Saturday, February 22, 2020

Hoar Frost on Trees

Panorama of Hoar Frost on Trees

I have heard a lot of people on social media, complaining about how they are already tired of Winter and longing for Spring, and it’s not even the middle of December yet.  Some loathe winter and some as they get older find it harder to be out in.  I used to be like many of these individuals and always stated that I hated Winter and was thinking about moving away to a place where I wouldn’t have to deal with this anymore.  Then I began thinking about how when I was much younger I loved Winter and even went camping during this season.  So I made a decision to embrace Winter equally with all the other seasons we have in Manitoba and make a point of going out and enjoying myself, despite the extreme cold and somewhat blustery conditions.

Pond Hockey

Kids Enjoying some Pond Hockey at Kildonan Park in Winnipeg

There are a lot of different things to keep one busy during the Winter months, and even with Manitoba having a longer Winter than many other places in Canada, with it beginning some years in November and not ending until April in other years.  So other than hunkering down indoors, which in itself can be depressing and not good for your health, you can partake in a few winter sports such as Curling, Hockey, Ice Skating, Snowshoeing, or Skiing (both cross country and downhill).  And the action doesn’t stop there, because each of these sports is not only one to participate in, but also one where you can be a fan, cheering on your favourite team or taking photos of them to share with others.  There are also Winter Festivals that take place in Winnipeg and around the rest of Manitoba, which help to break up the long winter months and chase away the blues.

Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa)

Snow Capped Great Gray Owl

To me, one of my favourite things about Winter is getting out and taking photos of all the beauty that surrounds us during this season, such as the Winter Owls that grace us with their presence and are not otherwise often seen in Southern Manitoba.  The Great Gray Owl is my favourite of all the owls and one that I look forward to seeing each year as they come to the edge of the Boreal Forest to hunt for Voles, their main food source.  I never tire of seeing these beauties and will travel a long distance with the hopes of finding one, yet often come home without seeing  even one of these magnificent birds.  When that happens I will often look to take photos of scenery and old buildings, which both offer spectacular vistas with the snow all around them.

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiaca)

Snowy Owl Sitting on a Hay Bale

Another favourite owl of mine is the Snowy Owl, which only comes to Southern Manitoba during the long Winter months, beginning in November and returning north to the Arctic in the Spring, but I have seen one of them here as late as June one year.  The Snowy Owl is a large, very strong and somewhat aggressive predator, with the strongest talon strength of all the owls we have in Manitoba, which makes it capable of taking much larger prey such as Jack Rabbits.  They are not very human friendly, so often being able to get close to these beauties will not happen.  But on occasion, if you keep quiet and use your vehicle as a blind, you will be able to get fairly close to a Snowy Owl. 

Northen Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula) 

Northern Hawk Owl Perched on the Very Top of a  Tree

The last of the Winter Owls that I enjoy getting to see and spend time watching/photographing is the Northern Hawk Owl.  This is an owl that has eluded me often in the past and even with winter upon us, I have yet to see one this Winter season.  They like to be higher up in a tree than the Great Gray Owls, and so when looking for them, you need to be watching all around you.  They will sit at the top of a tree, looking and listening for Voles and Mice to hunt for.  Some days they will sit there and don’t give any mind to those crazy paparazzi wildlife photographers, and at other times they will fly away before you can even get one picture of them.  But such is the world of a wildlife and nature photographer, with no guarantees on spotting anything at all on any given day.

Snowshoeing on a Sunny Winter Day

We Made it!!!  Nestle and I Snowshoeing on a Sunny Winter Day

I am not and never have been much of an ice skater or hockey player, but I do like to partake in other Winter activities when I get the chance.  I used to Downhill Ski, when I was much younger and in better physical condition, but with a bad knee and a dog always with me, downhill skiing is no longer an option for me.  The same goes for cross country skiing for me.  So I chose to go out snowshoeing on occasion.  This is something that I enjoy and that my dog can come along with me and enjoy the winter if it is not too cold out.  During a snowshoeing adventure a few years ago, I had not been on snowshoes for a few years and decided to head through the bush along with my dog.  It was one of those years where the snow was quite deep and I ended up in very soft snow, where I sank down to almost my knees, even with the snowshoes on.  And twice I thought I had lost Nestle in the deep snow, but he came up a few feet ahead of where he had disappeared, having a great deal of fun.  I on the other hand, got stuck at one point and felt lucky to be able to get out, thinking I might end up being there until Spring thaw. 

Red Barn against Hoar Froast

A Red Barn is Nicely Contrasted against the White of Hoar Frost

I am always on the lookout for Winter Scenes as these can be every bit as spectacular as any other season of the year.  This is especially true after a fresh snowfall or on a day where there has been fog in the air.  As the fog clears, it leaves ice crystals on the barren trees, which are called Hoar Frost and become beautiful white in colour.  Even the Evergreen Trees will have Hoar Frost on one side, which makes for a beautiful photo with the green contrasting against the white.  Once the sun comes out, the hoar frost will melt away, falling to the ground and leaving the trees barren once again, so if you are looking for this kind of scenery to photograph, early in the morning is usually the best time.

Sun Dogs on a Winter Morning

Sun Dogs on a Winter Morning

Another beautiful thing to see during the Winter, is the beauty of a Sun Dog.  The sun dog is a member of the family of halos, caused by the refraction of sunlight by ice crystals in the atmosphere. Sun dogs typically appear as a pair of subtly colored patches of light, around 22° to the left and right of the Sun, and at the same altitude above the horizon as the Sun. They can be seen anywhere in the world during any season, but are not always obvious or bright. Sun dogs are best seen and most conspicuous when the Sun is near the horizon and here in Manitoba are more evident during Winter.

Lonely Tree

Lonely Tree During a Winter Storm

Along with the fun part of Winter, comes the Snow Storms and Blizzards that can and do plague the Prairies and other parts of Canada.  And yet, I find something beautiful and peaceful about being out in this kind of weather, either going for a long walk and enjoying the beauty around me, or if it is not to bad out there, taking a drive along one of the back roads in Manitoba.  A couple of times I have found myself having to turn around as the road was too snow filled and once I ended up getting stuck up to my axles in deep snow that I thought I could get through.  In this case, Nestle and I had to walk back to a farm house in –30 weather, with the north wind howling at us at 40 kph.  I am glad there was someone home and it was only 1/4 mile away, because neither of us were prepared for this.  The woman at this farm was home with 3 children, and although she could not come and help us out, she called a neighbour who came and towed us out.  And after all of this, neither one of them would accept any payment from me for their time and effort.  I have to say that country folk are some of the friendliest and most willing to help of any I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. 

See You Nest Spring
See you next Spring

Well, that’s all for now folks and hope you enjoyed my blog on living in a Winter Wonderland.  Whether or not you like Winter, there can be a lot of beauty to it and by taking part in activities during the long winter months, you will be happier and in better health than sitting at home hibernating like an old bear waiting for Spring to arrive.

Oh, and one more thing… Help Me, I’m stuck in the Snow!!!!