Nature Blog Network

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More White Stuff

Snowing again!

Many American Indian tribes had a charming naming scheme for their lunar months -- they named them after phenological occurrences. The month that fell closest to what we now call February was dubbed by many groups "Snow Moon." As a second grader remarked to me, "I understand why they called February the snow moon!" We've had a snowy February. It's mostly come in a few inches at a time -- about 4 tonight -- but it seems to keep coming. Even without the huge snowfalls they've had out east, we have a good covering of white stuff by now....

And soon, it will be time for the Crust Moon. Coming after the Snow Moon, this is the month when warmer daytime temperatures slowly melt the snow but colder night times re-freeze it, forming a crust of ice on top of the snow. That's a clever naming concept if I've ever heard one...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Contradiction in Terms

Last night's snow was a spring snow, weighing heavily on every bough, branch and berry. We only got about 3 inches, but it was 3 inches of almost-slush and it stuck to everything and the world is magically white.... for now. Based on the weather report, I suspect it will soon be all puddles!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Snowfun

I went out to check on the status of the huge icicle, hoping that it would have reached the ground. Instead, I found it had fallen. But, it has a second life -- we re-purposed part of it as the arms for our snowperson.

A Certain Heaviness...

Friday into Saturday it snowed about 2 inches -- heavy, wet snow that was practically rain. My thermometer said it was 34 degrees, so it should have been rain! Anyhow, it was enough to cover the brown, roadside ugliness for a while (it's back already). The relative warmth -- two days of hovering right around freezing -- has caused some melting. Check out this icicle on the back of my house... its stalactite part and its stalagmite parts are almost ready to meet!
I just thought it was sort of cute how the snow was melting around this cat lawn statue... it looks like a kitty has made a snow cave and is peaking out!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Signs of Spring?

Or maybe just wishful thinking... you be the judge.

I was outside this morning and again this afternoon. The snow melted considerably between one and the other. It was a very sunny, warm day.

Also? I saw a bug. Far away from the building (so it couldn't just have been living inside and flown out the door), a small fly-like insect was darting around. It moved like a diptera, was about 2 mm long, and wouldn't stop moving long enough for me to get a good look at it. But there's definitely a bug out there.

These lilac buds are greening. I really think they are. Or am I just imagining it?...
I have been seeing tracks not just of opossum (left), but we also found tracks from a skunk (right)-- I'm pretty sure. After a lot or poring over books and researching, I have not been able to conclusively determine that these "mystery tracks" were skunk, but I have ruled out almost everything else and couldn't come up with any proof that they were not skunk.
I recognize that these animals walking around is not necessarily a sign of spring, as these animals awake and emerge at intervals throughout the winter... but they sure have been active lately!

Photo note: I know these track photos should be rotated. They're not great photos anyhow -- it was so sunny it was hard to even see, much less take pictures -- but it would help if they were the right way. But my computer is being ornery and won't turn them, and I'm done fighting with it, so just... tilt your head to the left and all will be well.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tracking Day

The snow has been perfect for tracking. The 12 inches we got last week -- slowly melting in the sunshine, got a bit heavy and wet. Then we got a dusting the other day on top of that snow. A lot of smaller animals don't sink into the base, and so walk on top of it. Their footprints are perfect -- you can see every toe and fingernail, every skin wrinkle. I have seen excellent squirrel and vole tracks on top of the snow, as well as opossum tracks and some really neat larger animal tracks (which do sink into the snow, but...)

It's hard to take photos of the tracks -- white on white, and bright sun doesn't help.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Morning Snapshot

A brutally cold, but beautifully frosty morning. Chickadee calls resound through the still, crisp-to the-point-of-cracking air (as they do on most mornings when I arrive to work. 7 am seems to be prime chickadee talking time around here).
Photo by Chris.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shake, Rattle and Roll.

So I got this email from my uncle this morning:

"I was expecting at least some acknowledgment of the earthquake! I had no idea anything had happened until I heard about it on the radio this morning. Maybe twenty years ago we had one that I actually felt, but this one I slept through solidly. You were closer to Ground Zero, though, so I figured you'd have been jiggled."

