All that glitters is not cold

… except, for this post, it really is.

backlit snowpack ice
True to North Carolina form, the day after the snowstorm is remarkably clear, even if it’s a tad chillier than it was during the storm (by like a degree.) My sinuses were protesting and I’d already spent time clearing off The Girlfriend’s car, so I intended to keep my outing brief, but I couldn’t pass on the opportunity of course. The snow had all partially melted due to the air temperature as it fell, then refroze during the night, so what we had was actually ice clusters, which sparkle a lot more than snow does.

It’s this kind of thing that makes me regret how slow our technology in digital photography has progressed in certain areas. Manufacturers are concentrating on cramming ever more megapixels into sensors, but the dynamic range remains largely the same, and the display on these LCD monitors falls into a really dismal scale. The bright sparkles here should just about hurt your eyes for an accurate impact, but they’ll be nowhere near that bright no matter how you view them. Hey, all you techie people, let’s get on this!

refraction from melting ice droplets on pine needles
It’s also pretty challenging to capture the rainbow refraction that produces starbursts of intense color from the melting ice when viewed at the right angle, but that’s the fault of lenses and apertures more than digital sensors. The orange shows up well enough, but you only get a hint of the teal from the drop to the left. If you ever tackle this, a larger aperture helps, and do a lot of shots because luck plays a large part.

I’m not about to drive up to Gold Park, where we shot the early blossoming trees a couple of posts back, so we’re going for this right now as seasonal commentary.

red bud blossoms under topping of snow ice
I don’t recall which trees these were and can’t identify them by the blossoms – I was initially going to say sweetgum, but the gumballs are still visible on the branches of those, so no. Not a lot of chance of them getting pollinated today, anyway.

And another, altered to show a trait of the morning.

tree branches and visible blowing ice and water in the air
I boosted contrast and adjusted saturation on this to make a detail more visible, but getting it beyond the subtle aspect seen here made it look incredibly unrealistic. The sun was warm enough to be melting off the ice, with the occasional breezy gust, and the air was actually full of misty droplets and falling ice bits anywhere near a tree, so getting gently pelted with these was par for the day. If you look closely at the clear blue sky areas, you’ll see they’re full of white spots of the ice and water drops.

I had no intention of chasing bird pics, but they seemed galvanized by the snow or sunshine or something to be active, so even with casual shooting I netted a handful of different species.

male northern cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis in bare tree with snow tufts
The northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) adore this stuff, of course, and this one was patient enough to let me shift slightly for a clearer view and better framing, then posed momentarily for posterity before flying off into more of a thicket where it was nigh invisible.

As I walked along I spooked a northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) from a tree where I hadn’t seen it at all, its pale rump flashing during its swooping flight, but it landed not far off in good light and I snagged a couple of frames.

male northern flicker Colaptes auratus on pine trunk
I don’t see enough flickers around here, which is a shame because they’re cool birds, but it’s possible that I’m just not searching hard enough – the other woodpeckers tend to draw more attention to themselves, at least. The dark ‘mustache’ mark denotes this as a male, like the cardinal above (which is indicated by the bright red color for that species.) The black bib is also a distinctive trait of the flicker, but my angle here shows only the barest hint of it.

I’d been hearing the semi-distant calls of the next one, but caught it out of the corner of my eye as it silently flew to a new perch. It, too, gave me just a few moments for a couple of frames before it flew off again.

red-bellied woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus also perched on trunk
This is a red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus,) which I see a lot more of, and hear even more often, though they’re comparable in size and habits to the flickers. Again, a male – the females lack red on top of the head though they still have it on the neck. Neither ever seems to show a red belly, to be honest, though I believe there’s a hint of it on the males during breeding season and no other time. I think ornithologists could have tried harder to name them something appropriate.

And I’ve said the same for this next one, too.

double-crested cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus perched on piling in pond
Here we have a double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus,) so-named because during breeding season the males have two narrow stripes of paler feathers on their crowns – as much as I’ve seen and photographed these birds, I’ve never seen this at all myself, so I think it’s all bullshit and the few photo examples out there have all been Photoshopped. I tend to consider these warmer weather birds, seen more often at the coast though the numbers may be increasing here inland, and I wasn’t expecting to see one in this weather; a couple years back one spent some months in the summer in this pond, perching on the same pilings in fact, so we’ll just have to see what happens.

By the way, these pilings are a matter of slight frustration, because their position means they’re always backlit and too many species seem to like them. Maybe I need to erect some big reflectors on the bank nearby.

And for our last pic, I’ll go slightly fartsy with one of the ubiquitous Canada geese (Branta canadensis,) which I have more than enough photos of (as does everyone, I guess,) but I liked the sun’s reflection in the water alongside it. Plus it brings my photo uploads this month to 49, not too shabby for the winter and the slow start. And I still have at least another ‘On This Date’ photo coming.

Canada goose Branta canadensis with sun's glare