It’s been… a week

rufous-sided towhee Pipilo erythrophthalmus trying to be sutble
Not a long week, not a hard week, not even a weird week – just a week. All over the place, and hard to categorize.

Riverwalk Hillsborough during winterThe snow from last week was still present when Monday rolled around, bright, sunny, and topping 15°c (60°f,) and a student wanted to take advantage of this, so we hit a new walking trail not far away, the River Walk in Hillsborough. Enough people had been walking it earlier that the snow was packed down in footprints, having become ice and thus making portions of it a little treacherous. However, the sunlight on the asphalt was eradicating it quickly, and thus only the shady portions and some of the wooden boardwalk sections still bore ice by our return trip. It’s also amusing to get into snowball fights when out without even a jacket (completely close the camera bag first. And are you carrying a towel within? Why not? Douglas Adams is displeased with you.)

It’s mating season for the birds, and we observed red-shouldered hawks marking territory with their desperate-sounding calls, and a mid-air duel between two red-tailed hawks. Seen in the top image, a male rufous-sided towhee, also known as an Eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) played hide-and-seek with us, probably courting a female that I glimpsed deeper within the thicket of vines. They are supposedly in the area year-round, but I’ve only spotted them myself during migratory periods, so I’m not sure about it right now.

There yet remains little to photograph – the daffodils have just started peeking up in places, a few buds are out here and there, but largely the landscape remains monochrome grey-brown, and if I were to pick a single word to describe it I’d go with, “stark.” It’s a good exercise, I suppose, in trying to find artsy little abstracts to separate out from the overall perspective of bare branches and dead grass, but yeah, I’m still waiting on spring. It’s nice to be out without a jacket and not worrying about the driving I suppose, which just means you can tell I’m ‘looking on the bright side’ for this public aspect to avoid the more accurate portrayal of being grumpy.

Carolina wren Thryothorus ludovicianus calling
Then Tuesday was cold and grey, but Wednesday was clear again and surpassed Monday in temperature, and I convinced another student to bump her meeting forward to take advantage of it. This time around was the botanical garden, which produced the calling Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) above, as well as some chorus frogs down in one of the ponds. Those are small frogs, smaller even than the American toads, and very hard to spot. The pond had enough of a protected buffer around it that I couldn’t get close, and hadn’t brought the better long lens with me, so the images I got were sub-par. I’m still looking for a good area to spot these guys, because we’re closing on their busy season for this latitude.

southern chorus frog Pseudagris nigrita nigrita successfully being subtle
moonlight exposure on EnoThe temperature stayed unseasonably warm well into the night, with a full moon shining down, and I realized I might not have conditions like this again for a while, abruptly deciding to take advantage of it. I knew the first student mentioned above was wanting to do night exposures, so I contacted him and he was game, and we went down to the same spot on the river that I checked out earlier, and he got some experience in doing long exposures by moonlight. Not only were we still working without jackets at midnight, but the spiders had wasted no time and were able to be spotted everywhere, their eyes reflecting our headlamps. Since I was leading the way on the paths, I was the one occasionally walking through the anchoring webs thrown between the trees, which resulted in bringing a rather large orb weaver back to the car riding on my arm. I managed to keep her there until I had exited the car, because had she bailed within I probably never would have been able to recapture her.

I want to point out something in this image: the shadows of the tree branches on the water, something that probably couldn’t be seen while there because of the shifting surface, but showed up in the long exposure. Much longer, and the movement of the moon through the sky might’ve eradicated them, allowing them to shift sideways and the areas behind them, formerly in shadow, to receive light and thus expose over the darkness left on the sensor. It also gives some indication that this might have had radically different results in summer, because those branches would be leafed out and a lot less moonlight would have been able to reach the water, probably giving a very narrow time frame to operate in since the moon would have to be right over the gap in the trees created by the river.

Thursday brought rain all day, with the threat of it turning freezing come nightfall, which never quite happened, and so of course today was bright and clear again, but cold. There remains one small patch of snow in the yard, part of the icebergs created by the snowplow that I then had to clear from in front of my car to get out on Monday, too thick to succumb to the sunlight and warm air. I know this doesn’t compare to the northern states – and it doesn’t compare to Florida, either, so you pick your comparison, and I’ll pick mine.

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