Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rare (for this year) Visitors

Recently we have been inundated with American Goldfinches. Most of the winter we have had only a smattering of these birds while having copious amounts of Dark-eyed Juncos. Both species would show up at the feeders immediately prior to and after any snowfall.

But this morning I spotted two birds I hadn't seen much of this season: a Pine Siskin and a Common Redpoll. The former drew my attention when I realized its back was brown and not the olive green of the goldies, the whitish wing bar did not stand out nearly as well against the brown not black wings of the goldies and the breast was heavily streaked unlike the smooth grey of the goldies. I didn't notice any of the yellow on the wings the Siskin is supposed to have, but then again, the goldies aren't exactly golden yet either. (When they begin to turn the color of daffodils we'll know spring is in the air!)

The Redpoll showed up while I was watching a mass of goldfinches hitting the feeder hoping to spot the Siskin again. Like the Siskin, it had the stripped breast and brown back and wings, but this little guy had a jaunty little red beret shoved low over his forehead and a reddish blush to his chin/breast.

Both the Siskin and Redpoll are birds of the far north that range south only to feed during the winter. I had thought that, despite reports from others in Pennsylvania--west and south of here, that they had passed us by in this year of a mild winter. Certainly two birds do not come close to the huge flocks we've had over the last two years, but it's better than not seeing them at all.

Neither bird stayed around--or still--long enough for me to get the camera out and snap their photo before they flitted off into the tree. *sigh* Maybe I'll get lucky and spot them again--now that the camera is at the ready.

While I'm taking about birds.... Yesterday we had some really strong winds that reached 40 mph coming out of the northwest. Perhaps that's what carried the Siskin and Redpoll our way. Standing on the deck early in the day I happened to catch a group of approximately 30 Wild Turkeys with their heads down and the wind at their backs hustling up the hill through the woods. In all likelihood they had been spooked from the field below us by either human, feline or canine activity. Whatever it was that got them moving, they were not going to slow down. They were trotting right along.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Snowy Morning At the Aerie

I was going to write about how we have enjoyed some Camelot Snow over the last week or so. (That's an inch or so of snow that arrives over night but melts away during the day.) The weather folks forecast a 2-4 inch fall overnight that would be followed by some pretty heavy rain which would wash it all away. Didn't happen. Those prognosticators proved they were NOT Merlin. We got the snow but no following rain.

Some 4+ inches of heavy, wet snow lay on the ground--which had been completely bare thanks to bright sunshine and 45+ degree temperatures on Thursday. Terry tackled the deck while I started with the shovel on the driveway. I soon gave that up and started up the tractor. (I deemed the snow too wet and heavy for the snow thrower to be of much use.) It took some time and I scrapped a good bit of the gravel and dirt that comprises the driveway, but the job did get done.

Terry headed out to the Bradford library for one of her stitching meetings and I went for t he mail. Our road hadn't been touched by a plow yet and the going was a bit rough but it was down hill. The paved roads and the dirt portion serviced by the school buses (two hour delay) had been plowed and were quite passable. Coming back up the hill I needed to switch over to 4-wheel high and had only a few moments when the Tundra slipped in the heavy snow. Of course, I was followed by the snow plow that cleared the road and spread some cinders in its wake.

The temp is now 35-36 degrees and there's a bit of a drizzle falling so what's left on the road and driveway may well be gone before things freeze up tonight.

The birds are pleased that the feeders are filled. I'm happy that the driveway and road are cleared and Terry should have little difficulty getting home this afternoon with the pizza she'll pick up in Troy. I even saw three deer pass through the back part of the yard when the snow plow created enough racket to stir them from their beds. Even the cats are happy--they just got fed.

Time for another cup of coffee.

Monday, February 20, 2012

GBBC 2012

Sent in my count for the yesterday. I spent the entire morning on the deck and looking out the windows to come up with my list. It's not terribly large but this has not been a winter for either many species or many individual birds.

Just 14 species on my list.

