Tomorrow is the mid-point of winter, halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It’s also Candelmas in the Christian church and Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
A very special groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, will make his prediction just after dawn tomorrow morning, 2 February around 7:20am. I don’t know if he’ll see his shadow and predict six more weeks of winter, but I do know it won’t feel so wintry tomorrow. We’ll be out of the deep freeze at last! A high of 41oF in Pittsburgh and 37oF in Punxsutawney.
The southern (or winter) solstice will occur in Pittsburgh this evening at 5:23pm. By then we’ll have lived through a very short day, 9 hours and 17 minutes of rainy gloomy overcast daylight.
If we were in Manchester, UK there would be even less daylight. Today they have rainy overcast skies too, but they also have fewer hours daylight, 7 hours 28 minutes. The flip side is that Manchester has more sunlight in June.
Scott Richards decided to compare both solstices in Manchester side by side. He filmed the entire day — sunrise to sunset — on June 21 and December 21, then sped up the film so we don’t have to watch for 20 hours. Instead it lasts six minutes.
I’ve started his video, above, near sunset on the winter solstice (right) side. If you watch for a minute you’ll see the moon rise in winter while the summer sun is still so high that it leaves the video frame.
There’s a dramatic difference in the amount of daylight from solstice to solstice. No wonder I feel sleepy in December.
The 119th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) begins today (Fri 14 Dec 2018) and runs through Saturday 5 Jan 2019. As I write this post some Christmas Bird Counts are already underway.
Counting birds at Christmastime is an annual international tradition, coordinated in the U.S. by the National Audubon Society. Each “Count” is a 15-mile diameter circle manned by volunteers who count the birds they see in a single 24-hour period. Each circle has a Compiler who makes sure there’s no birding overlap.
In the Pittsburgh area there are 14+ circles shown in the map and table below. Some are as early as tomorrow, Sat Dec 15.
It’s easy to participate. Volunteer to count at your own feeders or out in the field. But first, be sure to call or email the compiler to confirm your assignment.
This list of Pittsburgh area counts is a subset of Pennsylvania’s CBCs. Please see the PSO Nov 2018 newsletter for the real thing.
I’ll be counting in the Pittsburgh circle on Sat. 29 Dec 2018. Coordinated by Brian Shema at AWSP, the Pittsburgh CBC has so many participants that it’s divided into sections with compilers for each one.
Despite their size and ungainly appearance, wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) can fly. They have to be airborne twice a day to get to and from their roosts in trees.
Most of us never see them fly but here’s some indirect evidence. The wild turkey below was photographed on Thompson Island in the bay east of Boston, Massachusetts. The photographer’s mobile phone provided GPS.
Peregrine Fans, our favorite bird is coming to PBS NOVA on Wednesday evening November 21.
The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on earth, reaching speeds of up to 200 miles per hour when diving to capture prey. PBS NOVA will show us how peregrines are designed to reach these speeds and will follow a falconer that believes his bird can go even faster. We’ll also see the family life of peregrines at a nest in Chicago.
Click here or on the caption above to watch the preview.
Don’t miss the World’s Fastest Animal, premiering on Wednesday November 21 at 9pm ET on PBS. Check your local listings for re-broadcast times in case you’re busy Wednesday night. In Pittsburgh, watch it on WQED.
For starters, it’s made me a Morning Person. I write best with a mug of coffee before dawn so I get up at 4am to have enough time to publish the day’s entry by 7am. Unfortunately a good article takes 3 hours to construct and illustrate. That’s if I’m lucky. It often takes longer, as it did today.
Second, it’s made me keenly aware of interesting topics. In the old days I would flail around on deadline without any ideas. (If you’re a writer you know what I mean.) Nowadays I keep an “Ideas” list online and dip into it for inspiration. Thank you to everyone who suggests new topics. If you don’t see your contribution right away, it’s on the list.
Third, I’ve met you! Every day about a thousand of you read my blog. Readership drops to 700 in the depths of winter and soars to 4,000 at times of peregrine excitement. I’ve made a lot of new friends.
I couldn’t have blogged for eleven years without you. Your enthusiasm keeps me going every day. Thank you, my readers! And a big thank you to all the photographers who let me use your photos. Without photos this blog would be just a pile of words.