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Learning to Bird By Ear

July 25, 2014

There are many resources available to help you identify birds by ear, as well as resources to help you learn how to identify by ear. I recently ran across, a useful, informative and free website created by Nathan Pieplow. Nathan has recently signed a contract with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to create a comprehensive field guide to bird song, The Petersen Field Guide to Bird Sounds.

Among Nathan’s many interesting postings, I want to draw your attention to a series which can quickly teach you how to listen to birds, sorting their sounds into various categories.  Sample songs are embedded in each posting. Click on them and you’ll immediately hear, and see in sonogram form, exactly what he’s writing about. It doesn’t get easier than this.

You can find these postings on the right sidebar of his website, but here they are:

1. The Five Basic Pitch Patterns:   Monotone, upslur, downslur, overslur and underslur
2. The Four Basic Song Patterns:   Phrase, series, warble and trill.
3. Changes in Speed and Pitch, and Multi-noted Series:   A song pattern can accelerate, decelerate, upslur, overslur, peak, be 2-, 3- or 4-note series.
4. The Seven Basic Tone Qualities: Whistle, hoot, click, buzzy or burry, nasal, noisy and polyphonic.

Explore the rest of his website. A permanent link to is now on our right sidebar under Bird Links.

Malibu Lagoon Field Trips: Sunday, 27 July, 8:30 & 10am.

July 24, 2014
Artist's perspective of west channels view from SW corner (RestoreMalibuLagoon . com)

It’s starting to look more like this artists’ perspective…
(RestoreMalibuLagoon . com)

The migrating shorebirds are starting to return in their bright colors and we expect that our Snowy Plover flock, beach residents for the 10 non-breeding months of the year, will be back.

Some of the great birds we’ve had in July are: Gadwall, Pied-billed and Eared Grebe, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Red-shouldered Hawk, Snowy Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Western Sandpiper, Heermann’s & Western Gulls, Least, Caspian, Royal & Elegant Terns, Black Skimmer, Anna’s & Allen’s Hummingbirds, Belted Kingfisher, Rough-winged, Barn and Cliff Swallows, Oak Titmouse, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Common Yellowthroat, California Towhee, Savannah & Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Hooded Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch.

Prior checklists: Jan-Apr’12, July-Dec’11, Jan-June’11, July-Dec ’10Jan-June ’10, Jul-Dec ‘09, and Jan-June ‘09.

Adult Walk 8:30 a.m. – Beginner and experienced, 2-3 hours.  Species range from 40 in June to 60-75 during migrations and winter.  We meet at the metal-shaded viewing area (see photo below) next to the parking lot and begin walking east towards the lagoon.  We always check the offshore rocks and the ocean.  When lagoon outlet is closed we continue east around the lagoon, and around to Adamson House.  We put out special effort to make our monthly Malibu Lagoon walks attractive to first-time and beginning birdwatchers.  So please, if you are at all worried about coming on a trip and embarrassing yourself because of all the experts, we remember our first trips too.  Someone had to show us the birds, and it’s our turn now.

Meeting place - What's that animal in the foreground?  See photo below of him heading the other way. (Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation 6/18/13)

Meeting place – Hey, what’s that animal in the foreground?
See him heading the other way in photo below.
(Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation 6/18/13)

Children and Parents Walk 10:00 a.m.   One hour session, meeting at the metal-shaded viewing area (see photo above) between parking lot and channel.  We start at 10:00 for a shorter walk and to allow time for families to get it together on a sleepy Sunday morning.  Our leaders are experienced with kids so please bring them to the beach!  We have an ample supply of binoculars that children can use without striking terror into their parents.  We want to see families enjoying nature. (If you have a Scout Troop or other group of more than seven people, you must call Mary (310-457-2240) to make sure we have enough binoculars and docents.)

Directions: Malibu Lagoon is at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Cross Creek Road.  Look around for people wearing binoculars.  Parking in the official lagoon lot is $12+ or by annual pass.  You may also park either along PCH west of Cross Creek Road, on Cross Creek Road itself but be careful – some parts of PCH are off-limits (read the signs carefully), or on Civic Center Way north (inland) of the shopping center.  Lagoon parking in the shopping center lot is not permitted.
Map to Meeting Place
[Chuck Almdale]

Locally known as 'Willie the Weasel' (Cal. State Parks 6/18/13)

Locally known as ‘Son of Willie the Weasel’
(Cal. State Parks 6/18/13)

Are all (you) birders happy?

