Thursday, March 6, 2014

Hoarfrost and Horned Larks

The temperature last night dropped down below zero degrees Fahrenheit again. Because the ground temperature is higher than the air temperature, the water vapor that is rising up from the ground is condensing on any object that it touches forming hoarfrost.  Hoar comes from an Old English word that means "gray with age".  Hoarfrost gives trees and other objects a coating of ice crystals that resembles a covering of silver-white hair - thus the name.

White hoarfrost covered every tree, shrub and blade of grass this morning

After dropping my wife off at work I spent a short time driving around taking pictures of the hoarfrost.  The first three pictures were taken in the field behind the Saginaw Chippewa Academy.

Hoarfrost covered shrubs and small trees

The sun rising up over the hoarfrost covered landscape

Shrub covered in hoarfrost

The next few photos were taken on a new road just down the road from the Conservation District office.  The first picture shows a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) just after it took off from the closest hoarfrost covered tree.  There is a pair of Red-tailed Hawks that nests somewhere nearby.  This may be the same hawk that I photographed on a spruce tree in our parking lot in 2010.

Red-tailed Hawk and hoarfrost on trees

Hoarfrost on roadside weeds
Sun shining through a hoarfrost-covered woodland (Image 1)

Sun shining through a hoarfrost-covered woodland (Image 2)

Sun shining through a hoarfrost-covered woodland (Image 3)

At one point where I was stopped taking photographs, I could hear a small bird calling nearby.  I looked to my right and there was a Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) perched atop a pile of snow.  Horned Larks have long been one of my favorite birds and their arrival every year indicates that Spring will soon be here.  For the past two weeks the Larks have been returning to Mid-Michigan in large numbers - I have seen several flocks of more than a hundred as well as many smaller flocks and individual birds.  So despite this morning's cold temperature, I am certain that Spring is not far away!

Horned Lark

Horned Lark - note the black "bib" and yellow throat, the black "horns" are barely visible in this image

Horned Lark - preparing to fly away

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