Here's a thought for the day: The biggest benefit of flying to the Moon was being able to see the Earth for what it really is—a tiny, fragile, overwhelmingly beautiful planet hanging in the vast darkness of space. Astronauts looked down and were humbled to see that that what we consider our "world" is but a paper-thin layer of atmosphere and life on the surface of the planet. For the first time, the bigger picture came into focus.
The film below, called The Overview Effect, lasts 19 minutes, which I know can seem like 13.8 billion years in Internet time. But it is a wonderful, calming, perspective-rich look at the Earth as seen from space. What else will you do in 19 minutes today that will resonate in your mind a week, a month or a decade from now? If you have time, click and watch.
A Rare Birding Opportunity Jeff Wells is one of America's foremost bird experts. He has worked at the famed Cornell Lab of Ornithology and been the bird conservation director for the National Audubon Society, and he is now the senior scientist for the Boreal Songbird Initiative. A lucky number of you went with Jeff and us on a fun birding walk in Seal Harbor last summer. His latest book, Maine's Favorite Birds, is one of our favorites. We even used it to create an indoor birding trail at the Notebook last year.
I wanted to let you know that there is still an opening or two on a June birding trip to Canada led by Jeff. It's not inexpensive, but the experience will be extraordinary and the money goes to support the Boreal Songbird Initiative, which is trying to protect the habitat where huge numbers of the birds we know go to nest and breed. If you might be interested, or want more information, send me an email. Here is a writeup from Bob Wallis, one of the organizers, which is worth reading even if you can't swing the trip:
"I am pleased to share with you our 6th annual outing for eight days in early June 2013 starting from Manitoba's prairie, wetlands, and boreal forest outside Winnipeg before flying north to the town of Churchill on the shores of Hudson Bay. Along the way we can expect to see immense numbers of ducks and grebes along with shorebirds, marsh birds and boreal passerines. In early June, wetlands that we visit outside Winnipeg should be hosting Franklin’s Gulls, American Avocets, Wilson’s Phalaropes, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, White Pelicans, Black Terns, and with luck maybe a Yellow Rail or LeConte’s Sparrow. The spruce woodlands and aspen forests of Riding Mountain Provincial Park will provide opportunities for us to search for “boreal specialities” like Spruce Grouse, Gray Jay, Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, Great Gray Owl, Connecticut Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler and Lincoln’s Sparrow among many.
"Before we move north we will spend some time hearing from leaders of a First Nation’s initiative to protect the world’s largest intact forest which has now been formally proposed to become the Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Site. While their lands are inaccessible for us to reasonably visit, such strategic conversation will enlighten us on their important work to protect their lands and its species. "We then will fly north over the breadth of the province to the edge of the tundra at Churchill on the western shore of the Hudson Bay. "With four days based from Churchill at the perfect time when migrants are still passing through yet breeders are arriving (and mosquitoes are at a minimum) and at a unique location where tundra and taiga meet at one of the most southerly locations in North America, we can expect to see some spectacular birds. Trip lists can include stunning marine species like Little Gull, Sabine’s Gull, Parasitic Jaeger, and Red Phalarope and amazing landbirds like Smith’s and Lapland Longspurs, Harris’s Sparrow, Gyrfalcon, and Willow Ptarmigan!
"Jeff Wells will lead this trip and several local guides will join us. Jeff earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1995 and has worked at or remained affiliated with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology since that time. He is an expert birder, author, and conservation scientist and has focused on Boreal Forest conservation issues for the last decade. The Boreal Forest of North America is one of the world’s last and largest wilderness areas and provides breeding grounds for up to three billion birds which is why it is often called America’s Bird Nursery. Most of the birds that we enjoy as migrants and winterers throughout the U.S. were born in the Boreal Forest. "I have long felt that the Boreal Forest is important for East Coast birders to visit and see some of our birds on their nesting grounds though, of course, Churchill is home to species from a number of flyways. So it is possible to see our familiar wintering Common and Red-throated Loons as well as West Coast wintering Pacific Loons and along with Snow Geese it is possible to see Ross’s Geese. And East Coast wintering White-crowned Sparrows, Fox Sparrows and Snow Buntings overlap here with mid-western wintering Harris’s Sparrow and Smith’s Longspurs.
"This will be an 8-day trip beginning from Winnipeg with travelers arriving at Winnipeg by Saturday, June 1st @ 3pm and departing from Winnipeg on Sunday morning, June 9th. Winnipeg has frequent flights to USA cities. "The trip expense starting and ending at Winnipeg International Airport is $3,740. per person for double occupancy and $4,277. for a single room. Those who want double occupancy and are traveling alone will be assigned a roommate. A trip deposit of $1,500 single and $1,000 per person for a double room is due by February 4, 2013 payable to Boreal Songbird Initiative, 1904 Third Avenue, Suite 305, Seattle, WA 98101, Attn. Ms. Lane Nothman. This is necessary to reserve Calm Air seats at group rate. The second and final payment is due to Boreal Songbird Initiative by March 15, 2013. The first $250 is non-refundable and refund of the balance is only payable conditional on us enlisting a replacement traveler to fill your place 45 days in advance of departure. Expenses are calculated in US dollars and negative conversions to Canadian dollars may require a charge, if such are not covered by the trip expense, as calculated."
Answer to the Last Puzzler Tabasco sauce isn't nearly as thermodynamic as Habanero peppers, according to the Scoville heat scale. Habaneros come in at 200,000 heat units and Tabasco registers at only 3,500 to 8,000 heat units.
Today's Puzzler The white cliffs of Dover (below) are one of England's most famous physical features. The cliffs are made of chalk—but what is that chalk made of?
a) salt layers built up from ocean water over the last 200 million years b) talc, a white form of carbon produced in fish excrement over the last 1 billion years c) billions of tiny skeletons from algae that lived 80 million years ago