July 15, 2014

Last month, I was birding on a lonely 2-lane road near the south fork of the Kaweah River, just south of Sequoia National Park. It was early evening and I was passed by a tall energetic local woman out for her evening walk. She paused to talk birding for a minute, and as she marched on, she noted that every birder she has ever seen seems to be smiling. “Is it true that you are all happy when you’re birding?” she asked.

Well, we want to test that theory locally. Every summer your Board gathers for a planning meeting and one of the main topics is The List of field trips to be made available to all of you members and any others who may want to join us in the great outdoors. Often various board members give reason A or reason B for adding or changing The List or date of sites where a number of us will be meeting on a chilly Saturday morning months hence.

However, should this be the decision of only 12 people, no matter how experienced?

The Board would like to hear/read your spirited suggestions. What trip(s) did you love? Should it have been at another season? What trip was a waste of your precious time? How far are you willing to drive/carpool in this age of $4 carbon-conscious gasoline? What day of the week is best? What birds and habitats would you like to discover?

Our Malibu Lagoon walks are pretty much “set in stone” on the fourth Sunday of every month. We also schedule up to 15 other field trips each year. Most of these are on the second Saturday of the month; occasionally they may be on a different Saturday or on a Sunday. A few may be led by members of other chapters or organizations.

This blog is the ideal town square to post your thoughts. We live within reach of a  great diversity of habitats and birds. You have time to think. The List will not be decided until the 20th of July.

I hope we hear from you soon.

Lu Plauzoles

Full Buck Moon Update – 12 July, 2014, 4:25 AM PDT

July 11, 2014

Here’s another update from SMBAS Blog on that large, disc-like, shining object which has frequently and mysteriously appeared in our nighttime sky this year (known to many as the moon).

Montage of moon in eclipse (Sebastien Gauthier 5/14/14; NASA website)

Montage of moon in eclipse (Sebastien Gauthier 5/14/14; NASA website)

July 12, 4:25 a.m. PDT — Full Buck Moon.   This is the season when the new antlers of buck deer push out from their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur.   It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, thunderstorms being most frequent at this time. Sometimes this is also called the Full Hay Moon.

Barroom bet question: How long is the mean average period of daylight (sunrise to sunset) at exactly the North or the South geographic pole? For purposes of this question, mean average = total hours of daylight / number of periods of daylight in a year.
a. 8 hours
b. 11 hours, 58 minutes
c. 12 hours
d. 16 hours
e. 182.625 days
No peeking!
Tick, tock
Tick, tock
The answer is e, which is 1/2 year. At the North Pole the sun begins to appear above the horizon on March 21, rises slowly until June 21, then slowly sinks until disappearing below the horizon on Sept. 21. The converse happens at the South Pole. Thus there is ONLY ONE period of daylight per (non-calendar) year. With only one period of daylight, average and actual lengths are equal.

The next significant full moon will occur on August 10, 11:09 a.m August 10, 11:09 a.m. PDT.   Keep an eye on this spot for additional late-breaking news on this unprecedented event.

This information comes to you courtesy of:
written by Joe Rao.   Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmer’s Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, N.Y.

But that’s waaay too long to type in, and besides, you don’t need to go there because SMBAS has done the work for you!
[Chuck Almdale]

Malibu Lagoon Fish Life

July 6, 2014
Striped Mullet (Wikipedia)

Striped Mullet (Wikipedia)

According to Wikipedia, Striped Mullet goes by many names, including:  Black mullet (Cuba, US), Bully mullet (Australia, Vietnam), Callifaver mullet (Cuba, Netherlands Antilles, US), Common grey mullet (UK), Common mullet (Cuba, Netherlands Antilles, US), Flathead grey mullet (India, Philippines, UK), Flathead mullet (Europe, FAO, UN), Grey mullet (Thailand, Turkey, Australia, Taiwan, Cuba, Fiji, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, Spain, Tonga, UK, US, Mediterranean, Egypt), Hardgut mullet (Australia), Mangrove mullet (Australia), and Sea mullet (Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, UK).

