Sunday, March 4, 2012

March 4, 2012

Now that spring (meteorological spring that is) has arrived, mother nature decides it's time for winter.  Thursday brought the biggest snow fall to the area since Thanksgiving - nearly a foot of light, dry powder.

I took only my second cross-county ski trip around the lake, and the last one was in October.  Yes, I haven't skied since the Halloween snow, meaning I missed November, December, January, and February!  Actually, there were a couple of times I could have gotten out, but it would have been pretty thin with lots or portages around bare spots, and rocks to damage the bottoms of the skis. 

Saturday was back to warm weather, and late in the afternoon a few peeks of sun came out to brighten up the winter scene.

By evening, there was bright moon light, and with low ground fog it made for a very eerie feeling.  The world was well lit, but looking into the woods or across the lake was like peering into a haunted forest.  There was also a nice astronomical show - Jupiter and Venus are close together in the WSW evening sky, and will continue to get closer for a few more weeks before they start to separate.  If you look within an hour of sunset, you can also see Mercury just above the horizon.  Finally, Mars, which on Monday makes its closest approach in its two-year dance with Earth, is also visible in the eastern sky early in the evening,
Jupiter (above) and Venus (below) - taken March 4 at 8:39pm

We have had more goldfinches than usual this winter - perhaps due to the warm weather.  We usually see only a few goldfinches, and lots of chick-a-dees, but this year has been the exact opposite.  The snow storm brought them out in full force, sometimes there were seven or eight on the feeder at once.  The snow birds (juncos) appreciate all their dropped seeds.

Unfortunately, rain came on Saturday to saturate and pack down all that nice light snow.  Then the cold night froze everything up, so we had a rather noisy snow shoe trip on Sunday morning, though on the lake the sun had softened things up.  We saw only a few tracks, as most animals could walk easily on the frozen crust.  We did find quite a few little tufts of lime-green lichen that were blown out of the trees when last night's cold front came through with strong wind gusts.
Usnea Lichen

This looks like a Usnea lichen, so named because it contains usnic acid.  Usnic acid has anti-biotic properties, and has been used medicinally since ancient times.  So if you're ever stranded deep in the wilderness with an injury at risk of infection, just look for this little lichen.

And what's this I see?  Could it be a sign of spring?       Is that a hint of yellow on one of those finches?

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