Happy New Year!At times like this, I sometimes wonder what the Earth and Sun would say to each other if they could talk. They would watch us celebrating this annual moment at such an arbitrary time...Sun: I could understand a party at either solstice...Earth: Yes, or one at either equinox. Would make good sense...Sun. Quite. But to pick a day about a week after one solstice...Earth: Very strange.Sun. Yes. They are a very strange lot.In this picture of a beech tree in Wiltshire, we can see both moss and lichens thriving in the moist air close to the ground. Water…
As we approach the summer solstice the sun has so much north in it that no side of buildings, trees or other exposed areas will stay in the shade all day.This is a northern roof getting a good late afternoon roasting. The moss, which in mid-winter is a plump dark green is in full retreat at this time of year. It is well-established and will survive until the sun starts moving south again in three weeks.
In this photo you can see the dew that the sun has not yet burnt off. The shadow itself is mostly moving right to left in this picture, leaving the thin band of wet wood in the shade all the time. This thin band is a rough east-west line at all times of the year, but quite an accurate one at times like this, close to the spring and autumnal equinoxes.The small patch of moisture that is in the sun reveals the direction that the shadow is shortening, a crude north-south line as we near the middle of the day.
Having spent the morning organising images for upcoming courses, I was reminded of a regular problem with learning anything practical from nature. There is a real tendency to bias. By which I mean when we are learning something new there is a great temptation to either make our observations fit our predictions, or to overlook things until we find something that looks the way we want it to.
Moss on trees and buildings is a great example of this. The popular notion is that moss will grow on the north side. This is sometimes true, but often not…