Thursday, March 30, 2006

Weatherwatch II

From Monday to Wednesday this week, it has drizzled constantly. At times it's been little more than a light mist that didn't seem to be falling at all. It means that the snow's going to disappear soon. The trees with leaves are already looking greener and many of the trees without leaves are coated in lichen. Other damp tree trunks have acquired a reddish hue. The forest is gaining some colour.

I was looking forward to going into work a bit late this morning and taking a few photographs. But when I woke up I was disappointed to see that I wouldn't be getting any photos. It was snowing again! As if someone had a huge sieve of icing sugar and was dusting the landscape with it. The cabin in front of mine looked like a well-iced gingerbread house. Mine probably did too. I think my favourite part of this climate is seeing the soft white new snow balancing on the branches of the trees, so I didn't stay mad at the weather for too long.

Next up: a super-birding weekend...?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Sunday, March 26

The weather was fantastic on Sunday. When I ventured out at 10am the sky was clear and the sun was shining. The sun had even been shining long enough to turn the ice on the roads to slush (which is dirty and muddy, but it's not slippery and it means the temperature's above zero, so slush is good with me). I promised myself that I would go for a walk in the afternoon.

A few hours later I ventured out in a light coat and no gloves. Actually I had one glove, wrapped around my camera, in the hope that by keeping it warm I could coax it into taking a few photographs. I wandered down the hill beyond my cabin, towards the place where we had a barbeque in my first week here.

[As an aside, Petter recently referred to the location of the barbeque as 'the island'. I think I've unknowingly scrambled across a frozen lake. I guess I'll find out when the lake thaws, and land and water are separate once again.]

Just beyond my cabin is a large enclosure...

They used to keep moose here and experiment on them. That sounds kind of nasty, but I think the worst that happened to the moose was that they were tagged and people made notes on what they ate. When their experiments stopped it became too expensive to maintain the moose population in the exclosure, so gradually they were eaten. I suppose that was really the worst that happened to the moose.

Just past the moose enclosure is a small car park. To the left is a bridge over a running stream. It's pretty cool to hear the water running under a layer of ice and then see it emerge in a few places...

To the right of the carpark is a snowmobile track that leads to where the stream meets the lake.

Since I now suspected that a lot of this snow concealed nothing more firm than water, I didn't want to walk any further. I just turned to the right to zoom in on a cute red cottage nestled amongst the trees on the far side of the lake... and my camera shut itself down. A breeze had started blowing, cold enough to make my ears hurt. Time to go back to my cosy 18 deg cabin.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Saturday, March 25: I like... birds.

If anyone has been doubting my commitment to trying new things while at Grimsö, then know this: I spent over 3 hours in the forest last night, where the temperature was -7 degrees, so that I could hear some owls. I suppose it was my first serious twitching experience.

Johan came by at dusk and we had walked only a few hundred metres from my house before we heard a pygmy owl. We also glimpsed it flying overhead and heard a second one before Johanna arrived in their car and we went for a drive around the Grimsö research area. For the next hour and a half we stopped regularly along the single lane icy road, hearing two more species: the tawny owl and the 'pearl owl' (a literal translation of the Swedish name, Johan didn't know the English name and I certainly don't either). I also heard a snowmobile, a highway, a stream, and a lot of owl imitations from Johan. The nights are so silent here that any new sound seems noteworthy: I felt I was being deafened late one night, after I had been here about a week, by a low-frequency almost-inaudible rumbling from a car a hundred metres away. I'm not looking forward to getting re-acquainted with the possums, crows, and late-night drunken backpackers that inhabit my West End street.

We missed out on hearing the long-haired owl, and on seeing any moose, but Johan seemed satisfied with hearing 3 of the 4 possible owl species in the area. The next task was to build a fire in the snow for supper. Actually my next task was to try to pull on a pair of Johanna's ski pants over my jeans while J & J sorted out the fire. By the time I was fully dressed, they had dug out a section of the snow, set up a fire, and put a mat down on the snow-ledge to sit on. Very cosy! Even more so when Johanna pulled out a thermos of hot chocolate and some sandwiches. Grimsö resident Petter, his wife and two of his children joined us for about an hour, bringing biscuits and more hot chocolate. By 10pm the fire was dying down and my feet were going a bit numb. We headed home.