2006-04-27 06:46:33.000 – Neil Lareau, Observer
The clouds have broken this morning allowing the early light access to last night’s fresh snow fall. It is quite lovely.
Yesterday: Skiing the snowfields is always a good way to get a sense for what is going on across the mountain. Since they are in a strong lee area, hence the large deposits of snow, they also seem to collect various detritus. Here and there are blades of sedge torn from the carpets above the Great Gulf. The spiders that I saw the other day can now be occasionally found frozen and dead as curled lumps in the snow. When it is really windy there are occasionally small rocks scattered along the snow at the top. Last year I uncovered a sheet of plywood ripped from an unkown source on the summit. Yesterday, the snowfields bore evidence of spring in an odd way.
Arriving at the bottom of the slope I found groupings of grey feathers half fused to the snow. I had seen this last year too and new instantly what it meant. It meant that a flock of birds had been caught above treeline when they shouldn’t have. Last year it was about six white throated sparrows. A quick scan of the surroundings revealed the same was true this year. A singular motionless sparrow lay amongst the tops of a few cushions of diapensia. A longer search would surely have revealed more. Spring storms can be brutal. South winds and warm air invite migrants north. (White throated sparrows are short distance migrants and the White mountains mark the northern fringe of their winter habitat. While we see these birds year round some of them are heading further north to Canada.) Orographic lift along the axis of the Appalachians makes for even more efficient travel. But then the winds shift northwest and crank. Two nights ago winds hit 101 mph. No doubt this spelled the end for the sparrows. As was the case last year, Raven’s will no doubt soon discover what is quite literally a windfall of free food.
Spring is a time of fecundity but it can also be a time of death; I guess, in a way that is the point of the abundance; strategy derived from the hard learned knowledge that not everything will make it through.
Neil Lareau, Observer