Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Pink dawnlight across Hoffman pond, and the big oaks and maples above the Portage River stuck with snow.

2008 began with a heavy snowfall, about ten inches. After watching the ball drop on TV, we looked out the window and saw the most glorious sight, everything lit up brightly, brighter than any full moon I've ever seen. A strange light. Snow, trees, water, sky were all glowing. I've never seen anything like it.

Birds seen today at the feeders included a Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus), 2 downy woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens), 1 red brested nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) and 1 white breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinenisis), male and female cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), 4 or 5 slate-colored juncos (Junco hymelas), 2 black-capped chickadee (Parus atricapillus), 4 or 5 tufted titmice (Parus bicolor), numerous house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) and maybe a purple finch (Carpodacus purpureus).

On Hoffman Pond something new today, two coots (Fulica americana). I didn't see them last year until the end of January. Also the usual suspects: mallards, Canada geese, and the three swans.

---------update for January---------

January began with snow and temperature in the high 20s, but then suddenly warmed. There was a springtime feel starting around the 6th, and very heavy fog, tule fog, making traffic invisible and driving dangerous. The temperature reached into the 60s, and there were thunderstorms and lightning! With the warming and rain came flooding. On January 11 the front page of the Kalamazoo Gazette featured a photograph of Three Rivers' flooded Scidmore Park (at the intersection of the St. Joseph, Portage, and Rock rivers) as well as reports of roads closed due to flooding and water coming into homes. Findley Road and Nottawa Road south of M86 were closed (water from the Prairie River and Lake Templain.) The park in Mendon was completely under water. The St. Joseph River reached it's highest level that weekend, but the Portage River did not start dropping for another week. More snow followed, as much as ten inches, and then the temperature began to plummet. Black ice on the roads; we had a near-miss spinout on the road to Constantine. Another couple on a nearby road were not so lucky and were killed.

Below zero temperatures showed up for several days and nights for about a week. At one point we were asked if we had seen the "pogonip"; I had just been looking at the sparkling little needles of ice in the air. But it was nothing like the "spiky ice" that settled on everything last February.

More snow followed, three or four inches. Then it warmed back up into the 20s.

Moonlight through the cloud cover and reflecting off the snow gave nighttime a strange, eerie glow. The fog early in the month swirled around the river, rising from the cold water into the warmer air. Then when it got really cold, great amounts of ice piled up on the Boys' Dam. The water ran under the ice, a strange sight.

On Hoffman pond gadwalls showed up, Anas strepera. Mallard-sized ducks, dabbling, but they seem most interested in harassing the coots and running at and driving away nearby mallards (but avoiding the Canada geese.) They were following the coots around, four or five of the ducks per coot. When the coot dives they 'pounce' on whatever is being stirred up. When the coot surfaced the gadwalls try to take whatever the coot has in its beak. When the coot tried to swim away, the ducks followed closely. However, the coots seemed interested in staying near the gadwalls, or at least made little effort to get away.

On the 18th, we had a redefinition of "bird feeder". A beautiful, tiny sharpshinned hawk (Accipiter striatus) came to the bird feeder and ate one of the regulars. He sat on the bare lilac bush for quite a long time, pulling out the feathers of his victim and scattering them. It took about fifteen minutes to eat the small bird, during which I got a very good look at him. Adult plumage, but very small, probably less than ten inches. Tufts of white feathers stuck out his back as if he was moulting. Grey above with brilliant, well defined red marks on his chest when seen through the field glasses; at a distance they just gave a pinkish cast to the white breast. He finished eating, had a nice poop and a nap. He was awakened by the return of a group of tits, coming back to the feeder. They ignored the hawk, who watched them from his perch, head swiveling around. He sat there until the neighbor came out and scared him away. The next day I heard his call in the woods.

On the 22nd most of Hoffman Pond was covered with snow and ice. In the open water three goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) were rapidly feeding- diving and diving. Also seen were two mallards and the pair of swans, dabbling. First goldeneye of the year.

Through the violence of the weather the little skunk-cabbage spathes have stayed tightly closed. No blooming yet! Two years ago they were open in January.