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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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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ann Richter
A leather-banded wristwatch with roman numerals, a moon, and the date on its face. and a brown leather strap.,
Moon phase watch I bought in Germany way back in the 1990s. It’s long stopped working, but I keep it on my writing desk for the warm and fuzzy memories.

New year, new outlook, new attempt at blogging (boy, does that sound familiar). Maybe . . . maybe this year will be different. My novel BIRD NERD is coming out in October, so seeing that on the horizon might be the kick in the pants I need to finally get this blog rolling.


I’ll even make this my New Year’s resolution. And I’ll throw in a brand new feature to boot: the Bird of the Month, which you can find under my site's BIRD NERD page.


Okay, since I’m still calling this blog Birds and Stars, I’ll get right to it.


Project FeederWatch

Cornell Lab’s Project FeederWatch started in November and runs to April. I’ve done it for years, but this is the first time from my new Delaware home. So far 16 different species of birds have visited my Delaware backyard.


And just as I was drafting this, about 30 Red-winged Blackbirds landed, mostly pecking seed from the ground. I also spotted a Red-bellied Woodpecker in the big maple tree next to my feeders!


This season, I’m one of a limited number of participants selected to build a brush pile and to monitor that activity. So far, just lots of sparrows (White-throated, Song, and House) hopping around inside and perching on top as lookouts.


Christmas Bird Count

This is the first year I’ve participated in Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count, which is organized a bit differently than Project FeederWatch. To join, you have to reach out to the person organizing and compiling counts for a particular area. When I contacted my area’s compiler, I was offered the choice of going out with an existing group or covering a section that hasn’t been counted yet. I chose the latter (lone birder that I am) and decided to go birding at Abbott's Mill Nature Center.


On the blustery morning of December 19—the “Christmas” part of the count actually means any day within a designated three-week period—I arrived at the park and spent over four hours exploring its woodlands, meadows, farmlands, ponds, and wetlands. The highlight was finding a Hermit Thrush in a swamp forest.


Stargazing

Long nights and low humidity make winter the best time for stargazing. The only drawback is the cold. That’s why for now, I’m stargazing from my cozy office in the wee hours before I start my day. I don’t have a vast view of open skies, but there’s enough to keep me interested.


Over the past month I’ve been enjoying Venus, although it’s dipping lower and lower to the eastern horizon and by March will be washed out by the sun. The entire constellation of Corvus and part of Virgo (mainly its brightest star, Spica) have also filled my view. I tried finding the Stargate Asterism near Corvus, but my binoculars weren’t strong enough to get the full effect. (I really do need to get a telescope again.)

 

In other space news, I added my name to a list that will be traveling aboard a spacecraft to Jupiter’s moon, Europa! (Just my name, not me.)




I also added my husband, although he was less enthused about the whole thing. In addition to the names, the Europa Clipper will be carrying an exquisitely beautiful poem by Poet Laureate Ada Limón. The clipper is scheduled to be launched in October 2024 (same time as BIRD NERD!) and will arrive sometime around 2030.


Okay, that’s it for now. And I promise, I’ll do my best to keep blogging!

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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ann Richter

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Okay, did I totally forget I had a blog? Looks like it. I blame my move. Moving is stressful. Yeah, that’s it. I also hear blogging’s going the way of the pterodactyl, so maybe it's not just me.


I know—excuses, excuses.


But way, way, back in November I did promise to give out more details about my big announcement once it’s confirmed. So here it is:



I’ve posted this all over social media, so this is likely old news for some of you.


The newer news is that I’m a member of a group of kidlit writers with middle-grade novels coming out in 2024. We’re called the 24/7s. If you’ve got a minute, please check out our website! You’ll find inspiring interviews, and for the month of June, we’re hosting a giveaway where you can win a critique or one of our members’ already-published books. Click here for more details.


Okay, I’m keeping it short and sweet for now—maybe save up my energy for a new post!

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