Red-tailed Hawk 1
Mourning Dove 15
Downy Woodpecker 3
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 7
American Crow 1
Common Raven 1
Black-capped Chickadee 9
Tufted Titmouse 3
White-breasted Nuthatch 3
Brown Creeper 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 35
Northern Cardinal 1
American Goldfinch 18

I didn't actually "see" the Raven or the Crow, but they were calling from somewhere nearby. The voices of the two are pretty distinct.

I first heard the Pileated Woodpecker calling from across the street where there's a tree that has obviously gotten its attention. Then it flew through the yard heading for another excavated tree up on the hill that I saw the other day.

The Red-tailed Hawk flew out of one of the white pines on the hill above the Aerie and circled once before disappearing over the ridge.

I spotted the nearly invisible Brown Creeper working its way up a locust trunk on the other side of the yard. Once it got to the second level of branches it swooped down to another tree deeper into the woods and I lost sight of it.

The rest were visitors to the several feeders I've got on the deck and in the side yard. They are here nearly every single morning--right after I scare the fattening squirrels away.

The rest

The 2012 Yukon Quest is Fini

The Mushing Loon posted this on the Yukon Quest 2012 forum on the Iditirod site this morning at 8:03 AM.

Yukon Quest Update #25
The Red Lantern is in!

The 2012 Yukon Quest officially ended Sunday night at 8:05 local time when Michael Telpin crossed the finish line in Whitehorse. The Russian musher finished with all 9 of his native Chukchi dog...s, winning the Challenge of the North Award as the musher “who most exemplifies the Spirit of the Yukon Quest.”
The race ended 15 days, 8 hours, 5 minutes, 22 seconds after it started.

Rookie Marcelle Fressineau finished only 45 minutes before, making it a closer finish than it appeared it was going to be.

Complete Final Standings got to The Loon's Mushing Report: Yukon Quest

Congratulations to Michael Telpin and his team of dogs upon competing their first Yukon Quest. Congratulations also to the 18 men and women and their teams who finished ahead of Telpin. Four other teams scratched during the race and one never got off the line at Fairbanks because the musher was too ill. Congratulations, too, to the many, many volunteers working to make this race happen.

The Iditarod--The Last Great Race On Earth--kicks off in just over 12 days!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Today's the Day!

Pitchers and Catchers, baby!

It's on!

This year I'm going to find a way to go to a couple of games. Minor or major league won't matter as long as I can get out to the ball park and watch the action while sipping a beer (or two) and eating some peanuts, popcorn, Crackerjacks and hot dogs.

Spring is when every major league hopeful aims to impress and make the roster. Every year some young phenom shows up and heads north with the team. This causes the casual fan to ask the most important question:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Yukon Quest update.

Two men and their dog teams remain on the trail to Whitehorse.

Marcelle Fressineau, in 18th place, has arrived at the Braeburn Checkpoint. Michael Telpin, in 19th place and the current Red Lantern, is approximately 48 miles short of Braeburn and appears to be camped. (His last position was reported some 6 and a half hours ago.

Both men need to spend at least 8 hours in Braeburn before heading out to Whitehorse and the finish line 100 miles away.

IF they continue, Telpin should finish early Monday morning bringing the 2012 Yukon Quest, The Toughest Race In The World, to an end.

Just When You Thought ... was safe to go back in the water.

Sea otters face a growing threat: shark attacks

California's sea otters have struggled for years with diseases, parasites and even the occasional collision with boats. But now the fuzzy coastal mascots are increasingly facing another threat: shark attacks.

For reasons still a mystery to scientists, the number of sea otters killed by sharks has soared in recent years, with great whites as the leading suspects.
In the mid-1990s, about 10 percent of the dead sea otters found along the California coast had shark bites. Today, it's about 30 percent -- and growing -- to the point where shark attacks now represent the largest hurdle to the otters' recovery from the endangered species list.

