2019 Great Backyard Bird Count Should Be “Finchy” and Fun

February 6, 2019

Kids can count the birds in the backyard! The Great Backyard Bird Count is to be held from February 15-18, 2019. Anyone anywhere in the world can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at www.BirdCount.org. This would be a great classroom or family activity! Here’s How to Participate.

Winter finch “irruption” will be a highlight for many

For release: January 24, 2019

Evening Grosbeak by GBBC participant Ted Schroeder, Oregon.

New York, NY, Ithaca, NY, and Port Rowan, ON —The 22nd Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will take place from Friday, February 15 through Monday, February 18. Volunteers from around the world are invited to count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their checklists at birdcount.org. Anyone with internet access can participate, no matter what their skill level—it’s a great family activity, too.

In the United States and Canada, 2019 bird lists are more likely to include sightings of winter finches and grosbeaks that are moving farther south than usual in what’s called an “irruption.” This type of movement is often sparked by poor cone, seed, and berry crops in parts of Canada.

“This year is a very exciting one for backyard birders in the East, headlined by the largest Evening Grosbeak movement in at least two decades,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program. “From Atlantic Canada to North Carolina, these colorful feeder visitors have been making a splash.”

Although seed crops were better in western Canada, eBird maps still show significant number of Evening Grosbeaks are now being reported in the West all the way down to the border with Mexico. eBird collects bird observations globally every day of the year and is the online platform used by the GBBC.

Pine Grosbeak male by Candace Trost, GBBC participant, Manitoba, Canada.

This also an above-average year for Red Crossbills, Common Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks, Common and Hoary Redpolls, and Red-breasted Nuthatches.”The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way for all bird watchers to contribute to a global database of bird populations,” says Dr. Gary Langham, vice president and chief scientist for the National Audubon Society. “Participants in the Great Backyard Bird Count help scientists understand how things like climate change are impacting bird populations so we can better inform our conservation efforts.”

During the 2018 count, bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted more than 180,000 bird checklists reporting a record 6,456 species–more than half the known bird species in the world.

Common Redpoll by GBBC participant Kathleen Payne, Minnesota.

“With the finch irruption this year, we’re hoping for record bird numbers and another record-breaking year for Canadian participation,” says Jon McCracken, Bird Studies Canada’s National Program Director. “In search of a bit of relief from our cold winters, many Canadians become ‘snow birds’ at this time of year, and spend a bit of time birding somewhere warm. While I always strongly encourage counts in our own snowy Canadian backyards, don’t forget that you can participate anywhere in the world. Last year, I did my count in Florida’s Corkscrew Swamp, and had a fantastic day.”To learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit birdcount.org. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada and is made possible in part by founding sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

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A Long Pause

February 6, 2019

Wow! It has been a long time that life got in the way of writing – books and blogs. But with all that behind me, it is time to get back to what I love. Thanks for not giving up on me!

Great Jazz Concert Coming to Reno on Feb 6, 2016

January 26, 2016

The legendary Jazz Trombonist Bill Watrous and premier big band arranger/conductor Gary Urwin are coming from LA to Reno to perform with the Reno Jazz Orchestra on February 6 at 7:30 PM. The RJO will be conducted by Gary Urwin, the arranger for all the songs on the program, which will be at the at Nightingale Concert Hall at UNR.

For details and tickets, go to renojazzorchestra.org


See Five Planets At Once! (6, If You Count Earth)

January 24, 2016

Tony Berendsen told me there is an opportunity to meet with Tony and other astronomers at the UNR Redfield campus on Mt Rose Highway & Wedge Parkway across from the Raley’s shopping center in Reno, NV, around 5:30 in the morning on Wednesday, January 27, 2016. Mercury should come up over the horizon and into view around 6:20. It will be followed by the other planets.


Star Guide: See 5 planets at once! (6, if you count Earth)
by Tony Berendsen

Five naked-eye planets ride the early morning sky in late January and early February. They are recast, like the characters of a Sergio Leone spaghetti Western “A Fistful of Dollars,” where Sergio portrayed western cowboys in a realistic fashion, rather than the traditional “villain wears black, hero wears white” structure of early Hollywood. As we gaze at the original five naked-eye planets over the next few weeks, we see them in new light,and with a depth of knowledge.

No longer do the planets represent mythological gods, nor does our understanding of them suffer from the crude blurry telescopic images of early planetary ground-based exploration that left many to imagine canals, vegetation, and alien civilizations. Instead the planets are cast in the stark realism of modern science. We have been to all of these planets; some of them many times. We have gone to them via robots sending back a Robert Ballard-style telepresence to our computer monitors, TVs and periodicals. Our children know them as “other worlds,” and in the near future some of them will set foot on at least one of them.

