September 2015 Super blood moon eclipse time 19. Composite by Mike Taylor Photo Central Maine
Happy New Year (running a bit slow on this greeting, I know-but it's been a busy start to the year :^)
Tonight is our first lunar eclipse of the year, and it's also the third super-moon in a row, so it should be quite spectacular. North Americans will not even have to stay up that late to see its magic-and our friends and family in the southern hemisphere will be witnessing this event with us too.
Want to find out more? Visit EarthSky
Super Blood Moon Eclipse composite. Photo by T. Byrne January 2019
Re-post courtesy of British Bird Lovers
The Twelve Days Of Christmas is an English Christmas carol that was originally published in a book called Mirth Without Mischief in about 1780. However, the song is believed to be much older than the printed version and there are at least 3 French versions known to exist.
It seems that the original version was a love song to the birds that were often found not only in the backyards and woods, but also on the holiday tables of feasting families.
You will be familiar with the first seven choruses/courses, as they are the usual fare ; ^)
On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me A Partridge in a Pear Tree
The partridge is a member of the pheasant family and has been a traditional game bird in England for centuries. The partridge referred to in the carol is most likely a Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix) or English Partridge. Partridges are usually ground birds who feed on seeds and insects so we are not sure why it would be sitting in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me Two Turtle Doves
The Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) is a common summer visitor to England. It is a dainty dove, smaller and darker than most other pigeons but would have been featured in banquets in medieval times just as today we eat pigeon.
On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me Three French Hens
There are a four well-known breeds of French hens; Faverolles, La Fleche, Crevecoeurs and Marans. Faverolles have superior egg-laying ability during the winter months so would make an ideal gift for someone's true love at Christmas.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me Four Calling Birds
Most people interpret a calling bird as a song bird. However, the original song referred to "Four Colly Birds". The word colly means "black as coal or soot" so it is likely that the gift was four blackbirds (Turdus merula). We know that blackbirds were eaten in the past from the children's nursery rhyme "Four And Twenty Blackbirds Baked In A Pie".
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me Five Gold Rings
The gold rings are not in fact pieces of jewelry as the literal meaning would have you believe but are actually ring-necked birds. These are most likely to be Common (Ring-necked) Pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) which were introduced to England from China in medieval times. Pheasant is still a popular game bird eaten today.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me Six Geese-a-Laying
The geese in this verse are probably domesticated birds so are likely to be the Greylag Goose (Anser anser), the ancestor of our domesticated geese. The Greylag Goose is a large, native British bird and is still traditionally eaten for Christmas.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me Seven Swans-a-Swimming
Nowadays Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) are protected birds but there are many surviving medieval recipes for swans. One such recipe says that "Swan was quite often served as an ordinary dish, without the head......". Swan was roasted along with peacocks, storks and other birds that we would never consider eating today.
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love sent to me Eight Maids-a-Milking
Cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis) are small birds with yellow or greyish legs and a yellow beak. As their name suggests, cattle egrets tend to live near cattle as the animals' hooves disturb invertebrate prey. They are visiting the UK in increasing numbers and we think they are an appropriate bird to represent the maids in the carol.
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to me Nine Ladies Dancing
Many birds perform dances particularly during courtship rituals. Although regarded by some as black, sinister and greedy, cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) have a distinctive bobbing stance when dancing which we think looks quite ladylike.
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love sent to me Ten Lords-a-Leaping
Grey herons (Ardea cinerea) are tall, with long legs, a long beak and grey, black and white feathering. To take flight a heron must leap into the air and when standing, hunched with their neck bent over their chest they look just like old men.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me Eleven Pipers Piping
Sandpipers (Actitis hypoleucos) make a distinctive three-note piping-like cry as they take off. It is a smallish wader with contrasting brown upperparts and white underparts. Sandpipers habitually bob up and down, known as 'teetering', and they have a distinctive flight with stiff, bowed wings.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me Twelve Drummers Drumming
We think the best contender for the drummer is the great-spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major). They spend most of their time clinging to the side of tree trunks and branches trying to hide from observers and predators although they will venture into gardens to feed at bird tables and feeders. The presence of a great-spotted woodpecker is often announced by its loud call or by its distinctive spring 'drumming' display.
Enjoy your birds this season, whether on the table or in your backyard
The days are getting longer, darker, colder, and wetter...don't forget to treat yourself to these scones:
Ah yes, cold and flu season is upon us...why not send a card or photo email? Cheers~
Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Project FeederWatch begins November 10th.
Join me this year as a Citizen Scientist?
In the meantime, enjoy these comics from Bird & Moon. See you outside!
According to independent laboratory tests commissioned by EWG (Environmental Working Group), popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola, and snack bars come with a hefty dose of the weed-killing poison in Roundup.
