Photo by: @TheCraigHensel
Winter’s night skies cascade overhead adorned in a vibrant brilliance, a display that keeps our eyes cast skyward on so many camping adventures. All the while, thousands of small songbirds silently pass by overhead, unnoticed, save for the few whose silhouette is momentarily illuminated by the moons rich glow. Just as early explorers relied on the nightscape to navigate through the darkness, many songbirds have been found to rely on a star compass to orient them while migrating at night. Yet, the notion of night and darkness is one in constant flux, as light pollution from our urban centers trickles into the peripheral darkness, a darkness the international community deemed to valuable to leave unrecognized in 1999 when the first permanent night sky preserve was established in Torrance Barrens in Ontario, Canada. Eight years later, the first International Night Sky Park was established in Utah’s Natural Bridges National Monument, which has the darkest sky recorded as of yet by the National Park Service. These night sky refuges are not only important for migrating songbirds, but these habitats are also vital for nocturnal organisms that rely on their night-vision to survive. With light pollution increasingly present in the wildest corners of the earth, animals that rely on the mask of darkness to navigate and forage are increasingly imperiled. With 2015 on the horizon, we hope you find yourself ringing in the New Year outnumbered a million to one by brilliant stars peppering the night sky overhead, and with a steady gaze, you may just catch a glimpse of a fleeting songbird in the moon’s ambient radiance.
By Charles Post