My Answer To “What’s Wrong With This Picture”

Background

Several days ago, I showed a photograph and asked: “What’s Wrong With This Picture”.  Here is more information.

Sideways Moon (overview)

Nancy took this overview a minute later. Both were taken in March 2016, while we were on a trip to Antarctica. The mountains (and snow) in the first picture should have told you “we’re not in Kansas (or Florida), anymore.”video The moon in both pictures is waxing (growing) gibbous (more than half full), meaning the full moon would be five days later. Those are Gentoo penguins you see in this picture. She took these photos on the way back to the ship after our morning excursion, as I remember.

My Answers

Although I was a bit surprised nobody mentioned that the moon, as the subject of the first picture, was too centered, thus violating the rule of thirds, one member of my camera club did think the image confusing because she wasn’t sure what the subject was.  That was a completely valid point and was probably why Nancy had to be coaxed into taking that picture.    The overview shown above might be better in that respect, but here is why I (the technical support guy) found the image interesting:

The moon and the sun follow similar paths across the sky and the lighted part of the moon always points directly toward the sun along that path.  Every time I’ve ever seen the moon just above the horizon, it was pointing almost straight up (or down).  The moon in these two pictures is pointing to the left, a difference of almost 90° from my normal.

The mountains give almost no locational clue, but the snow at sea level tells you that we are not that close to the equator and the penguins tell us which hemisphere we are in (the specific species will narrow down the possible locations even further).  The angle of the moon does the best job, however, of narrowing the geographical possibilities – showing that we were close to the (Ant)arctic Circle.

To get the same effect with Photoshop wouldn’t be that hard, but would take more than just cropping.  And this effect doesn’t fall in the impossible range, like a star between the tips of a crescent moon, or maybe either type of eclipse during the quarter moon, so it is unlikely to be found in a unicorn shot or the like.  It is just a very unusual perspective that I wanted to appreciate for what it was and share with my friends.

By the way, this is the third article (set) I’ve published in the last three weeks involving the moon.  But fear not, I’m ready to move on.  Thank you for listening.

Two More Eclipse Questions

While we are on the subject of astronomy, I’d like to share just a bit more about eclipses.  Here are my questions (those who follow us on Facebook may have already seen these questions.  Try not to blurt out the answer before your friends have had a chance to think about it):

Question 1:
If the sun and moon both travel from east to west, why was the total solar eclipse last August seen first in Seattle and last in Charleston?
Answer:
The simple answer is that as the sun and moon race across the sky, the sun (on the outer lane) is overtaking the moon (on the inside lane). Here is an illustration of that.

Solar Eclipse Diagram
This drawing is not to scale

Since the surface of the Earth is moving from west to east as the Earth rotates, the big question for some of you is which is moving faster. Turns out it is the shadow. (Actually, the Earth’s rotation is reflected by the movement of the sun in this picture, but the question is still valid).

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Here is an Earth-centric partial drawing of our solar system showing most of the details/numbers that needed to be considered in arriving at this answer.Solar System Diagram
The above ignores details like the fact that the Earth’s axis of rotation is not the same as the axis of its orbit around the sun or the axis of the moon’s orbit around the Earth. These factors affect the path of the eclipse across the Earth. Here is a map of the paths of all the total (and annular (defined in next note)) solar eclipses crossing North America in this first half of the 21st century.

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Because of the elliptical nature of the moon’s orbit, sometimes it seems larger than the sun and sometimes smaller (Based on the average distances shown in the second drawing (hidden in the previous note), the moon would be smaller). If the moon appears larger than the sun and completely hides it during an eclipse, it is called a total eclipse and its path is shown in blue on the map. When the moon appears smaller, the sun can peek out all around it, and it is called an annular eclipse. Those paths are shown in yellow.

Paths of Solar Eclipses
I derived this from other maps found at a NASA website. This information is courtesy of Fred Espenak, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, from eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov.

Question 2:
Which side of the country would see a lunar eclipse first? Why?
Answer:
This could be considered a trick question. As the second drawing (hidden in first note) suggests, the geometry of a lunar eclipse is totally different from a solar eclipse and so the relative sizes of the shadow and the object being shadowed are completely different.
Animation of Solar Eclipse
Our last animated illustration shows the relative size of the Earth and moon (shadow) from the sun (under specific conditions) during a solar eclipse, but for a lunar eclipse imagine the Earth is the Earth’s shadow as the moon (in the place of the moon’s shadow) goes behind it. As the moon flies into the shadow, that event is visible simultaneously wherever the moon can be seen. For another (possibly better) view, see the second illustration in “A Nighttime Solar Eclipse?”.

Well, that should just about cover everything you ever wanted to know about an eclipse (and more). If you have any questions, you can ask in the comment section, or you may just want to consult an astronomer.

A Nighttime Solar Eclipse?