You'd think the news that popular breakfast cereals contain the cancer-causing poison glyphosate would sound an alarm, yet I have seen several disinformation articles down-playing the issue with titles such as "How Much of an Herbicide Is Safe in Your Cereal?" and "Don't worry, your cereal probably won't poison you with pesticides".
Really? Come on humans, we certainly can do better for our kids and the environment.
Want to know more? Please visit my webpages Pesticides and Go Organic.
After picking blackberries two weeks ago, and subsequently suffering from the itchiest bites I have ever sustained, I am ready to share the results of my latest inquiry into...
Chiggers=Really Itchy Bites!
It looks like a tick, but only if you use a microscope; these practically invisible mites are the larvae stage of an 8-legged arachnid. Boy's Life states: "Red bugs, chiggers, berry bugs, scrub-itch mites and harvest mites are all terms used to describe members of the family of insects known as Trombiculidae. These reddish-orange mites can be found worldwide, but they really enjoy hanging out in damp, grassy and wooded areas, especially at the edges of forests." Approximately 50,000 species have been described, although there are an estimated 1 million species currently living.
I was lucky, I only picked up about 15 of these tiny creatures while out picking blackberries (which, to add insult to injury, were infested with fruit fly larvae); I woke up in the middle of the night with an intense itching in my belly button-seven bites-and the next morning found an additional eight bites around my waist and in the inside of my elbow and knee. (I am NOT including photos, as my bites are red, crusty, and oozy: impressively disgusting.)
I wondered...spider or flea bites? or, ewwww, bedbugs?
My research led me to confirm a textbook case of chiggers and to the prolonged and continuing study of the most effective way to stop the confounded itching.
First, from Dragonfly Woman:
Unlike many blood feeding insects and their relatives the ticks, chiggers have very short mouthparts. Those little dangly bits at the front end of the chigger in the picture above are the chelicerae, their mouthparts. Now imagine the chigger in that photo shrunk down to a milimeter or a half milimeter in size, their actual size. Like I said – very short mouthparts! Chiggers don’t just eat the top layer of skin cells though – they go for the good stuff underneath. To do this, they pierce the skin with their chelicerae, then inject saliva to digest the tissue and expand the wound. The goop that is produced is slurped up by the chigger. Remarkably, they also inject compounds into the wound that cause an immune response in the host animal, one that hardens the tissue around the bite site. In essence, the hardened tube-shaped structure that forms (called a stylostome) is a straw that expands deeper and deeper into the host. The chigger injects more saliva and sucks up more liquified tissue as the stylostome gets longer and longer. That’s right! Chiggers have tiny mouthparts, but they use their host’s own immune system to enlarge their mouthparts into a stylet like those of mosquitoes or a beak like those found in the true bugs! Now if that isn’t amazing, I’m not sure what is.
So the chigger bites you, dissolves some of your tissue, and eats it. Big deal, right? Wrong! These tiny little creatures are capable of producing some truly awful allergic reactions. These aren’t the send you to the hospital, carry an epi-pen with you kind of response in most people. Instead you itch. You itch like you’ve never itched before. Some people get massive itchy welts. The itching is intense, so severe that people have been known to gouge welts out of their skin as they scratch and many people have reported that the pain of doing this and the ensuing scars are much easier to deal with than the itch of the bites. Now the itching wouldn’t be so bad if it were just a few bites, but most people don’t get that lucky. Instead they get tens or hundreds of bites from many individuals at one time (chiggers tend to be clustered together) that are located in inconvenient places (want to be observed scratching your armpit or your bra straps vigorously hundreds of times per day?) and don’t go away for 5-10 days. That’s right – these little tiny animals can cause massive itching for 10 days or longer! (Are you itchy yet?)
Along with experimenting with all of the above remedies, I would take 25-50 mg of Benadryl when the itching became intolerable (and also when my belly had a dessert-plate sized rash on it, which was most of the second week) once or twice a day, and especially before going to bed. I kept a bag of frozen peas and used that often, along with Ibuprofin. In addition, I dapped the wounds with tea tree oil and honey, for their antibacterial goodness, and also tried Cortisone*10 cream with aloe, and Aveeno's Anti-Itch concentrated lotion with triple oats and calamine. Taking an oatmeal bath is a lovely temporary solution, but-honestly, nothing really works.
I am two weeks in and considering using the Swiss Army knife cure. Arghhhhh.
Hmm, I had no idea-really. So...googled it, and the first answer came from "Ask an Entomologist"
This second image is a still-shot of a really cool gif created by Seattle's Eleanor Lutz (and if I ever figure out how to embed the gif, I will update this post!) Meanwhile:
I will have more interesting bug research for you soon, but wanted to lead with some fun facts. Enjoy! (and be sure to check out Tabletop Whale for additional awesome science illustrations!)