Saturday, November 5, 2011

Icy waters and fresh snow

Friday November 4th when I arrived at the Center I observed a layer of ice on all of the ponds. It was a very thin layer, one that would break if a rock was thrown on it or as soon as the mid-morning sun reached high enough in the sky. But it signals the start of the winter season none-the-less. Soon the open waters will disappear and the ducks will move over to the Yellowstone River, which remains largely ice free during winter.
Today we woke to a fresh coat of snow, nearly one inch by ten AM, and still falling gently. A lone great blue heron (Ardea herodias) stood at the edge of the new beaver lodge in Deep Mill Pond. The great blue heron (affectionately know as a GBH) is one of the few, hardy birds that stay in this part of Montana over the winter. Populations of GBHs over most of the north-central states do migrate south in the winter. However, central and western Montana are host to these stately birds in rain, sleet, and snow.
The great blue heron is an adaptable bird, not only coping with cold weather, but also with a varying diet. They primarily eat fish, but also dine on voles and other small mammals and amphibians as necessary. They are usually seen alone, but may migrate or roost in small flocks. It is the largest heron in the US, and its large size and gray color make for unmistakable identification.

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