When I tried to print our second 26″ by 36″ canvas copy of “Eclipse Over Long Pine Key”, the colors were as shown below. I thought one of the ink cartridges must be empty or the printer had a clogged nozzle or something. I pulled out the roll of canvas, performed a cleaning, and did a nozzle check, all of which went well, so I did a small (5″ by 7″) test print on luster paper. It turned out the same way. It was late so I just shut off the printer and went to bed. The next morning the printer passed all tests and I was able to make the correct print with no problem. I’ve never had that problem before or since. I was intrigued by the picture and kept the small print as a memento.  I have no idea how to duplicate this image.

Nighttime Solar Eclipse?

Often, when people see the original version hanging in our booth at an art festival, many of them think it shows a time-lapse of the phases of the moon.  I assure them that although the moon plays a crucial role, it is not directly visible in the image. Below is an animation showing the three different celestial events involving the moon.  A solar eclipse happens only during the day when the moon is new, while the lunar eclipse only happens on a night with a full moon.  In the animation, both of those are total eclipses, while both versions of our “Eclipse Over Long Pine Key” show only a partial solar eclipse.  The third part of the animation shows a complete lunar cycle with all the phases of the moon.  In this case, unlike the other two events, the edge of the obscured part of the celestial body will always touch both poles.

Moon Animations

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While all parts of this animation are drawn to scale as seen from the Earth, the time compression is different for each celestial event.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

This barely retouched picture (not even cropped – only overcoming camera sensor limitations), which Nancy took a while back (at my request), shows something that most people never see.  Another good question might be “What aspect of this photograph gives the best clue about where it was taken?”

Sideways Moon (closeup)
There may be more than one correct answer to these questions.  I’ll have my answers in two weeks. Stay tuned!

Answers To Your Butterfly Questions

Jaret Daniels is one of the butterfly experts at the University of Florida.  He’s the one we’ve helped (along with the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA)) on rare butterfly surveys in southern Florida and the upper keys, and who is responsible for some of the photos and the distribution of the educational butterfly plant brochures we’ve been able to share in our booth at art festivals around the state.  I’ve had the chance to ask him some of your burning butterfly questions; here’s what he said.

On The Lifespan Of Monarch Butterflies

Question:
As I’ve mentioned in our booth (and on our website at Life Cycle of Monarch Butterfly), adult monarch butterflies live two to six weeks, but every fourth generation the adult will live six to eight months so they can make the migration.  I’ve also mentioned that we have in south Florida (and the Caribbean) a population of monarchs that doesn’t migrate (see also the Wikipedia article “Monarch butterfly migration”).  So naturally, the big question is “Does the fourth generation of the non-migrating monarchs still live six to eight months?
Answer:
No

On The Range Of Atala Butterflies

Question:
Since their rediscovery in 1979 (see Atala Butterfly) on Key Biscayne, the range of the Atala seems to be slowly expanding northward. Apparently, their traditional range was restricted to Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties (Florida’s southernmost counties)Atala study, but recent sightings have been as far north as Vero Beach on the Atlantic coast and Tampa on the Gulf coast of the peninsulasee map. The range of coontie, the host plant on which the Atala depends, on the other hand, includes most of the Florida peninsulacoontie range, which makes friends in central and northern Florida wonder “Could Atala’s live here?
Answer:
Probably not; the Atalas seem to be less cold-tolerant than the coontie.
(If it were me, I might still be inclined to go for it.)

Well, I hope this helps.  Feel free to comment.

Our Screech Owl Image – The Rest Of The Story

On our webpage, Mother Screech Owl with Fledgling, we talk about a pair of screech owls using our backyard nest box. Here is the rest of the story.

The first nest box we built was actually for woodpeckers. The specifications on woodpecker nests are all smaller than needed for screech owlsspecs. I always thought the woodpeckers had thumbed their noses at it but Nancy insists that they had actually checked it out quite thoroughly. Apparently, the squirrels then found the nest box and gnawed the opening to make it more suitable for their own use.

Squirrel on owl nestbox
Squirrel on owl nest box

When the hole size was right, the owls chased the squirrels off and began raising families.

Baby screech owl in our backyard nestbox
Baby screech owl in our backyard nest box

After a couple of years, we thought that if they were going to continue, maybe we should build them a proper screech owl nest boxplans.

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By “we”, I mean Nancy would do the building on this project. The plans in the link are not the paper plans Nancy used, but I just found these while searching and liked the step-by-step process and pictures.
We placed the nest box on a similar twelve-foot 4″x4″ post a few yards away from the original, but the screech owls continued using the now-familiar original to raise their young. Interestingly, the woodpeckers found the new owl box and began using it.

After the fifth year, we suspect something must have happened to one of the screech owl parents and they never came back. We have started hearing them again in the evenings and so continue to have hope that they will someday return.

