Some Fierce Finns and a Few Ferocious Fliers

In June a Eurail pass took us around Finland.  Dogs are welcome in their own section of the train:eDogsOnTrain_6009

But I saw they are treated even better in Washington Dulles airport:

e 6463 HydrantOne very remote station close to the Russian border was so small there was no platform, or even rail staff – just this dog guarding everything:

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On seeing us he looked happier thinking fresh meat might have arrived:

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That station was only about 10 km from the Russian border where Rubles seem to have leaked across judging by the size of the Dachas, some with trilingual “Keep Out” signs in their gardens in Russian, English and then finally Finnish.

A fine trail through the woods, where we fed the meat-eating mosquitos,eMosquito_6230

had this surprising sign:

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I’d thought we were in the original home of cross country skiing?  Or perhaps the sign just means don’t squat when skiing?

The Finns have a great new (to me) “nano-material” waxless ski base which is reportedly very effective between and freezing and -10 C snow temperatures. The material feels like the finest texture seal skin with its one way slide and stick in the other direction.  It totally replaces the large fish-scale waxless surfaces of old.  I found some in overstocked sports stores because, thanks to last winter’s climate change, the Helsinki snow was so sparse that I had more days skiing in Toledo, Ohio than they had.  I was thrilled to find a great set for about 300 Euros, and tried to ship them Fed Ex because we were flying with just hand baggage.  The only problem was that Fed Ex would have wanted 800 Euros just for the shipping!

Way north, at the Arctic Circle the sun never set on June 20th.  This photo taken at 11:00 pm searched for a small gap in the leafy trees to show the sun’s position, without over-saturating the iPhone’s pixels.

ePinholeSun_6025 Turning around, to face due South (think about it!) the tree acted as a pinhole light source and gave this nice sharp shadow.

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Even at 2:00 am this view looking due north shows an ever-present sun:

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The irony was that right then there was a huge solar storm with Northern Lights visible elsewhere (at night) as far south as Atlanta, Georgia.  Of course, in Lapland in June we saw absolutely nothing because there was no darkness to the night!  In their long nights of winter they typically see the lights weekly.

Near Santa’s village right on the Arctic Circle there is a line in the ground to prove it.  Sorry I forgot the check its accuracy with my phone GPS!  We were still only about ¾ of the way from the equator to the North Pole (about 22 more degrees of latitude needed).

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We met “Rudolph”. He did not look too fierce, but was definitely grumpy,

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so we only fed this young one:

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The reindeer are herded in for tourists for a few months and then turned back out into the Taiga to keep them “fresh”.

This young herder is drinking his coffee from his traditional birch wood “kuksa”

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– same design as the one this delicious (reindeer!) soup was served in,

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followed by (pseudo) Lichen and ice cream:

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Magnificent Lupins were everywhere, alongside highways and railroad tracks:

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Some Finns say they come from Russia and are not always welcomed!  Only in the special sand of Oak Openings can we grow them in Ohio. I have repeatedly demonstrated they do not like the Maumee River clay of my garden.

The trip included my presenting a paper on breaking glass (spandrels) at the big biennial GPD meeting in Tampere.  The noisy end-of-conference party nearly added some more broken glass. Click the link below to see:

10 sec Bartender

Back home in Perrysburg my bees are doing battle with small hive beetles, robber bees from some other hive, an emerald color fly, and wasps.  My best hive only had a few beetles, but the other hive had swarmed, taking the queen with them.  It now looks like the rascals went to my neighbor’s empty hive about a quarter mile away.  The remaining large number of workers seemed unable to keep the beetles out without a queen to guide them, or to keep out robber bees who stole almost all the honey.  I’m not in favor of monarchies but on occasion it seems that they might have some utility!

At this time of year the hives smell of honey, especially on a sunny hot day, and it attracts others.  Here are three clips of the fights you see at the front door as others try to enter, including pretty rough treatment of a darker color alien robber bee from another hive. Amazingly the attacked bee seems to suffer no damage and usually eventually flies off.  I think bees do have little teeth. They certainly can shred a newspaper barrier when I put one between different levels.  I would have thought their bites to antennae and wings would do damage?

