Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fresh Snow

The seasons are changing again, a light snow is falling and covering the rust and red colors of the fall tundra.  The soft flakes are of a mixed size, but it isn’t coming down hard enough to completely cover the ground yet.  As I look out the kitchen window in the early dusk of the coming morning , I am treated to the sight of the cow and calf muskox sleeping in our Muskox-Snow_5333yard and partly covered in the falling snow.  They are not in a hurry to get up and start feeding, as both have gotten up, walked in a circle and then laid back down.  At times they were stretched out full length sleeping , while the more normal position has them resting with their head up, as to keep a watch on things in between naps. 


It is hard to grasp that this gentle snow fall with its big flakes is not a common sight for us during the winter.  Most of the time the snowflakes are well rounded and small by the time they reach the ground in our windy climate.  I’m sure that during some stretches of  winter we see the same snow several times, as the wind whips it back and forth and the drifts of winter deepen.


Pendent_Grass-sn_7308The lake has ice around the edges this morning and the red pendent grass (Arctophila fulva) is either weighted down with the fresh snow or frozen in the fresh ice, which doesn’t extend much past the grassy area.








The Willow Ptarmigan are glad to see a bit of snow as they are starting to stick out in the rusty colored tundra since they are almost all white now.  It makes them very nervous and take flight at the first sign of a falcon or snowy owl.  They like to swoop in and hide in and around the buildings where it is harder for a bird of prey to make a diving run to catch one. 

WIPT-flock_flight_5403       Large flock of Willow Ptarmigan taking flight.


One afternoon several years ago I watched as a snowy owl and a flock of 30 willow ptarmigan played keep away.  The owl had the birds cornered at the base of  an old wire bird cage that was 10’ square and 8’ high that I wasn’t using anymore. The owl was perched up on top and when it moved from one side to the other the ptarmigan would quickly run to the other side staying right up against the pen.  This maneuver didn’t give the owl enough room to swoop down and grab one of the ptarmigan. This went on for about 45 minutes before the snowy owl decided it would have better luck some place else.

With the days of fall getting shorter, we now can enjoy the Aurora Borealis again as well as watch the constellations swirl overhead.  It looks like it will be a good winter for sky watching the as the sun has been putting out lots of solar activity that translates into good viewing conditions.

 Aurora Reflections_5139 Aurora Borealis reflecting in the lake.

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Arctic Smoke Signals by James W. Helmericks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.