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Tuesday, March 31, 2009


We went walking through the cemetery, down to the water and came across several piles of sand. Since we were going to the water, my youngest decided to bring a walking stick, so he could navigate the swamp better.

Being young, he fell upon that sand with a vengeance, among other things, driving the stick through the sand (which was wet from days of rain) to make tunnels.

'Take my picture, Dad!'

How could I resist? This tunnel was made by a broom handle, and is about 3 feet long (30cm).

Monday, March 30, 2009


Down in the bottom of Vale Cemetery, we came across a pair of mallard ducks. I got a little too close and spooked the male, who is swimming away. I left straightaway; he came right back. It will be very interesting to see if this pair decide to nest here. It's quite wooded here, but there's open water downstream about a quarter mile away. These ducks are very common around here - we can see them in almost any small bit of water larger than a puddle!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Skunk cabbage update

The infamous skunk cabbages at the bottom of Vale Cemetery. They are emerging slowly from their early casings. They are about a foot tall now (30cm) .

I'm researching the name of the creek this water flows into; it's interesting work!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Begonia budding

Even my house plants are hearing the news that it is spring! My begonia looks very leggy and spindly, but it made it through another winter and like so many other plants, is now budding.

Natural light, hand-held. I think I need a Gorilla-pod... maybe I can convince my wife to get me an undeserved present?!?!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


One of my early crocuses, just about opened up. Love that macro!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Calamondin orange

At the risk of misidentifying another plant, here is my calamondin orange. I'm pretty sure about this one, since I've eaten the fruits off it! My wife got me this for a present and I've been working to keep it going through the long winter, when it has to come indoors. Too little light and the leaves drop off. Too much water and they become yellow and sickly. No flowers at the moment, but when they come they are a beautiful pale white with an aroma that's heavenly.

I just liked the play of the sun on the leaf, with the window blinds being such a contras to the curves of the leaves - I couldn't resist. Hopefully, it will flower soon and I can document that, too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


This is another early spring flower, a snowdrop. I have only one in my garden; to be honest, I'm not really sure how it got there. I planted several dozen bulbs over the years, but the squirrels dig them up and eat them! Now, instead of a well-ordered garden, I have a patchy assortment of now-random flowers. It makes for pleasant surprises when they come up though!

This particular flower is no taller than 6 inches (15cm). To take this picture, I had to put the camera on the ground and hope for the best. The lens is directly under the flower. I thought I got my head far enough out of the frame, but I can see I spoilt it. Another lesson learnt!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Train bridge

Playing with the draft blogger, I'm such a geek sometimes.  This is the railroad bridge over the Mohawk River just east of Riverside Park, in the Stockade.  I liked this look 'live' but when I looked at the photo on the computer I was stunned.  I guess I just liked the perfection of the repetitive pattern.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Babooshka has critters on her Mothering Sunday post and they are a lot cuter than this one!

This is a crayfish. They look a lot like lobsters but live in fresh water. Now that the ice has (mostly) melted from the surface of the lakes, these animals are coming out of their winter hibernation in the mud. Whether they're looking for food, warmth (in the shallows) or territory, I don't know. I do know that they have started moving about and are easily seen in the shallows along the shores, especially if there's a rocky bit of bottom, with places for them to hide.

I'm reasonably sure this fellow (lady?) is Orconectes immunis but that's only a guess on my part based on the sluggish, silty water. This particular specimen measures about 3 inches (7.5cm) long.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Skywatch Friday

Taken just a few minutes ago, this is what the sky looks like in Schenectady - no rain! The morning sun is just peeping above the houses and it isn't quite high enough yet to reach the lower branches.

Head on over to the Skywatch Friday page to see what the skies are like elsewhere in the world!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ice crystals

It's the time of year when ice crystals form on top of puddles, then the puddles evaporate (or the ice dam holding them breaks and they flow away!) This leaves a delicate bridge of ice crystals suspended in mid-air. For a while, until traffic vibrations crumble them.

This is obviously a macro, hand held. Don't know how this one came out so well. Luck of the shaky hand!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Green moss, warm stone

Down by the river, near all that ice, tucked away in a crevice I found this most beautifully green moss. I couldn't take my eyes off it. I don't know the name of the little plants growing with it, but that's beautiful too. The crevice is about as tall as my finger is wide.

I should have posted this bit of green for St Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Traditional sign of spring

It's a crocus! The first one in my yard. I thought I'd show that traditional flowers do grow here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

River clear of ice

The river is clear of ice, but the banks still have some good sized blocks up there. I went walking in the Stockade, the old part of town, on Saturday and decided to see how the river looked. The amazing thing, aside from these large ice cubes, is the giant old trees standing right at the edge - ice piled up around them. This happens to them every year and they still keep growing - one of them is over 6 feet in diameter!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Skunk cabbage melting its way through the snow

Not processed; this is what the camera saw. I went walking through Vale again, and found a patch of snow with a baby skunk cabbage just melting through to the surface. You can see how the plant made a little bubble of warmth under the snow. The plant itself hasn't reached the top of the snow, but it was warm enough to melt the snow above it.

It looks like a vignette, doesn't it?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Leaf in ice

One of the things we sometimes get to see in late winter is this: a leaf in it's own leaf-shaped hole in the ice.

