Burns Night

January 25 is Burns Night, a celebration of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns.

I’ve put together something about him, illustrated by stamps. It’s too long for a blog post. And there are plenty arts that don’t fit in a video, so I’ve made a booklet.

It takes the form of an 8 page pdf. I hope you’ll take a look, and enjoy it.

The cover

Video: Shark *Bait* Week: Sardines

This time, it’s sardines!

Sardines are small, oily forage fish in the herring family Clupeidae.

The term “sardine” was first used in English during the early 15th century, it comes from the Italian island of Sardinia, around which sardines were once abundant. Pilchard is another term for the same group of fishes.

Some authorities consider the sardine to mean smaller, younger, pilchards.

The FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations considers 21 species that may be classed as sardines.

Sardines feed on zooplankton, and school wherever this is abundant.

This Ecuadorian stamp is from a series on export items. It was issued on April 22, 1986 and has a Scot number of 1137a. It has a watermark of the Coat of Arms of the Ecuador Military Geographic Institute. This commemorative stamp was designed by H. Galarza Gomez and printed by Instituto Geográfico Militar, Quito.

It has a perforation of 12½ and was printed by offset lithography, it has a face value of 10 Ecuadorian sucre. It had a print run of 200,000, and is from a souvenir sheet.

Sardines are commercially fished for bait; for eating fresh, or for drying, salting, or smoking. They are also used for fish meal and oil. Their oil is used for paint, varnish, and linoleum.

From South Korea, this stamp comes from a 1986 fishes series.

This commemorative has a Scott number of 1418, and was issued on July 25, 1986.

It has a comb perforation of 13¼ x 13 and was printed by photogravure.

The stamp has a face value of 70 South Korean won.

Though still fished commercially, the sardine business has collapsed in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the UK, what’s left of the industry is centered in Cornwall, and those are branded Cornish Sardines.

This stamp, featuring a Cornish Sardine comes from Great Britain, in a series on sustainable fish. It was issued June 5, 2014, and has a Scott number of 3299. There are variants.

The stamp was designed by Kate Stephens and printed using offset lithography by International Security Printers.

It has a perforation of 14 x 14½, with ordinary gum and phosphor paper.

This stamp has no face value, but is printed for 1st class postage.

John Steinbeck centered his novel Cannery Row in Monterey, California. It was once the sardine canning capital of the United States. The last U.S. cannery closed in 2010.

The Monterey canning industry began with salmon around the turn of the 20th century, but 1.4 million cases of sardines were being turned out by 1918 in support of the troops in World War I.

This Tunisian stamp, is from a series on the fishes of Tunisia. It was issued on July 15, 2012, and has a Scott number of 1535.

This commemorative was printed by offset lithography, and has a comb perforation of 13½.

There were 500,000 printed with a face value of 600 Tunisean milim.

After the second World War, the sardine fishery collapsed, and the canneries started to close.

Today the area is a tourist destination, and sardines can be seen in the Monterey Bay Aquarium at one end of Cannery Row.

Video: Shark *Bait* Week: Herring

This is Shark *Bait* Week. It’s a bit of a twist on last year’s Shark Stamp Week.

I’m sharing some information about shark prey animals that have appeared on stamps from around the world. And sharing stamps, too, of course.

This is about herring.

There are over 200 species of fishes called herrings, mostly belonging to the family of Clupeidae. Three, the Atlantic herring, the Pacific herring, and the Baltic herring make up about 90% of all herring commercially fished.

This stamp comes from the Federal Republic of Germany, or west Germany. It is a semipostal stamp, with a surcharge going to youth programs.

This stamp was issued in the saltwater fish series.

It was issued on August 4, 2016, and has a Scott number of B1119.

It was designed by Werner Hans Schmidt, and printed by Bundesdrukerei using offset lithography. The perforation is 13¾. And it has ordinary gum. The paper is fluorescent.

The stamp has a face value of 70 Euro cents for postage, and a 30 cent semipostal charge.

Herring are pelagic fish, which means they live up in the water column, not near the bottom.

Herring often move in large schools around shallow banks, and near the coast. They are regularly found in shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans, including the Baltic Sea.

This stamp hails from Estonia, and is part of a series featuring the national fish, herring.

This commemorative was issued on February 23, 2017, and was designed by Indrek Ilves.

It has a perforation of 13, and 50,000 were printed by offset lithography.

The stamp has a face value of 0.65 Euros.

Herrings are silvery-colored fish, with a single dorsal fin along the back. With so many species, their size of course varies from about 6 to 18 inches (14-46 cm), and up to about 1.5 lbs (700 g).