Sea otters may be cute and fuzzy little acrobats in the water, but something out there is doing a number on the population. And scientists aren't sure why the sharks are going after them. Perhaps the sharks need glasses. Or maybe they are just opportunists.

One major change: the abundance of elephant seals. Until 1990, the large mammals were rare along the coast in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. But that year, two dozen came ashore at Piedras Blancas, near Hearst Castle. Now there are more than 15,000.

A small number of white sharks, perhaps juveniles, could be coming into the area to feed on young elephant seals and ending up killing otters, as well, Tinker said. Had the rate of shark attacks remained where it was a decade ago, there would be about 500 more California sea otters now -- around 3,250, according to his computer models. That would be enough to reach the 3,090 population target to remove the otter from the federal endangered species list.

In any case, the sharks have discovered something the killer whales up north have known for a couple of decades: Sea otters taste good.

In the 1990s, Tinker and other biologists published studies showing that orca whales in southern Alaska were beginning to feed on otters there. Since then, the otter population there has fallen from 80,000 to about 5,000.

The question then arises:

Can anything be done?

No, he said. Even if people wanted to try to identify the sharks responsible and somehow kill them, others could easily take their place.

"It's a hard thing to explain to people," he said. "But there's nothing we can do about changes in shark distribution or shark behavior. It's natural."

On Getting Older

These thought about getting older came over the email transom today.

On hunting:

Shot my first turkey yesterday,

Scared the HELL out of everyone in the frozen food section…

It was awesome!

Getting old is so much fun....

ings of a Retired Mind

I was thinking about how a status symbol of today is those cell phones that everyone has clipped onto their belt or purse. I can't afford one. So, I'm wearing my garage door opener. I also made a cover for my hearing aid and now I have what they call blue teeth, I think.

You know, I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people didn't like me anyway.

I was thinking that women should put pictures of missing husbands on beer cans!

I was thinking about old age and decided that old age is 'when you still have something on the ball, but you are just too tired to bounce it.'

I thought about making a fitness movie for folks my age, and call it 'Pumping Rust'.

I've gotten that dreaded furniture disease. That's when your chest is falling into your drawers!
When people see a cat's litter box, they always say, 'Oh, have you got a cat?' Just once I want to say, 'No, it's for company!'

Employment application blanks always ask who is to be notified in case of an emergency. I think you should write, 'A Good

I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older. Then, it dawned on me. They were cramming for their finals.

As for me, I'm just hoping God grades on the curve.

Enjoy Your Days & Love Your Life,

Because life is short and a journey to be savored.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The GBBC is On!

The Great Backyard Bird Count is underway!

Starting today (February 17) and running through Monday (February 20) the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society are sponsoring an event aimed at counting birds all across North America. Participants should count (and identify the species of) birds in any one locale for a minimum of 15 minutes. You can do this in your backyard, at a nearby park or sitting in the woods somewhere. After tallying your list, you can go to the GBBC web site and post the results.

The web site has a multitude of information for those not familiar with such efforts. There are How-to links; an instructional video; and a running tally of numbers of checklists, species and individual birds. Check out all the links on the right side of the GBBC page, too. The Photo Gallery and Learn About Birds are especially enjoyable.

And there are prizes for some lucky participants, too!

Talking Baseball, RIP Gary Carter

It's nearly the start of the major league baseball season. Some players are already reporting to spring training camps in Florida and Arizona although things won't get really going until Sunday, February 19th. That's the date for pitcher's and catchers to report. Position players will be appearing later in the week (Friday, February 24th).

It's a time for hope and dreams to spring eternal. Next Year is here and every player and every fan has hopes his/her team can make it to post season play and, perhaps, the World Series.

Still, there is sadness in the air as well. The death of Gary Carter--aged 57, former catcher of the Montreal Expos, member of the 1986 New York Mets' World Champions, 11 time All-Star, 3 time Golden Glove winner, Hall of Famer--has cast a pall upon the sunlight diamonds. Diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer just last May, The Kid succumbed to the disease on Thursday, February 16th.

