Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Frozen Again

Re-freezing has caused lovely frost this morning, with crystals coating plants and trees in sparkly white. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Storm Follow-Up

A few more details on our first big winter storm of the fall.  Everyone seemed really excited on Friday, as the forecasts predicted lot of snow... so much so that I was certain it was going to be a bust, and we'd get barely a dusting.  Not so.  Sleet started to fall around 8 on Friday night, wetting everything down before it quickly turned to snow.  Snow falling on wetness meant it stuck to everything -- more on that.   It was really hard to determine how much snow actually fell, since the ground wasn't frozen.  It melted on impact and when it started to stick depended on the surface.  On our deck -- which has air flowing under it so gets cold fast -- where the snow stuck immediately, we had a foot and a half, easily, by the time the snow stopped falling mid-Saturday.  On the driveway, I think it was closer to 8 inches, the bottom 3 of which were slush... which weighs as much as water.  Which is heavy.  Which made shoveling really, really painful.  

The way that the heavy snow stuck to everything was really lovely and magical.  This oak tree image captures that...  
It was also rather destructive.  These trees (and many others) bent under the weight until they were literally touching the ground.  
They were the lucky ones... all over our neighborhood were trees like this, that lost huge limbs which couldn't bear the weight.  Especially heavily hit were those species still carrying leaves.  I don't think there was a single Callery pear in the neighborhood that didn't lose at least some major sticks.  
Sunday was sunny but cold, so not much melted at all... today, if it gets above freezing (which is predicted, though not by much) things will be treacherous.  All those tree limbs still carry snow/ice.  I hope I'm not standing under any when it decides to fall!  It's supposed to be in the 50's by Thursday, so we'll be losing this all, I assume, and we'll have really wet feet!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

White Autumn

And still coming down...

Friday, November 20, 2015

More Highs and Lows

Sandhill cranes continue to fly by in large numbers.  Today I actually got a photo of a flock... this was one group of birds that flew by with two other V's right nearby.  At least one other large group -- hours separate -- flew by today... and of course, I may have missed any number while not outside!
Maybe not as exciting, but today when I looked in the other direction (down), I saw... ICE!  Not on lakes or anything, but little bits where there was standing water on the trail.  And this photo was taken during my lunch walk, around noon today (not early morning).
We're excited to be expecting quite a bit of SNOW tonight -- though with all the talk, I'm kind of expecting a bust.  But I'll definitely report tomorrow!  

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Flying High

As I was taking yet another wind-blown lunch walk... side note: pretty much the only day this week that we haven't had crazy, blow-you-off-course winds was Tuesday when it rained.  You know how much I love strong gusty winds, so... it's been a great week for me.  Yea.  Anyhow.  I was walking, looking down to avoid having leaves or other detritus blown into my eyes, when I heard the distinctive, primordial call of Sandhill cranes.  I looked up to see them, and was immediately blinded by the sun, which didn't bother me because I'm just happy to see the sun.  When my retinas healed, I was able to find the flock -- about a hundred birds, flying due south, up so high that they looked like barely more than specks in the sky.  Migration!

In the other direction (the one I spent most of my walk looking, ie, down) there are still woolly bears braving the elements.  Woolly bear lore says that the wider the orange bands are, the milder the winter will be.  This year's crop seem to have pretty wide bands.  Although I have heard non-larval predictions for a mild winter this year, I don't know that I put any stock in caterpillar predictions.  (Although this is interesting... I've noticed that the woollies this year seem to have one really tiny black side and one larger black side... I've also heard that this winter will start mild but have a brutal end.  Can these caterpillars be that specific?  If that comes to pass, will it mean the woolly bears really do predict the weather? Hmmm.)  
I also saw a grasshopper today, though it was slow and didn't jump very far to get out of my way.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

One of those Wormy Days

Today's steady rain has made today one of those wormy days, when you have to look everywhere you step to avoid not only puddles, but the worms that have come out of the soil to avoid the saturation. You'd think, on November 17, that the worms would be well out of sight in estivation... curled up in their mucus-coated caves deep below the frozen surface*... but you'd be wrong!  Hasn't been that cold, for that long,that the soil has gotten even a little bit frozen.  And so, a wormy day!

