Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Cool Yule

The weather couldn't have been nicer earlier this week while I was off from work. Although the chores were piled up high in the house, I had to ignore them (ah, the tragedy) to take advantage of the sunshine.

First, I had to try and get more shots of the snow buntings. I sprinkled seed on the snow near the house and then I waited by the window inside. Even though the sun was out and it looked like a lovely day, a strong and bitterly cold wind was blowing, which meant I couldn't just sit there with the window open waiting for the birds to arrive. Every so often, though, I would check the status of the birds, and if snow buntings were feeding, I'd try to ease the window open to get a few shots.

The bird books might tell you that snow buntings are not afraid of people, and maybe they aren't, but they sure are skittish birds. The slightest (and I do mean slightest) noise and they take off.
A two-fer: good views of the front and back.

Up on the roof. The bits of snow you see flying in the air to the left

are from the wind blowing the snow off the shed roof.

You talkin' to me?

This was my closest shot, but it was taken through the window,
which is why it is so dark. Pity.

Last Sunday Toby and I went ski-joring (that's me skiing, and Toby, in theory, pulling me along via a harness). It was a beatiful morning and there was enough snow to ski upon, yet not so much that Toby would flounder.

We walked to the overlook and strapped on the gear. From there we headed out, across the overlook, through the boneyard and onto the golf course.

We didn't see much - which was surprising. Our first find was this:

Deer had dug up the pile of grass clippings left behind from the crew that kept the overlook cut all summer and fall. Would they eat the mouldering clippings, or were they in search of something else? Perhaps they could sense the heat of decay, and therefore dug through in hopes of finding green grass below?

Once we hit the golf course, we saw some snowshoe hare tracks:

The hare(s) had hopped out of the trees (low-growing balsam firs mostly), onto the course, then it looked like it/they turned around and headed back into the trees.

Skiing with Toby can be a challenge, because he likes to follow his nose, which often takes him into the trees - not necessarily a place I want to be.

It's also exciting when we come to a hill. Sometimes he bounds ahead, pulling me along at breakneck speed. Other times, he goes slowly, or even stands still, which means I'm likely to crash into him, so I'm whizzing along yelling at him to "go-go-go...MOVE!". It gets really exciting when he moves to the side and I zip past him, right over the rope, and end up dragging him behind. Needless to say, I avoid hills as much as possible.

On Christmas Eve, we enjoyed another bright and sunny day. We headed for the river.

Some of my neighbors have fantastic views of the mountains from their houses.

A couple years ago, this tree was home for a family of black-backed woodpeckers (Picoides arcticus). No one had inhabited it since, at least not on a regular basis.

The river was frozen over (no surprise there). There were some great tracks across the surface - I suspect mostly coyote, but some could also be deer. While the animals were willing to trust their weight to the ice, I wasn't, so my track ID was done from the safe distance of the shore.

Tracking to Toby means smells - for which he doens't need snow. He always knows where animals have been, and what they've been doing; unlike me, he doesn't need footprints to tell him the story. Still, all footprints in the snow must be thoroughly investigated.

When we finally rolled out of bed Christmas morning, the sun was disappearing behind the clouds. A hard frost had hit overnight - not surprising in retrospect, since the evening was swathed in fog. So, I added a few more frost photos to my collection:

The rest of the day, because it was so-so weatherwise, was spent finally taking care of some of those household chores. I can finally move through the kitchen again without having to navigate an obstacle course.


  1. LOL! Am I evil for laughing at the mental picture of you and Toby going down a hill? One on which Toby decides to take a break and watch as you go sliding by?

    Nice pictures of the Buntings, BTW. And the others are really nice too.

  2. Going outside always, always, always trumps housework ;) Having an obstacle course indoors just makes you more agile!
    Love the snow pictures -- we got rain, rain, and more rain followed by fog.

  3. Joated - laugh away! I'm sure from the viewpoint of an observer on the sidelines the whole thing is riotously funny! Even as the potential victim, I find it all rather amusing. :D

    Swampy - did you all not get hit with the two feet of snow that came roaring up the coast?

  4. Very nice post -- great winter adventure!