Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Phenology: November 21, 2011

Posted by Kirk

Hello Snow! We've got some talking to do this week. The sun rose today at 7:18 AM and set again at a depressing 4:39 PM. I don't know about you but I'm turning extra lights on in the office to fight off a little seasonal affective disorder. It be dark out people. There were only 9 hours, 20 minutes and 31 seconds of daylight today, to put that into perspective, that's an hour and 20 minutes LESS light than we have on February 21st. We're a month from the solstice. Ouch.

Here's your week in review:

Monday I walked around outside and noticed that even the buckthorn is looking tired. This hardy invasive is the last to lose leaves in the Fall but after recent below-freezing temperatures even it is having trouble holding onto leaves. Monday was also the day I marked 10 years of being a naturalist at the Lee & Rose Warner Nature Center. I've been a naturalist other places but for some crazy reason I've been there for a decade now. I've seen a lot of changes in that time. When I started, you had to really search to find buckthorn. Now you can't avoid the stuff. That's all I'm going to say about it because it is incredibly depressing. I did enjoy seeing a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers drinking together from the edge of a still open pond on Monday, that was cool. I'd never seen that before and it just goes to show ten years isn't nearly enough time to see everything in one spot.

Tuesday was far nicer out than I expected. I was loving that sunshine. It still has the power to warm. The birds were crazy active at the feeders all day and I noted on my drive home that the beavers in local lakes have stored up huge caches of food for the winter. If you see a beaver lodge look just in front of it for a large pile of small twigs. This is a winter food cache. It will become frozen in the ice and they'll nibble off it all winter long.

Wednesday it was an icy cold morning. The small pond where I watched the red-bellied woodpeckers drink on Monday was completely frozen in the morning. I cracked though and measured 6mm of ice. Area shallow ponds were nearly all frozen though not any lakes. I noticed lots of Canada Geese on the move on Wednesday. It was possibly just because the corn harvest is still on and they're searching fields for spilled food.

Thursday the temps held around 20° all day. This sounds cold but it was surprisingly nice out due to the almost complete lack of wind. I measured the ice on the small pond near our bird feeders again and in 24 hours it went from 6mm to 22 mm. That's 16mm of ice growth in one day. This was the same day we finally all headed down to the lake at work to remove the docks. Nothing like waiting until the last minute. They were already iced in with a thin sheet of ice but the truck pulled them out just fine. It was very interesting to examine the ice forming on the lake. The thickness went from about an inch near shore to paper thin about 30 feet out. The shallower lake on the property was nearly iced over in both of the shallow southern bays. We took some time to throw small rocks out on the ice to listen to the incredible noises it makes.

Friday in the morning I quickly pulled off the road when I noticed swans on West Boot Lake which is on my commute. It thought there were about four but when I pulled over and looked with my binoculars I saw there were a bunch of gray young that were hard to see originally. There were probably 7 swans total. On the way home I looked over again and to my surprise I quickly counted 30 adult swans on the same lake. Knowing I could only see and count the adults at that distance I figured there must have been more than 30 total. Given the larger size of the flock they were almost certainly Tundra Swans.

Saturday we got our first significant snowfall of the year. We can scarcely count those few stray flakes last week. I'm sure we'd all forgotten about those by now. Here's a riddle for you, how much snow on the ground does it take for people to turn into stupid drivers? If you answered "any amount" you are correct. I saw a couple of cars in the ditch and at some schmuck in a huge pick-up truck skidded through an entire intersection on a red light while I watched. Never mind that I have a tiny car with bald tires and was able to somehow stop in the centimeter of snow. What is it about snow that makes people drive stupid? On a hike with a group of high school students I noted that there are only a few buckthorn leaves still on the trees and even those drop off if you touch them. We've seen our last green for a while.

Sunday I heard from my co-worker Paul that he drove past Big Carnelian lake in Washington County and he saw a couple hundred Tundra Swans staging there. Pretty cool. This is just south of the lake where I saw them on Friday. There were also reports of a Snowy Owl in North St. Paul this weekend. Very cool.

The week ahead:

Things look pretty nice if the forecast is to be believed. I even heard a high of 60° thrown out there for Turkey Day but I'll believe it when I see it. I'm all for the warmer weather. I still need time to put the de-icing cables on my roof. I intended to do it in the summer but come on, how can you think about ice dams when it is 90° out?


Abrahm said...

I was the first to report that Snowy Owl. It was my first owl ever! I did my first lifer dance and was so excited to come home and let others know. It made the first snowfall bearable.

Kirk said...

Nice! That's one hell of a first owl!