Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring and Ice at River Bend

On this nicest weekend day we've seen in months, with highs close to 60 F., Dave and I headed down to River bend Nature Center for a walk. Our first destination was the waterfall that's just off the west side of the main drive, which I understand is fairly dry much of the year, but is cascading most attractively during the spring melt. Actually, even the main drive itself has a lot of water flowing over it in spots. River Bend is a wonderfully wet place right now, as a severe winter's worth of snow melts and brings the land back to life.

After enjoying the waterfall, we headed down towards the river, which the waterfall's stream feeds into. On the way down, we saw four cedar waxwings in the tops of several nearby trees. I could barely tell what I was seeing as I took this photo (which has been cropped but is otherwise unedited), so I was pleased at how clearly it came out.

From a bench at this point, we looked down upon the river, which at River Bend is the Straight River, not the Cannon. We could see two young ladies playing around, and eventually we realized they were walking on and around huge slabs of broken-up ice that had come off the river.

We were soon to encounter many of these ourselves as we walked the Trout Lily trail around the east tip of the big bend in the river that gives the nature center its name.

There's my foot for size reference. These blocks were thick -- some of them as high as my knee.

I've seen ice breaking up in the Cannon River before, but never big slabs that had beached themselves like these. I was fascinated to see ice crystals seemingly calving off the big blocks like icebergs off glaciers. The crystals, or ice shards, ran vertically through the ice, rather than being in horizontal layers.

So on this lovely warm day, our focus ended up being on ice -- the paradox of a Minnesota spring.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Late Winter Catch-up

It's been a brutal winter, and here it is the fourth week of March and we're still getting snow and well-below-normal temperatures. Here are a few of the photos I've taken from inside my house recently. The squirrels have been showing great gymnastic ability. The deep snow makes the squirrel baffles less effective, but I don't begrudge them the sustenance. They still work pretty hard for it.

I love it when the light hits the red spot on the back of a male downy or hairy woodpecker's head. This is a downy on our suet log -- note the tiny, pencil-point beak. So cute.

I like this final shot of a female cardinal, which shows how they turn seeds into an up-and-down orientation to crack the shells. And I rarely get this nice a few of a bird's eye. As always, click on the photo for a larger view.

Spring is getting here, even though it doesn't feel very springy. Recent phenology notes:

  • We started seeing a robin on our (snow-covered) lawn about two weeks ago. A few nights ago, friends on social media were reporting large flocks of them in treetops and on the ground. Some robins do stay year-round, but they suddenly seem to be more prominent.
  • Red-winged blackbirds were trilling in the trees by the Cannon River yesterday.
  • My friend Mary of the My Northern Garden blog reported seeing a great blue heron in flight near the wetlands off the east end of Jefferson Parkway.
  • A few days ago I saw a crow on Woodley Street with nesting material in its beak
  • Birder Dave Bartkey of Faribault reported an osprey flying overhead, north of Faribault, which he said was by far his earliest date for this species.
There is hope! Hang in there.