Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cold, Dark

Airport light pillars

WTF, right? They're called light pillars, because they look like pillars made of light, which is exactly what they are. The cause is flat crystals of ice floating in the air. If the air is still enough, the crystals float with their flat sides down, and a bunch of them together is effectively a big mirror. So light shining upwards gets reflected back down to your eyeball, and you see light that appears to come from up in the air.

City lights

So basically, any light source which leaks a significant amount of light up into the sky can develop a rod of light above it, which is the same color as the light on the ground. What I find interesting is the different color rods seem to happen at different heights - I don't know if that's a coincidence or not.

Light pillars

Usually this happens when it gets really cold and the air is full of 'diamond dust' ice. So yeah, it's cold out there! Winter happened. The days are getting short (today's sunset was at 3:30 in the afternoon) and word of mouth is that it reached -60ºF at Chena Hot Springs last night. Evidence of the cold is even making its way inside my little cabin:

Window frost

That's the frost accumulation at the corner of my window (inside!). It's also creeping in along the edges of the door, particularly on the metal latch and hinges:

Creeping frost More creeping frost

Must be all cold and lifeless outside, right? Not so! The redpolls started showing up at my feeder about a week ago, and now rival the chickadees in numbers:

Redpoll on a wire

Despite being barely 5 inches long and weighing less than half an ounce, the hardy little guys don't fly south for the winter, preferring to stick it out right here.

Fluttering Redpoll

The male Hairy Woodpecker is still around too! At the northern edge of their range, some of them fly south for winter. I haven't seen this guy for at least a month and assumed he'd done so, but he showed up the other day. No word on whether the female and youngster are still here:

Hairy Woodpecker is still here

The Gray Jays rummage around and occasionally pull surprising things out of the snow, like tater tots:

Gray Jays

What's down there? Found a tater tot.

If they can deal with it, what's your excuse?

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