Yesterday I participated in the annual Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey. My route was the Winooski River, from Waterbury to Lake Champlain. I have surveyed this route several years now. While I did not see even one eagle, I did get to see the river in winter.
Last year the day was warm and there was much less ice. Yesterday I started with single-digit temperatures. By the time I was finished in the early afternoon the temperature was considering hitting 20, but had not yet decided.
Here is my portrait of the Winooski River for January 2022.
Late November means shorter days. It isn’t December, certainly, but it is hard to tell the difference. Getting up at 6:00 to let the dog out means going out in the dark. Walking on the road to get the day started? Wear the reflector vest and bring a headlamp. It helps if drivers can see you when they pass.
This morning it is raining. A sky full of clouds means it is even darker in the early hours. At least we have had some snow. Not a lot, mind you, but some. I went up to Stowe this week and got to walk on trails covered in the white stuff. Today we have a forecast of snow. This rain will turn over to snow this afternoon. It will accumulate–a couple inches according to our friendly meteorologists.
I put birdseed in the feeders recently. As the light grows I watch the House Finches have breakfast. They get more distinct as the day progresses. By the afternoon their red feathers pop out in the sunlight. Even with clouds they are a small burst of color in the gray and brown. We still have a couple of pumpkins on the porch to add more color there.
Today we will go cut a Christmas tree. We put some strings of lights on the porch already. This season of darkness is only getting darker, so we plan to light the place up. The world is dark these days. We need to add some light to the mornings yes, but that metaphorical darkness needs some brightness even more. Those dark mornings are beautiful. And so are the lights. We plan to have some of both.
The day has turned out to be a fine one. The temperature is up to 52 degrees. The sun shines, with only a light wind. Things are thawing so it smells like spring. Red-Winged Blackbirds are singing. Geese by the hundreds fly overhead. And are those daffodils teasing the sky?
Yesterday it was winter. The morning saw a dusting of snow and the air never rose above freezing. A cold wind blew. That light snow made the roads and the hills and the piles of snow look fresh and new. Today, however the grime has begun to show.
When snow melts it leaves behind what it held. Maybe those snowflakes formed around specks of dust way up in the atmosphere. And maybe some dirt from the drive was added with each shovelful that got tossed onto the edge of the lawn. And the snowplow dug up some gravel too. All those bits get left behind when the snow starts to melt. To be frank, this time of year things get ugly.
Soon all the snow will fully melt, and the grit collected in the piles will settle into grass and onto the road and eventually we won’t see it at all. But right now it is contrasted with the white ice crystals and, man, it looks a mess. Snow is just so beautiful when it falls and when it gathers, like yesterday morning. But now? Ugh. Don’t make snow cones with that.
Spring is almost here. I mean, you could say it is here but winter still has a say in the matter. There is a back and forth with the season right now, and there will be for some weeks yet. I still would welcome snow, but I also won’t mind when those dirty piles disappear. Steam rises from sugarhouses today–a sign of the shoulder season. It needs to be freezing at night and warm during the day. That we have. I’ll take the syrup, so I guess I will take the season that goes with it.
We knew weather was on the way. We changed some plans, moved some things around. We did things differently to account for possible interruption to our normal schedules. We were going to get snow, and freezing rain, and sleet, and wind. It would come at the optimum time for a snow day. Maybe, if the weather gods graced us with good fortune, we would have two snow days. In a row. We went to bed Wednesday night ready for an early morning call.
The call came at the usual time, but the online list had not included our regional schools. Maybe they hadn’t updated the list? The recorded call was to let us know that school would be held, but the hills would be closed. When the roads get slick, they close the hills to school buses. So anyone who lives on the several steep roads in town has to find another way to school. The call also said that inexperienced drivers should get a ride with someone more experienced, or take the bus. I was confused. School will be held, despite road conditions bad enough that school buses will not go up and down the hills, so take the bus if you can, unless you live where the roads are the worst, then we want you to drive.