This was the first I had heard of this event. I listened to NPR on the way to work, but it's not a long trip, and I didn't hear anything about an earthquake. Turns out we did have one, but it didn't wake me up... or if it did, I thought it was plows, which rumbled past and roused me a few times during the night. Normally I am a light sleeper, but... I don't know... Anyhow, here's more info.

In the End...

We got about 12 inches of snow between early Tuesday morning and early this morning. Since is was finished snowing sometime before 4:45 am, we're in school today. We did have an early release yesterday, (but unscheduled early releases are actually more of a pain than a gift).

This morning is actually sunny (with a sliver of a moon) and the unmarred snow is in that lovely stage before the cars and plows have made the roadsides black and before before the feel have walked all over it. I shall try to enjoy it rather than being melancholy that I'm at work...
We made the first tracks in the snow!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Storm Warning

Well... the snow's a-fallin'. I know that people in unlikely places like Washington CD have already gotten like 30 inches and are expecting 15 more and probably don't want to hear me get excited about our predicted 10-inches-if-we're-lucky winter storm... but the air has been cold and the ground nearly bare for a while, and I'm excited that it's falling. (Little needly flakes right now).

(Bad timing for a snow day, though...didn't start until too late at night...)

Friday, February 5, 2010

More Following Along

I spent a lovely morning (well, part of a morning) tracking. With kindergartners. Tracking with kindergarten is always an adventure. Some of the interesting things about tracking with people that young:
1. They are super excited about everything. Which is great... sort of. The problem is, they are excited about everything, so when you have to tell them that that isn't really a track, but rather a place where an icicle dripped, it feels like breaking their little hearts. (But I can't just let them think all those indents in the snow are animal tracks, that's not right either.) On the other hand, the disappointment only lasts about 2 seconds before there is new excitement for the place where the plow splashed onto the snow.

2. Their feet are everywhere. I tried to get some pictures this morning, but I had to get them fast before 42 tiny boots trampled all over the tracks. No matter how many times you try to explain that no one else can see the track if they step on top of it, and no matter how well you put them in a line to follow behind... before long there is snow in, or footprints on top of, all the tracks.

3. They think everything is a rabbit track. This morning, we didn't actually see any rabbit tracks. We saw a lot of tracks -- vole, coyote, dog, opossum (I'm 99% on that one), squirrel, bird -- and they guessed rabbit for every single one of them.
This was a rabbit track.(Note: that was a large dog track, so it would have to be a gigantic rabbit.)
These? Also rabbit tracks.And those are kindergarten hands, so scale-wise, those tracks are TINY. I am not sure why rabbit is the default, no-thought-involved guess, but it is...

So I was pretty surprised when a kindergartner out-tracked me. The tracks in question were these. They were all over, making circles and crossing each other... I wanted to take a picture of the overall scene, but I had my camera in my pocket, and by the time I got it out and my gloves off... well, see #2 above.

Anyhow... I could tell they were bird tracks. In some of them you could actually see not only the shape of the foot, but the imprint of wrinkled skin. They were quite large -- way bigger than typical songbird tracks, but not large enough to be a hawk and not webbed enough to be a water bird. In places they had clearly stopped to scratch the ground. But my brain? Didn't come up with the answer. So I took some pictures, planning to think about it later. Then, back in the classroom, as a wrap-up, I asked the kids to review what tracks we had seen. (You guessed it! "Rabbit" was the first answer!) But then they listed the ones we actually saw, and we got a pretty complete list but the bird wasn't on it. So I said... "There was one more I remember -- it was over by the barn..." and a girl raises her hand, I call on her, and she says, "Oh, yeah... the crow tracks."

That's right, folks. She figured it out before I did. I am not sure how, actually. I guess my students are just tracking geniuses (the rabbit thing notwithstanding) and I'm going to go ahead and take some of the credit for that. It makes me feel slightly less stupid.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Let it Snow (More) (Please)

We got less than an inch of snow... hardly even enough to cover the road-side ugliness that occurs with emissions, melting ice and snow, and time... but plenty enough to make the morning commute really long!

I wish we had more snow, but it's pretty, actually.