Saturday, February 12, 2011
Birds and Blood and Snow
Ten below zero at dawn yesterday. Kind of cold to stand around in the snowbanks, searching for eagles possibly perching in the trees on the far side of the river, but that was our plan for the day. I'm glad to say, though, that the bright sun brought the temperature up to bearable by the time I joined Sue and Pat at Moreau Lake State Park headquarters, where we met to share a car to the riverside.
Pat (foreground) is the newly elected president of the local chapter of the Audubon Society, and she wanted to see for herself the eagles that come down from Canada to fish this part of the Hudson in winter. Sue and I have seen eagles on numerous occasions along these banks, but I'm afraid we all came away disappointed yesterday. Since the river was frozen over from shore to shore except for a short open area just below Spier Falls Dam, the eagles were doubtless fishing somewhere else yesterday. We still had a good time, though, as nature nuts will, whenever we're out in nature and in good company.
Today was quite a bit warmer when I returned to the banks of the Hudson, this time by myself. Any hope I may have had of seeing any eagles was quickly dashed as soon as I stepped from my car at the end of Potter Road. Thousands of crows were cawing loudly as they congregated in tall pines along the road, and their clamor would have driven off any eagles for miles around. As so would the crashing crunch of my snowshoes through crusty snow as I made my way through the woods to the river. The radiant blue sky and snowy white clouds echoed the colors of the snow-covered blue-shad0wed frozen river below.
My destination today was a frozen marsh upstream, where stands of Black Tupelos bend their sweeping branches toward the ground. Tupelos have a distinctive twigginess to their branches that makes them instantly distinguishable from the surrounding birches and maples.
There were numerous animal trails on the ice in the marsh -- coyote, fox, and fisher. I have often found tracks of mink and otter here as well, but so far, not this winter. Nor have I seen many deer trails in the woods this year. I think the deer have established their trampled yards and are not roaming far afield through all this deep snow. But this hank of hair indicated that one had been by this area recently.
But as this bloody scene indicates, I don't think that deer came here by its own volition. It may have been killed elsewhere and then dragged to this site by its predator. Or predators other than the ones who killed it carried portions of the kill to this site. The tracks were too obscured by trampling and blown snow for me to determine which predator had been feasting here.
I don't usually like to look too closely at bloody corpses, but I was fascinated by the shape and color of this animal's teeth, so different in appearance from those of carnivores.
That blue sky darkened with clouds as I made my way back to my car, and by the time I reached the parking area I could hardly see the path before me for the thickening snow, which came on in a sudden rush. The air was almost solidly filled with flakes.
Here's the same scene as above, only this time I used the camera's flash to light up the individual snowflakes.
I could barely see to drive, so I inched along slowly, deciding to take the back roads home, rather than the highway. But I hadn't gone more than a mile when the snow stopped abruptly and the sun came shining through the clouds. When I reached Saratoga, it was obvious that no snow had fallen there at all. And it never did. Looking to the north, I could see the storm, with its steel-grey snow clouds, passing to the east. Quite a dramatic sky!