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A FRESH PERSPECTIVE FROM MOON WALKS

"The student of the moon doesn't waste any nights," said astronomer Jack Mack, associate professor at Buffalo State College. "There's always something different to see."

Mack has been studying the sky for more than 30 years, and while students of the moon may observe the orb from Earth, many are choosing to explore the earth under its light, when the nature's world is quiet and wildlife more active. On nights of the full moon, hikers can explore without a flashlight, advised Mack, but it would not hurt to bring one.

"It's not bright enough to read by, but it's easily light enough to walk by," Mack said. "Since your eye is so much more effective at gathering small amounts of light on a full-moon night, you actually can walk comfortably. It's close enough to being full for walking at night approximately half the time -- two nights before and two nights after a full moon -- something like 150 days or so."

Some spots where full-moon hikes are offered:

* Beaver Meadow Audubon Center, 1610 Welch Road in North Java: "The animals just seem to be more active during the full moon," said naturalist Paul Fehringer. "The owls are more vocal.

"You see more wildlife than you would during the day," Fehringer said. "You see more beaver, raccoons, frogs. We go just as the sun is starting to set. We'll go by the bat house, when the moon has started to rise. That's when the bats start coming out."

For more information on the next full-moon hike, call (585) 457-3228. The center is closed on Mondays and major holidays. Trails are always open.

* Letchworth State Park, Castile: "The transition between day and night is a good time to hike," said naturalist Douglas Bassett. "We start at dusk, but the walk continues to the darkness, and of course, the moon rises as the sun sets for the whole experience.

"It's always a treat to actually see the moon," Bassett added. "More likely than not, it will be cloud covered and prevent us from seeing the moon."

The hikes are 1 to 2 miles long, according to Bassett.

"If you have a rainy night, maybe you have some salamanders out," he said. "An owl might come in and start calling. You could be by a tree and something pops out and there's a flying squirrel. There could be bats around. Fireflies, crickets or katydids. It all depends on the time of year, the players that will make themselves apparent to you, whether it's a fox, deer, raccoon, whatever.

"The extra amount of glow and shadows brings its own artistry, making no two hiking experiences alike," said Bassett. "It's like watching any sunset or sunrise. They're never the same."

For more information, call (585) 493-3625.