February 17, 2016

Winter Magic Behind the Mountain

Since this month began, temperatures have bounced down and then up again by as much as 65º in New England, with a 64º temperature rise in just the last 34 hours! Crazy weather for February, but perfect conditions for hoar frost and panoramas of frost flowers across the surfaces of every flash-frozen pond, river, and stream throughout the region.

Frost flowers, like stars, on fresh black ice
If you're feeling the need of some seasonal grounding after this rollercoaster ride, enjoy the ephemeral winter beauty that John (my husband) and I discovered on a day's visit to southern VT yesterday.  All along our drive from Concord to the Vermont border, every dark waterway was spattered with white crystals, as if the stars had fallen from the sky.

Once in Brattleboro, we made our way to the dirt roads behind Wantastiquet Mountain, the 970 foot prominence that forms a dramatic backdrop for the town from across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire.  We were rewarded with ice flows and forms and luxuriant hoar frost that only this crazy two weeks of weather could have conjured...and just in time before an incoming snowfall and soaring temperatures changed the magic.

First stop, the stream and cascades along the Gulf Road (W. Chesterfield, NH).  All of these spectacles were discovered in one brief stop along the road...only 5º F. so we moved quickly.

February 10, 2016

Walking on Thin Ice

Walking on thin ice is an occupational hazard when you live a wild life in and around Great Meadows.  Here are some masters caught in the act last evening and late this afternoon.

Some geese resting in rapidly freezing waters, while others opted to walk along the icy rim.

My blue heron friend surprised us both as the ice gave way underfoot

Composure regained

At 4 pm this afternoon, a large coyote gingerly walked out onto the thin ice to investigate a muskrat lodge, testing with his paw when footing was uncertain.  Wisely, he decided against any vigorous activity near the lodge and returned back toward the shoreline.

The coyote catches sight of me watching him, from nearly a half mile across the marsh.

Beavers avoid walking on thin ice by poking or plunging straight through instead.  Along the inflow channel from the river, there are a lot of punctures through the ice, along with tail trails and scent mounds.

The Week of Winter's Splendor

Snow frosted landscape at sunset on Feb. 6
For those of us who love winter in all of its crystalline glory, the stretch of days between February 5-20 rarely disappoints.  Thoreau's Journal notations for Concord reveal winter wonders at their height in mid-February back 160+ years.  This past week, even in the midst of the winter that almost wasn't, Mother Nature delivered one of the most dazzling snowstorms and accompanying Golden Hour light shows in memory.

This first February storm frosted every detail of the landscape, remaining undisturbed through a nearly windless night.  The next morning Great Meadows was a dazzling winter wonderland. Punkatasset Hill looked majestic and its most venerable trees stood out in their brilliant white robes.

Morning Feb. 6 - big pines on Punkatasset

Punkatasset Hill with hundreds of geese napping on the ice below