Decades ago, British and American bird mavens decided to agree on English names for all the world’s birds. They’ve made much progress, with some exceptions such as when the bird Americans knew as Common Gallinule was renamed Common Moorhen to satisfy British intransigence (recently rectified), whereupon some American birders pointed out that we don’t have moors, they’re not all hens, and they’re not all that common. LAAS’s Western Tanager newsletter, highlighting this problem of multiple nomenclature once ran an article, by Garrett & Dunn, I believe, detailing how to differentiate between three then-widespread egrets: Common, Great and American. [It was an April issue in I forget which year.]

Fish lovers have made no such progress, as any piscivore should know. Surely you are aware that Chilean sea bass was previously known as Patagonian toothfish; the name change was a marketing decision – sea bass sounded far more scrumptious than toothfish, and anyway, no real American knows where Patagonia is. [The good sales people at REI will gladly point you in the right direction.]

Which brings us around to the mullet many have seen leaping friskily from Malibu Lagoon in recent months. The New England Aquarium says they are also called jumping mullet or jumping jack (take that, Wikipedia!) because of this behavior. I couldn’t find out if this is a courting display, a feeding behavior, an attempt to shake off parasites or a recreational activity. [Anyone out there know?]

If you haven’t personally witnessed this phenomenon, check out the Dance of the Striped Mullet slideshow on Bob Purvey’s EcoMalibu website.

EcoMalibu also has a video page of over 20 different films pertaining to the lagoon and the reconfiguration project.  The following is a list of short underwater films taken near the water monitoring stations (those posts with vertical depth gauges) ; you’ll be surprised at how much life is swimming around down there.  This list, along with many other delights, is on our permanent Malibu Lagoon Project page. [Chuck Almdale]
1. Aug. 7, 2013 Length 1:48 minutes “Life Below the Surface”
2. Aug. 12, 2013 Length 9:20 minutes “Malibu Lagoon Aquarium”
3. Aug. 26, 2013 Length 3:53 minutes “Malibu Lagoon Aquarium II”
4. Sep. 9, 2013 Length 4:55 minutes “Malibu Lagoon Aquarium III”
5. Sep. 30, 2013 Length 1:47 minutes “Shrimpfest”
6. Oct. 2, 2013 Length 2:42 minutes “Malibu Lagoon Aquarium IV”
7. Oct. 22, 2013 Length 8:31 minutes “Fish, Fish, Fish”
8. Nov. 4, 2013 Length 0:57 minutes “The Big Fish”
9. Apr. 30, 2014 Length 3:36 minutes “Lagoon Crustaceans”
10. Jun. 18, 2014 Length 3:49 minutes “Aquarium & Aviary”
11. Jun. 25, 2014 Length 2:21 minutes “Got Fish? Malibu Lagoon Does”
12. Jun. 25, 2014 Length 2:08 minutes “Shrimpfest II”
13. May-June, 2014 Slide Show “Dance of the Striped Mullet”
14. Jul. 7, 2014 Length 1:56 minutes “Mullet Adult School”
More to Come

Malibu Lagoon Trip Report: 22 June, 2014

July 4, 2014

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June seems to be when many people decide that birding looks like fun. When they show up at the lagoon I always feel both sad and hopeful – sad they selected SoCal’s slowest month for birds; hopeful they won’t be discouraged and quit.

Two Whimbrels (Laurel Jones 6/22/14)

Two Whimbrels (Laurel Jones 6/22/14)

I always let them know that after June the birding can only get better. We had 465 total birds in 43 species – typical for June; compare that to Oct’13 (1671 & 75 species, or Feb’14 (1564 & 59 species). SoCal hosts a lot of migrant and wintering birds; breeding bird populations seem sparse in comparison. Of course, if we ever see the long-awaited publishing of L.A. County’s breeding bird atlas, we’ll know what’s what.

