Thursday, February 27, 2014

36 Hours

This week a span of 36 hours gave us a good taste of winter.

Two days ago it was  -4˚ F in the morning, clear with only a few clouds in a brilliant blue sky, just a very slight breeze and 8-10 inches of snow on the ground – a great day for a walk along the river, where the slack-water sections were frozen bank to bank with only a few small areas of open water. But the riffles were unfrozen as were portions of the river just below those sections of fast-flowing water. It’s still winter but faint stirrings of spring are becoming apparent. 

In one section of open water there was a small raft of diving ducks, migrants in all probability since they seldom winter here:

Lesser scaup – perky buffleheads, my wife’s favorites –
And a few male canvasbacks showing the brilliant white backs from which their name is derived –
They may be rushing the season to be this far north and on an inland river, but here they were.

An unusual visitor to the river was a male white-winged scoter clearly showing the white feathers that gave the species its name. This bird was so far out in the river that even a 1,200-millimeter lens didn’t yield a crisp photo. Scoters occasionally show up on our larger lakes, but are seldom seen on this section of the river –

Overlooking all the waterfowl was an adult bald eagle in riverside tree.

So far this has almost been an old-fashioned winter; cold enough, but with much less snow than we used to get in the olden days – that is, until yesterday morning. Woke up to temperatures in the low 20s and falling snow that continued until after sunset. By the time it stopped we had 7 ½ inches of new snow at the house and a total of about 17 inches on the ground. South and east of us more snow fell and some folks were having real problems. While I happen to like cold weather and snow, many people dread winter and avoid leaving the comforts of a heated house, car, office or store. That’s too bad since they’re missing out on the pleasures of a beautiful time of year.

As snow continued to fall late yesterday afternoon the conifers were covered with the new snow –
And in a brushy area where some buckthorn fruit still hung from the twigs a few bluebirds could be seen -
In 36 hours northcentral Pennsylvania had seen two faces of winter, each different and each beautiful. Now winter is gradually drawing to a close; more waterfowl will be heading north and the bluebirds will be looking for a suitable cavity in which to nest.

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