He will be sorely missed.

More here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I Bet It Was!

Smokehouse Blaze 'Best-Smelling Fire We've Seen In A Long Time': Pennsylvania Firefighters

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Firefighters in Pennsylvania have managed to save 200 pounds of Polish sausage from what they're calling the best-smelling fire they've doused in years.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Yukon Quest is won!

The Yukon Quest is won! (Not over it won't be over for a couple of days when the final musher and his/her team crosses the line in Whitehorse.)

Hugh Neff out sprinted Allen Moore to the finish line. The time difference was less than a minute. Neff was officially clocked in at 5:14 AM and Moore at 5:15 AM.

Five plus hours later (10:39 AM) third place went to Lance Mackey. Jake Berkowitz took fourth, arriving at 12:31 PM.

There are still 15 mushers on the trail--or possibly only 13 since two seem to have skipped one of the check points at the McCabe Creek Dog Drop.

The Red Lantern (final musher) is Michael Turpin who left Dawson at 19:22 PM yesterday. He's currently somewhere around mile marker 585 meaning he's got a tad over 400 miles to go. Michael is a rookie to the Quest from Chukotka, Siberia, Russia.

I believe the rules say something about 60 hours after the first musher crosses the finish line the race is officially over. Turpin will not make it to Whitehorse in that time--nor will a couple of others just ahead of him. Checkpoints may be closed when they get to them and assistance may not be available as volunteers head for home.

Of course, nothing short of the RCMP will be able to get some of them off the trail. It's not always about being first. Sometimes just finishing is as important.

Many of these folks and their dogs will be setting off on another 1000 mile race in just over 17 days. The Iditarod, from Anchorage to Nome, starts on March 3rd.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Aerie Report, February 12, 2012

I haven't written much this week, but it's certainly been interesting in a couple of minor ways.

Terry got a gift of a vase and a bulb for a paper-white narcissus for Christmas. It sat o n the counter for nearly a month before she added water to it and within a week the roots began to grow. A couple of days later the green leaf shoots started lengthening and then two flower stalks emerged.

Well, for a week and a half we could almost see those greens growing skyward if we just stared at them long enough. Everyday they'd be a half inch or more taller in the morning and another half inch by bed time. Things grew like Jack's beanstalk!

Last Sunday, the flower buds burst open and two clusters of pretty little white flowers appeared.

I was out of the house most of Monday, but on Tuesday my eyes started itching, my nose stated dripping and I started sneezing hard enough to tweek the muscles in my lower back. If I sneezed any harder, the walls of the house would have given way!

This continued on Wednesday and Thursday despite my taking my daily Loratadine tablet every morning. (That little pill makes it possible to have three cats in the house.) Trying to think of what might be causing my obviously allergic reaction we finally settled on the paper-white narcissus and it was exiled to the guest bedroom around noon on Friday.

It took a while before I started to recover, but by Saturday I was back to normal and continued to be itchy-eyes, runny-nose and sneeze free. Coincidence? The only way to find out is for me to go and sit in the guest bedroom for an hour. And I, for one, will not tempt fate.


Friday saw the temperatures around the Aerie begin to fall down below the historical averages. Clouds moved in and by Saturday noon hour it was flurrying. Not much, but enough to say it was doing something. Forecast initially said we would have only an inch or so but then they changed to "up to 3 inches" later tin the day. It was to stop by 8 PM. And it did. But then we started to have snow squalls all day Sunday. One minute the sun would shine through a break in the clouds and the next we would have white-out conditions with the wind whipping the powdery snow that fell on Saturday about as much as blowing the new stuff sideways.

And the Sunday morning temperature was just 7 degrees. Got as high as 18 though. Still, that's colder than the folks running the Yukon Quest are experiencing.

Tomorrow, they say, it will be mostly sunny with the temperatures reaching the upper 30s so, except for the deck, I left the snow lay where it fell. Mother Nature can do the cleanup this time around.


