Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Snow Day!

The big Imbolc winter storm last week ended up delivering on its promise of snow! Even a little snow is always exciting here in south-central Texas.
Basil was not sure what to make of this dramatic change to his environment.
The birdbath full of ice and snow.
The garden dusted in snow.

Frozen fava beans.

Frozen garlic.

The Dwarf Grey Sugar peas.

When Basil saw I was walking around in the yard just fine, he decided it was safe to join me and do his impression of a miniature Siberian tiger.

Lots of action at the bird feeders, replacing all those calories they burn to stay warm.

The blue agave plant in the front with snow.

Daniel and I decided to take a walk to the nearby park to see how it looks with snow. School was cancelled that day, and a lot of people stayed home from work due to icy roads (Texas is just not equipped to handle ice on roads), so there were a lot of people out there with us. Of course there wasn't enough snow for the neighborhood children to make snowmen, and it was too dry and powdery to even hold together for good snowballs, but at least the snow on the driveways was adequete for snow angles, even if the heads look like they were drawn in.
The juniper trees looked especially pretty with the snow catching in their shreddy bark. Here's one surrounded by snowy yuccas.

The remnants of last year's bristlegrass was also beautifully frosted.

Here's the main trail in the park. By the time we got there it was already covered with the tracks of shoes, bicycles, and dogs.
We decided to take a detour onto one of the side trails through the woods, where we could see more wild animal tracks. Snow is a great opportunity to be astounded by just how many wild animals walk to and fro during the night at the park. First we found several trackways where whole families of raccoons had passed by.
Prickly pear cactus with snow.

Snowy juniper woods.

Here's some deer tracks where it looks like the deer slipped a little as it ran across the trail.

Here's the meeting circle at the park covered in snow, with dog and human tracks going across.

Another pretty snowy juniper.

It's hard to tell the difference between the tracks of a fox and those of a small dog, but after a while I decided that at least some of these tracks were from foxes. Dog tracks would be going along the trail and would be accompanied by human tracks going the same direction, but some of these tracks were going across the trail and back into the woods, and some were going in the opposite direction of any human tracks that were on the trail. Those must have been gray foxes.
We were puzzled by tracks like these for a while. I've never seen rabbits out here, just squirrels, foxes, and raccoons, so I wasn't sure about these at first. Daniel had a track guide, but it wasn't very helpful. It just showed isolated single tracks, where they really should show whole trackways, so you can see the pattern the tracks make.
There always seemed to be two big feet, with two smaller feet falling roughly between the bigger ones. We finally concluded that it's got to be from rabbits running across the trail, and as they run they bring their back feet up to land on either side of where their front feet hit the ground. So now I know that we do have rabbits here even though I've never seen one.

There were some other small tracks that we think must have been squirrels. They were shaped differently than the rabbit tracks and had more prominent claws. It was surprising how far a squirrel could bound, looking at the distance from one set of footprints to the next.

Here's the snowy side trail through the woods. The rocks that protruded out of the snow were coated in ice and very slippery. We both slipped on them a couple of times.

Here's another red yucca with snow. I just think it's especially neat to see the more xeric plants we have here with snow on them.

Here's the big old oak tree right next to the trail with snow on him.

Lastly, before heading home, we snuck over to the pond by the park, and were surprised to see it completely iced over. I guess that's what being below freezing for three whole days will do. The ice wasn't very thick, though. My camera ran out of power at this point, but upon closer inspection we found a couple of places where either a deer or a hog had walked down to the pond, perhaps to take a drink, broke through the ice right near the bank, and then lept back out. See, it's not just us silly humans. The wildlife aren't used to this either. The pond was still very shallow at the break-through points, so no worries that the animal may have gotten trapped or drowned, but they must have gotten quite a chill spashing into that icy water.
By noon or so the sun had come out and was melting the snow, so it's good we went out when we did. It got up into the low 40's, which was warmer than it had been in days.
There were losses in the garden. I'm still waiting to see what will pull through, but several days below freezing, much of that without a protective blanket of snow, has taken it's toll. The fava beans, lettuce, garlic, and snow peas, while damaged, look like they will pull through. Everything else is iffy at best.
Finally, I thought it was neat how the sun melted all the snow in the front yard, except a perfectly birdbath-shaped patch in the shadow of the birdbath. The birdbath itself held a solid block of ice that took much longer to melt than anything else.

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