Thursday, December 22, 2011

Solstice Greetings

It's actually the day after the solstice, but since the sun hit its nadir at 10:30 p.m. last night, I'm only off by 90 minutes.  The weather seems to be cooperating with the season--we've had near freezing temperatures all day with off-and-on snow showers.  Now that it's dark, the wind has really come up, blowing the snow to the West Mesa. 

The wind-chill is really quite impressive.  I can't say I'd like to be up above 10,000' on a night like this.  On the other hand, a Canadian Coast Guard officer once told me, "There's no such thing as bad weather; just inappropriate clothing."  

I hope the turtles are burrowed in deep.  After this storm clears off on Christmas Eve Day, the temps are going to plummet.  Even the cats are staying in today.  

And so, on this windy, cold, wintery night, a Merry Solstice to all and a Happy Festivus for the rest of us.  

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Terrapine Weather Forecasting

I've been watching for the past few weeks as Terrance slowly moved towards the surface of his burrow.  Brush an inch or two of leaf mulch aside and the top of his domed shell could be seen.  Of course, I'd cover him right back up, to keep him at whatever temperature that depth provided. 

Little by little he moved upwards until one day I could see one orange eye peering up through a small gap in the leaves.  It was as if he was saying, "Turn the light off.  I'm trying to get some sleep down here."

Then the day before yesterday it hit 83 degrees and yesterday, April 30, he fully left his burrow.  I found him about 18" away, still in the Vinca.  A quick weighing on the scale showed him to be 354 grams.  I fed him some sliced up strawberries, which he ate.

Later I saw that he was parked at an odd angle as if he was trying to get inside the house, so I moved him back to his burrow and covered him with mulch.  With temps heading down towards the low 30's tonight, I want him to stay safe. 

Here's his weight graph with the latest data point added.  As you can see, its his lowest weight ever. 

Looking back at the last three years of data, he broke hibernation on May 3, May 15, and this year April 30.  As I recall, he was up and about around April 15 in 2008.  Considering that there's a forecast of wet snow in the foothills, it looks like Terrance is doing a good job of weather forecasting, not coming out during a cold, windy April. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bosque Fire

Its been a cold, dry winter and spring here in NM, typical of an El Niño stormtrack this year.  On the way back from Trinity Site today, we came across evidence of just how dangerously dry things are--a large and quickly growing fire in the Bosque just north of Bernardo.  

At first it was a focused, dense plume.  Even from a mile away, the flames could be seen occasionally taller than the 50-60' cottonwood trees.  

The fire continued to spread as we watched, growing to perhaps 1/2 mile in length.  Later after we had driven farther north, it appeared as two separate columns of smoke... it had jumped the Rio Grande and was now burning on both banks.  The winds were picking up for the afternoon just as this started. 

Now, several hours later as I write this, the fire is probably still burning.