Mobbing a Robber Bee.mov

I like the speed of the emerald color fly, but I don’t think he succeeded in entering.

Green Robber Fly

The half dead wasp was easily handled:

Robber Wasp

Winter Fliers

Cross-Country Skiing in Perrysburg.

There are now 2 Cross-Country ski trails open along the Maumee riverside at Perrysburg for would-be winter fliers.
I groom both trails, usually on a daily basis, unless I’m out of town, or the temperature is below 15 F ( -10 C).  This week the “Frisky Fox” trail certainly qualified as a ‘Winter Flier’ because of its awesome speed.  A week ago the temperature rose to 50 F (+10 C) and then quickly dropped below freezing, but not before the set tracks froze firm.  After that both trails had the lightest dusting of fine, flour texture, powder snow and have been awesome fast.  Fortunately “Bunny Hop” is mostly level and can be easily handled, but the Fox is almost too frisky right now for all but the most reckless!

Bunny Hop Feb 2015

The easy 20 minute “Bunny Hop” run starts at Riverside Park just upstream from the Perrysburg Boat Club at Louisiana Ave.

The groomed trail runs west along the grassy path of Water Street and follows a wild life corridor around the old abandoned skating rink in Orleans Park.  Watch for deer hoof prints in the snow. They, and the coyote, like that trail.  They also leave droppings which may or may not alter your ski wax application!  Here are the prints of goose wing feathers as they made a hurried take-off down the slope. The snow was too soft for them to get a good foothold:

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The more challenging “Frisky Fox” run takes an hour on a good day.

Frisky Fox Feb 14 2015

It starts at the cannons, from the original USS Constitution, on the hill at the east end of Riverside Park.  Follow the groomed trail down the hill to the river’s edge, then up and down through the trees, back and forth across the straight and level Bunny Hop trail.
At Orleans Park the trail goes under the Maumee/Perrysburg bridge, around Fort Meigs, and back.  The north face of the Fort is steep and fast so clockwise around the Fort gives the fastest run down the slope.  I’ve just reset that part further west to avoid the toboggan runs which quickly get very icy.  Anti-clockwise around the fort is recommended if you like it a little slower.

These two trail maps were created with the free “Trail Explorer” iPhone ap from the Sierra Club.  It plots your trail, to within 30 ft (10 m), records altitude climbed and descended, and calculates average and peak speeds. (So far it says I’ve only attained a miserable 12 mph  but that’s quite fast enough on cross-country skis for now).

When it warmed up last Sunday many bees flew out to relieve themselves for the first time in months:
Pooped Bees_4134

Don’t eat the yellow snow!
Some landed on the snow which cooled them too much and they could never fly again.  Hopefully they were only the feeble old ones who are not needed for the spring rebirth?

Down by the river two swans did fly by, but this elegant winter flier has hung around for a week.  The Ringed Kingfisher was diving down to the last of the unfrozen water. He can swivel his head nearly a full circle while searching for food:

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I get the feeling I’m helping replicate the evolutionary development of the flying squirrel.  Not content with eating on the ground the spilt seed from the birdfeeder, the squirrels now insist on eating at the source.  They climb along the window sill, past the powerless cats,
They evade the deterrent wires I put there, and then leap to the feeder.
With lines and pulleys the feeder is now about 25 ft (8 m) up in the air and at least 8 ft  (2.5 m) out from the house.
Hanging Feeder_4001

All it does is select the more agile animals. When I bang on the window the squirrel leaps from the feeder, spreads 4 paws and does a good, aerodynamic, laminar flow, glider-suit style descent.

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(The following 2 videos may need you to click OK for Quicktime to play them)

With a good launch they land at least 10 ft out from take-off point. Now a glide angle of 10 forward for a 25 drop would not have satisfied the Wright Brothers, but it is a definite start in evolutionary progress. Some though, when stuffed with bird seed, are too fat to fly and do drop straight to the snow.  As you can see, no squirrels were harmed in these feedings!