Checking results on the bocce ball green (R. Ehler 6/22/14)

Civilizations rise and fall, yet bocce ball remains. (R. Ehler 6/22/14)

After wandering around the perimeter of the channel, out to the beach and on to Adamson House, we found two old men (I’m old, so I’m able to call others old) playing bocce ball on the lawn. The slope of the lawn towards the beach caused their bowls to significantly curve, a fact to which they had not yet adjusted, so we – or maybe it was just I – gave them a hard time about it, as a form of encouragement of course, of course. It looked like fun, and it struck me that it could easily be one of the most primitive forms of game known to humankind, the ancestor of countless other games and sports. What could be simpler than tossing or rolling objects, trying to hit a target? Acorns or pebbles serve as well as perfect spheres; you don’t even need an opposable thumb, as one player pointed out. I’ve seen monkeys in trees pelt humans below with – ahem – stuff, a practice at which they are acknowledged to be very unpleasantly skilled. [Note: Wikipedia says you can toss or bowl the bocce ball; the game goes back at least to Ancient Rome and Greece, and probably Egypt before that.]

Juvenile & adult Crows (R. Ehler 6/22/14)

Juvenile (left) & adult (right) American Crows.
Note juvenile bill size. (R. Ehler 6/22/14)

With the exception of a Phainopepla – a new lagoon record for me – perched in a tree near Adamson House, we had no new birds for the season. Instead we had various breeding birds busily gathering food or shepherding their young: Gadwalls, Mallards, Killdeer, Black Phoebes, American Crows, Barn Swallows, Mockingbirds, Song Sparrows and House Finches, among others.

Young Barn Swallows prefer a perch that sways (R. Ehler 6/22/14)

Young Barn Swallows prefer a perch that sways (R. Ehler 6/22/14)

After the birdwalk we held our annual picnic at our favorite site in Tapia Park, a few miles up Malibu Canyon. It was very quiet, except for Mockingbirds, California Thrashers and California Towhees tootling away, and very pleasant in the live oak shade. After eating some great food we played “Bird Bingo,” which works much like regular bingo except, as one might guess, with bird pictures instead of letters. The birds were from all around the world, so you might find a Shoebill next to a Song Sparrow, an unlikely event in the real world. Winners won bars from Ellen’s cornucopia of world chocolate.

Mallard duckling (R. Ehler 6/22/14)

Mallard duckling – looking for mom, perhaps?
(R. Ehler 6/22/14)

Our next three scheduled field trips:   Malibu Lagoon, 27 July, 8:30 & 10am; Lower Los Angeles River, Aug, or early Sept 7:30am; Malibu Lagoon, 24 August, 8:30 & 10am;.
Our next program: Tuesday, 7 Oct., 7:30 pm. To Be Announced.

NOTE: Our 10 a.m. Parent’s & Kids Birdwalk meets at the shaded viewing area. Watch for Willie the Weasel.
Links: Unusual birds at Malibu Lagoon
Aerial photo of Malibu Lagoon from 9/23/02.
Prior checklists: July-Dec’11, Jan-June’11, July-Dec ’10Jan-June ’10, Jul-Dec ‘09, and Jan-June ‘09.

Comments on Bird Lists Below
Total Birds:
   June 2014 total birds of 465 is 15% below the 6-year June average of 549.
Summary of total birds from the 6-year average:  Jun’12 +36%, Jul’12 -9%, Aug’12 -9%, Sep’12 +12%, Oct’12 +3%, Nov’12 -5%, Dec’12 +30%, Jan’13 -20%, Feb’13 -29%, Mar’13 -30%, Apr’13 -34%, May’13 -37%, Jun’13 -24%, Jul’13 +83%, Aug’13 +37%, Sep’13 +23%, Oct’13 +41%, Nov’13 -58%, Dec’13 -49%, Jan’14 -62%, Feb’14 -28%, Mar’14 +51%, May’14 -14%, June’14 -15%.
Species Diversity:  June 2014 with 43 species was fractionally higher that the 6-year May average of 42.5.
Summary of species diversity from the 6-year average:  Jun’12 -10%, Jul’12 +10%, Aug’12. -6%, Sep’12 -20%, Oct’12 +5%, Nov’12 +2%, Dec’12 -4%, Jan’13 +2%, Feb’13 -8%, Mar’13 +9%, Apr’13 -2%, May’13 +3%, Jun’13 +13%, Jul’13 0%, Aug’13 +11%, Sep’13 -14%, Oct’13 +19%, Nov’13 -3%, Dec’13 -6%, Jan’14 -2% Feb’14 +9%, Mar’14 +6%, May’14 +20%, June’14 +1%.
10-year comparison summaries are available on our Lagoon Project Bird Census Page.    [Chuck Almdale]

Note: Beginning July, we will return to our pre-project form of bird list, which will report most recent 6-month periods. Two years of tracking census data in this format has amply demonstrated that the project, even during its messiest days, had no ill effects on bird life, despite the claims of the few, but very vocal, complainers.

