Without wildflowers in bloom and trees in leaf, winter can seem rather sterile. In reality there is much to see and observe. However the other day I began to wonder. Leonard and I were walking in the Ash Creek Wildlife Refuge. There was no open water because of the recent frigid temperatures. Not a bird was to be seen – literally! No problem, identifying the dried grasses drew our interest. Yet we did speculate about where all the waterfowl had disappeared. Even the American coots (Fulica americana) were not around. The coots are always swimming about in the refuge.
Fast forward a couple of days to Baum Lake. At 1,000 feet lower elevation the water was not frozen solid. Along the shore was a raft of coots. There must have been 500 birds! Baum Lake, like the refuge, always has a population of coots, but never this many. Leonard and I decided that Baum Lake was where “our” coots were passing the cold spell. Well, they might not be the very birds from the refuge, however, coot numbers were definitely higher than usual at Baum Lake, most likely because of the cold weather.
Many birds are considered year-round or winter residents of our area and indeed are here. Yet when the weather gets too harsh, or in the case of waterfowl, the water freezes over, these birds migrate short distances to lower elevations and more suitable conditions. They will all be back when the deep freeze releases its icy grip.
This picture only shows a few of the coots swimming along the shore of Baum Lake. They stretched for several hundred feet. Unfortunately if I tried, from my vantage point and with my camera, to photograph the entire group, all the birds would have looked like little specks. Multiply these birds by ten or more and visualize the size of the flock. The object above the teassel is a Canada goose nesting platform.
New Year’s: a time to reassess my blog after roughly a half year. I attempt to vary the topics between plants, animals, birds, fungi, etc. I also try to post according to the calendar – no spring blossoms in the fall. That is why wildflowers and trees are not as well represented right now. Any input concerning how to improve the blog or suggestions about what topics or categories would be of interest, or not, would be greatly appreciated. I am having a lot of fun with the blog and plan to continue posting. Wishing all of my followers and casual visitors health and happiness in 2012.