I Foolishly tried to connect through Chicago airport while travelling last month (January) – big mistake. Winter flying demands a few good books to help with the inevitable 2, 4, and 18 hour weather delays of the last 3 trips. Following images are from some of those flights.
The deicers can spray all they want,

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but it is still not comfortable when you can’t see out the window for ice and slush as you taxi for take-off.

Icy Window_3718

Once airborne the air stream slowly blows most of it off,

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but even an hour after take-off there was still deicing fluid oozing out of the wing .

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I tried to photograph the snow in the flash of the plane’s strobe every 5 seconds but could not catch it.  One can’t hold an iPhone ‘shutter’ open for a time exposure, so I simply took a video and deleted all the frames which had no strobe flash to get the following photo:

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You know coming in for a landing in snow is an issue when the pilots turn on the spotlight to see if snow and ice are accumulating on the wings:

Landing_3835

Back home Pinot

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finally downed my little miracle $35 remote controlled helicopter ‘Winter Flier’.

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No damage – it’s virtually indestructible. What an amazing toy for boys!

And finally I have to admire this elegant ice crystal ‘Winter Flier’ apparently trying to jump like the squirrel
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or perhaps more like the drones being ejected from the hive.

Escaping Extinction

It may look like a small item but it meant a lot to us:

Northern Prairie Dropseed_9057

After trying to grow some original prairie meadow grasses, in the face of severe competition from alien Bermuda Grass, English Ivy and others, a few native Northern Prairie Dropseeds seem to have taken hold.

The real joy came when the native Junco fed on it. First the hungry bird hopped vainly many times up to the seed heads.

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At last, it was able to catch on in its claw and hold it down on the snow to eat it.

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While neither bird nor plant is in immediate danger of extinction, the pressure is on as the aliens steadily take over this fine continent.

An interesting item in last week’s New Yorker says how it was not until 1796 that Georges Cuvier was able to conclusively put forward the concept of extinction. Up to that time many strange fossils had been found but they were thought to be simply records of animals that still lived in areas not yet explored. Everyone then thought that all species essentially lived forever.  Georges could very easily have beaten Darwin to discover evolution by nearly 100 years, but he could not manage that huge next step.

Two magnificent Bald Eagles are waiting in the trees on the small island as I write.

Two Eagles_8979

The amazing, far reaching, effects of DDT were recognized just in time to save the Eagles and many others from needlessly disappearing forever.

A fast shrinking local population of Cross-Country skiers has me fearful for the extinction, here at least, of this delightful sport.  Last week I (not we!) had 5 days of excellent green and blue wax snows.  There is an old map of the trail under the key word “ski” near the top of this blog. Meanwhile here are shaky, one-hand held, iPhone shots of two pretty sections of the trail.

Cannon Canyon

Belazi’s Bowl

For now, the only company I have on the trail is deer hoof prints on the track a day after I set it.  Nice to think that my layout of the trail is somewhat ‘natural’ enough for them to want to follow it:

Deer print 4392

I’m still looking for coyote paw marks.

The alien (Russian queen with Italian workers) bees have been wrapped with insulation (by their alien Irish beekeeper) for the winter. One hive is warm enough, from the cluster of bees inside, to melt snow on the roof:

Melted roof snow_9114

But not the other:

Snow not melted_9115

Both are throwing out their dead. Under the microscope there is nothing strange to be seen on their bodies, but I’m told it is a good sign of a healthy hive. Only spring will show if that is true.

Dead Bees_9116

It’s cold. But I’m sure the squirrel will survive if it can remember where it buried the nuts.

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Many holes in the snow show lots of digging. I wonder how they ever remember where those walnuts are.

I hope my Kingfisher has moved south to warmer climates.

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He (it looks like a male?) was still here at the end of November when this image, with iPhone held up to the eyepiece of a spotting scope, was taken.