Terry and I were going to support the local church yesterday by going to their beef and chicken dinner. We scraped the snow and ice off the Tundra's windshield and drove down in the snow and were surprised to see that the parking lot was empty. Either Terry got the wrong night or the wrong church, or the thing got cancelled because of the snow. At any rate, we found ourselves down the hill with no firm plans for dinner. So, off to Mansfield and Papa V's for some fine Italian food.

We passed on the pizza and went for an appetizer of fried calamari and entrees of chicken parmigiano. Mmmm-mmm, good!

By the time we got home, I had to put the truck into 4-wheel to assure we would get up the hill. Drifting snow from the fields and pastures at the base of the hill had filled in much of the road.


Only thing that intruded upon a nice dinner out was some college aged kid sitting at the next table with his girlfriend and, I suppose, his mom and dad. The kid was loudly pontificating on the need for more than a high school diploma to get a job, the gas companies, the rise of tuition at Mansfield U, and education cuts made by the Governor.

I finally had enough and asked him to lower his voice since some of us wanted to enjoy our meal and had no interest in his ill-formed opinion. Surprisingly, he did.

I later thought of his comments and, if I had had the desire, could have put him in his place with just a few points. The gas companies are hiring people left right and sideways. Some of their jobs need special training WHICH THEY WILL PROVIDE so even a high school grad can get a gas job. The influx of gas workers has caused a boom in numerous support businesses in the area and there are help wanted signs up all over. I'm sure lots of those jobs do not require more than a high school diploma. How many more high school diplomaed kids would get jobs more easily if the high schools still taught skills like auto shop, carpentry, home economics (specifically cooking) instead of believing every kid must be trained to go to college? (On the home ec front, some entrepreneurial young ladies in the area have set up a housekeeping service to tend to the many single gas workers and drill rig offices that need cleaning up after. They say business is booming!)

Rise in tuition at MU? You mean the school that just had a building spurt and put up a couple of big dorms? Does it still teach things like "women's studies"? Why?

As for the cut in education monies the Governor has put in his budget (some $900 million), spread across the state of Pennsylvania that's not much at all. And in this area we actually had a round of consolidation recently because some schools were being underused. Imagine that.

The fact that this young man was spouting his opinions in an eatery that just doubled its size because of the gas boom and from whose windows one could see a micro brewery that didn't exist a little over a year ago and a Mexican cantina that is just two years old, and just down the street from a local bank branch that handled $130 million dollars in deposits last year--mostly from gas royalties payed to land owners...well, that was icing on the cake.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Changes (For others. Not for me.)

Gregor (aka Sad Old Goth) has changed his location. He's moved his blog from Blogger to Wordpress and also changed its name. He's now at: it's enough to make married men go home...

I'll be updating the sidebar to reflect those changes.

Reasons for his move had something to do with a straw and a camel's back...or something.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Aerie Weather Report, February 8, 2012

This winter has been a weird one. The temperatures have probably averaged right around the average but it's been more of a roller coaster ride than a smooth-lake canoe paddle. One day we might never get above freezing and the next it will be 50 degrees or more. Monday when I went down to Harrisburg and back, the sun shone brightly and the thermometer in the Tundra registered 54 degrees. Tuesday it was overcast and cloudy with a fair breeze from the north and the temp was no more than 30 at its highest. Today it's slightly colder with only the tiniest of a breeze out of the south and a sprinkling of snow flurries.

Speaking of snow, there isn't any on the ground around these parts. That's both good and bad. If it continues this way, there won't be much of a spring freshet in the creeks and rivers so there won't be any flooding to speak of--and after last fall's disaster that's a good thing. The counties and towns are saving tons of money on their snow removal budget which is a boon not soon overlooked. (I just hope they are wise enough to hang on to that money for next November and December.) The bad news is that the little bit of snow we are getting is not adding much to the water table. When it melts now, the ground is too frozen for it to soak in and, as a result, it merely runs off in the streams and rivers heading to the Chesapeake Bay. For all the rain we got last fall, it has been a dry, dry, dry winter.

