Summer Solstice

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and it is surrounded by days nearly as long, offering lots of time for recreation.

The view from my front deck affords me a perfect opportunity to observe the track of the sun as it moves south to north. It begins its march north on the winter solstice and that journey ended one week ago as it reached its northern extreme. For a day or two, it seemed to hang in one spot, rising north of east and setting north of west. To a careful observer though, it is already obvious that it is beginning the trip back down south and days are getting shorter.

Now, we all understand that it is really the Earth, and not the Sun, that is moving and it is the tilt of the Earth as it rotates around the sun that creates the apparent south to north movement of the sun over six months. It is interesting to note that on the Solstice, we are not at the closest point of the Earth’s orbit around the sun but more on that next week.

At the June (summer) solstice, those basking at the equator enjoy almost exactly 12 hours of sun and 12 hours without the sun—but that is all year long. The further north of the equator one travels, the more daylight there will be to enjoy. I have been in Fairbanks, Alaska on the summer solstice and it is truly wonderful to see a midnight sun. At the Arctic Circle there will be at least one full day without a sunset. The further north of the Arctic Circle you go, the more days of 24-hour sunshine you will enjoy.

As my wife was checking on sunrise and sunset times for some of our adventures, we discovered something. Despite June 20th being the longest day, the earliest sunrise and the latest sunset do not occur on that day. The earliest sunrise precedes the solstice by several days and the latest sunset occurs several days after the solstice.

We all celebrate the June solstice at precisely the same time. By definition, the June solstice is the exact moment when the Sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer. The only difference is that in the southern hemisphere, the June solstice is the shortest day of the year.

There is some confusion at times as to the actual date of the summer solstice: June 20 or June 21, or even June 22 on rare occasions, and that comes from the fact that the timing is measured using Coordinated Universal Time or UTC time, the replacement of Greenwich Mean Time which is no longer used by the scientific community. The absolute time for the June (summer) Solstice is 3:32 a.m. on June 21st, UTC. For those of us on Mountain Daylight time, we must subtract six hours from that figure, making the exact moment 9:32 p.m. on June 20th.

The summer solstice has played an important role for humans for millennia. Stonehenge, that famous and mystic structure in England and constructed over 5,000 years ago, aligns perfectly with the setting sun of the winter solstice and the rising sun of the summer solstice. The Sphinx and Great Pyramids of Egypt, built about the same time as Stonehenge, were similarly aligned so that looking from the Sphinx, the sun set precisely between the two pyramids on the summer solstice. Many cultures, including modern ones, celebrate the longest day of the year.

I know I am a week late with this but I wrote it on June 20th and that should count for something. The Summer Solstice is still my favorite day, a day braced on either side by several months of the longest days of the year. What isn’t to like about that?


Help Idaho Wildlife

When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

And tell them that you heard about it from!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho