Today, my routine drive across Delaware County, Ohio registered below zero readouts on my vehicle thermometer from -2 to -8 degrees F. The below zero temperatures today, our season lows, do not telegraph the inexorable seasonal change underway. Ohio maple sugar season will begin next week, without fail. Sap will rise in sun-warmed trees as daytime temperatures reach the mid-forties.
The seasonal symphony of careening, colliding polar air masses is nearly past. Mountains of piled air, high pressure zones holding arctic stations, and depressions of low pressure air holding stations in temperate latitudes, are weakening, finally. ThisNorthern Hemisphere airscape, with our earth's coriolis force, swinging trains of air masses westerly, have locked North America in an icy holding pattern for months. The holding pattern is disintegrating under warm sun arcing higher and higher across our southern sky each day. Southern air masses will soon break north, the loud bite of winter's chill released.
Cold will return for brief internals, but repeated warmth will wake our sleepy plant and animal communities in time for early returning migrating birds this month. Waterfowl will return with open water. American Woodcock will follow thawing soils northward. Hardy earlybird migrants will arrive to exploit the rise of flying insects and the availability of soil and water invertebrates.
Olentangy River, Delaware County, Ohio
A sluggish Olentangy River, nearly frozen for weeks now, exhales icy mist. Nearly all of its seasonal low flow rises from groundwater seeping into the river channel from permeable limestones, alluvium, and glacial deposits along the length of the Olentangy River Valley. The tension between the geothermal warmth of groundwater and atmospheric cold sustains slushy ice formations and ice shelves along the river, and the icy mists of very cold mornings.
The winter of 2010 made many Midwesterner's wonder if we are headed for another ice age! Deep snow and cold were reminiscent of winters long past. Nevertheless, NASA reports weather data analysis indicating that 2010 tied with 2005 as the globe's hottest year since temperature records have been kept.
"Global surface temperatures in 2010 tied 2005 as the warmest on record, according to an analysis released Wednesday by researchers at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.
The two years differed by less than 0.018°F. The difference is smaller than the uncertainty in comparing the temperatures of recent years, putting them into a statistical tie. In the new analysis, the next warmest years are 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007, which are statistically tied for third warmest year. The GISS records begin in 1880."
A coyote found the button buck carcass last night. Our camera trap collected hundreds of images. The coyote ate several pounds of meat based on images and the large opening at the rear of the button buck.
Scavenging is an important ecological function and essential survival foraging involving many species, especially during late winter and early spring. Today, our Ohio landscape is frozen under an icy crust sealing several inches of snow accumulation. Rodents, a staple for coyotes and many other predators, are somewhat protected within their runway tunnels under the snow. Successful scavenging is essential now.
Native west of the Mississippi River; today, coyotes are common nocturnal omnivores throughout central Ohio, the Midwest, and beyond. They spread eastward, slowly, following deforestation. They are surprisingly common in suburban and urban settings where pet food, small pets (particularly outdoor cats), vulnerable old dogs up to the size of a golden retriever, poorly contained garbage, wild mice, Canada Geese, cottontail rabbits, and roadkill anything sustain them year round. But they are mostly nocturnal, secretive, and elusive, noticed by few people.
When Fluffy the cat goes missing for more than a day, it probably won't be coming home again. Those fliers with cute cat pictures stapled to utility poles and taped to store fronts are pictures of cats eaten by coyotes. Keep cats indoors--coyotes are out there!