Thom Smith | NatureWatch: What makes a full moon super?



While the hype will increase this week about the Super Blood Moon eclipse that will begin here at 9:36 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, and end at 3:45 a.m. Jan. 21, you may wonder why the name, Super Blood Moon? First, don't be afraid, it has happened many times for millennia and, during this century, is scheduled for 26 performances. It will be a super moon because it is at its perigee or closest point to the earth, making it look 14 percent closer and 30 percent brighter. A total eclipse is, in this case, when the moon is completely covered by Earth's shadow, that will occur at 12:41 a.m. and last about one hour.

The color? NASA explains: "When the sun is located directly behind Earth, the rim of the planet seems to catch fire! The darkened terrestrial disk is ringed by every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all at once. This light filters into the heart of Earth's shadow, suffusing it with a coppery glow." (

Why is this Super Blood Moon also called the Wolf Moon in North America? It is because Native Americans named it after the wolf's howling at it outside their villages. In South America, it is the Thunder Moon. Each full moon has a name (many different names around the world). Remember, autumn's is called the Harvest Moon in the U.S.

Q After many years of bird feeding at my home, I just saw my first brown creeper. It was, needless to say, creeping up the trunk of a large tree at the edge of the woods behind my house. Are brown creepers common around here?

— Charles, Lenox

A There are fewer creepers in the winter, but more are probably seen then than other times of the year, at least by novice birders. It has long been known to be a permanent resident in The Berkshires, and since the mid-20th century has increased in number across the state. It is not known if those creepers seen during the winter are the same individuals, with a few additions, during the summer. I have yet to see any at my feeders where I live in Pittsfield, although when we lived in Dalton, they were sometimes seen around our home at the suet feeder. Probably too much open space, being on the shore of a golf course.

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The brown creeper is smaller than the white-breasted nuthatch, and is best described as a small, slender brown songbird with a long curved bill and an even longer tail. It gets its name from both the cryptic brown and buff color allowing it to blend in with the bark. Until it moves in a creeping-like fashion as it searches for grubs, insects and spiders, we would probably miss one right in front of us. Often its coloration camouflages it so well, that without hearing its call, I imagine far fewer would be counted.

Besides the coloration, unlike woodpeckers, the creeper works its way upward from the base of a tree in spirals and then flies to the bottom of another tree, hence, it may be behind the tree as often as within view.

During the winter months, individuals broaden their search to include more deciduous trees and a greater variety, I imagine, and that sometimes brings one to a suet feeder.

I can only add that in comparison, the black-capped chickadee is abundant, the tufted titmouse is very common and the brown creeper is common.


I have been receiving additional reports of black squirrels weekly since first mentioning the informal survey I posted last November. So, it goes without saying, I cannot stop thinking about squirrels and the different colors even a single species may be. While scrolling through the latest copy (at the time of this writing) of Mother Nature Network, "Colorful Squirrels" caught my attention. Go to the website and scroll down until you see a multi-color squirrel.

And while scrolling, check out the many other departments and stories. For instance, another that I found informative is: "Is it OK to toss an apple core or banana peel outside?" by Mary Jo DiLonardo, posted Jan. 2. To whet your appetite, here is something I gleaned from the article, "If the welfare of animals isn't enough to deter you, then what about legal motivation? All 50 states have some sort of litter laws on the books, and few actually define litter. Whether you're tossing banana peels or fast-food containers, litter is litter in most states. In Florida, for example, Fort Myers Police Lieutenant Jay Rodriguez told NBC2 that it doesn't matter what the trash is, especially if it's tossed from a car. 'A banana could sit there for two or three days and look ugly to someone and be considered litter,' he said. Fines vary by state. Some might only charge $100, but a few states fine people more than $6,000 for a first offense. That's a hefty price to pay for a banana peel or an apple core. Better to keep it with you and throw it away — or better yet, compost it — when you get home."


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