*so poetic, and yet... 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Berry Bliss and Apple Elation

With leaves down, berries have become much more noticeable ornamentation.  The sumac berries stand out, red, atop their naked shrubs.  The choke berries crown the branches of the shrubs in large clusters.  Today I was particularly struck by the crab apples adorning trees... they come in deep red, yellow/green, and some, like the one I enlarged and actually colored, are yellow-orange with red tinges.  The apples are in all states of decay.  Some are still plump and round, while others are shriveled like raisins, and many are in between.  (Note: after this sketching experience, I will not be drawing raisins any time soon.)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Chill in the Air

This photo from this morning shows two important things... first, notice the frost.  We've had frosts before (as noted) but this weekend was the first real deep freeze, where things on my deck (which is protected and therefore often escapes the ravages of a patchy frost) were good and truly frozen.  This morning's was quite lovely; as the sun rose, everything sparkled and glittered in the side-ways light.  It looked rather wintry, though.  (I will note... by lunch time, it was in the 50s, and I saw both grasshoppers and a yellow butterfly... so it didn't kill everything!)

The other thing to note in the above photo is that its of a recently burned area.  The fall controlled burn season started late last week (that was the first time I saw anyone burning, at least).  Despite the frost, walking through this area smelled like a fire. 

This pretty tree is a Callery pear.  Though they aren't native, they don't have any invasive qualities and I think they're really nice looking in landscaping... especially this time of year.  Some cultivars are deeper red, some are more like this one, with red-orange-yellow mixed together.  But they all seem to hold onto their leaves quite long, coming to peak color in November after most everything else is way past.  Every autumn I admire them.  (It is sad, though, that nothing seems to eat their blueberry-sized pears.  They're really cute but I guess not too tasty!)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

On the Last Warn Day (Maybe)...

This is what yards are looking like... a carpet of leaves surrounding trees that are naked or approaching naked. 
We don't have too many sweetgum trees around here -- we're right at the northern tip of their historical range.  (Maybe with climate change we'll be smack dab in it!)  At any rate, they are lovely this time of year -- bright red and yellow.  Here's the one I know of in me area!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Wonderful Warmth

After Saturday disappointed both me -- who was looking forward to a good run outside in the light of day -- and multitudes of trick-or-treaters by being chilly and solidly rainy all day long, Sunday dawned beautiful.  I took today off work and so I have had 2 free days to enjoy the unseasonable warmth (over 70 today!) and I have been taking full advantage.  In the last 2 days, I've walked/run about 30 miles, visited 5 forest preserves, and gotten a lot of yard work completed (although actually Chris beat me to the punch on that and did a lot while I was out running!)  I've  seen 3 species of hawks, crows and geese, blue jays, robins, countless small birds including a lot of juncos, which have returned. I've seen deer and chipmunks and squirrels and more... 

Here are a few photos to show what the days are like... In this one, I tried to capture the oak leaves that were falling falling falling as I went through the woods.  It was just a constant shower of dancing leaves -- they were twisting and twirling, spinning, floating, flipping and flopping (sometimes right onto my head).  Despite the fairly constant shower, it took me several tries to get a photo with a leaf actually visible floating through the air.  That the picture has the moon behind the oak branches is so much the better!
This photo shows how rapidly the trees are losing their leaves... quite a difference from last weekend and even mid-week!
I like this photo because it shows the carpet of leaves through which we were wading -- and it shows the long shadows (including of me) characteristic of this time of year.  This photo was taken not long after mid-day... and, with the time change, not long before sunset either!  Not too many hours between them!
Finally, because I can't resist... here are just a few of the fungi I saw:
We look forward to another couple of warm days (though I'll be at work) before the seasonal weather returns at the end of the week!