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October 2007

After the storm


  Here's what the Celery Farm looked like just before dawn today (Sunday) at the Warden's Watch, once the storm front moved through.

   After several inches of rain, stormwater was pouring out of the Celery Farm at the spillway near the Warden's Watch.Moon1

  Behind the trees, the post-full moon was setting.

   After nothing but clouds, the sky was as clear as a window.

   Today should be a great one for a walk.

A good day for ducks


They were across the small lake, the wind was causing my eyes to water, the ducks were dipping under water and I was a bit rusty (as always) on my duck IDs.

   Thus, in a moment of haste, I spied what I thought was a small flock of hooded mergansers at the Celery Farm.

   But what about the white body of the male? Was this something new? A fellow birder had an identification book, and it said nothing about male hoodies with white bodies.

   I thought I should call the marsh warden, and went inside to do so.

  By the time he arrived, the mystery was solved. The other birder had better looks at the ducks and determined they were buffleheads.

  Which made me the not-so-rare species known as the red-faced baffle-head. Ouch.

  Perhaps to console me, the marsh warden said he had never seen six buffleheads before at the Celery Farm at the same time.

  As we looked around, we saw a bunch of other great ducks -- shovellers and wood ducks and green-wing teal and gadwalls.

  There were also at least a dozen coots, and I an told that a moorhen (I call her Agnes, of course) has been hanging out with the coots.

  Although today's rain is better for ducks than duck-watching, have no fear. Tomorrow (Sunday) at the Celery Farm from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., there's a free annual event called "Ducks at Dusk," where you can watch the armada of waterfowl as they paddle around or fly in for the night.

   Experts will even help you ID them.

   Meet at the Warden's Watch off the Franklin Turnpike. No baffle-heads, please.


Bookends appearance today

   I'll be at Bookends today (Saturday) until 1 p.m. to sign books and talk about the blog, owl boxes, and anything else of interest,      

   Had hoped to go out to the Celery Farm for a walk beforehand, but the rains are unrelenting.

    No flooding yet.

Hunter's moon, plus comet


    Had a full moon last night, as advertised, but it had to shine through a misty sky.

   Took this at the Celery Farm, where there's a little less light pollution.

   For all intents and purposes, the moon is full again tonight, but the weather may not cooperate.

   Astronomy buffs are also talking about Comet 17P/Holmes (Thanks, John W.), which is normally dull but has been burning bright of late.

   Here's a link:

Full moon tonight


      If weather permits, and that is a huge "if," tonight's (Thursday night's) full moon will be the biggest and brightest of the year.

   The reason is simple.

   The moon has an elliptical orbit, with one side 30,000 miles closer to the Earth than the other.   

   Tonight's moon -- which will be 99.9 percent full at 12:52 a.m. -- is at the closest point in the orbit, "making it appear as much as 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than lesser full moons we've seen this year," as the Web site explains.

   The great thing about full moons is they are a lot more dependable and a lot easier to see than meteor showers -- once again, if weather permits.

   You don't have to wait up until after midnight to see the moon.

   If the weather cooperates, it will be plenty bright all evening, and nearly full tomorrow evening as well.

   The October full moon is called the hunter's moon, or in some Native American circles, the leaf falling moon.

   To find out when the sun and moon and rise and set in our area, try this Web site:

   Note, too, that the site can tell you just how full the moon will appear on any night.

   P.S.: Amazingly, the sun will set and the moon will rise at exactly the same minute on Friday night: 6:01 p.m.

   Bergen Community College Physics Professor Roger Opstbaum, who founded the college's amateur astronomy program, says that while sunset and moonrise occur at similar times only around full moons, to have them occur the same minute is still quite unusual.