Thursday, December 13, 2007

In a Deep and Dark December

Today really was a winter's day in this deep and dark December. Six to ten inches of snow were expected, and received, between sunrise and a couple of hours after sunset, most of it falling between 11:00 AM and 7:00 PM (or 1100-1900 for those on a 24-hour clock).

Overlooking Sapsucker Woods Pond from the second floor of The Johnson Center for
Birds and Biodiversity, aka, "the Lab." The snow kept falling for several more hours.

The weather affected me more directly than usual, as I had to stop in a couple places to retrieve recording units we left in the field (part of the research I'm involved in, one day soon I'll write about that). One unit was on Mt. Pleasant, the premier site to watch for migrating hawks or listen for nocturnal flight calls in Ithaca, but also a misnomer during the winter months if you're driving. I decided to pick up that one first, before the snow accumulation amounted to much. I was also hoping for a nice flock of Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, and perhaps a Lapland Longspur or two.

Bingo! A flock of some hundred birds flew over and settled
down in the grass. I swear they're in there, somewhere.

The retrieval went quick, the snow was steady, some might say "driving," and the only birds were several dozen American Crows and eventually a flock of Horned Larks and Snow Buntings (on edit: I didn't add the buntings on my original eBird list, so didn't include them in my original "published" post. Upon re-reading I realized my mistaken account - this is why I shouldn't do this late at night). Some birds settled down, allowing me to scour through them, the rest flew off to who-knows-where. I didn't find any longspurs.

There they are, much easier to see on the wing (to see, not photograph!).

A personal note to the person riding their bike down the Mt. Pleasant hill this morning through the snow: though I applaud your efforts to lessen your environmental impact, I have to wonder what the frick you were thinking. I'm sure the guy in the minivan wonders too. You remember, the one who swerved to miss you when you wiped out, ending up fish-tailing and then spinning through the blind intersection? The one who eventually banged up his vehicle bouncing off the rocks?

Anyway, after that bit of adrenaline-pumping entertainment, I was off to campus. The second unit was mounted within Schoellkopf Stadium (yes, the football stadium) - an ideal spot, under the right conditions, to watch and listen for songbirds migrating at night. Much easier to retrieve, but the snowfall was certainly having an affect, and not just on driving.

This poor Red-tailed Hawk on campus looks how I felt!

Ah, yes, winter has arrived, we're to be hit again on Sunday with a Nor'easter starting to shape up in points south and west. Fortunately the Corning Christmas Bird Count is on Saturday, and I'll be out hoping to glimpse a few unexpected species.

Post title credit: I Am A Rock (1965), Simon and Garfunkel.

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