Saturday, November 26, 2005

Sandhill Cranes And Sundogs

Its a beautiful day in north central Florida. I spent time this morning tending to the flowerbeds, nipping browned flower heads from chrysanthemums and marigolds and removing crisp leaves that have recently fallen from the southern red oak that towers over the front yard and our 1935 shotgun house. I couldn't help but notice the various butterflies working alongside me, and appreciated that our mild seasons here mean we have blooms and butterflies almost year-round.

Far overhead I heard the dry rattling calls of sandhill cranes. I have heard and noticed groups of 10-20 cranes passing overhead at intervals for the past couple of days now. The out-of-state migrants are arriving to spend the winter among the local populations of the Florida subspecies
that don't migrate. The arrival of the cranes is an annual event worthy of remark in The Clog Almanac. Last year a lone Whooping crane was viewed by hundreds of birdwatchers and curious passersby as it foraged with dozens of sandhills in a large pasture managed by the University of Florida Beef Unit. If the whooper returns this year, you'll hear about it.

The arrival of cooler weather also means its sundog season. Yesterday I observed a 22-degree halo surrounding the afternoon sun. Today I witnessed a very bright 22-degree sundog to the left of the sun, its outer edge so brilliant that it hurt to stare at it. I'm sure I'll be posting more about sundogs and other related optical effects caused by sunlight refracting through oriented ice crystals within the clouds.

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