Monday, February 25, 2013

After The Storm(s)

After each of the last two storms, I rewarded myself for shoveling out our house with a trip to Great Meadows. Each of the storms was very different. The first storm was light puffy powder. Unfortunately, after it passed it was also bitterly cold. Most of the wildlife had the better sense to stay hunkered down some place "warm". However hunger can be a very powerful motivator. I assume that this was the driving force for this Downy Woodpecker who was preoccupied with harvesting food from the cattail stalks. It allowed me to get closer than most.

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The biting wind just cut right through you. Even in the cold, it was interesting to watch the wind kick up the snow into miniature "snow devils" as it raced across the impoundments.


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Looking down to keep the wind off my face (and avoid that involuntary crying that often comes with cold wind on your face) I spied this twig embedded in the snow. It reminds me of a scallop shell.

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My most recent visit was after Sunday's snow. Since the snow finished overnight and there was little wind, the branches were still covered with snow. At home the sky in the distance was dark, almost foreboding, but the foreground was lit by sun. I thought this would make some dramatic landscapes so I hustled over to Great Meadows. Time was of the essence because in a little over an hour the snow covered branches would start to thaw and the snow would all be on the ground.

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You know the old proverb "Man plans and God laughs". Well that was true today. In Concord the sky stayed gray and cloudy. The wonderful light at home, was not flat and boring. So I switched up my plans. Technically, I made it to the refuge, but I barely made it over the bridge on the Cross Dike trail. The open water here is a magnet for the wildlife that is in the area.

There was a Redpoll flitting about.

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And numerous Song Sparrows

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I like this shot because the water still clings to his beak due the surface tension

I think my favorite bird at Great Meadows is the Marsh Wren. Several decided to winter over. Seeing them reminded me that soon enough spring / summer would be hear and we would witness their mating displays up and down the Dike Trail.

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The muskrats were also starting to become active. There were 4-5 that we swimming under the ice, retrieving food, and finding a spot in the open water to have a bite to eat.

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Though the day was much milder than my last visit, a couple hours standing in the cold does take its toll. It was up to the Warming Shed (more commonly called the bathroom) for a quick blast of warmth. On the way there I heard a distinctive call, but my brain was having trouble identifying what I should be looking for. It was loud and high in the trees near by. At last I saw it, a Pileated Woodpecker. It flew down and across to the trees near the stream and the rail trail where it just posed for a few minutes.

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You can tell it's a male by the red mustache under his bill, combined with the red on the red going all the way to the bill. 

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Here's a good shot of the nictitating membrane that protects the eye while pecking (nature's safety goggles)

This hole is pretty deep. I don't know if it had drilled it out previously, or whether it was leveraging the work of prior woodpeckers. In any case, keep you eyes pealed when you are near the rest rooms.

I love the snow that was still clinging to the tree in the woodpecker photo. I think it makes the shot. So I didn't get what I intended, I was rewarded for getting going early.