Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Seasons are Stalled!

Ten days ago, it seemed like spring had arrived. Temperatures soared, it was actually warm outside, and the snow started melting fast. The first wave of spring migrants arrived back, with robins, red-wing blackbirds, grackles, and a turkey vulture all suddenly showing up in the space of 3 days. Further south, we saw a flock of tundra swans in a field, resting and feeding on their way north (see 3 pix). Canada geese are showing up in pairs, sitting on still-frozen ponds, hoping for spring.

But then winter returned with a snowstorm that changed the world to white again, and the spring birds have gone back into hiding. And the weather is just staying cold, well below zero at night, and barely up to the freezing mark during the day, in spite of bright sunny skies. The snow is not melting, just slowly evaporating, straight into the air.

But some things do tolerate late winter weather. In the swamp, skunk cabbage have started to poke their lime-green sheeth of leaves above the snow, generating a small oven of warmth within their leaves that may be 20 degrees higher than the surrounding air, to protect this, the earliest of the spring flowers.

And we still see the deer. The other evening we looked out the window to see 6 of them grazing quietly on our lawn (where we had mixed in lots of clover with the grass seed), not 20 feet from the house. And the small flock of male red-wing blackbirds (the males return first; the females when it's warmer) was sitting in a tree this morning, looking like they were shivering in the cold.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

North for March Break

Earlier this week we enjoyed a few wonderful last winter days at a cottage near Algonquin Park, where you need to snowshoe the last short distance from the road. Glorious sunny days, snowshoing in the woods, and skiing on the lake. Watched a few birds and a red squirrel visiting the feeder while we were there.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Blue Jay

Downy Woodpecker


Red Squirrel

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Winter Comes; Winter Goes

It's March, and winter is coming and going as it pleases. Temperature rises, rain arrives and the snow melts; temperature falls, it snows again and the world turns back to white. It's wet snow, so it sticks to every twig and turns the woods into a fantasy. But when the rain arrives, the driveway turns to ice. And in between is a sunny day with heavy hoarfrost in the morning, as in these pictures.

Meanwhile, spring gets ever closer. The days are much longer, and the sun, higher in the sky, is warm when you're walking. I heard a report of merganzers on a local pond yesterday, and today is the traditional day when I always watched for the robins arriving back - though we've moved a little further north now, so I may have to wait a few days.

At least here the snow stays white and we don't suffer the ugly brown snowbanks, much and slush along the roads. The hope here is that snow will stay around long enough to allow skiing over March Break. With rain today and tomorrow it's going to be touch and go this year.

Unfortunately the good snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing seems to have ended for the year, though we may get a day or two more if we get a big snowstorm. You need to make good use of the real winter in January and February to get your share of beautiful days outdoors.