Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

January 12, 2013

Ecolocal Calendar offers another view

There was a bewildering assortment of calendars for sale as the New Year approached.

But aside from the monthly pictures, most calendars convey the same information — the days of the week, the national holidays, religious occasions, start of each season and perhaps the dates when we switch to Daylight Saving Time, or switch back to Standard Time.

Chris Hardman’s Ecological Calendar for 2013, in the form of a desk calendar allows you to follow a number of cycles in nature as well as celestial happenings. This calendar is spiral bound so you can open it up and learn what is special about nature in each of the 52 weeks of 2013.

Each week and each season (a fold out) features beautiful stylized artwork by Hardman.

You will be told when a particular planet leaves or enters the evening sky, when two planets line up, when the moon lines up with a particular planet and meteor showers.

The sun band is a horizontal line whose width is proportional to the amount of daylight at that time of the year. Below the sun line are diagrams of the moon’s lighted shape every few days. Towards the bottom of the artwork are a series of peaks that represent both the strength and weakness of the tides. (The tides are strongest when the moon and sun are lined up (twice a month) and weakest when the sun and moon are at right angles (the half full phases).)

I found the entries about animals and plants for that time of the year fascinating. The Ecological Calendar is designed for the temperate and far northern regions of the northern hemisphere (includes our area), where most humans live.

Here are some nuggets from the Ecological Calendar.

In early January, mention is made of the Snowy Owl, which consumes over a thousand lemmings each year. Its feeding is made easier by its white coat, which blends in with the arctic tundra.

The Humpback whales’ songs are heard during their long swims to their breeding areas. The Lion’s Mane Jellyfish, which lives in the Arctic Ocean year around can have a dome eight feet across with tentacles 150 feet long.

In January and February, Black Bears give birth to their cubs in their winter den. The bear cubs remain with their mother for over a year.

 In February, the calendar mentions that Painted Turtle Hatchlings produce a natural anti-freeze that allows them to survive bitterly cold temperatures. If attacked, a herd of Musk Oxen form a circle with their behinds pressed together. Their long, thick coats protects them down to -40 Fahrenheit degrees.

In March, the calendar states that 95 percent of the entire Grey Bat population hibernates in less than 10 large limestone caves in the southeastern U.S. Several hundred thousand of these bats can occupy one cave.

Dall’s Sheep search for windswept cliffs where there is little snowfall. There these sheep feed on frozen lichen and moss exposed by strong winds.

Dandelions appear in mid April. Their name in Old French means “Lion’s tooth.” These plants are eaten by deer and rabbits.

The male birds of the Snowy Egret have their yellow feet turn to a orange red hue. Their mating dance involves keeping their bills skyward while their bodies undulate up and down.

Around the start of May, the female Mexican red-knee Tarantula fertilizes her eggs with sperm stored in her body for months. She deposits the fertilized eggs in a silk sac that she places between her fangs. Weeks later the baby Tarantulas will emerge.

The female whip-poor-will lays her eggs so that they will hatch when the moon is a waxing (growing) crescent. The following 10 days of evening moonlight are used by the female whip-poor-will to collect insects for her chicks.

Chris Hardman’s Ecological Calendar for 2013 is published by Pomegranate Communications Inc. Box 80822 in Petaluma, California 94975 and on the internet at www.pomegranate.com . A local book store can order it for you.

SKY SIGHTS AHEAD In the 6 p.m. southwestern dusk tonight, a slender crescent moon may be seen close to the horizon. If you have a flat horizon, you may catch sight of the planet Mars below the moon.

This coming Friday, the moon will appear half full (1st quarter) in the southwestern evening sky. This is the best time to observe the lunar craters and mountain ranges with a small telescope.

Along the moon’s straight edge, the sun there is rising, lighting up the craters’ raised rims and mountain peaks.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.

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Bob Doyle - Astronomy
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