Friday, December 12, 2008

Special Moon Tonight

Earth set for full moon close up

Full moon over San Francisco
The moon will appear high in the night sky

A full moon is set to occur closer to the Earth on Friday evening than it has done for the past 15 years.

The Moon's elliptical orbit means its distance from the Earth is not constant.

It will be a little over 350,000km away as it passes over the northern hemisphere, which is about 30,000km closer than usual.

If the sky is clear it will appear brighter and lighter than usual, say astronomers.

[from BBC News]

Thursday, December 11, 2008

PS about buying BOOKS

Thought you'd enjoy an e-mail that I [and other members of the Authors Guild] just received from humorist and Guild president Roy Blount Jr. [see previous post].

Dear members:

The Guild's staff informs me that many of you are writing to ask whether you can forward and post my holiday message encouraging orgiastic book-buying. Yes! Forward! Yes! Post! Sound the clarion call to every corner of the Internet: Hang in there, bookstores! We're coming! And we're coming to buy! To buy what? To buy books! Gimme a B! B! Gimme an O! O! Gimme another O! Another O! Gimme a K! K! Gimme an S! F! No, not an F, an S. We're spelling BOOKS!


PPS from Marie: Well, I posted it without asking.
PPPS. Tomorrow, back to Central Park Nature News


Today I received the following message from the writer Roy Blount Jr., who is president of an organization I belong to -- the Authors Guild. I'm sending it along to you because you are not only my readers, but you are surely just plain READERS too, and Roy's letter is full of great suggestions for you.

The photo was copied from, where you can order my book if you haven't already read it.
But as the message below explains, buy it [and other books] at your neighborhood bookstore.

Having my book sell would be nice for me. But I'm mainly writing to share the larger message. Books and bookstores are becoming endangered species. As a writer, therefore, I am an endangered species too. SAVE US!

Dear Members of the Authors Guild:

I've been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren't known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don't lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn't in the cards.

We don't want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let's mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that's just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!

There will be birthdays in the next twelve months; books keep well; they're easy to wrap: buy those books now. Buy replacements for any books looking raggedy on your shelves. Stockpile children's books as gifts for friends who look like they may eventually give birth. Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they'll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books. Then tell the grateful booksellers, who by this time will be hanging onto your legs begging you to stay and live with their cat in the stockroom: "Got to move on, folks. Got some books to write now. You see...we're the Authors Guild."

Enjoy the holidays.

Roy Blount Jr.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Waltz

Photo by Murray Head-- December 7, 2008

P.S. Our two red-heads, the Red-headed Woodpecker in the Locust Grove and the red-phased Screech Owl , seem to be settling in for a long Central Park stay.

Yoga squirrel

The other day photographer Murray Head sent me the photograph below, taken in Central Park on December 3, 2008.

What in the world is that squirrel doing? I wrote to Murray. It was a rhetorical question.. Murray sent me an answer the next day, accompanied by graphic proof:

It is a yoga posture know as Bakasana. Or translated: Crane pose,
he replied.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Red-headed Woodpecker and some ancient history

An immature [not quite red-headed] Red-headed Woodpecker has been resident in the Locust Grove [the wooded strip just west of the Great Lawn]for more than a week. This is a most unusual bird for Central Park, indeed, for the entire Northeast, and its presence in the park is attracting birdwatchers from all over. Photographers too.

Photos by Lloyd Spitalnik -- 12/6/08

Lloyd writes:
As you can see from the photo above, the woodpecker was gathering acorns. It was very territorial and chased anything away that came close to its storage trees including other birds and squirrels.

Could this bird have been aggressive enough to chase away another visitor photographed on Saturday in the Locust Grove? See below:

Red-tailed Hawk photographed in the Locust Grove on 12/ 6 by David Speiser

Some ancient history:
On April 4, 1998 , Central Park birdwatcher Tom Fiore wrote a note in the Bird Register, a looseleaf volume of bird sightings that is kept in the Loeb Boathouse:

It's great to be back in Central Park again today -- showing the Red-headed Woodpecker to reporters for Colombian TV. We hope for the early and safe return of the 3 other birdwatchers still being held hostage in the mountains of Colombia...

Here's the story: Tom and his friends, while searching for a rare bird in the mountains not far from Bogota, had been kidnapped by a band of guerrillas and held for ransom. Incredibly, Tom escaped from his armed guard ["with the wherewithal that might do Indiana Jones proud", as the New York Times wrote] and made his way through the jungle to safety. His companions were released a week or so later.

Tom returned to New York from Colombia on April 3 and was in the park the very next day, eager to show Central Park's unusual avian visitor to a television crew covering his amazing story.

[Source: Red-tails in Love-- Afterword to the Vintage Edition]

Though there have been occasional brief sightings of Red-headed Woodpeckers during the last decade, none of that species has spent the winter in Central Park since 1998.