Friday, December 19, 2008

Here comes the storm. (Black-headed gull and harbor seal.)

It is Friday. We have been warned of a major snow storm. It was supposed to start here at 2:00 in the afternoon.

While making my breakfast, something caught my eye. It seemed odd. It is funny what catches your eye when not everything is familiar and the way it is expected. But being unexpected, a little gull with a black banded tail flying out in the harbor seemed more than out of the ordinary.

Luckily, I had my binoculars by the table with my camera. Binoculars and cameras on the kitchen table are some of the minor inconveniences that B has to put up with.

Today, with the strange weather coming in, things were unsettled. The mockingbird that claimed the bittersweet bush was being rather protective today, staying close to ensure the House Sparrows were not taking his berries. I thought he looked rather regal on the bush and decided to snap a silhouette picture, which explains both the camera and binoculars at the table.

© 2008 ShootingMyUniverse

With my breakfast prepared, I sat down to enjoy it before heading out to work. That is when it happened. I saw a small gull with an unfamiliar flight pattern and hunting behavior. He had a black band on his tail and was clearly not a Ring-billed Gull.

1st winter Black-headed Gull. © 2008 ShootingMyUniverse

Because of the hour, I needed to get to work and decided to use the “Shoot first and ask questions later” policy. This could be one of three gulls.

USCG Cutter Grand Isle. © 2008 ShootingMyUniverseNot only were the birds a little unsettled, but while I had my breakfast, the Grand Isle came in from patrol and the Flyingfish headed out. I’ve never seen the Flyingfish here before.

When I got to work, there was much talk about the approaching storm. Hey, I grew up in Vermont. I survived the April 2003 storm in Denver that dropped 4 feet of wet show. I don’t intimidate easily.

USCG Patrol Boat Flyingfish from Boston. © 2008 ShootingMyUniverseFor all you who don’t get snow, or don’t “get” snow, snow has a moisture content, a consistency. Wet snow is very moist and heavy. The flakes are larger, but the resulting depths are lower. When the temperature drops, the moisture content of the snow drops and the amount of snow produced is higher. If that April 2003 snow was dry instead of wet, I’m sure that I would have gotten the 6 feet of snow that my friends living in Gold Hill, Colorado received from the same storm. (Yes, Steven Stills fans, that is the same Gold Hill.)

Now where was I, oh, yes. The Governor of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been a worried about this storm. We got an email from Management telling us to go home before noon. It seems like the Governor didn’t think it would be too good of an idea to have everyone commuting home in the afternoon. This turns out to be a smart plan because last year, companies sent their employees home during a major storm. It took many people eight to ten hours to get home.

Me? I’d hate to be contributing to the traffic on my three mile drive home. But my manager and my manager’s manager came by and we exchanged Christmas wishes. They both told me to hit the road. Good, now I’m following orders, not running out of the building like a sissy.

I stopped by the hardware store and bought some salt for the sidewalk. The drive through Gloucester is usually slow during the noon hour. Today it was nasty. Sending everyone home at one time had dire consequences. It took me 15 minutes to get home instead of the usual ten. I hope those on Rt. 128 are fairing better.

So I was thinking about all my friends' blogs with their window feeders again. I really miss the Siskins, Clarks Nutcrackers, Red Crossbills, Mountain Chickadees, Stellars Jays and Pigmy Nuthatches I used to get in Colorado. I feel left out of the conversation. When I got home, I saw the harbor seal poke his nose out. Not a feeder bird, but pretty cool anyway. And because B had already had her table littered with my binoculars and camera, I was able to get a quick snapshot before he went back in.
Harbor Seal. © 2008 ShootingMyUniverse

Well, it turned 1:50 and looking out the window, no snow in sight. Ha! The weatherman was wrong. Then after visiting my peeps’ blogs, at 2:06, I saw the snow was coming down. It’s real nasty out there now. Visibility is about ½ mile. I hope that folks make it home okay. Also, we have boats out there. My hat's off to you, Mr. Weatherman, timing a storm to six minutes is awsome!

Will this storm be known as "the blizzard of '08"? I hope not. I hope it just blows through leaving behind some photo ops. But right now, the snow is horizontal. I'm staying by my computer where it is warm and I'll figure out what this gull is.

It's a Black-headed gull, first winter plumage. I'm excited because this is the second one I've ever seen.


Eve said...

The seal shot is great Steve! I've never seen one of those! You know I'm not real good with the gulls but I thought that might be a black-headed gull, I think I've seen one on Roy's blog!!
The mockingbird photo is fantastic! We are getting hammered by this storm's 7 pm and still hitting hard and horizontal!! And COLD...snappy cold! YUCK!

Mary said...

Steve! After reading this account of your day, I'm waaaaay back in MD.

"... Good, now I’m following orders, not running out of the building like a sissy." LOL! Everyone is a sissy with a forecast like that!

That mockingbird photo is the best. Love it!

Please stay warm, cuddled next to your keyboard, camera & bins on the kitchen table like all of us. You'll be against the window for a while. Keep us updated please?

I, for one, have a memories of ice tickling the windows - only a memories, but good ones :o)

Lovely photos.


Mary said...

That mockingbird photo is so beautiful, and I love the seal! Our snow started at 9am, just like the weatherman predicted. About 7 inches later, it turned to freezing rain. Yuck.

Stay warm.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Another beautiful blog Steve, I love the way you write. Poor B. I know how she feels as my camera and binocs are also always laying around in the most inconvenient places. LOL!! I wish our weatherman could be so accurate, well I guess he does not do to badly, what ever he predicts does happen within a week or two. LOL!!

Marvin said...

A great series of photos and informative post. Now I'm sitting here wonder what the condition up your way are like right now. It sounds is if everyone is taking this storm seriously.

NCmountainwoman said...

Lovely pictures and interesting information. I hope you don't get hit as badly as Milwaukee where it snowed more than an inch an hour all day yesterday.

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