As to the forecast for the next two weeks, AccuHunch is not terribly encouraging. In the next fourteen days, Mostly Sunny appears just three times, Partly Cloudy twice, Mostly Cloudy once, Cloudy twice, Freezing Rain three times, Showers once, and Dreary twice. (What the heck do they mean by "Dreary?" I have several meteorology courses under my belt and never once saw or heard of a weather condition classed as "Dreary" except in a Jane Eyre or Conan Doyle novel when they spoke of some damp castle upon the moor. Dreary, indeed.

As to the temperatures, it will get colder on Saturday with the high forecast to be just 21 degrees. It will then warm slightly and we'll see the daytime temps in the low 40s from next Tuesday on. (The "Freezing Rain" part must be coming at night when things drop down to the low 20s.) Sounds like the kind of weather the maple sap gatherers would like...if it came a month from now. I don't think the trees are ready to wake up quite yet. Those Ents are hardly hasty folk.

This weather has been playing havoc with our bird feeding. The lack of snow cover means there's plenty of places for the seed eaters to forage. They've only been showing up for an hour or two each day.

The gray squirrels, on the other hand, are another kettle of fish. Sharks. They have been here nearly every day in numbers ranging into double digits. It's not unusual to have four on the deck and the same number over on the side lawn.

It's comical to watch the squirrels at the two stick feeders hanging over the edge of the deck. They grasp the bottom perches and pull the feeder toward them so they can snatch a seed from the openings. They look like little submariners peering through the periscope.

They can empty the one feeder in no time flat. Of the 150 pounds of sunflower seeds I've put out this year, I'd estimate half of it--if not more--went to the squirrels.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Goin' Fishing

Joe and I booked a northern Quebec fly-in fishing trip for the week of August 9 through August 16.

We were able to get the outpost cabin we wanted. It's the same one we took our sons to when they were 8 and 9 years old...20 years ago.

We also walked around the show's floor for 2-1/2 hours and we didn't go to all the display halls but held ourselves to the hunting and fishing halls.

Blogging Award

Paul in Anchorage just awarded me (and others) this blog award. The drill is to pass along the 'love' to other bloggers.

Here are the rules:

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award

3. Pick your five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award. (I'm not sure about the followers count for the blogs I've chosen, but I do enjoy the posts at each of them. Just wish some would post more often. That's a hint Dudley.)

4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs.

1. Northview Diary (Threecollie, I don't have your email so help yourself to the award.)
2. Stitchen in the Willows
3. At The Water
4. Scary Yankee Chick
5. Dudleys Diary

Aw gosh. Shucks.

Going shoppin'

My buddy Joe and I are heading to the Eastern Sports and Outdoors Expo down in Harrisburg Monday morning. We want to book a fishing trip in northern Quebec with Caesar's North Camps for sometime in August.

We've gone with Olivier's for many trips and enjoyed each one. Walleye and Northern Pike are our quarry. The former for their taste and the latter for their fight. If we get to go to the cabin we would like (the first one we ever went to nearly 20 years ago, Hanotaux), we'll be able to bring some of those Walleye home with us to the delight of the wives.

Besides booking a trip, we'll spend a couple hours walking about and checking out all the booths.

Friday, February 03, 2012

There's more than one way to deal with invasive species...

Puerto Rico to kill iguanas, export meat
The island's government is announcing plans to kill as many of the reptiles as possible and export their meat in hopes of eradicating an imported species that has long vexed residents and entertained tourists.

The U.S. Caribbean territory has roughly 4 million iguanas, which is a little more than the island's human population, according to Daniel Galan Kercado, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources.

"This is a very big problem. We have to attack it," he said in an interview Friday. "It has impacted structures, the economy, crops and the ecosystem."

Puerto Rico has long struggled to eradicate the bright green reptiles that can grow up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) long and have a life span of some 20 years. Iguanas are considered an endangered species throughout most of Latin America, but Puerto Rico is overrun with them, in part because they breed so quickly and have few natural predators.

Maybe they can just run a scam like The Freshman. No. Wait. They didn't actually kill the endangered species in that movie.

I wonder what iguana tastes like?

Heh. Doesn't matter. A little stir fry with snap peas, broccoli, some of those baby corns and Sriracha sauce and it'll be fine. Just like chicken!

Just a reminder: Cold Kills

As a reminder of the devastating effects cold can have on humans, we have this report about the latest cold spell in Europe:

Toll from Europe freeze tops 220
Temperatures plunged to new lows in Europe where a week-long cold snap has now claimed more than 220 lives and forecasters warned Friday that the big freeze would tighten its grip over the weekend.

A total of 223 people have died from the cold weather in the last seven days according to an AFP tally, with Ukraine suffering the heaviest toll.

In addition to the deaths, some...shall we say...interesting weather has occurred. For instance ice skates might become more useful than a gondola in Venice. And you might want to leave the toga home when you go to Rome.
In Italy, Venice's canals started freezing over and even Rome was dusted in snow.
Temperatures plunged to minus 35 Celsius in some areas of Poland.

In Bulgaria parts of the River Danube froze over

Snow Falls in Rome as Italy Is Hit by Cold Snap
A rare snowfall blanketed Rome on Friday, forcing the closure of the Colosseum over fears tourists would slip on the icy ruins, and leaving buses struggling to climb the city's slushy hills. Other parts of the country experienced frigid temperatures unseen in years.

Authorities stopped visitors from entering the Colosseum, the adjacent Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, the former home of Rome's ancient emperors, although those already inside the ruins before thick flakes began coming down in late morning were allowed to finish their visits. The director of the ancient arena, Rossella Rea, said there was concern visitors could fall on ice.

The last substantial snowfall in Rome occurred in 1986, though lighter snowfalls have occasionally and briefly blanketed the city since, including in 2010.

Then there's the heating problem in the city...
Since the capital infrequently sees freezing temperatures, heating in homes is only allowed by law for about 10 hours a day, to cut down on pollution. The cold snap, with temperatures hovering at or just below the freezing point, meant Romans shivered in their homes, many with tile and marble floors.

The cold in Poland has halted the annual swim, too.

Deep freeze hits Poland's hardy lake swimmers
"In the interests of our participants' security, we've decided to call off this year's Bath of the Brave," Ireneusz Dzienisiewicz told Poland's PAP news agency.
But temperatures in northern Poland have plunged to minus 30 Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit), far below the minus 15 Celsius experienced by swimmers in 2010 during the coldest ever edition of the event.

On top of the risks to the swimmers, there were also practical reasons for cancelling the event.

"The water freezes so fast that we wouldn't be able to keep a large enough hole in the ice," said Dzienisiewicz.

Ho-hum. Nothing new here

Seems ever year we get a report of something like this:
18-Mile Crack Seen by NASA in Antarctic Glacier
In the next few months, scientists expect the glacier to create an iceberg about 350 square miles in area. It will probably float northward, melting as it goes.

And at about this time of year, too. Problem is, the glaciers push out onto the sea, become unsupported from below and crack. Do they then float off as the article suggests? Sometimes. But just as often they refreeze when the Antarctic winter reappears. Which happens to be right around the corner.

ps Don't believe the tag line at the end of the article that says both poles are losing ice. Aint' happening.

Under "You can't make this stuff up"

New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation got so many handwritten comments on hydrofracking, that one of its employees responsible for scanning them into digital form has suffered a shoulder injury. No. Really.

Hydrofracking comments present new problem: Scanning shoulder
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is conducting an ergonomic review of a temporary office for scanning and logging the tens of thousands of responses after an employees' union lodged a complaint last month.

A worker assigned to the "bullpen" -- as the office has been dubbed -- suffered a shoulder injury in January that the union suspects may have been caused by an inefficient setup, said Wayne Bayer, a DEC steward for the Public Employees Federation.

