my entire herd will take off. I am told that it isn’t only llamas but sheep and goats. Those of you old enough to remember BBC’s Magic Roundabout may well recall that Zebedee was a “pronker”. We never had a telly as kids, but I believe Zebedee was a dog (??).

Okay, well, maybe some sheep and wild animals like this young springbok – in Etosha National Park, Namibia – are the only true pronkers. Maybe true pronking has to have the downward-pointing head and stiff-leggedness. But if you ever see your dog do what the dogs in these videos do … you’ll feel happy. Image via Wikipedia.
Okay, well, maybe some sheep and wild animals like this young springbok – in Etosha National Park, Namibia – are the only true pronkers. Maybe true pronking has to have the downward-pointing head and stiff-leggedness. But if you ever see your dog do what the dogs in these videos do … you’ll feel happy. Image via Wikipedia.

Bottom line: Among wild animals, pronking seems to be a way of avoiding predators. But when you see an animal pronk, you can’t but think it’s leaping for joy.

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So there you go.  Don’t say that Learning from Dogs doesn’t teach you some new words from time to time!