Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tales From The Crystal Desert

This winter the nature preserve resembles an Arctic wilderness
Our region of the country has been experienced a prolonged deep freeze.The landscape itself is like an Arctic wilderness, complete with howling winds and blowing snow. I haven't seen any Caribou yet, but I expect to any day now!  Recent blizzards have created plenty of interesting drifts and other icy structures. Of course, the profound cold has presented a great challenge to our wildlife. During this most recent Arctic blast many animals have stayed holed-up in tree cavities and under layers of insulating snow. In fact only a few non-bird species are coming out with any regularity. As we expect, all of the birds have remained active - each trying their best to get enough sustenance to keep their high metabolisms going. Despite the below-zero temperatures, signs of impending spring are on the increase - primarily in the form of woodpecker drumming and cardinal song. I know it's hard to believe, but within the next 2 weeks our blackbird flocks will be returning from the south!
Don't get up on my account! - this is one doe that prefers to stay in bed this morning
A stellar nursery? No, these are elongated crystals forming on top of a frozen stream
As usual, the extreme cold is responsible for creating many fascinating ice sculptures and crystal patterns. Recent strong winds have also produced dunes and some remarkably abstract shapes and forms. Here are a few samples of what is being seen:
Feather-like crystals grow on top of the beaver pond
Portions of the beaver pond looked like a stain-glass representation of a nebula
A close examination of the stream ice reveals long crystals tightly enmeshed
Extremely feathery crystals formed all around the entrance of this small snow cave
More deer waking up from their snow beds
A wind swept reforestation field
Looking more like a sandy beach then any field that we know
The snow was acting just like sand
What doesn't translate well into these pictures is the intense sparkling of the countless ice crystals
Once again, this "desert" landscape was gleaming with countless crystals 
A "crow angel"  records the lift off of a crow from the snow covered surface of a pond 
More amazing wind-created patterns
Solidified turbulence is on display in these drifts that  fold their way around forest trees
Snow behaving more like drapes than drifts
An anomalous shape created by snow and wind - This one resembles a mink swimming in water
This wind/snow sculpture looks like a school of minnows breaking the "water's" surface
Ice pillars appear to hold up the surface ice of a pond that has since been drained off


  1. These photos are amazing Matt! Thanks for sharing, especially for those of us not willing to brave the cold ourselves.

  2. I loved the photographs! Nature doing what it does best.