Are you curious about the types of programs offered at EcoWeekend?

Here are three features from program presenters. There are dozens of programs from which to choose. Go to EcoWeekend.org to register and select your programs for the weekend.

Birding by Ear

By Angelika Nelson

Have you ever thought of learning a second language? Do you want to understand your common garden birds? Bird song is like a language that birds use to communicate with each other, mostly within their species but also across species, and even different taxa. Think of a Carolina Chickadee in your garden loudly scolding your neighbor’s cat when it approaches the bird feeder.

To produce the cacophony of sounds that has inspired and awed humans for centuries, including Shakespeare (“It was the nightingale, and not the lark, that pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear. Romeo & Juliet), birds have a special organ, the syrinx. To perfect their skills, songbirds have to go through stages of song learning, just like a human infant has to learn language. Many species are restricted in their learning ability to the first few months in life and will draw from this early repertoire throughout their lives. However, there are exceptions: Many birds that mimic sounds of others (even including humans) can learn to produce new sounds throughout life.

This leaves us with the question of why birds sing. Does it help them to defend a territory? Do they sing to attract a mate?

Sign up for a workshop and field trip at EcoWeekend 2018. We will talk about what research has revealed about songbirds, how we can best approach using bird song to help us recognize and identify bird species, and we will put some of the newly learned skills to use during a field trip. Just like any other language it takes years of practice to perfect your skills in identifying birds by their sounds. Get started on Saturday May 5th!


Make Your Own Nature Stationary

By Marie Trudeau

In this age of screens (TVs, computers, tablets, phones), we lose touch with all things natural. Seeing a picture of a forest, a sunset, a bird or a flower is nice, but not the same as seeing, hearing and touching the real thing. Cooking over a kitchen stove just does not smell as enticing as cooking over a campfire. Getting your daily steps in on concrete may help you reach your fitness goal, but it’s not the same as the softness of grass beneath your feet with the warmth of the sun on your back.

Communicating through a keyboard has many advantages, but it lacks warmth. When was the last time you received a personal note? If you got a piece of mail with your name carefully handwritten on the envelope, would it be the first piece of mail you opened, or would you savor it until last? Have you ever thanked someone for a kind act, but felt like it just wasn’t enough? Sending a note does not take a long time to do, doesn’t cost much, and can become an unforgettable gesture. Store bought stationery is abundant, but for an extra special touch you can make your own. Sign up now for the “Make Your Own Nature Stationery” workshop Friday night at EcoWeekend. This is a sampling of more than 50 nature infused experiences that are waiting for you May 4-6, 2018. Registration deadline is April 7. We hope you will join us!


Astronomy

By Kent Rothermel

When Yardsticks and Meters just don’t cut it.

Who among us hung a picture, retrieved a small toy from under the fridge or stove without the aid of our at-the-ready-to-serve yardstick? Over There, the Brits were doing the same thing with the humble Meter Stick. Sometimes, we need to measure really big things. In these cases, we redefine our ‘yardstick’ to be something else. Any middleschooler knows the Earth orbits around our star, the Sun, 93 Million miles away. We are lucky to have our Sun this close. The next closest star, Alpha Centauri-A, is 24,808,000,000,000 miles away. Just about 25 Trillion miles.

When referring to cosmological distances, we quickly get into big numbers when using familiar ‘yardsticks’, like miles. Take for example, The Light-Year. First defined in 1838, the Light-Year has been used mostly to describe distances to the stars in our locale of the Milky-Way Galaxy. At night, from anywhere on Earth, the bright stars are generally 4 Light-Years to 500 Light-Years away. The fainter stars we see, push that distance out toward 1,000 to 5,000 Light-Years. Our Milky-Way Galaxy is 100,000 Light-Years across. The next Closest Galaxy is M31, The Andromeda Galaxy, clocking in at 2,537,000 Light-Years away from us. Even a Light Year, at just about 6 Trillion Miles, is too short of a ‘yardstick’ when referring to inter-galactic distances. For this, the Parsec was founded, also in 1838. A Parsec is approximately 3.26 Light-Years, and is denoted by PC. By using the Kilo- multiplier, we get a Kilo-Parsec or Kpc, which is 3,260 Light-Years. Mpc is Mega-Parsec, which is 1,000 Kpc’s or 1,000,000 Parsecs

At EcoWeekend, If the sky clears off and we get a clear view of the Cosmos, you can expect to see stars that are very close and some stars that look close, but are much farther away because they are so huge. It’ll take most of the night until the Moon rises. Until then, we’ll get a chance to see some members of the Milky Way region called Star Clusters. These are groups of 50-100,000 stars all close to each other. Jupiter will be in our night sky around 10PM. This largest planet in our Solar System is really mind blowing to see in a telescope. Take a picture at the telescope with your phone! See you under the Stars!

At EcoWeekend, We’ll see some of those stars up close. Kent hails from Canton, Ohio and possesses a lifelong interest in sharing the night sky. Watching the Apollo Astronauts walk on the Moon as a kid helped to set Kent’s sights skyward. Married, with 3 boys starting to realize their potentials keeps Kent very busy.

Photo Caption: M13, The Great Globular Star Cluster in Hercules is 6.8kpc away and its 300,000 stars are a beautiful sight in Binoculars or a Telescope from EcoWeekend! Image © Martin Pugh.