Friday, January 23, 2009

It's all downhill from here...

No walk at Black Creek last weekend. It was the Cub Scouts' sledding party, so I got to stand atop a windblown hill in single-digit weather for three hours, watching kids, mine included, whiz down the hill at top speed having the occasional near-death experience.

This picture does not do it justice, but the sledding hill at Black Creek is daunting. It's also full of moguls that would launch kids into spectacular wipeouts. A good time was had by all, until the frostbite set in.

The mom of one of Sam's friends went down the hill too -- a couple of times. On her last trip down she whacked her head -- "you're a nurse -- what should I be looking out for?" she asked. She also revealed that several years ago, she'd had a craniotomy to have a brain aneurysm repaired.

I saw her Tuesday when we picked the kids up from church school -- turns out she'd had a killer headache the day after the sledding party, went to the doctors and wound up having a CAT scan to check everything out. Everything looked ok, but I think she'll be thinking twice about any more sledding.

A view from the top. Honestly, you can't tell how steep it is, with everything uniformly gray like this. Crappy light and no filters...

Friday, January 16, 2009

the creek flows on...

At Black Creek Jan 11 around 3:00 -- heading toward sunset. Went down by the creek side -- ice reaching out from the banks, open in the middle, chunks of snow & ice drifting downstream, catching on ice banks. Tracks on the ice edge -- too far down the bank to i.d. Four doves in a tree flew off when I noticed them.

Found a little nest full of snow -- artifact of summer.

Farther on, found a snow angel by the trail

...looks like a dog ran through it. So, does my buckthorn have thorns? Yeah, puny ones maybe, a fraction of the size of the buds:

You call those thorns? Check out the Hawthorn over here:

... now those are thorns.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Driving home from work last night, all the street signs looked as if they'd been blacked out; like one long construction zone where the signs were no longer accurate so they'd been covered with burlap.

Only they weren't bagged, but snow-blasted, obliterated by storm and a driving west wind. I was re-routed by weather, don't know to what purpose.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The North Wind Doth Blow...

Went to Black Creek Park on new years day around 10 o'clock... not early enough to be the first one there. Which was fine with me -- it snowed the day before and I didn't feel like trailblazing. Turned out to be a bit of a slog anyway. Cross country skiers had gone through and I didn't want to mess up their tracks, so I walked off on the side of the path where a snowshoer had gone. (Hope snowshoers don't get as mad as skiers if you walk on their trail...) It was pretty much like wading through a foot and a half of snow.

I thought I heard robins. Then I was sure I heard them. Then I saw them. I don't know what the deal is -- if they haven't gone yet or if they've come back. The latest I've seen them is November, the earliest, February. Though I can't say I've been out looking for them in the middle of December...

In addition to the robins, the woods were full of chickadees. They're my favorites. The birds were pretty busy but I didn't see much else besides deer and dog tracks. They made their own footpaths of course, but they shared the human trail too. Guess nobody is too fond of wading through snow.

It brought home the point that no effort is ever wasted, even if it's not giving you the results you want. If it takes about three times as much effort to wade through snow as it does to walk a nice path, you'll work harder to make the same distance. But you'll get some exercise, and make a road for the deer. All the same, I took a short cut.

Turns out the robins might be staying the winter. I found out a little more about their migration habits here. You can also report your sightings of robins to track their northward migration. I've got mine accounted for...

So what are they eating in my area? They were all clustered on a small tree with black berries that's pretty common at Black Creek Park. I know them by sight but never knew what they were called. Now it's a little harder to figure out since there's no leaves, but I think it's Buckthorn. A pretty notorious invasive alien species that somehow I've managed to never hear of. A fair amount of folks wish it could be destroyed on sight.

Some even say the birds hurt themselves by eating the berries -- supposedly it causes diarrhea (What does bird diarrhea even mean? Isn't their poo always fairly liquid?) and could dehydrate them. Even at best, since it passes through their system so quickly, they wouldn't get any caloric benefit from it. Others say that's baloney -- birds always process fruits quickly and no one's ever found a bunch of dead robins under a buckthorn. And who knows if anyone's actually tried to prove either assertion.

Next time I'm at Black Creek, I'll have to check for terminal thorns on my tree to see if it actually is buckthorn. Spring will help with my i.d. too. In the meantime I'll think about the robins out there in the cold.

The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He'll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.