Herrings eat copepods, krill, and other drifting animals and plants. They are mainly filter feeders, swimming along with their mouths open and taking in anything that comes along. Sometimes they will notice and lunge for larger floating prey.

Herrings are also forage fish. Forage fishes are those that occur in large numbers, and are an important food for larger predators.

Those predators include seabirds, marine mammals such as dolphins, porpoises, whales, seals, and sea lions, and fish such as sharks, billfish, tuna, salmon, striped bass, cod, and halibut.

Coming from Iceland this herring stamp has a Scott number of 222, and there are variants.

The stamps were printed by recess printing, and it was issued on March 6, 1945 as a definitive with a perforation of 14. Before 1953 it had a print run of one million.

The face value is 10 Icelandic eyrir.

Adult herring are caught by humans for their meat and eggs, and they are often used as baitfish to catch larger sea creatures.

The herring industry is essentially irreplacable in the economies of several countries around the world, and it is considered the most economically important fish in the world.

I hope you enjoyed this!

Video: Shark *Bait* Week: Yellowfin Tuna

This is Shark *Bait* Week. It’s a bit of a twist on last year’s Shark Stamp Week.

I’ll be sharing some information about shark prey animals that have appeared on stamps from around the world. And sharing stamps, too, of course.

I hope you enjoy this week!

In 2021, I organized the stamps by country since so many issue sets of shark stamps, this time I’m organizing by subject, so the countries will jump around a bit.

Today’s subject is the yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares, is also called ahi, from the Hawaiian name for the fish.

This stamp is from Saint Helena’s Marine Life series. It was issued July 12, 1985 and has a Scott number of 436.

The stamp is watermarked.

It is a commemorative with a comb perforation of 13 x 13½, and was printed by offset lithography. It has a face value of 33 Saint Helena pennies.

Yellowfin are one of the larger tunas, and can weigh over 400 lb (180 kg). They can also grow up to 7 ft 10 in (2.4 m) long. Only the bluefin tuna are larger.

Yellowfin are epipelagic fish, which means they inhabit the mixed, warmer, surface layers of the ocean. Tracking has found that yellowfin tuna mostly range in the top 330 ft (100 m) of the water column.

Reportedly swimming depth can vary with time of day. During the night, they stay in water shallower than 289 ft (88 m), but during the day they may spend some time down to 620 ft (190 m).

Yellowfin tuna dive more deeply infrequently, but they can dive to considerable depths. An individual tagged in the Indian Ocean made three dives almost 4000 ft (1,100 m). The deepest yellowfin dive recorded is 5,223 ft (1,592 m.

This stamp from Tokelau’s marine fish series is a commemorative issued on October 3, 2012.

The comb perforation is 13¾ x 13½.

Printed by offset lithography, it has a face value of 40 New Zealand cents.

Despite staying relatively near the surface, yellowfin tuna are found mostly in deeper offshore waters, though they sometimes come inshore in special conditions.

Mid-ocean islands such as the Hawaiian islands, the Maldives, and places such as Ascension Island and Saint Helena, may have schools of yellowfin feeding nearshore where baitfish congregate.

Yellowfin tuna usually travel in schools with similarly sized fishes. Schools of young yellowfin and skipjack tuna are common.

Yellowfin will often school with dolphins and porpoises, as well as with larger whales, and even whale sharks.

The stamp here is from the French Southern and Antarctic Lands tuna fishing series.

Issued on January 2, 2017, this commemorative has a comb perforation of 13¼ x 13

Printing was by offset lithography and recess printing.

The stamp has a face value of 0.44 Euro, and had a print run of 46,000

The fish can also be found around drifting flotsam, such as logs and pallets, even follow moving vessels. Smaller fishes often use such places as shelter, so the predatory yellowfin take advantage of that.

Prey of the yellowfin tuna include other, smaller fishes, pelagic crustaceans, and squid.

Like all tunas, their body shape is adapted for speed, enabling them to pursue and capture fast-moving baitfish including flying fish, sauries, and mackerel. Schooling fishes such as anchovies, and sardines are frequent prey.

Large yellowfin will prey on smaller tunas such as frigate mackerel, and skipjack tuna.

In turn, yellowfin are preyed upon when young by other pelagic hunters, including larger tuna, seabirds, and predatory fishes such as wahoo, sharks, and billfishes.

Adults are threatened only by the largest and fastest hunters, such as toothed whales, particularly the false killer whale, pelagic sharks such as mako and great white, and large marlin.

Industrial tuna fisheries are their most deadly predator, however.

From Madagascar comes this 1982 fishes series stamp, with a Scott number of 650. It was issued on December 14, 1982

This commemorative has a comb perforation of 11¼.

Offset lithography was the printing method, and it has a face value of 50 Malagasy francs.