Anyway, we all got to school and to work and we drove and rode the bus and it all worked out. There was only a little complaining around here. It snowed on and off all day. Several inches accumulated, along with sleet and freezing rain. And that night we got the call that school would be closed the next day. So we got our snow day after all.
It was a good call. One can often argue that we should have had a snow day, or that we should not have had a snow day, but this was not one of those days. We definitely were glad to be staying off the roads. I mean, we walked on some of those roads and the snow was deep. Plus, there was ice from the freezing rain and sleet beneath that deep snow. It was slick and sloppy.
And it snowed all day. It fell and fell and piled up. After dark, ready to head to bed, I reached my hand out the window to see if snow was still falling. After two days of precipitation it had finally stopped. The storm was awesome, in both the historic and contemporary meanings of that word. By Saturday, we were up to our knees in snow. The high school parking lot had literal mountains of snow once they cleared it and piled it up. Snow banks were tall, making it hard to see in places. It was a big old dump of snow.
And then the sun came out to make it all look pretty. Winter wonderland and all that. Saturday has turned out to be what they call a bluebird day. Blue skies and bright white snow. Bust out the sunglasses. We need to enjoy it. These days, it just doesn’t last. I am sure it will rain at some point and cause flooding, as is the pattern. But that is in the future. Today, let’s go make some snow angels.
Yesterday I volunteered again for the Winter Bald Eagle Survey. My route is the Winooski River, from Waterbury to Lake Champlain. This is a pretty good distance, so it means driving along the river and stopping at several locations to look for eagles. I have never seen one along the river, only where the river meets the lake, but I have seen eagles above the river at other times, so I was hopeful.
I didn’t see any eagles yesterday, not even at the lake, but I did enjoy being out there. As I have at other times I have done this survey, I took one photo at each of the 14 locations at which I stopped. Below is my Winooski River portrait for January, 2020.
I worked a long day Thursday–started early and ended late. In the middle, when I had some time, I checked the weather. I was planning to head across northern Vermont in the morning, so I wanted to be sure roads would be clear. The forecast was not promising. Snow was on the way, the heavy wet kind, and lots of it.
In the morning it was raining, but some snow flakes were mixed in. The forecast was worse than the night before. I was going to a school, so I checked the closings list. My school was open, but several others, some schools I would pass right by on my way, were closed. I had to make the call. I decided not to make the trek.
I did drive my daughter in to school. On the way, snow started to accumulate–not a lot, but enough to slow me down. After I dropped her off I headed back to work from home. And it snowed more. It snowed all day. It started really piling up by day’s end. Wet and heavy indeed.
My decision not to drive across northern Vermont was sound. The town where I was headed got two feet of snow by this morning. The section of interstate highway I would have traveled was closed for three hours. There were accidents all along Route 2. Even if I had made it, my two-hour drive would have been longer, and I would have had to return at some point. Here at home, over a thousand homes are still without power, although not ours.
Today is quiet. The snow is tapering off, but all is white. Birds are at the feeder in numbers we haven’t seen all winter. Blackbirds sing despite the snow. The town plow has cleared the road. I just polished off the coffee. Later, I will make a trip out to the dump, run a few other errands, and enjoy what is likely our last burst of winter.
We have snow on the ground, but it is sort of crap. Last weekend a whole lot fell. Of course, my whole family was away during the storm. In fact, we left early to avoid travel delays. Still, it was hard to miss a snow storm. I love snow storms.
After it snowed, it rained, so I didn’t feel totally bad to miss it all. Everything got crusty and hard and yuck. When we got back home our driveway was icy. I mean, I couldn’t see that it was icy. There was an inch of fresh snow on top. But turning in, the car slipped. Snow on top of ice is one slick trick. “I hope it isn’t this icy on the whole driveway” I said aloud. I went slowly but where it slopes down at the end, just before the garage, it was especially slick. I tried to stop. I even chanted “stopstopstopstopstopstopstop” before we slid into the garage door and pulled it right off the wall. I was telling the car to stop. But the garage door listened.
