Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Counting Down

The days are getting shorter and shorter as we move towards the Winter Solstice. It's only a matter of one or two minutes shorter each day and it happens every year. Don't get me wrong, I love the long days in the summer and this is the price we have to pay for living north of the 49 th parallel, but getting dark at around 4 pm seems a tad early to me and I know the days are even shorter further north.

The Solstice will occur at 05:30 (or 5:30am) Universal Time (UT) on December 22, 2011 at the longitude of Greenwich, England. It is known as the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere due to the seasonal differences. The date of the solstice varies from December 20 to December 23 depending the year in the Gregorian calendar.

Because Earth doesn’t orbit upright, but is instead tilted on its axis by 23-and-a-half degrees, Earth’s northern and southern hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. That’s what causes winter and summer.

At the December solstice, Earth is positioned in its orbit so that the sun stays 23-and-a-half degrees below the north pole horizon on the day of the December solstice. As seen from 23-and-a-half degrees south of the equator, at the imaginary line encircling the globe known as the Tropic of Capricorn, the sun shines directly overhead at noon. This is as far south as the sun ever gets. All locations south of the equator have day lengths greater than 12 hours at the December solstice (their summer). Meanwhile, all locations north of the equator have day lengths less than 12 hours (our winter).

The bridge in the park before the sun is fully up

Long shadows at this time of year

So cooler days, long shadows and early sundowns. I find that I have less energy this time of year. On a recent sunny day I went down to the park to see check on the bird and animal residents. Many birds have migrated south for the winter, others like the snow geese winter here and summer in the "land of the northern sun".

The ducks seemed to be dozing, waiting for the sun to shine on their pond.

Then a Mallard duck has a quick bath before getting on with the day.

Then get on with the business of feeding. Here the ducks share a patch of grass with a Northern Red Shafted Flicker.

American Wigeons

Northern Red Shafted Flicker

There are still a few red-winged black birds around the pond, often on or near the rushes. They have such a distinctive song and I often hear them long before I catch sight of one.

Red Winged Black Bird

These crows were picking up and tossing the leaves, I guess in hopes of finding something edible beneath them.

Crow rummaging in the fallen leaves

These squirrels were feasting on the remaining berries or seeds in this tree.
A pair of squirrels feasting on berries

No sign of the beaver, but they have been busy here recently.

The heron appeared to be just waking from a nap, this one is high in a tree.

Most of these rabbits are feasting on black berry leaves but the black one seems to prefer the grass

Alyssum still flowering in the park

Grackle I think
 This seagull was strutting about and very vocal. Think he wanted his parents to feed him.

There has been quite a variety of funghi this year too, but these and the remaining flowers will soon be gone.

Like the animals and birds, I tend to sleep in a bit, seek shelter in the poor weather and get out whenever the sun shines. I will be glad when the solstice arrives and the days start getting a bit longer again, not long now.

"There is something about winter
which pares things down to their essentials
a bare tree
a black hedge
hold their own stark throne in our hearts."
 Moya Cannon
Here is some beautiful music for a winters day.

Vivaldi - Four Seasons (Winter)

I finished a commission this week and an image for our personal Christmas card. I do a new one every year and then release it onto the website the following year. I'll show you it in a couple of weeks.

Sometimes it is difficult to know when a painting or drawing is finished. That is true of this drawing (graphite and pencil crayon) of a cat I called "Mattie". I recently took it out and reworked it, now maybe it's finished. Honestly sometimes I need someone to physically take the pencil (or brush) out of my hand and say enough, this may be one of those cases:

"Mattie" - graphite and pencil crayon cat

Thanks for stopping by, happy Whimsy Wednesday, until next week.......


  1. mattie is lovely! and, yes, i know that feeling of 'when to quit!' :) lovely photos. those black squirrels you have there are gorgeous!

  2. I know what you mean about sometimes not knowing when to stop a project, Gillian. But the cat looks charming with a slight hint of blue to the eyes. There are so many pretty sights to capture in and around your area. I was especially taken with the rabbit snuggled in the shrubbery and brambles. And the red mushroom with white dots all around would make a pretty fabric to brighten wintry days. :)

  3. I love all of your photos. I really prefer the long days of summer. I like daylight. I've often been envious of those who live in Alaska and get basically 24 hours of light during the summer months. No, I don't want their winters but I love daylight. I think it's because I like being outdoors and when it's already dark even a walk is not as much fun.

  4. Yes the days sure are getting quite short.

    Your drawing of Mattie is beautiful! And I very much like your photos of the mushrooms and birds.

  5. Oh, I so don't like darkness coming around 4pm ... makes for very short days! Wonderful series of photos! Those bunnies are too cute!

  6. What a wonderful peek at out our of door friends! The early darkness is so bothersome, isn't it? I feel like by 3pm, the day is done right now! :(

  7. I love the photographs of your natural world. Nice look at the different kinds of birds as well as other animals. Good post about the winter's solstice approaching.

  8. That's life, life of nature. You have every part of imformation needed, and I love the animals, birds, mushrooms etc etc. Great photos.

  9. great shots of all the critters. :) I am glad we are at the turning point soon. I like to have longer days again.

  10. These photographs are divine. Right out of a fairytale. At least from my version of fairytale :). You always share wonderful works of art.

  11. what a wonderful post Gillian ! all the shots are beautiful ! wish you a happy day

  12. I LOVE all of your birds!! Great shots!
    And the CAT is AWESOME!!!

  13. Not long to go now and the days will be growing longer again (for you). Love the photo of the ducks "dozing".

  14. Beautiful series!
    Gorgeous shots, love all of them.
    Your drawing is beautiful!
    I look forward to have longer days again.

  15. The Winter Solstice is the longest night day in a year. From the next day, a day will start to get longer. It is good for animals which wait for spring. I especially love the first photo.
    Best wishes,

  16. Oh my goodness, I absolutely love your Mattie drawing. It is so soft and gorgeous. I'm looking forward to Winter Solstice too. We celebrate it at our house every year with a lovely dinner. Loved all the photos too, and the video of Vivaldi's Winter was really cool....thanks for posting it!

  17. Ahhhh love the crows !

    Judy Bishop - The Travelling Eye photography

  18. You have so many variety of wildlife around you, it’s so nice. Darkness is already fallen much before 5 p.m. at this time of year. Though dark and cold, I feel relaxed with more reading in the lengthening nights of autumn. The cat of your drawing has expressive, charming eyes. Stay warm.


  19. Beautiful shots, and a lovely drawing of Mattie.

    Nice to see pictures, and names of ducks. I have always wanted to know what some of them were, and now I know.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  20. A most beautiful post filled with interesting information (about the winter solstice), gorgeous photographs and one awesome drawing. I so enjoyed viewing your lovely images, they really capture the feel of the season. From stunning bird shots and peek-a-boo rabbits to tiny mushrooms ... all fabulous!