Why You Haven’t Seen Any Painted Buntings

If you could imagine being a small bird (buntings, being medium-sized finches, are about five inches long) and sticking out like a sore thumb as the male does in these pictures Male Painted Bunting and Painted Bunting Pair with predators all about, you might be a little self-conscious. Painted buntings tend to be secretive and skittish, and can be found in thickets, woodland edges, shrubbery, and brushy areas. They won’t venture too far into the open to get their food. From what I’ve seen, females are less reclusive than males.

If you are in the painted bunting’s range (the Carolinas south through Florida for the eastern population) and provide the right habitat and food, you can have your own painted buntings. Our painted buntings breed from about Jacksonville, Florida north through the Carolinas, but from October to mid-April they winter in southern Florida (as well as Cuba and the Bahamas). Nancy has always been a gardener and has planted a variety of plants to attract hummingbirds and butterflies, so we have plenty of cover. When she made it her mission to attract the buntings, she bought them their own feeder; it was a tube feeder (she likes the ones from Stokes or Droll Yankees)

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We don’t get anything from either one of these companies. Nor have we done an exhaustive research into all available bird feeder options. We are just giving you our experience, and providing these links for your convenience.  Comments on your experiences relating to this topic are certainly welcome.
with a squirrel cage, and the wire spacing on the cage was such that even the larger birds couldn’t get in. She placed the feeder in a small (Jatropha) tree right next to the flower bushes, not out in the open. Buntings like small seeds – sunflower seeds are too large. Millet may be their favorite but isn’t strictly necessary. Nancy uses a songbird mix that has a number of small seeds (including millet). Within two weeks of putting up the feeder, she had two males and seven females. Of course, trying to get a good picture is another storyblog.

How To Attract Painted Buntings To Your Yard

  1. Provide thick shelter. Remember, they are reclusive. The more flamboyant males are even more reclusive.
  2. Feed them. If your neighbor becomes jealous and starts to compete for your painted buntings, try adding a bird bath. I’ve been told this could give you the edge you need.
  3. Pray. Also keep in mind they are most active (feeding) in the early morning and late afternoon. Good luck.

If you live in South Florida you now have about two months to get your yard ready for these winter residents. You’d better get busy.

Epilogue

It is clear that the painted bunting’s behavior is affected by its physical characteristics. There are risks associated with flamboyance. Somewhere along their evolutionary path, male painted buntings had to choose between bright colors for better sex or more obscure colors for longer life. Speaking for males everywhere, that was a no-brainer.

Afterword

Concerned that I may be warping, or at least oversimplifying science (possibly by anthropomorphismdefined, among other things), I invited my editor, trained biologist, and authorBook 1, Book 2 April Kirkendoll, to keep me honest. Here are some of her comments:

As your blog is fairly informal, a few anthropomorphisms are allowed.

As to actual biology, in bird species where a one-night stand and hitting on multiple females is the preferred method of child-making, flamboyance is the rule. “Sex is more important than long life for playboys” might be the male perspective, while “Guys are only good for one thing, so who needs a lot of ’em around?” could be the female perspective.

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clearly more cases of anthropomorphism
One sprightly alert male can pass on plenty of wily genes, and if he’s still alive to court you, he’s a good candidate for fatherhood. As a bonus, if the hawk is attracted to the brightly colored male, it may not notice the female, so she can go about her child-rearing in peace. Or the predator could simply be full by the time it notices the female.

In bird species where child rearing is a shared business, males and females are similarly colored. Single momhood must be more difficult (or those females simply refuse to have sex without commitment, probably because single momhood is so hard). Males can’t just doink and run; they have to stick around and provide housing, protection, and/or food. They have to live longer in order for the species to continue.

Monogamy among birds ranges from 70-90%, depending on what you read and how you determine monogamy and pairing. Sexual dichromatism

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Sexual dichromatism is a form of sexual dimorphism. Most sources, like Wikipedia redirect to the more general term, where you can find your definition at the bottom of the page. Click here for the short answer.
varies according to the amount of work the male puts into child-rearing. Basically, the more the color differences between genders, the less child-rearing the mate does. Females aren’t always the drab ones.

Postscript

For even more information on April’s last point, I contacted Brian Rapoza, a world-renowned birder, authorbook, teacher, and field trip coordinator for Tropical Audubon Societywebsite.

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Again, although I can personally recommend the books of both of these people, they are our friends and we receive nothing for these endorsements, either directly or indirectly. Brian did use three of Nancy’s photographs in his book, so if you bring your copy of his book to our booth and can show us one of those pictures, I will give you five dollars ($5) off of any purchase. If you show us your copy of one of April’s books, we will give you four dollars ($4) off, even if you can’t find one of Nancy’s pictures.
As an example of birds of which the female was NOT the drab one, Brian pointed to birds in the genus Phalaropus. The Red-necked phalarope, the Red phalarope, and less commonly the Wilson’s phalarope migrate past Florida in the Atlantic Ocean to nest in the Arctic. Although not nearly as flamboyant as the painted bunting, the female of these species is more colorful than the male, and, consistent with April’s comments, it is the male who incubates the eggs and cares for the young.