Oak leaves seem to stay on the tree through the winter, finally dropping off just before spring arrives. Sometimes, a leaf will land on the ice on a calm day. The sun shines on it, and warms the ice under it just enough to melt a very thin layer, which evaporates. Bit by bit, the leaf melts its way into the ice until it rests at the bottom of a deep, leaf-shaped hole.

One of nature's miracles!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Skywatch Friday

It's another Skywatch Friday. Click the link for the other, official participants.

Yes, it's still grey. We had some hours of sun here and there, but this is upstate NY and this is what winter's like.

Well, winter is almost over, and these Canada Geese are a happy sonic reminder of that. I can hear them honking away as they fly back north from their winter in the sunny south. I got lucky and this flock flew overhead when I was outside with the camera.

I can't explain why, but these geese always make me smile as they fly overhead, mindless of the worries and troubles of those of us who are earthbound.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Calmer water

This might not look like spring to everyone, but it looks like spring to me: I can see running water! I can also hear it and... it has this marvelous smell! Yes, there is still snow on the ground, but in a week it will be gone.

This is a much more peaceful scene than yesterday. The water is flowing, but it's peaceful, soothing.

Unless we get another snow storm, that is.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Second sign of spring

Another sign of spring - ice jams on the Mohawk River. Looking downstream from above Lock 8, this is similar to a shot from October, but not exactly the same spot.

As the snow in the mountains begins to melt, the river gets more water, which lifts the frozen surface clear of the banks. Once clear, the natural flow of the river starts to carry the ice downstream. It doesn't get very far, of course, and it begins to crack and break on the shore.

The river grinds the ice bit by bit, from pieces the size of a city block , down to the size of a swimming pool, down to the size seen here, about 1 square yard / metre. It jams up on the bridge supports in the river, and on the lock dams and pretty much every natural constriction in the river.

Only after the river has ground them small enough will they pass through these choke points. Until then, there is a very real danger of the ice jam growing large enough to cause the river to back up and overflow its banks. Our oldest part of the city, the Stockade, is currently under a flood watch for this very reason. I expect that the jams will clear in a day or two. There's lots of water in the river and the temperature has been above freezing, which helps a lot!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

First sign of spring

Marguerite-Marie gave me the idea for some photos of spring. Well, Bretagne is a bit farther along than we are, but the first sign of our spring plants have popped out: Skunk cabbage.

Yes, incredibly, Symplocarpus foetidus is one of the very earliest plants to arrive; even before the crocus and snowdrops. That's because the plant is warmer than the ground and air it grows in! It melts its way through the frozen ground to reach the sun. I only ever saw it in swampy ground: the water here is just below the surface. It smells bad if you step on it, but it grows in places most people don't want to step anyway!

Spring! It's just around the corner, and this is the first plant of the new season.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ice cave

Not a very large ice cave, to be sure! This is the remnant of the snow bank in front of my house. The water has eroded a tunnel through it; a very common sight. It takes a very tall snow bank to support a tunnel this wide though (it's about a yard / 1 metre across.)

I had a hard time deciding whether to show this or not. I see these things all the time, but there are people who haven't. When I took this, I knelt down on the kerb, put my head and camera down into the tunnel and snapped off a few shots. It's quite bright although it doesn't seem that way in the photo, and my camera isn't an SLR, so there's some parallax between the view I got through the eyepiece and what the lens captured. It was too bright to see the LCD, so I didn't know how I did until I got inside. Almost like shooting with film again!

Anyway, the melting snow all along the street is providing plenty of water to keep these supplied. Another week or so and these snowbanks will be only a memory. Spring comes quickly!

One other thing: I had some difficulty with the title. I love Babooshka's continuing series called 'Odd Shots.' I think this is a candidate for that title!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Angel in Vale

Went for a walk in Vale Cemetery yesterday. On the north side, many trees were downed by the ice storm in December. One side effect was seeing this copper angel - I must have walked by her a dozen times, but she was hidden in the trees. Today, she's impossible to miss! I tried one of Babooshka's fancy 'sun on the lens' shots and I kind of like it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Skywatch Friday

It's Skywatch Friday again! It's supposed to be warm - above freezing for most of the day - and the conditions most likely to bring that about are: clouds. Uniform cloud cover. I know where the sun is but I'll be darned if I can get as much of a hint of it in a photo!

Instead, I thought I'd pop in a dash of colour. I hope it's not a case of too little sky. Do visit the serious Skywatch Friday posters and see the sky from their perspective!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pretty snow

Babooshka and I are getting snow at the same time!

I think hers might be more unusual than mine, but this is the sort of postcard view that makes us live in places where this stuff just keeps coming down!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

After snow

Snapped this getting out of the car. It's dusk and that gives this image a strange air. This is the newly fallen snow atop the old snow bank. I always like the way new snow looks, and it's a double bonus for covering that dirty old snow!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Before the snow

This alien looking... thing is what's left of the snow bank in the street next to my house. It's snowing again today; we're expecting up to 6 inches of new snow to fall. I'll post the results tomorrow.

I completely, completely missed Theme Day for the City Daily Photo blogs. Drat. I need to catch up!
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