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Category Archives: winter

These images are from last Thursday, the same day I photographed the bees. It was a very warm February day with the temperature approaching fifty degrees. Today it is near freezing and snow has been falling for hours. In the last week or so we’ve had nearly two feet of new snow but combined with warm afternoons, it is compressed and heavy with ice in the places exposed by the snow plow and shovels and in the trails that are heavily trod upon.

Another fun day outside! Eight of us – four dogs and four women – travelled with classic skis and waxed paws to look at the frozen Falls Creek Falls. Yes, that’s its name.

Falls Creek Falls. It’s a place that we frequently take out of town guests, even the elderly that can’t get around to well, to see in the warmer months. It’s a reasonably short drive from town and the short trail is paved for wheelchairs and the falls are really a sight to see. In the spring and early summer, the water is high and spray cools the air and keeps the surfaces wet and slippery. Later in the summer, it’s a refreshingly cool spot. And fall is lovely with colorful foliage.

I’ve always wanted to see it in the winter but you can’t drive there. The road is closed and maintained for snow machines but that doesn’t mean you can’t ski to it. So when Jennifer said she wanted to go, I was ready. We thought about taking fat bikes but someone said they are not allowed. That left us with classic cross-country skis. I must say, I have not used my classic skis in at least a couple of years having become a devoted skate skier. This year, with little snow in the Cascades I have not done much of any skiing so I figured I may as well dust off the classics and give it a go. Jennifer’s skis are so old (how old are they?) that they have 3 pin bindings! She bought them used more years ago then she cares to say. We recruited MA to join us and she got Christiana to go too (and drive) and we were set. A sno-park pass is required so we needed to cram all of us into one vehicle to make it not too costly. Four women, four dogs and all the ski stuff and other gear – well it takes up some space. And to top it off, the roads were not in good shape – new snow was covering the old ice.

Not only did we have the fun of skiing with our dogs on a day that went from nearly sunny to snowing hard, we also enjoyed the trail to the falls and its icy beauty and on the way back, we stopped to observe some ancient pictographs. It was another fun day in the Methow.

We have had quite a few days of ice fog. That combined with no new snow can make a pretty bleak picture. The little snow we have has been softened and frozen into an uneven frozen track that often makes walking difficult. I put ‘yak traks’ on my shoes just about every time I go out for a walk. One day last week there was a hint that the sun might be shining just a little higher up and the dogs and I had a few minutes before meeting our friends for agility practice. So we went up to frozen Pearrygin Lake to see if we could find the sun and to stretch our legs. There were glimpses of sunshine, sucker holes, but by the time we left, it was just gray again.

My friend said she was having trouble with her little point and shoot camera and since she is getting ready for a big trip in the spring she is concerned that maybe it’s failing and she wondered if she ought to try to replace it. I said I would give it a try for a couple of days and took it with me on a couple of walks and used it in the house with and without the flash and of course, it behaved just fine for me. It seems like I haven’t been doing too much ‘fun’ photography lately so it was a good exercise for me. The camera is a low end Nikon Coolpix, and not very new. I found it to be serviceable although I did miss having raw files. The color balance was a little skewed, especially in the snow but not terribly so. I was mostly able to adjust for it in Lightroom. Its exposure compensation allowed me to photograph my black dog in the snow and its close-up scene setting worked well for close-ups.

 

 

 

Yesterday’s warmth melted snow and ice and created beauty everywhere I looked.

 

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Today I skied from Brown’s Farm to Mazama, had lunch and skied back; a distance of about 20k. For me it’s a good sk;, for others it’s just an average day. It’s a mostly flat stretch of the Community Trail along the Methow River. Along the way I was able to see quite a few interesting birds – a Belted Kingfisher, American Dippers, a large (200 plus) flock of Common Redpolls, Ravens, Mallards, Mountain and Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, an unknown diving duck and a Northern Pygmy Owl. Soup at the Mazama store was Brazilian Black Bean served with avocado cream and salted baguette and quite satisfying. Temperatures were a little bit warmer, into the twenties today. Feels downright balmy after all the single digit days.

 

This dog is the official greeter at Brown’s Farm. I should know his name by now.

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A gray day seemed perfect for black and white

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The Methow River

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Soup and bread at the Mazama Store.

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I really, really need a longer lens for the little camera.

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Earlier this week I had business in Wenatchee, one hundred miles south of here. It was still cold and clear but down there it was ten degrees warmer – almost balmy since I’ve grown used to the cold temperatures. My car needed servicing and when I made the appointment the lady said it would take about an hour so I planned to wait for it. When I arrived she said two hours – there was a recall I didn’t know about. Darn. So I gathered my wits, my binoculars, my little camera (yes, I travel with a lot of stuff, luckily this time I didn’t take a dog) hat and gloves, and went for a walk. The car dealership is located near the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia Rivers in an area that has become fairly industrialized. It seems ironic to me because in its natural state this place would have been full of birds and other wildlife. The native Americans had celebrations and horse races in this area. In the 1900′s it became a busy area for orchards. And now it has fruit warehouses, port buildings, a mail distribution center and various businesses like the car dealerships. One good thing is that the PUD bought some of the land at the confluence as mitigation for the hydro power dams on the river and turned it into a state park named appropriately enough, Confluence State Park. That was the destination for my walk.

