Birding Notes

Reflections on birds and other wildlife on the edge of a southern woodland

Friday, November 09, 2007

Starry Nights

For the past month or so, at least since mid October, the night sky has often seemed unusually clear and full of stars, both faint and bright. I’m not sure why, but wonder if it’s because of the unusually low humidity. I can’t even say for sure that it is uncommonly clear – it may be only that our ritual of walking up the driveway to enjoy the long summer twilights this year turned into a ritual of admiring the dark, starry nights as the days grew shorter. But it does seem to me as if many more stars have been visible recently than usual here. On a few nights, I’ve even been able to see the faint powdery glow of the Milky Way – something I remember taking for granted two or three decades ago, but haven’t seen here at home in quite a long time.

Unfortunately, I don’t know many constellations or even the planets very well, but to walk outside on a night like this makes me wish I knew them better. The North Star, Big Dipper and Little Dipper have been easy to find, and I’ve been studying maps of the night sky and trying to identify others.

Last night about 11:00, I walked up the slope of our driveway to a spot beyond the trees, where much of the sky was visible. It was cold and clear and bright, and the eastern sky was especially thick with stars. Most prominent among them was the huge, sprawling constellation of Orion, just rising over the treetops that form our horizon. Above it, I think I could also see Taurus, Perseus and the sharp V of Pisces – and several other star patterns that I wished I could name.


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