Snow has fallen, a few inches, over the past three days. Things look beautiful–white and shiny and all–despite the crustiness beneath. And now it is cold. Right now, end of the day in the dark, it is a degree below zero. And it will get colder before the sun rises. Tomorrow afternoon, snow is forecast to fall again. It should keep falling until Wednesday.
We might have a snow day on Wednesday. I love snow days. Thing is, I am supposed to drive across the state Wednesday morning. Bad timing, that. I might have to skip that appointment. So it goes during winter in Vermont. You always need a plan B. I can still get the garage door open and shut, so I will put the car inside tomorrow night. With more snow, and temperatures below zero a few days this week, we are in full-on winter. Bring it, Baby.
I took part in the mid-winter Bald Eagle survey today. Yesterday was the target day, but I have been out of commission with a cold for a week. I tried to go into work on Wednesday, but I left early. I felt like garbage. I stayed out the next two days. Today, finally, I felt OK. Yesterday I was on the mend but I am glad I rested.
I saw zero Bald Eagles. There were not a lot of birds out in general. The day started at -6º Fahrenheit. It got as low as -9º. It was 11:00 before I saw the thermometer rise into positive territory. Our high was 13º. I guess the eagles were not interested in the cold. As I have the past two years, I took photos along the way. Here is my Winooski River portrait for this cold day.
On Christmas Eve it started to snow. A light snow, but it was not long before it started to gather on the ground. It had not been setting up to be a white Christmas so it was nice to get at least that. And it kept falling. We readied ourselves for the big elf in the red suit and, when we finally went to bed, the snow still came down.
Christmas morning we had snow. Maybe three inches on the ground. And it stuck to the trees as well. The world was clean and white. My son said it was a Christmas miracle, perhaps half joking. I just thought we were lucky.
My wife and I walked out in it for a bit that morning. It was cold but sunny. The sky was blue. We were pretty content, our children riding the high of gifts and surprises. We did not get up until close to 6:00 AM, so we even had some decent sleep. Snow squeaked as we walked.
That night the cold rose up. All the moisture in the air settled and froze. Every twig and stone and blade of dry milkweed was covered in ice. You know those cheesy holiday decorations that are covered in fake frost, exaggerated versions of reality? It looked like that.
The low sun, before it climbed up to hide behind low clouds, splashed the world with brightness. All that ice glittered and sparkled. Winter wonderland and all that. Spectacular. Then it became another frosty morning.
Today, rain. And fog. Sleet last night. It seems we are getting all the winter weather. Christmas is over, which is always a bit of a letdown in our house. But I still feel the spirit. The new year is just around the corner. An arbitrary beginning and ending, for sure, but still, a time to reassess and to set some goals. I will get outside again to take some time to reflect on that.
We had snow. Then it melted. That usually happens. And usually I am disappointed. It is mid-December, and snow lingers only in the shady spots. At least it isn’t all gone. The mountains are tipped in white, blanketed even. Here in the valley, however, it feels like spring.
The sun hasn’t shown itself much, but yesterday it came through. And the temperature climbed over the freezing mark. It felt like March. With the last of the snow melting, it looked like March, too. Clouds came in. The Geminid meteor shower was a bust around here. It hoped we might get one more shot at seeing some shooting stars last night, but those pesky clouds…
The grass is showing again. It is mixed in with the brown of fallen leaves and dried shoots, but it persists. Squirrels pluck seeds, fallen from the bird feeder, from the lawn. They seem to be navigating the grass just fine. No mistletoe or ivy needed around here. Green lies around right outside the window.
This is pretty typical these days. Not that long back our December days had little green and lots of white. We shoveled out many a day. Our snow shovel sits unused on the porch. I have to hope we get some more snow before Christmas. I can’t say I’m optimistic, but I can say I’m hopeful.
The temperature has creeped up again this morning. Winter seems to be trying to emulate spring. Just be yourself, winter. You are beautiful the way you are. Let spring be spring. I want to see your snowy self. Be glorious. Be icy. Be cold. But no pressure. Next week will do. Just don’t wait too long. Christmas isn’t far off.