Comments : 2 Comments »
Tags: fog, sapsucker woods
Categories : contrast, habitat, nature, perspective
Sapsucker Woods has always been a place where clouds and moisture get the chance to interact with terra firma. It sits over 700 feet above lakeside Ithaca, and cold rain and wind on the lakeshore can often lead to whiteout conditions and snow accumulation here at the Lab. As far back as 1950, studies indicated that humidity is typically higher and temperatures are usually lower here than in Ithaca (up to 10% in Owen’s 1950 thesis).
This last Thursday was a perfect example of humidity interacting with temperatures to create our own foggy fantasyland. Each day, I drive across two creek watersheds on the way to work. On this day, the first of the watersheds was draped in a high fog, the second filled with brilliant sun. My arrival at the Lab was greeted with high clouds and scattered patches of blue sky. Within two hours, the temperature had decreased a few degrees, and an intense fog rolled in (shutting down the airport as well!) The picture above was taken midmorning, and it remained that way for several hours, giving a surreal sense of wandering through an out-of-focus dreamscape…
By midafternoon the skies had cleared, the temperature had risen a few degrees and planes were buzzing around the skies, making me wonder if it had all just been a dream. Then, looking at the pile of work still remaining to be done on my desk, I hoped that I was still dreaming.
Comments : 2 Comments »
Categories : contrast, habitat, hubris, non-avian, perspective
As Spring nears and the sunlight increases, let us not forget the beauty of the last few months. Currently Sapsucker Woods pond is crisscrossed with the paths of geese fighting and celebrating their triumphs, a morass of rotten ice and brown murk. Soon the honking of the geese will give way to the spring peepers, the trilling sparrows, and those beautiful gems of the North American landscape, the warblers.
But-as everything gets richer and messier, I find it oddly calming to think of the pond in midwinter. Its solid surface a shining blue, the snow in regularly spaced spindrifts that suggest art, and the frenzied sounds of the chickadees…For all its length and stubborn darkness, winter in Sapsucker Woods is a great time for contemplation and reflection, and for all the hubbub that awaits us in the coming Spring, there is small piece of me that will yearn for the simplicity of winter.
Comments : Leave a Comment »
Tags: aerial imagery, maps, perspective, retrospective, sapsucker woods
Categories : exotics, habitat, non-avian, perspective
Seize the day!
Live in the now!
These exhortations can be heard from time to time, trying to convince someone to pay more attention to what’s happening in the present. Funny thing is, sometimes it takes a look at the past to put the present in context. I am asked many questions about the history of Sapsucker Woods, and I have been perusing the back catalog of old newsletters to Lab of Ornithology members, trying to piece together some of the manmade influences that had helped to shape its current habitat. In doing so I stumbled upon a rich trove of aerial imagery that goes back over 70 years, and decided to do a retrospective photo history of Sapsucker Woods.
Most people who visit the Lab assume that the pond has always been there, and that this small chunk of woodlands has been protected forever. The truth, however, is much more interesting. So, if you’re interested in taking a trip on the wayback machine, or perhaps getting a little help from a cardboard box (a la Calvin & Hobbes), click on the Sapsucker Woods Aerial Photos tab below the header and enjoy.
Comments : 1 Comment »
Tags: buteo jamaicensis, sapsucker woods
Categories : birds, habitat, nature, video
This winter has seen the persistent presence of a single banded Red-tailed Hawk in Sapsucker Woods. Whether she’s harassing the red-shouldered hawk or being harassed by a murder of crows, her burnt-red tail never fails to bring color to a drab Ithaca day. Nor terror to an suspecting prey item. Recently we were watching while she stooped on an unsuspecting short-tailed shrew; the result? Three quick bites, and a little blood on the talons. Sort of a tapas dish for the Buteo crew. Other days the results are more gruesome:
Talon marks in the snow and a half-meter of rabbit intestine spooled out amid the footprints of mice and squirrels. Just another reminder that life’s violent ends can, in the case of a bunny, sometimes be tasty; also, that a clean blanket of snow is perfect for getting a surreptitious look at the eating habits of animals…
Despite my earlier posts lambasting Rhamnus in all its glory, the birds seem to find it an acceptable substitute for a native berry bush. The cold and snow makes their preference visible in the form of a shotgun blast of purple pellets, the cast-off bits from consuming the small purple berries that festoon the branches of buckthorn all along the trails on the north side of Sapsucker Woods.
Even more fun is stumbling upon the chipped up remains from the ardent attention of a woodpecker. It’s almost as though I have encountered the workshop of a small elf, chiseling away at the trees for some arcane purpose.