Malibu Census 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
June 2009-2014 6/28 6/27 6/26 6/24 6/23 6/22
Temperature 68-75 65-75 68-76 70-76 62-75 68-74
Tide Lo/Hi Height L+0.4 H+3.81 H+3.0 L+0.07 H+4.22 H+3.48 Ave.
Tide Time 0838 1139 0754 0714 1037 0712 Birds
Brant 1 11 2.0
Gadwall 15 4 5 2 2 21 8.2
Mallard 25 40 41 24 59 32 36.8
Red-brstd Merganser 2 0.3
Ruddy Duck 7 1.2
Pied-billed Grebe 2 2 3 4 8 1 3.3
Brandt’s Cormorant 2 1 0.5
Dble-crstd Cormorant 22 5 54 17 17 37 25.3
Pelagic Cormorant 3 0.5
Brown Pelican 71 205 28 340 52 63 126.5
Great Blue Heron 8 6 4 1 2 2 3.8
Great Egret 3 2 5 2 2 2.3
Snowy Egret 14 14 8 4 8 10 9.7
Green Heron 1 0.2
Blk-crwnd N-Heron 3 6 1 2 1 2.2
Osprey 1 1 0.3
White-tailed Kite 1 1 0.3
Cooper’s Hawk 1 0.2
Red-shouldered Hawk 1 0.2
Red-tailed Hawk 1 2 2 1 1.0
Peregrine Falcon 1 0.2
American Coot 22 5 12 4 6 4 8.8
Blk-bellied Plover 15 2.5
Killdeer 2 5 1 4 10 3.7
Black Oystercatcher 1 0.2
Willet 3 1 1 0.8
Whimbrel 5 8 5 3.0
Long-billed Curlew 2 0.3
Western Sandpiper 1 2 0.5
Short-billd Dowitcher 2 0.3
Heermann’s Gull 48 17 15 44 18 4 24.3
Ring-billed Gull 7 1.2
Western Gull 72 61 68 84 62 57 67.3
California Gull 1 1 1 1 0.7
Caspian Tern 3 9 10 1 6 3 5.3
Royal Tern 2 1 4 3 18 4.7
Elegant Tern 15 4 240 14 23 49.3
Black Skimmer 5 1 1.0
Rock Pigeon 6 4 4 3 9 6 5.3
Band-tailed Pigeon 5 0.8
Mourning Dove 4 4 5 1 2 2 3.0
White-throated Swift 1 0.2
Anna’s Hummingbird 2 2 1 3 2 2 2.0
Allen’s Hummingbird 4 1 8 10 4 4.5
Belted Kingfisher 1 0.2
Downy Woodpecker 1 0.2
Black Phoebe 15 2 10 5 12 3 7.8
Cassin’s Kingbird 1 1 0.3
Western Scrub-Jay 1 1 0.3
American Crow 12 4 4 4 8 9 6.8
Rough-wingd Swallow 6 6 1 8 3.5
Barn Swallow 8 40 25 4 23 40 23.3
Cliff Swallow 7 30 15 4 2 10 11.3
Oak Titmouse 1 1 0.3
Bushtit 4 8 1 2 2.5
Marsh Wren 1 0.2
American Robin 1 0.2
Wrentit 1 0.2
Northern Mockingbird 2 2 3 6 6 3 3.7
European Starling 20 65 21 5 65 12 31.3
Phainopepla 1 0.2
Common Yellowthroat 1 1 1 2 0.8
California Towhee 1 4 1 6 3 2.5
Song Sparrow 6 3 3 6 15 10 7.2
Red-winged Blackbird 1 55 2 30 14.7
Great-tailed Grackle 3 2 4 4 2.2
Brwn-headed Cowbird 1 2 1 3 2 1.5
Hooded Oriole 4 1 1 2 1.3
Bullock’s Oriole 1 2 0.5
House Finch 6 4 14 8 14 11 9.5
Lesser Goldfinch 2 4 2 2 1.7
House Sparrow 2 0.3
Totals by Type 6/28 6/27 6/26 6/24 6/23 6/22
Waterfowl 41 62 46 26 61 55 49
Water Birds-Other 117 217 97 368 85 106 165
Herons, Egrets 28 28 19 5 14 15 18
Raptors 3 1 4 1 3 1 2
Shorebirds 9 2 7 25 9 16 11
Gulls & Terns 139 105 96 373 104 106 154
Doves 10 8 9 4 16 8 9
Other Non-Pass. 6 3 2 12 13 6 7
Passerines 93 220 122 49 169 152 134
Totals Birds 446 646 402 863 474 465 549
  2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014  
Total Species 6/28 6/27 6/26 6/24 6/23 6/22
Waterfowl 3 4 2 2 2 3 2.7
Water Birds-Other 4 4 4 5 5 5 4.5
Herons, Egrets 4 4 5 2 4 4 3.8
Raptors 3 1 3 1 2 1 1.8
Shorebirds 3 1 2 4 4 3 2.8
Gulls & Terns 5 7 6 5 6 6 5.8
Doves 2 2 2 2 3 2 2.2
Other Non-Pass. 2 2 2 3 3 2 2.3
Passerines 16 15 19 13 19 17 16.5
Totals Species 42 40 45 37 48 43 43