In comparison to the Earth, the planets vary wildly in size and environment. The only planet similar to our home is Mars, but even though it was once wet, it’s a very different and hostile place. Dusty, arid and cold, with almost no magnetic field to keep harmful cosmic rays and high energy particles from hitting its surface, we would not survive its surface without spacesuits and enclosed habitats.

Venus, the brightest of the naked-eye planets, is the most similar in size to the Earth. It is our closest neighbor and is even more hostile than Mars, with atmospheric pressures similar to ocean depths, lots of carbon dioxide, sulfuric acid rain, and surface temperatures so high lead would melt! The surface of Venus is completely obscured by clouds. We have only see the surface by Russian landers and radar mapping.

Mercury is the nearest planet to the Sun, and only sightly larger than our Moon. It it is a dense barren globe of rock and iron with the thinnest atmosphere of all the planets. Daytime temperatures can be as high as 800 F and because of the thin atmosphere the temperature can drop to -280 F at night.

Jupiter is the largest and second-brightest naked-eye planet. It is tremendously larger than the Earth and big enough that it could fit within its volume all the planets and the asteroids too. Jupiter is a gas giant with an atmosphere so thick that pressures would be greater than the bottom of Earth’s oceans before finding solid ground.

Saturn is the most distant of the five at almost 900 million miles from the Sun. It takes light about 8.3 minutes to travel from the Sun to the Earth, but almost 80 minutes to reach Saturn. Saturn’s rings make it the most distinctive-looking planet in the solar system. It has a low density too — so much so that if you had a cosmic ocean large enough it would float like a ringed fishing bobber.

The early morning “fistful of planets” lineup begins the last week of January and continues for the first couple weeks in February. On Jan. 29, 2016 at 6:30 AM, check out the view: Mercury on the eastern horizon, then Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter all strung along the ecliptic toward the west with the Moon in between Jupiter and Mars. Mercury can be the most difficult to find, so I suggest loading up the SkyPortal astronomy app to help. Find a vantage point with a clear view of the eastern horizon and arrive a little early to find your bearings and enjoy a rare glimpse into the solar system.

Reprinted with permission from Tony Berendsen, aka Tony the Star Guide. He runs Tahoe Star Tours. He can be reached at 775-232-0844 or tony@tahoestartours.com.

The Lantern Fest – Reno and Other Places

August 31, 2015

LanternFestThis Lantern Fest sounds interesting to explore more. I learned that one will be held just outside Reno at the Fernley 95A Speedway
(1965 Highway 95A) on Saturday, October 17th. There are also others planned elsewhere in the US.

More information about the group is here:


At The Lantern Fest, thousands of revelers join together armed with lanterns for one unforgettable spectacle. There will be music, dancing, s’mores and, when the time is just right, we will light the sky with our highest hopes, deepest regrets, and fondest dreams.

These lanterns are 100% biodegradable. Not to mention after each release we have professional “Lantern Chasers” that will make those armored truck driving meteorologists look like your local news’ weatherman. These lantern experts collect 90% of the lanterns after the event.

Historically lanterns were used to symbolize good fortune, request favorable weather, or to celebrate the life of a loved one, just to name a few. But here in 2015, we don’t care if you are turning over a new leaf or just snapping some sweet shots for Instagram.

Families and friends can dance to the music, roast marshmallows, munch on snacks provided by local vendors, and of course, watch the lanterns float away in an unforgettable release.

Each registrant will receive their own lantern as well as some other goodies.

Safety and Conservation are very important!

See video: here

More questions are answered here.

The Lantern Fest organizers partner with a charity for every event. For our Reno event, we are excited to be partnering with The Down Syndrome Network of Northern Nevada (DSNNN).

Check out my blogs about things to do with kids on https://mygrandmasue.wordpress.com by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

Celebrate Earth Hour This Saturday! #YourPower

March 26, 2015

World Earth Hour happens this coming Saturday (It is always observed on the last Saturday of March.) wherever you are on Earth at 8:30 p.m. Local Time.

Another interesting site explaining Earth Hour and all kinds of family activities is from the group that started it in 2007: World Wildlife Fund.

Here is a story about it from hometownlife.com – Earth Hour

timeanddate.com tells it like this.

Check out also earthhour.org .

How dark will your city/town/village get? We will see!

Check out other ideas and activities to do with kids on https://mygrandmasue.wordpress.com by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

Fascinating Letter to Grandson

January 4, 2015

Knight A Kiplinger normally writes for investors and executives. In his December 19, 2014 letter, he actually wrote a letter to his first grandson who was born in 2014 in the same fashion as his grandfather did for him and three other grandsons back in 1963. He also gave permission to share his special letter which is what I am now doing with you.

You can read it here.

It is available to download as PDF from kiplinger.com/go/grand if you would like to do that.

Check out other ideas and activities to do with kids on https://mygrandmasue.wordpress.com by the author of the award-winning children’s book Grandpa, Do It! I Do It, Too!

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