Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Late Summer Report from My Yard

September 17, 2007 - A fall nip in the air greeted New Hampshire this morning. It was a chilly 35 degrees. Northern parts of the state fell below 32 degrees. Sunshine quickly warmed the air. By 9:00 AM, it was warmer outside than it was inside the house. According to the weather forecast, each day should be a little warmer than the previous day. By Friday, the overnight low should be 50 degrees with a high for the day around 80 degrees. Can't wait for Friday!

I like autumn, but I find it harder to adjust to the cold weather as I get older. The acorns have been dropping from the big oak out front for a couple of weeks. Although the tree doesn't overhang the roof, acorns pelt it sounding more like a winter storm of golf-ball sized hail. Personally, I think squirrels sit up in that tree and hurl the acorns at the house.

Some of the trees are showing dashes of fall color. The Great North Woods, the part of the state near Canada, is about 25% towards peak. During the next three weeks or so, the colors will gradually spread southward. Various shades of green sported by the tree-laden hill across the street will give way to the splendor of autumnal golds, oranges and reds.

It has been an interesting season with the hummingbirds. Despite their cute appearance, hummingbirds are fiercely territorial. One of our regular hummingbirds in particular decided he owned both feeders. He perched in either the oak or the maple watching and waiting for trespassers to invade his territory. We named him the Bully. As one of the "intruders" sipped nectar, he dive-bombed it. The intruder would fly away with the Bully in hot pursuit. Many times, they came within inches of grazing my head or my husband's head. Luckily, the Bully wasn't always around.

Lately I've only seen one hummingbird of the four regulars of the summer. Bully seems to have moved on. I just made a batch of nectar and I'm waiting for it to cool. This may well be the last one of the season. Did you know that hummingbirds migrate across the Gulf of Mexico on their journey to Central and South America? A few weeks ago, PBS ran a series of programs about birds. It was fascinating. I also learned that keeping the hummingbird feeders filled will not cause the hummingbirds to delay their migration. Anyway, the hummingbirds need to stoke up before they head south, so I will keep the feeders filled until I don’t see them anymore.

If you want to make some nectar for the hummingbirds boil 4 cups of water, add 1 cup of granulated sugar and stir well. When it cools, fill the feeder about ¾ of the way. Do not add food coloring. According to experts its not good for the birds. I can attest to the fact that you don’t need it.

Today has turned into a great day for birds. While our dog, Oscar, and I were standing near a feeder, birds whizzed by us, scooped up the seeds and flew away. All the regulars are around including chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, titmice, blue jays, mourning doves, cardinals, goldfinches and downy woodpeckers. White-breasted nuthatches stay the winter. I seldom see red-breasted nuthatches. I was surprised when two of them landed at the feeder. As I turned to go back to the house, I spotted an eastern phoebe on the telephone wire. I've heard them, but have not seen them in weeks.

All in all, it's been a great day, despite the chilly start!

It looks as though my grandson is holding the feeder up while the hummer takes a drink. Actually, he is about six feet away from the feeder! I didn't realize it would be an optical illusion when I took the photo!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Short Lunar Eclipse

On Tuesday, August 28, 2007 at 4:40 AMI grabbed my binoculars, camera, and telescope accessories case and headed out the door. The full moon illuminated the way to my chair, table and telescope that had been set up in the front yard the night before. Bad idea. The telescope had fallen prey to the night dew. Nice if one likes that foggy look to everything. No problem, my binoculars and camera were fine.

I live in the New Hampshire. I knew that the moon would set before reaching totality, but I thought I would see a bit more than half the moon eclipsed before it sank out of view. I forgot to figure in the geography of my western horizon - a tall pine-tree-studded hillside. My viewing can be summed up with this little list:

Totality occurred at 5:52 AM,
The moon set below a clear NH horizon at 6:09 AM
The moon set below my tree-lined hilltop horizon at 5:25 AM

The eclipse was beautiful, although brief.

Fortunately, there will be another total lunar eclipse on February 20, 2008. I have already checked. My western horizon will not be a problem. As long as the Nor'easters stay away, I just might see the entire eclipse and end up with a full set of eclipse photos.

Here's to clear skies and low horizons!