Sharpen those pencils…for the gnatcatcher!

June 30, 2014

Please read the article on page one of LATEXTRA in this morning’s L.A. Times. Another assault based on dubious science by the Pacific Legal Foundation, the organization that believes that developers have a constitutional right to build wherever and whatever they wish, no matter what the damage caused to nature or other people.

A comment period will be announced by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and I hope each of us delivers a letter or postcard supporting the protection of the few California Gnatcatchers that survive to this day. Stay tuned for updates.

My new binoculars

June 29, 2014

I just got a replacement pair of binoculars for my old Zeiss “Diafun’s” and I went to my stack of unread or un-acted-upon items that seems to permanently decorate my desk. There I found a copy of the Cornell Ornithology Lab’s Fall 2013 article on the birding binocular evaluation that Steven Zax generously handed me in November.

Cornell doesn’t go through the process of evaluating binos very often. The last bank of test was five years earlier, and as pointed out in the article, there have been many changes in equipment and prices since 2008. So, if you are in the market to replace your current pair, or to know what you would get in case of a loss or accident, the articles are worth reading, and Cornell generously puts them on line for you at no fee.


A few notes about their conclusions.

1. You can spend nearly $3,000 including sales tax for the best of the best nowadays.

2. Their basic advice (Jessie Barry and Ken Rosenberg are the authors of the main article) is to buy the best you can afford. I disagree, or put it differently. I would say the best you can afford to lose or break.

3. There are a lot of good binoculars available under $700 now.

4. There are no under-$100 binoculars that will satisfy a serious birder.
To read all the information, go to
You will find a whole lineup of links to the binocular review including the main article, Ken Rosenberg’s explanation of how to make a good buying decision, and the results of the evaluation in a table version.
It turns out for me that the replacement for my Diafun’s is a pair of Zeiss “Terra ED’s”, slightly heavier, brighter, and amazingly sharp edge to edge.

Happy birding! Feedback welcome.

Lu Plauzoles

Apps Anyone?

June 28, 2014

For those who have a smartphone or a pad, I recommend you quickly go to the Nature Share page of the iTunes store or Google Play. Four of the best Audubon apps are available for $1.99 each through the 4th of July weekend. These are photo guides and I find the apps far superior to the book version of the same title. I was especially surprised at the number of bird vocalizations on my California Birds app.
I only look at the butterflies app occasionally but it’s great having it in my pocket for those occasions. Check carefully. Not all apps are available both for iPad AND Android.

Full Strawberry Moon Update – 12 June, 2014, 9:11 PM PDT

June 11, 2014

Here’s another update from SMBAS Blog on that large, disc-shaped, shining object which has frequently and mysteriously appeared in our nighttime sky this year (known to many as the moon).

