Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Astronomy: Alignment of Venus and Mercury Coming up on May 28th


Tonight at about 9pm , I looked at the western horizon and noted a single "star" (planet really) and I was a little dismayed because my stargazing app had shown Venus and Mercury somewhat close to each other.  I had read earlier this month that Mercury and Venus will have an alignment on the evening of May 28th. I'm sure that it will be cloudy that evening, but I imagine that a few night before or after May 28th will provide a view of Venus and Mercury somewhat close together.

Interestingly- I had not seen Mercury until about 9:25... Just at Venus was dropping below the treeline. Venus is easy to see without any optics, but Mercury takes binoculars and lots of patience. It only appears once the sunset gets a little darker. 

I would like to go out to Point Pelee on the 28th to watch the sun set and see this alignment of these two planets. The nice thing about Point Pelee is that you have an un-obstructed view of the horizon in the East, South and Westerly directions. Another bonus for stargazers. 

Recall that back on the Winter Solstice of 2020 (Dec 21st) there was the "great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn" which I had captures the night before from my back porch. 

I have been mothing, birding and stargazing a little bit lately when I can get some time. A few nights ago, I was mothing with a few friends and after they left I stayed out (kingsville area has nice dark skies) to look at the Sagitarius constellation that is starting to appear late at night in the Eastern sky.

Some highlights from my recent outing were M8 (Lagoon Nebula) which I have never seen before, as well as M22 and M23 - both of which are star clusters within our Milky Way Galaxy.

Good Astronomizing!


Sunday, May 16, 2021

Mid May Migrants - Recent Highlights + Bonus Astronomy Photo (Bode's Galaxy)


Over the last two weekends I tried to do a little birding - it is mid May after all - and migration is in peak swing. I have tried to bird a little closer to home this year - although --- I have made short trips to Holiday Beach, Rondeau and Pelee. 

I think the consensus is that things have been very slow this year. I keep thinking about an older birder who told me that many years ago, it was not uncommon to walk down Shuster Trail to the Tildens' Woods Pathway at Point Pelee and have 30+ species of birds. 

There is also the idea that migration happens in 3 waves - one around May 4-7, one around May 15th, and perhaps one last one around May 20th and outside of those three waves, migration trickles through.

A weekend trip to Rondeau last weekend resulted in seeing a Prairie Warbler found by Blake Mann. While the park was a little quiet that day, I did manage to find a few pockets of warblers and had some great looks at Northern Parulas and Magnolia Warblers --- which are both stunningly beautiful warblers.

Yesterday - May 15th, I went to Holiday Beach and had a pretty nice walk. I was amazed to see several Scarlet Tanagers - perhaps as many as 6, along with Prothonotary Warblers, Bay breasted Warblers, Philadelphia Vireo and Red Headed Woodpeckers to name a few. Of course, one birder that I was talking to mentioned that Friday the 14th with much better... Of course.

Today I headed towards Hillman Marsh and Pelee. One of my goals was to find a Neotropic Cormorant (which I have still not lifered) - but try as I might - I just could not pick it out from the large group of Double Crested Cormorants. Hillman Marsh shorebirds were sparse - I mainly noted Dunlin, SP Plovers and a pair of Sandhill Cranes. Kopegaron Woods was nice. A few pockets of warblers near the parking lot amuzed me for a while. Some birds included Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Bay Breasted, Blackbirnan, Magnolia, Black and White, and a brief look at what was perhaps a Hooded or Wilsons Warbler. 

A brief walk between Delarier and Cactus Field at Pelee was nice but a little quiet. I did see a few small pockets of warblers - including Northern Waterthrush, Black throated Blue, Black throated Green , Parulas, Chestnut sided, A highlight was a Blackpoll Warbler. A few Least Flycatchers were calling with their "chebeek" call. 

I am looking forward to the "third wave" warblers and migrants in the next week or so to kick off the migration season for 2021.  Some birds I hope to see include Canada Warblers, Connecticut as well as some later shorebirds such as Whimbrel, Red Knots and White rumped Sanpipers maybe?

Good birding!

Bonus Astronomy Note:
I went out on May 14th late at night to do some stargazing. I had heard about this pair of Galaxies that are visible in the constellation Ursa Major (big dipper). M81 and M82 are both pretty easily photographed if you have a tripod, 400mm lens and a star-map app (stellarium).  This photo below shows M81 (Bode's Galaxy) and M82 (Cigar Galaxy).  Bodes Galaxy is 12 million light years away. That means the photons my camera collected have travelled for 12 million years to make it to earth. Also --- here is another cool thought... Every single star that you can see in the sky is in our home Galaxy, the Milky Way. Our galaxy has 100 thousand million stars --- ( 100 Billion stars?) ... So that dim fuzzy ball of light you see below is not a star in our galaxy... its its own galaxy, 12 million light years away, hosting hundreds of billions of its own stars. I am proud to be a budding astronomer and that I have the ability and the basic equipment to make such observations!

Monday, May 3, 2021

Early May Migrants


Its been an interesting Spring Migration so far!  Every year brings a random showing of birds and this year has been no different. For example, I don't think I have seen an Eastern Phoebe this spring yet --- which is strange because I see them quite easily most years.

Even though I am working - I try to go out daily during the month of May. 

Amazingly, my back yard even gives me good birds occasionally- and the other night while eating dinner, I noticed a Hermit Thrush in my back yard! I also hear White throated and White Crowned Sparrows singing from the hedgerow behind my house. 

I had a really nice walk at Black Oak Heritage Park in Windsor on May 2nd with a nice showing of about 6 warbler species along with singing Brown Thrasher and singing Yellow throated Vireo!

Anywho - all the best in your birding and nature appreciation efforts!



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