Waking up to a world of magic crystals

Hoarfrost sunrise backlit

This morning, I woke up to a Riding Mountain world that was magically transformed. The aspen trees were thick with hoarfrost, almost like “winter leaves”. Instead of being able to see through the forest at this time of the year, we were looking at a magical forest of snow crystals. A combination of weather conditions (In an earlier post, I explained the origin of hoarfrost).

There are several online sources that offer an explanation of Hoar Frost (or radiation frost). Hoarfrost refers to white ice crystals, loosely deposited on exposed objects or the ground, that form on cold, clear nights when heat losses (infrared radiation) into the open skies cause objects to cool to a temperature which is colder than the dewpoint of the air next to the surface. Frost is frozen water that has condensed from some of the water vapour contained in the air.

The birds at the feeder, the trees themselves and the entire landscape was transformed. I am going snowshoeing today into this forest of hoarfrost. It’s kind of like a real-world pocket of some part of Lord of The Rings.

Hoarfrost and blue sky Manitoba

Grosbeaks at my feeder

Evening grosbeak

Evening grosbeakEvening grosbeak

Two of the most common birds at our winter feeder are evening grosbeaks and pine grosbeaks.  The males are particularly striking in colour.  Evening grosbeaks males are yellow, black and white.  Pine grosbeaks are red, grey and white.  My interpretation of their behaviour is that the evening grosbeaks are the brash ones, whereas the pine grosbeaks are the stately ones – gentle and firm.  When they move in, every other bird moves away.  No pushing, no shoving – they just land.

Pine grosbeak Riding Mountain National Park

Male pine grosbeak

I enjoy watching both bird species at the feeder. A cup of coffee in one hand, my binoculars at the ready, and my camera with its smooth focusing 100 – 400 image stabilizing lens in the other.  Each day has its unique moments.