Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday = First Sunday AFTER the First Full Moon AFTER the Vernal Equinox

"Easter" Bunny hiding in Bird of Paradise Bush


This year:
-- Vernal Equinox =  March 20
-- First Full Moon AFTER the Vernal Equinox = April 14 (Lunar Eclipse!)
-- First Sunday AFTER the first  Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox = April 20.

Easter Sunday

"Two thousand years ago Jesus is crucified, three days later he walks out of a cave and they celebrate with chocolate bunnies and marshmallow Peeps and beautifully decorated eggs. I guess these were things Jesus loved as a child."

~ Billy Crystal - Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going and Where the Hell are My Keys

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Some Backyard Visitors...

We had a visit this morning from a pair of Mallards, who thought our swimming pool was a good place to take a break.

They swam a bit, and then rested on our beach shelf for a while.

These ducks were not afraid of us, so they were probably taking a break from the busy pond at the local park. 

"If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands."
~Douglas Adams

Monday, April 14, 2014

"A Marvelous Night for a Moondance..."

Total Lunar Eclipse - April 14-15, 2014

Total lunar eclipse late tonight into early Tuesday morning. Visible from most of North and South America, Hawaii, and parts of Alaska.

10:58pm - Partial eclipse begins
12:06am - Total eclipse starts
1:25am - Total eclipse ends
2:33 am - Partial eclipse ends

All times above are PDT.

Info courtesy of
Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar:

All of these pics were taken with our trusty point-and-shoot Sony Cyber-shot, hand-held to the eyepiece of our 25x field scope.

Jet contrail just below the moon as the eclipse begins

During the early phases of the eclipse, 3 large birds (cormorants?) flew across the face of the moon while I was observing through the scope naked-eye. Pretty cool... what are the chances?

Because of the high dark/bright contrast in the early phases of the eclipse, our images picked up some "green cheese" color aberration.

As the eclipse progressed, the colors in the pics were more true to naked-eye viewing.

This "Blood Moon" eclipse was the first in a series of four total lunar eclipses that will occur between April 2014 and May 2015. The next eclipse in this "tetrad" will be on October 8, 2014.

NASA's eclipse web site:

"Well it's a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes..."
Moondance, lyrics by Van Morrison

Sunday, April 13, 2014

An Easy (and cheap) Backyard Habitat Improvement

We saw our first-of-season Black-headed Grosbeak while we were working on the milpa garden yesterday morning. She whistled from her perch in one of our mesquite trees, then flew to the top of a brush pile where we got a good view. She then flew back up into the mesquite tree and disappeared into the foliage.

Black-headed Grosbeaks have previously enjoyed the large seed blocks that we put out for them. The blocks can be pretty messy, so we wanted to find a new location to hang it away from our patios and foot traffic areas.

We decided to put in a snag to hold the suet cage. The installation took less than 30 minutes, and we used materials we already had on hand.

The materials were a 12" piece of ABS pipe (4" diameter), an appropriate snag ~6 feet long from our brush pile, and a rock. We chose a location in the backyard that was easily visible from our windows.

First we used a post hole digger to dig a hole just under a foot deep. We wanted the ABS pipe to stick up about an inch above the ground when everything was done.

Next we placed the ABS pipe in the hole, and gently tapped it into place.
We backfilled the hole all around the pipe, and tamped the soil down firmly.

The snag was trimmed to shape, placed into the pipe and adjusted into position. A rock was used to wedge the snag into place. We put the seed block in a wire suet cage and hung it on the snag.

We have used the ABS pipe in our courtyard, to place a cactus skeleton and some dead ocotillo branches. The cactus is mainly a decorative element, and we put out orange halves on the spiky ocotillo branches.

This is a really simple way to add a decorative or functional snag anywhere in your yard. It is sturdy, but easy to switch out or move to a different location. And the birds will appreciate the additional perches.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

One Last Storm... (maybe)

Another storm rolled in to Southern California a couple of days ago.

The coastal region got much-needed rain. Here in the desert we got a few widely scattered drops. Mount San Jacinto and the nearby peaks received more snow.

Our temperatures have been below normal for the last few days. Predictions for the weekend are above-normal temps in the low 90's.

"Despite the forecast, live like it's Spring."
~ Lilly Pulitzer