When small talk first turns to the coming of spring, that’s generally a good sign that we’re entering another phase of winter – and I mean that in the nicest way.
The light is the most obvious, of course, with the sun rising much earlier and climbing higher. But we also start to see some of the earliest migrating birds.
The Long-Tailed Duck is primarily a sea bird and summers along the arctic coast. Though they are said to sometimes winter in the Great Lakes I haven’t yet spotted them here in mid-winter. In the past week several have been hanging around Port Darlington, sometimes mingling with the swans and buffleheads.
It’s worth noting that only the male Long-Tailed Duck (top photo) sports the namesake appendage. The female (below) apparently functions quite well without those extra feathers.
In February the stronger sun has worked with rain, snow, fierce winds and wildly fluctuating temperatures to sculpt new scenes along the waterfront each day.
A recent storm distributed rounded chunks of ice across the beach, then coated the whole lot with a slick new surface of ice. This made for treacherous travel for a wobbly biped with a high center-of-gravity – even before a thick blanket of fluffy new snow hid all the hazards. In such conditions, obviously, it’s safer to make your pre-dawn rounds on all fours.
The break-up of ice takes a different form on our creeks, as recent rains pushed huge slabs through valleys and low-lying woods.
On the lake, massive walls of ice provided a shield for the shoreline until these formations were cut away by pounding waves.
I’m happy to mark the last day of February in calm conditions with a celebration of the vivid colours at dawn and twilight.
Top photo: Long-Tailed Dive (click here for larger view)