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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ann Richter

A shoebox with a hole cut into it and foil taped to the side.
My homemade eclipse viewer.

Project FeederWatch has come to an end (sniff-sniff). It’s always a bittersweet day. Of course, I’ll still be filling my feeders and looking out for some “wow!” birds, but I will miss tallying up my sightings and sending them off to the Cornell Lab.


A whopping 26 different bird species visited my backyard feeder station from November through April. Most came to eat. A few stopped by just to see what all the hubbub was about. Here’s the list (if you're using a phone, apologies for the wonky formatting):

Mourning Dove

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Blue Jay

Carolina Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse

House Finch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Brown Creeper

Carolina Wren

European Starling

Gray Catbird

Northern Mockingbird

American Robin

House Sparrow

American Goldfinch

Chipping Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

White-throated Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Red-winged Blackbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

Common Grackle

Northern Cardinal

But no worries, the citizen science continues! This time in the form of NestWatch. I’m already monitoring one that appeared in the shrub outside my dining room window. And just this morning, I spied three hatchlings!

Now onto the stars. Or at least the big one that hangs out in our neighborhood. As with the 2017 eclipse and the 2012 transit of Venus, I stupidly forgot to buy solar viewer glasses! Fortunately, back in 2017 I was able to get a brief look through my neighbor’s glasses, but this year all I had was the cardboard box viewer that I’d built from online instructions.


I wasn’t in the path of totality, but my backyard did grow eerily dim and the temperature dropped. Also, the birds got noticeably louder, adding unsetting background vocals to the whole experience.


The next big celestial event will be when a “new” star pops up. It’ll happen sometime between now and September, in the constellation Corona Borealis. Of course, it’s not a new star, but a nova (yeah, I know “nova” means new, but you get my point). A nova is when a star suddenly increases in brightness, and in this case, since the star usually isn't visible to the naked eye, it will seem like a brand new star has appeared. You can read more about why it happens, where to find it, why we know it's coming, and also learn a few fun facts here and here.


Okay, that’s it for now. I’ll be busy in the coming weeks writing poetry for a tournament. (That is, if I make it past the first round). More details in next month’s post.


And if you haven’t already, be sure to check out May’s “Bird of the Month.”



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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ann Richter


A new month already? Wow. Blogging sure makes time zip by. In a way that's a good thing, since I’m excited about Bird Nerd coming out in the fall. On the flip side, once you get over a certain age, you don’t mind the clock slowing down a little.


Having said that, with this new month comes some actual news to report. My publisher and I agreed on what Book 2 will be, and it looks like I’ll be headed to the moon! Okay, let me rephrase that, just in case you thought those were two separate reports. No, I’m not actually headed to the moon. But I will be spending time with characters who'll be making the trip. A story that had gone through countless iterations—from short story to novel with multiple revisions along the way—will now be seeing the light of day under the expert guidance of my editor.


I won’t give more details yet since I’m not sure how much I can divulge. Perhaps there will be some kind of official announcement. Stay tuned!


Speaking of the moon, as some of you probably know, a commercially built lander called Odysseus arrived there in late February. Not only was it the first commercially built spacecraft to land on the moon, but it was also the United States’ first moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972.


Despite it toppling over (oops!), Odysseus still managed to send back valuable data to NASA as well as some cool photos. Some of the data sent during descent and landing will hopefully help improve future landings.


Now that lunar night has fallen, the question will be whether Odysseus will wake back up in three weeks when the sun is at its highest again. Here’s its final transmission:





In bird news, nothing exciting to report—well, other than my first snow goose experience. A huge flock made a pretty picture while traveling across the blue sky. Klaus saw them first while working in the yard. Then later, while I was out running errands, I saw them again (could’ve been a different flock, though, since I was pretty far from home).


For more on birds, be sure to check out the latest Bird of the Month!



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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ann Richter

A laptop and coffee mug sits on a counter along a cafe's window
"The birds are in their trees, the toast is in the toaster, and the poets are at their windows." - from "Monday," by poet Billy Collins

So much of my inspiration comes from staring out the window. Not necessarily from what’s out there at any particular moment, but how the gazing gets me pondering things. Things that are deep and not so deep, big and not so big. Marveling at how chickadees aren’t freezing to death when it’s twenty degrees outside. Mind being blown by the fact that there are stars and galaxies literally trillions of miles away from us. The mystery of God’s hand in all of this.

 

That’s why I keep looking out and up at the birds and stars.

 

I’ve been reading through a collection of new and selected poems by one of my favorite poets, Billy Collins, titled Aimless Love. The opening stanza of his poem “Monday” (which had originally appeared in a 2005 collection) is a perfect picture of my Monday mornings . . . and Tuesday mornings and Wednesday mornings—you get the picture. I do have to wait awhile for the birds to show up, though, since I start before sunrise.

 

Speaking of birds, I’m up to 22 species that have visited my feeder station this season. A Blue Jay finally stopped by, as well as a Brown Creeper. The creeper is a small bird that crawls on tree trunks and branches—kind of like an insect, only much cuter. It’s deep brown with light-colored flecks and streaks and has a solid white belly. A Northern Flicker also visited, the first one I've spotted in my yard.


While we’re on the subject of birds, don’t forget to check out February’s Bird of the Month! (Hint: It’s a bird that looks particularly good in a snowy winter setting, especially when sitting in a holly bush.)


Now to the stars. My early morning stargazing has taken me to the constellation Scorpius, which sits very low in the sky for those in North America. I have a pretty decent view of the southern skies from my office, so I got to see a good portion of the constellation. My main focus was the star Antares, the brightest in the constellation. I just love the name, probably because I first heard it on a episode of Star Trek.


In ancient Greek, Antares means “rival to Ares” (Mars) because it appears red like the planet. Growing up, I never thought of stars having colors; they all just looked like white dots to me. That’s why now I always search for the colorful stars, which is easier to do with binoculars or a telescope.


Here's more information on the star and the constellation.


From northern latitudes, you’ll find the Scorpius constellation on summer evenings. But like I said, I check the skies in the wee hours of the morning, so I get to catch it in winter.


Okay, that’s it for now. Back to the window!


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