The complaint, Bayer said, led to a shutdown of the scanning for "a day or two" last month. The union claims the injury was likely caused by "improper equipment, improper level of the equipment" or the motion of repeatedly operating the scanners, he said.


Okay. Here's the plot. Send a bunch of Russian scientists down to Antarctica to drill thousands of feet through the ice sheet to a lake far, far below the surface. A lake that last saw the light of day when all the land masses of earth formed Pangaea.

And, working under very harsh and rushed circumstances, just as they are poised to tap into that lake (call it "Lake Vostok") all contact with the team is lost. What happened? What did they release when they hit that pocket of very, very ancient water? Will they be found before the Antarctic winter rolls in once more?

It would make one heck of a movie. Except it is real.

Russian scientists seeking Lake Vostok lost in frozen 'Land of the Lost'?

Good questions.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Winter Sports

With college football's National Signing Day over, there's a long, six-month wait until there's a game played. That would be somewhere near the end of August. A l-o-n-g time away.

Meanwhile there's the Super Bowl being played this Sunday. After that there's a l-o-n-g six month wait for a pro football game that means anything.

And Major League baseball doesn't start for real until around April 1. The Mets first game is April 5th, at home, against the Braves. (Spring training does start in February, but that's little more than a time to learn who's on the team.)

There's still things worth paying attention to, however. Saturday, February 4th is the start of the Yukon Quest sled dog race. This year's 1000-mile race starts in Fairbanks and ends in Whitehorse, BC. (They change the direction of the race each year.) You can follow the race through the official web site.

Coming a month before the Iditarod, the Yukon Quest often sees many of the same racers and their dogs. (Some dogs will be switched out between the two races as the teams suffer injuries or the mushers determine which dogs are better at the long distance.) The Quest hasn't got as big a name as the Iditarod and this will be just the 29th running of the Quest compared to the 40th running of Iditarod, but it is just as interesting to follow and has just as much adventure and danger.

The Iditarod itself begins on March 3rd and can be followed here. It's the World Series and Super Bowl of sled dog racing. Like the Quest, the top finishers should end up in Nome somewhere around 10 to 12 days after the race begins. And I'll be following both races from start to finish.

And Phil says...

Oh well, Phil says it's shadows all the way down.

Six more weeks of winter.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Groundhog Day 2012

The eNature Blog asks the question: How Can A Groundhog Predict The End Of Winter?

Thursday's forecast is for a bit of a shower--although the sky here at the Aerie is perfectly clear at 8 PM Wednesday.

At 7:20 AM EST Thursday, February 2nd at Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club will be broadcasting Phil's Prognostication. Here.

R U Rah! Rah!

Today was National Signing Day for college football recruits and my Scarlet Knights succeeded in inking the best class in school history. ESPN ranks this Rutgers' class as the #25 class in the nation and better than any other Big East squad. MaxPreps says it's #23. Rivals has it as #23 and 247 has it as #22. Any way you slice it, when you consider the turmoil created by the departure of head coach Greg Schiano to take the same position with the NFL's Tampa Bay Bucs, this was one heck of an accomplishment.

Those recruits who were truly committed to the Rutgers' program and philosophy, as well as the assistant coaches and Athletic Director did a marvelous job in holding the group together.

As for the class' composition, it meets the teams needs. Six of the 20 in the incoming class are offensive linemen. One, is the #3 center in the nation. Two others are among the top 25 offensive tackles. One is an experienced transfer from Maryland. They are all very, very big guys who have been outstanding players in high school and should help revitalize a running game that has been missing since Ray Rice left to join the NFL Ravens.

Add defensive end Darius Hamilton, ranked by some to be among the top 10 players in the nation. (His Dad played 12 years with the New York Giants.) Sprinkle in a couple of wide receivers, several linebackers and a few exceptional athletes capable of playing on either side of the ball and you've got on heck of a promise.

I can't wait for the 2012 season to start.