We’ve had a lot of very cold weather this month – like the rest of the Midwest. The lowest temperature we saw on our thermometers was -29F one frosty morning.
We felt like arctic explorers on our morning walks – note the air temperature of -19F at the bottom of the photo.
Now that the cold spell is over, the temperatures have warmed up to what feels almost like spring – highs in the 30s and 40s.
Our feeders were full of activity during the coldest weather – I filled the feeders twice a day. These Purple Finches and Goldfinches are waiting for their turn at the feeders – there isn’t enough room for everyone at once. This is a Prickly Ash outside my window which makes a convenient place to wait their turns.
The creek runs all year, but in the coldest weather the top surface freezes over. I don’t have any photos taken during the coldest days – too cold to work the camera buttons with bare hands – but here’s the beginning of the ice bridge that formed across the running water. It eventually grew to be about twice this wide, but then melted quickly once the weather warmed.
Buds have started opening on the willows – even in this weather.
Beginnings of willow flowers
Here’s one of Mike’s minimovies – video he’s taken and sounds he’s recorded in the last few months. Most of this video is from January when we had days of frost covered trees. (You can see more of his work at EarsInTheDriftless.com.)
Our raccoons have been active. I’ve read that raccoons spend the middle of winter asleep in their dens. Ours are more lively that that – we’ve been seeing them even on the coldest days. There’s a mom and two or three young ones living in the rocks behind our house. They climb around on the hillside, tussle with each other, and make forays to the nearest stream, and to the area below our birdfeeders. Their den is somewhere in these rocks. The muddy path is the trail they’ve made leading under our porch and around the house to the discarded birdseed.
Cold winter weather makes this a good time for indoor projects. We finally figured out a microscope/camera set up for me that lets me take photos of tiny things. It also allows me to do focus stacking, which means that I can get more depth of field in the photos. Since there aren’t many bugs right now, I’ve been practicing on lichens.
I did find one caterpillar inside a cattail seed head. It will turn into a beautiful little moth called a Shy Cosmet. The caterpillar lives in the fluff and eats the seeds.
This is an adult Shy Cosmet from July 2017. I don’t see them often at my lights – the cattails are nearly a half mile away, so it may be too far for them to fly.
There are many deer highways in the snow, showing their favorite routes.
Two deer on their highway.
Coyotes investigating something – or maybe just having a drink – at Cabin Creek. (From one of the trail cameras.)
Wetland and Sumac Bluff
I love still mornings with the sun rising above the creek.
A mink crossing the driveway at the creek
Yesterday it was finally warm enough, and enough snow had melted that I could do some outside work on the hill behind the house. The bugs decided it was a good day too – I saw dozens of these small red and black bugs scurrying around in the leaf litter. They’re called False Milkweed Bugs because they look similar to milkweed eating bugs, but these bugs eat Oxeye and possibly other composites.
I’ve also tried out my microscope/camera on fungi. This is a normal photo of a Cinnabar Polypore – an orange fungus that grows on dead wood.
The pores on the underside are bright orange.
This is what I see under the microscope.
Here’s another fungus I found, growing on dead wood – probably oak. One common name for it is Ceramic Parchment.
Ceramic Parchment under the microscope.
A few days ago enough snow had melted, and it was warm enough, to walk on top of the hills again. Here’s Twisted Oak Savanna in the snow.
Buffalo Ridge Prairie
Spring is coming!