Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bowls and Doilies Revealed By A Snow Squall

Snow fell as I hiked through the woods in late March.  The snowflakes highlighted some evidence of the insect and spider world that I otherwise would have missed. 
bowl and doily spider web
Without the dusting of snowflakes on the many bowl and doily spider webs I saw scattered throughout the woods, I doubt I would have noticed the unique spider webs and the prey they held.
bowl and doily spider webs
The snowflakes highlighted the bowls and the anchoring silk threads above the bowls.  The doilies were not very noticeable.
bowl & doily spider web

   Here is a close-up of a web's bowl with the spider's prey on the underside.  I would presume those insects flew into the anchor lines and fell into the bowl where they were captured by the spider and pulled below to the spider's lair in the 'doily' area.
prey in a snow-coated web of a bowl and doily spider, Frontinella communis

  Here is a photo of a bowl and doily spider, Frontinella communis hanging out under its snow-coated web.  The spider does look rather cold, but it did actually move away from my macro lens.
bowl and doily spider, Frontinella communis
Who would have thought that with winter's grip still strong this spring that so many spiders and flying insects would  already be active?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Traveling Loon Visits On The First Day Of Spring

   A Red-Throated Loon was passing through the area and popped up for a visit on this first day of spring.  In recent days there has been quite a parade of visitors here along the river since the waterfowl are on the move with the arrival of spring.
Red-throated loon with winter plumage
   I glanced out the window this morning and saw a loon-shaped bird on the river.  I almost broke my neck.... I exclaimed, "What was that.... a loon?"  We rarely see loons around here in Pennsylvania.
Red-throated loon in Pa
  Notice how the Red-throated Loon looks slimmer and perhaps daintier than the Common Loon.   I suppose that's because Red-throated Loon holds its head tilted slightly upward and that accentuates its thin, pointed, upturned bill.
Red-throated loon
This time of year there's no red throat because the loon is still wearing its winter plumage. 
Check out its gray back with its white speckles.
 That's a lot of back.... enough that the loon could barely reach its tail while preening itself.
Upon hearing that I has seen this Red-throated Loon, my daughter commented, "Must have been really cold up in Canada this winter, 'cause we had Snowy Owls and loons around here".
The fishin' is good here... I hope the loon stays awhile.   I haven't heard loon calls in a few years.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Three Mergansers and a Fish

   The mergansers have been fishing relentlessly in the river in front of our house.  We have seen as many as seven mergansers actively diving for fish, sometimes all at once.  Imagine a moment on the river with seven areas of spreading ripples... a short while later seven diving ducks pop up from their dives. In this post there are photos of the three kinds of mergansers that visited the river in front of our house... one of the pictures shows a merganser just after it caught a fish.
   Here in this photo, a Common Merganser is flaunting its catch - which happens to be a rather nice-sized Perch.
male Commomn Merganser with fish
  If you haven't had the privilege, sometime you should see a merganser swallow a fish!

   This next photo shows a male Common Merganser.  They seem to be the most common ones we see around here.   Maybe we tend to spot them more often because of their larger size combined with their bright white-and-black markings.
male Common Merganser
 Here is a photo of a female Common Merganser.
female Common Merganser

  Occasionally we see Hooded Mergansers.  They seem to be passing through and are rather elusive - staying mostly along the far riverbank.
pair of Hooded Mergansers
 In a post a couple of years ago, I posted a photo of some Hooded Mergansers putting on a display.

   Now, the Red-breasted Mergansers, on the other hand, are very common like the Common Mergansers and seem to be somewhat braver than the other species.  Here is a photo of a male Red-breasted Merganser that came by to investigate me.
male Red-breasted Merganser
They sure have an fascinating crest.
male Red-breasted Merganser
 Sometimes in the morning my hair looks like that. 

That said, I don't know that I ever looked like the Red-breasted Merganser with the "swollen neck" that I posted about a number of days ago.... I will soon show the series of photos I took of the events surrounding that 'Merganser with the mumps'.

Anyway, the fishin' must be good.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Agitated Ducks, A Harried Mink, and a Riverbend

   The neighborhood ducks approached from across the river, quacking and making quite a fuss.  I didn't see right away what the commotion was about.  I thought at first that they were upset at me, for they passed noisily in front of me. 
domestic ducks harassing mink
Directly in front of me the edge of the river was out of sight because it was hidden by the steep riverbank.  But, out to my right beside our dock, I soon spotted what the fuss was about... a mink was swimming up the river and the agitated ducks were in hot pursuit.
mink swimming river
 Up river a piece, the mink left the water and scrambled along on the riverbank.  As you can see in this next photo, the mink was being harassed even on the shore by those noisy domesticated ducks.
domestic ducks pesting mink
 The harried mink crossed the river, but the pesky flotilla was right on it's tail.
ducks chasing mink
 The pursuit continued out of sight around the riverbend.
ducks pursue mink
I reckoned the ice-cold water was too dangerous, or I would've put in the canoe and joined them.
I'll always wonder what happened around the bend...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hoar Frost and a Cold Sunrise

   A beautiful hoar frost surprise is hiding out in this cold sunrise. 
winter sunrise
 This morning was another very cold morning with temperatures down near zero (F).  With a little more light it would be easier to see a fog of water vapor rolling up from patches of open water.  This swirling mist rolls off the open water and drifts down the river and floats through the trees. 
bitter cold winter morning
 I took these photos of hoarfrost, or rime ice, during some of the numerous cold snaps we had this winter when temperatures were at or below zero. 
 This morning was just one of the many times this winter when the moist air drifting through the frosty branches of the trees ended up freezing as a beautiful hoarfrost coating.  on everything.
morning by the river with beautiful hoar frost

 Here is a photo of the water vapor fog and the hoarfrost-coated trees (looking down river).
ice, water vapor, and hoarfrost
 Here is a photo looking up river.
morning by the river during the winter

Hoarfrost sure can make the scenery beautiful.
 The same can be said of wherever the frost crystals form.
hoar frost ice crystals
 As the moisture evaporates from the open patches of water on these very cold mornings, the water vapor condenses on cold objects....
hoar frost on weeds
 ... forming ice needles and delicate, fern-like ice crystal formations on weeds, branches, etc.... even on the river ice.
hoar frost or rime on ice
 From a distance the rime ice/hoarfrost looks like many cotton balls scattered across the ice.
hoar frost on ice
Ahhhh, on bitter cold mornings sunrise reveals beautiful hoarfrost designs coating everything along the river.
cold birds sitting on hoarfrost-coated branches
Perhaps the only beauty for the birds is that they survived another cold night... and, now today, it looks like they survived winter's last gasp.