“Niding Under the Milky Way” by Mihail Minkov, Detelina Village, near Varna, Bulgaria, July 2020. www.fineartshot.com
December 18-25, 2021
WASHING ASSEMBLYN – Suspended in the starry cosmic darkness, a stork sits at the edge of a round, earthy nest, its chicks nestled atop the mound. As the New Year approaches, “Niding Under the Milky Way” evokes the folklore of storks delivering newborns to families and the symbolism of a stork bringing New Year in the form of a human baby. The astrophotographer’s image poignantly highlights life on Earth in relation to our home in the Milky Way.
All of December, you and I are suspended in starry cosmic darkness from late afternoon to morning, with about nine hours of daylight. This afternoon and all night long, sunlight is reflected back to Earth by the Night Full Long Moon. Look for the big moon in the east-northeast at 3:55 p.m. – allow an hour’s delay where hills and buildings populate the skyline. Sunset is at 4:23 p.m. on the southwest horizon. Tomorrow morning 19, wake up, enjoy the spectacle of the Full Moon setting in the west-northwest. It will slide below the horizon at 7:52 am. Moonrise is almost an hour later each day and sunset a minute later.
Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, happens Tuesday 21. Yes, the sun sets one minute later each day, but sunrise continues to be later each day until January. Sunrise on the 21st is at 7:19 am, sunset at 4:24 pm
All week long, at nightfall, the sky in the south-south-west lights up with a string of planets. Brilliant Venus, low on the southwest horizon, is visible before 5 p.m. and sets around 6 p.m. Bright Jupiter appears above and to the south shortly after Venus. Jupiter sets around 9 p.m. Between Jupiter and Venus, darker Saturn makes its mark as the sky darkens. The ringed planet sets at 7:25 p.m.
During long winter nights under starry skies, resident birds sleep alone or in groups in cavities and other nooks and crannies of the landscape. While I puff up my goose-down duvet each night before sleeping in an unheated room, the Bushy Chickadee and the Downy Woodpecker puff up their feathers, then turn their heads to tuck their beaks in, then their feet into their insulating coats. In the morning and at feeding times during the day, a flock of birds flies to supplement their wild foods with a snack from my tallow cake feeder that hangs from a second story eave. Everything about feeding birds in winter can be found on Cornell Lab’s Project FeederWatch website.
Two of the best opportunities to learn and enjoy bird watching in winter are by joining experts and bird watchers. today December 18, and on New Years Day for Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count. Today it is the north and center of the county of Berkshire. To register for today’s event, contact Holly Higinbotham at firstname.lastname@example.org. Saturday January 1, 2022 is the Earl of South Berkshire. For more details on the two outings, contact Rene Wendell at email@example.com.
The winter berry shrub in the photograph is an example of a native woody tree that is a superb bird feeding station and landscaping plant throughout the seasons. Its vibrant red berries are eye-catching in any weather. When planting, be sure to include a male if the winter berry has not been spotted nearby in the wild. Although the days are short, a walk in the polyculture garden yields kale, collard greens and parsley.
I am delighted to meet readers all over the city, a few who have come forward to identify with. An arc to our shared interconnection with heaven and earth.