Full Strawberry Moon (Göran Strand 6/23/13 reproduced on

Full Strawberry Moon (by permission of Göran Strand 6/23/13 reproduced on

[Note: I found the above beautiful photo, by professional astrophotographer Göran Strand, on the NASA website. See many other of Göran's astonishing photos at http://www.astrofotografen.seOn Friday the 13th, strangely enough, the moon rising over our Mt. Piños campsite was the same lovely rose-pink color.]

June 12, 9:11 p.m. PDT — Full Strawberry Moon.   Known to every Algonquin tribe; strawberry picking peaks during this month. Europeans called it the Rose Moon.  [Top 10 Amazing Moon Facts]

Santa Monica's Summer Solstice Sunset over the Santa Monica Mountains  (Bob Gurfield 6/21/14)

Santa Monica’s Summer Solstice Sunset over the Santa Monica Mountains (Bob Gurfield 6/21/14)

Long-time SMBAS member, prominent kayaker and alert reader, Bob Gurfield, reminded us of the fact that “Those of us who rise when the sun comes up should know that the latest (and earliest) sunrises do not occur on the solstices. “

Santa Monica's Winter Solstice Sunset over the ocean (Bob Gurfield 12/21/13)

Santa Monica’s Winter Solstice Sunset over the ocean (Bob Gurfield 12/21/13)

With use of information from this site we constructed the following chart detailing sunrises & sunsets for three locales – Los Angeles, Anchorage and Bogota (Colombia).  Note that the “earliest’ time (either sunrise or sunset) always precedes the solstice. The closer you are to the equator, the longer the period of this earliest-to-latest date spread.  For example, around the summer solstice, Bogota, Colombia has 57 days between its earliest sunrise and latest sunset, Los Angeles has 16 days, Anchorage has only 3 days. Also note that the longest-to-shortest-day spread is very small near the equator; the difference for Bogota is only 32 minutes, 5 seconds. This is why in the tropics winter & summer are replaced by wet and dry seasons.

Sunrises & Los Angeles Anchorage Bogota
     Sunsets California Alaska Colombia
Latitude 34° 3′ 8” N 61° 13′ 5″ N 4° 36′ 0″ N
Earliest Sunset 12/04/13 – 1643 12/16/13 – 1540 11/09/13 – 1738
Winter Solstice 12/21/13 – 0911 12/21/13 – 0811 12/21/13 – 1211
Latest Sunrise 1/07/14 – 0659 12/25/13 – 1015 2/03/14 – 0612
Earliest Sunrise 6/12/14 – 0541 6/19/14 – 0420 5/22/14 – 0542
Summer Solstice 6/21/14 – 0351 6/21/14 – 0251 6/21/14 – 0551
Latest Sunset 6/28/14 – 2008 6/22/14 – 2342 7/18/14 – 1813
Earliest Sunset 12/04/14 – 1643 12/16/14 – 1540 11/10/14 – 1748
Winter Solstice 12/21/14 – 1503 12/21/14 – 1403 12/21/14 – 1803
Latest Sunrise 1/07/14 – 0659 12/26/14 – 1015 2/03/15 – 0612
Longest Day
6/21/2014  14h 25m 34s  19h 21m 31s  12h 23m 29s
Shortest Day
12/21/2014  9h 53m 03s  5h 27m 41s  11h 51m 24s
Difference longest
to shortest day
 4h 32m 31s  13h 53m 50s  0h 32m 05s

Nowhere do the latest sunrise and sunset or earliest sunrise and sunset occur on the solstices (except perhaps exactly at the North or South Pole).   The reason for this is that the earth’s axis is not aligned with the minor axis of the earth’s orbit around the sun.   Over time the earth’s ecliptic precesses a tiny bit each year so that every 134,000 years the orbit makes a complete rotation with respect to the positions of the stars.   [This is not the same as the 'precession of the equinoxes.']

The next significant full moon will occur on July 12, 4:25 a.m. PDT.   Keep an eye on this spot for additional late-breaking news on this unprecedented event.

This months moon information comes to you courtesy of:
written by Joe Rao.   Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmer’s Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, N.Y.

But that’s waaay too long to type in, and besides, you don’t need to go there because SMBAS has done the work for you!
[Chuck Almdale]


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