I spent most of today inside, but did make a trip to Swan Lake and then over to Alice Island this afternoon. I opted to bicycle today instead of taking Melissa’s scooter. I also bundled up a bit better than yesterday. The better clothing certainly helped, but I think actively biking instead of passively scootering made an even bigger difference. I noticed that even though my fingers started to get cold while I was riding, they warmed up right away when I stopped. I guess I had generated excess heat that needed to dissipate, so my body sent it to my hands and feet. On the way back (against the wind again), my hands and feet started to get cold, but once I got home, they warmed up right away, unlike yesterday.
Weather: Clear and cold again. Unofficially, it appears that the low temperature today (12F) broke the record (17F) set in 1955. It’s unlikely we’ll break the record again tomorrow as tomorrow’s record is 3F, set way back in 1985. Theoretically, I was old enough that I could remember that day, but I guess I didn’t pay enough attention to such things when I was 10. There was a wind out of the East that I noticed while on Alice Island, but it seems that we are protected from it at the house.
Birds: There are still ducks at Swan Lake. It looks like someone is keeping a hole open for them, or perhaps they are just swimming in it enough to keep it from freezing, I don’t know. If this weather keeps up all winter, I suspect there will be a fairly high mortality of ducks at the lake.
The main reason I went out this afternoon was because this morning a fellow bird enthusiast called me up to ask about the Snowy Owl. He had been unsuccessful finding it and wondered what the last report I had was. Part of his interest was because he had seen a raven on Alice Island with a wing that he described as ‘large and white with barring on it.’ The wing was stuck too high up in the tree to get a good look, but he wondered if it might be from the Snowy Owl. I was able to locate several feathers out near the bunker, and figured out from their dispersal and the wind direction the tree where the wing must have been stuck. After looking around a bit, I noticed something that I thought might be part of a wing on a branch that I could climb to. I climbed up the and it was a small part of the wing with bones and some primary feathers still attached. The feathers were too dark for me to think they came from the Snowy Owl, but they did seem fuzzy in a way that I associate with owl feathers (until I learn better, anyway). The longest of the primaries are at least 10 inches by my measurements. Given the coloring, size, and my assumption that it’s an owl, my best guess is that the feathers came from a Great Horned Owl. However, the photos of Great Horned Owl feathers that I have been able to find don’t quite match either.
After investigating the feathers, I walked back to see if I could get a look at the redpolls again. I heard, then saw, what I thought might be a sizable flock of Pine Siskins, but when I went over to see if there were any redpolls mixed in, I discovered it was actually a flock of Common Redpolls. Unfortunately the sun was setting, so I didn’t get a great look at them in the fading light, but I am pretty sure there were at least 30-40 birds in the flock. Either more have moved into the area, or they were gathering together in preparation to roost in a group tonight.
There were several Song Sparrows feeding on the abundant alder seeds around the island.
I thought I might have seen the Snowy Owl across the airport runway, but it was far enough away and my look fleeting enough, that I am not positive it was not a gull.
I noticed a Common Goldeneye near the entrance to Sealing Cove at the base of the bridge.