Yellowfins are very fast fish swimming up to 47 miles per hour (20.8 m/s).

One of the most surprising things, for many, is that tuna are warm-blooded, or endothermic. Their muscle movement at least partly contributes to this. The muscles are in essentially constant movement propelling their bodies through the water, and this generates heat. Their body retains some of this, and they can bring their bodies to quite impressive temperatures. In fact, tuna brought onboard a fishing boat must be quickly iced down so that their body heat does not start cooking the dead fish.

They are a frequently eaten tuna, and yellowfin is widely used in raw fish dishes like sashimi. They are also excellent for grilling, often served seared rare.

Seafood sustainability advocates come to different conclusions about whether yellowfin fishing is sustainable. The Audubon Society lists troll-caught tuna as “OK”, but labels long-line caught as “Be Careful”.

Greenpeace meanwhile, lists yellowfin on its seafood red list.

Despite this bit of controversy, yellowfin is becoming a popular replacement for the severely depleted supplies of southern bluefin tuna.

Thank you for joining me for this, part of Shark *Bait* Week 2022. I hope you enjoyed it

World Giraffe Day, June 21

Giraffes are a large, antelope-related herbivore of Africa.

Adults stand up to 18 feet tall, and they have great difficulty standing up if they lie down, and may never lie on their sides after their birth.

They are so tall that when young are born the newborns drop about 6 feet to the ground.

Giraffes have huge hearts, very high blood pressure, and extremely strong arteries in their necks, which help pump blood to their elevated brains.

Portugal Nyassa Company stamp from 1901

Their “horns” are analogous to the horn cores of other species. Covered with skin and hair, they are used in fighting among giraffes, mostly males.

The animals have long been seen as a symbol to Europeans of exotic Africa. They appear in ancient European beastiaries.

1954 South African stamp

The taxonomy of giraffes is in flux. Currently there a are between one and four species recognized. When recognizing one species, most authorizes also recognize 9 subspecies.

There are studies that find evidence for up to 8 full species, while others look at that same data and suggest there are only three species with several populations or subspecies.

All giraffes populations are endangered.

The closest living relative of the giraffe is the okapi, a secretive forest species not described by western science until 1901. There is, however ad Ancient Greek reference to a gift from the King of Ethiopia that may have been an okapi.

1984 Okapi stamp from Congo.

Solstice June 21, 2022

The Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere occurs this year at 9:14am on June 21, 2022 (UT or Greenwich Time). The Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere occurs at the same time. That will be 2;14am Pacific, 5:14am Eastern time in the USA.

This is the time that the sun will have reached it’s farthest point north in the sky for the year. At the north pole, the sun will be closest it comes to directly overhead.

Though scientifically an actual moment in time, the Solstice has been popularized as covering the whole day. It is considered the actual first day (in the north) of the summer season, despite whatever our calendars or weather is telling us.

Issued June 18, 2021, this solar science series of stamps celebrates our growing knowledge or our nearby glowing orb.

It is also the longest (northern) span of daylight of the year. How long your daylight will last depends on your distance from the equator. The farther away from the equator, the more daylight hours you will have. The daylight at the equator doesn’t vary much from 12 hours at any time of year.

The Solstice is caused by the tilt of the Earth relative to the plane of it’s orbit. At the northern Summer Solstice, the north pole points as directly to the sun as it possibly can. At the northern Winter Solstice (around December 21) the south pole will be pointing as directly as it gets toward the sun.

Many people believe that in the north it is hot around this time of year because we are closer to the sun. In our orbit, however, the north’s Summer Solstice occurs when the Earth is farthest from the Sun. We’re just tilted toward it, which is the actual reason for the heat.

The southern hemisphere’s Summer Solstice (in December) is in the part of the Earth’s orbit when the planet is closest to the Sun.

The solstices have been important to many cultures around the world for tens of thousands of years. Astronomical calendars have been found all over the world that use the solstices as an important point in time.

For some cultures it might have meant time to plant, or time to start storing food for winter, or some other thing. But if tracked, the time the sun changes direction from moving northward to moving southward is a relatively easy marker to notice.

American Eagle Day

US official stamp showing Eagle, 13 arrows, and 13 olive leaves

June 20 is National American Eagle Day in the United States of America.

American Eagle Day is a special day to commemorate the anniversary of the Bald Eagle’s selection as our National Symbol by the Second Continental Congress on June 20, 1782.

Airmail stamp designed by Philatelist Franklin D. Roosevelt (who happened to be President at the time). Scott C23

It is also a day to celebrate its return to America’s skies after near extinction due to the use of DDT and other pesticides.

