Nature Connection #18 – Earthshine and Earthlife

Spring has come. It is certain both in the skies and on the ground where all living things are starting a new year of life. For this week’s Connection, we return to Chris Hardman’s Ecological Calendar for more nature facts.

Earthshine – Sunlight reflects off the Earth and lights up the moon; the effect is most intense just before and after the new moons of April and May. (New moon dates: April 21 and May 20)

MapoftheSpringSky – When we look into the sky onb spring nights, we are looking away from the center of our galaxy, the Milky way. Therefore, we see fewer stars; they are far beyond our galaxy.

Lyrids – In a clear sky, the Lyrid meteor shower presents it nightly show from April 16 to 25. It is expected to peak on April 21 and 22, producing up to 100 meteors per hour. It occurs each year when Earth passes through the dust trail of Comet Thatcher.

Planet Happenings – Saturn exits the morning sky around April 15, when it enters the evening sky, joining Jupiter, Mars and Venus. Jupiter appears with the moon on the evening of April 22, while Venus appears with the moon on April 24.

QueensPalace The yellow jacket queen, the colony’s only winter survivor, constructs a new hive in early spring. The queen assembles the initial tier of one- to two-inch cells; later, newly matured workers expand the hive into multiple cell layers.

PapilioPicasso – On sunny days, the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly rests with its black-striped wings fully spread, revealing areas of yellow, orange, and blue. The darker female form of this butterfly mimics the poisonous pipevine swallowtail butterfly as a survival strategy.

SirenSong The male American toad  begins its mating ritual in March by broadcasting its song to all female toads within earshot. From April to July the toads breed, after which the female lays two tubes of 4,000 to 8,000 eggs.

VividVernal The male sagebrush lizard prepares to mate iin early spring. During this time, his signature blue belly gets darker and more vivid. After mating, the female lays two to ten eggs.

StickySap Sapsucker woodpeckers peck holes into trees in spring to create sap deposits that trap tasty insects and provide an oasis of sugary sap for hummingbirds and warblers as well. However, too many sapsucker holes can kill host trees.
ScaryScar Porcupines specialize in eating tree bark, which scars the stripped trees. In spring, porcupines continue to feed above the lesion, where sugar-rich sap pools. As the scars grow, the trees health diminishes.

SpringSpines The smokethorn tree, a native of the southwestern deserts of North America, has small, water-conserving leaves present only briefly in spring. To compensate for their diminutive leaves, these trees also photosynthesize (create food from sunlight!) with their young thorny gray-green branches and twigs.

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