 

Trucks lined up and waiting to be filled with boxes of apples

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Some apples travel by rail

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Now why would someone frame their license plate with skulls?

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Smart?

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More litter

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Some places have nice trees but why plant invasive ivy at their base?

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Same birch tree looking up

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Plaid logo

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At the park, there are acres and acres of grass near the rivers. This is perfect habitat for Canada Geese.

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There’s a feeder in those trees. I saw Song Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, Black-capped Chickadees, House Finches and other small birds.

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This is a terrific pedestrian bridge across the Wenatchee River. It is an important link in the Apple Capital Loop Trail.

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Looking down the Wenatchee towards the Columbia with East Wenatchee in the distance

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The ice on the right side of this image is broken and moving with the current while the ice on the left is still.

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Lookin up the Wenatchee at the railroad bridge and then the highway bridge

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Here you can see the moving ice on the left. When I was returning to my car, the ice on the right was cracking as water behind one of the dams began to back up into the Wenatchee River. Not only could I hear the cracking, I could watch cracks form. I could have stayed there all day.

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Endless patterns

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When I got to my car I discovered that my lens cap was missing. This tiny thing was sure to be difficult to replace so I retraced my steps and spotted it where I had crossed the busy arterial. It had been run over but is still functional.

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While I was at first disappointed to learn that my car was going to take longer than expected, I had a great walk in brisk sunny weather and really felt refreshed by it. Some sights were not pretty but the beauty of the rivers more than made up for that.

 

The last few days have been full of contrasts – brilliantly sunny skies paired with temperatures in the single digits, if not below zero. There has been no time for standing around enjoying the views. Walks are brisk; ski trips are purely aerobic. Little birds have swarmed the feeders while the Sharp-shinned Hawk keeps an eye out for the slow ones. The dark night skies are full of more stars than you can even imagine, however as cold as it is, it’s hard to do much star gazing.

 

One day a light wind filled in the trail with compacted snow.

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There’s something about this line that I really like.

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Hard to imagine how cold it is in this picture.

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Those are the sledding trails from New Years!

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I tried digi-scoping with my little camera on my scope. There’s a real knack to getting it right.

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Long shadows on a sunny day

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Pine needles stuck in the snow

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Luna got a little hoar frost on her muzzle

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Interesting ice form on the deck railing

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Despite the calendar, it really is winter now! Christmas Bird Counts started this past weekend and last night we received nearly a foot of new snow! My first CBC was the Bridgeport circle, about fifty miles south of here. That meant a very early start to meet the other volunteers and find out which area we needed to cover during the short daylight hours available this time of year. The weather started out gray and then went to misty and then to snowing hard by mid-afternoon. Despite that, we saw lots of fun birds and enjoyed the company and celebrated with a wonderful dinner shared with all of the counters. Many thanks to the organizers and compilers for a fun day. If you want to learn more about Christmas Bird Counts, see this link.

Some areas of Douglas County can seem pretty remote

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This cow wanted some company

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Foster Creek in Douglas County. I think the green plant is watercress.

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The neighbor’s snow measure stick

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We have a reliable snow plow service and needed it today

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A little bit of color

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Luna reluctantly broke trail

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Too much fun in the snow!

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It’s a hard job but someone’s got to do it!

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Luna and I drove into the lower Rendezvous yesterday in hopes of maybe spotting a Snowy Owl. Again, no luck finding Bubo scandiacus but we did see a variety of raptors including a Golden Eagle, female Northern Harrier, two American Kestrels and a few Red-tailed Hawks. Near town there was a Northern Shrike hunting from a powerline.

After the owl-less drive, we stopped at Riser Lake to stretch our legs and see what else we could find. The lake is almost entirely frozen over and the little bit of open water held a pair of Mallards til they realized we were going to walk around the lake. They took off and then returned before we left. The only other birds were Northern Flickers, a couple of Black-capped Chickadees and a lone Bohemian Waxwing.

It was a good day for a walk with a little bit of crusty snow and no precipitation. Luna is still nursing a sore back so she doesn’t have the energy to run like she always has in the past. It seems harder for her to jump in the car and she sleeps more than usual.

 

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Abandoned fruit trees indicate that people once attempted to make a living off the land in these arid hills.

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The colorful fruit is welcomed by the wintering birds, especially the waxwings.

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Thin ice

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Frozen in time

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What thing doesn’t belong in this photo?

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Interesting low-growing plant on top of the hill overlooking the lake

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And one lone pine tree too

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Whose nest? It is about ten feet off the ground. Seems low for a Common Raven but what else would use a nest so large?

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I found pears, but no partridges

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