The Bald Eagle is endemic (occurs only) to North America. It is a sea eagle, a small group of eagle species that live primarily near water and are adapted to hunt fish.

Scott C67

All sea eagles have relatively longer beaks, without feathers covering much of it. This helps keep the bill area free of fish waste and oils that could stick and attract pests or allow the growth of bacteria.

They also have roughly scaled feet, and strongly hooked claws that help hold fish.

1991 Flying Eagle with Olympic Rings. Scott 2542

The distinctive white feathers of the adult Bald Eagle are actually camouflage. Seen from below, the lighter parts may confuse fish or other prey as to the shape of the “thing in the sky,” delaying the response to a predator.

All adult sea eagles have white tails, but the Bald Eagle is the only one with a fully white head.

1998 Priority mail stamp. Scott 2122

The name Bald Eagle, of course, is a misnomer. They do have fully feathered beds. “Balde” is an Old English word meaning white, and was used by the first English explorers to see the bird.

The earliest use of the Bald Eagle as an American symbol was apparently in 1776 in Massachusetts.

It was adopted because of the supposed characteristics of the bird, being brave, noble, and fierce. And in sympathy with the Eagle symbols of most European powers.

In reality, eagles are predators and carrion eaters, who have no qualms about getting a meal the easiest way possible.

Bald Eagles regularly steal food from each other, and from the smaller Osprey which also hunts fish. They also have no problems eating leftovers from bears, wolves, or other predators. And one of the best places to see a group of Bald Eagles is at garbage dumps outside some west coast cities.

“A” rate stamp, issued in 1978 for 15 cents. The first of several stylized Eagle non-nondenominational stamps issued in a time of rapidly increasing postage rates. Scott 1735

But as can be seen in the stamps shown here, they’re still a magnificent predator, and can really look the part of majestic.

And Benjamin Franklin did Not, by the way, oppose the choice. His essay in favor of the Turkey was partly, at least, tongue-in-cheek. He didn’t like the design of the original Eagle symbol, and wrote to his daughter that the “eagle” looked more like a Turkey.

Cinco de Mayo

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

This is the anniversary of Mexico defeating a French invading army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 against overwhelming (2:1) odds.

Battle of Puebla,” unknown artist, in the collection of the  Museo Nacional de las Intervenciones.

The Government of President Benito Juarez (served 1858-1872) was bankrupt in 1861 and declared a pause in repayment of foreign loans. Britain and Spain negotiated, and France did not.

Benito Juarez, President of Mexico 1858-1872, stamp probably from 1954.

Napoleon III used the pretext of the loan to send troops to seize control of Mexico.

France really wanted to reestablish an American empire, after losing Quebec and giving up Louisiana. Specifically it wanted a “Latin America” under the French, who thought they were the successor to Rome.

After the battle the French realized it wasn’t going to to be quite so easy, and sent a larger force, which conquered Mexico City and installed Maximilian I as Emperor of Mexico.

Maximilian was thrown out after 3 years with help from the USA after the ending of the American Civil War. The Government of Juarez, who had led the Mexican resistance, was restored.

The Battle of Puebla, while not decisive in getting rid of the French, was great for morale in Mexico, showing they had a chance against the European power. It also probably also saved the American Union, by tying up French troops in Mexico during the early American Civil War, so the French could not aid the US Confederacy.

The first celebrations of Cinco de Mayo were in California in 1863, and it has become a celebration of Mexican American culture, even for those that are bigoted against Mexicans. The day has also become the second biggest beer-selling day after the Super Bowl, and has, like St Patrick’s Day, become mostly an “American” thing.

So thank you to those 4,000 Mexican troops that soundly defeated the 8,000 French troops, delaying an invasion and saving the United States of America’s Union.

No wonder the USA celebrates it.

By the way, the Aztecs formed a runner system to carry messages among their cities. This system was appropriated by the Spanish in 1580, becoming more formally a mail service. The first Mexican adhesive postal stamps were issued in 1856. They were unique in having “district overprints”.

The first stamp featured a portrait of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the parish priest who led an unsuccessful bid for Mexican independence in 1810.

Earth Day, Earthrise

Today is the 52nd Earth Day.

Enjoy it!

This stamp features an image taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft while while making the first manned circumnavigation of the moon. They didn’t go into orbit, but just around it before heading back to earth.

The original image, below, is titled Earthrise.

Bill Anders traveled with astronauts Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell. He was born on October 17, 1933 in British Hong Kong. They were the first people to go beyond earth’s orbit, taking their flight in December 1968.

Unlike other images of the earth, I think this one hit a lot of people because it shows no just the planet in blank space, but shows the view from another world.

On this day, and every day, remember that so far, this is the only place we have.