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:

Goose wings_4086

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:

K fisher beak open_4122

Looking Left_4109

Looking Right_4132



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.

Flying Squirrel_3993

(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,

Spray deice_4018
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,

Ice blowing off_3720

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


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:

Snow in Air_3738

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:


Back home Pinot


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

Down Chopper_4218

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
Ice Crystal_3985

or perhaps more like the drones being ejected from the hive.

Predators and Prey, Hatteras, NC and Perrysburg, Ohio, October 2013

This fall the Ocean-side waves were too threatening for sailing or swimming all week long. Hatteras is aptly called “The Graveyard of the Atlantic”.

Hatteras Ocean Wave

Hatteras Ocean Wave

Even the skies seem appropriately threatening.

Cirrus Clouds

Cirrus Clouds

When the sun shone it all looked much more inviting.

Ocean Side Sun and Waves

Ocean Side Sun and Waves

A small shark washed up on the beach.

Beached Shark

Beached Shark

Marcus found that it had died from a fish lure lodged deep in its throat.



By day, you see many small holes in the sand.



By night the crab occupants come out, but they are still not easy to catch.

Night time crab

Night time crab

Caught Crab

Caught Crab

I wonder who eats them?

In the sand dunes this moth has evolved great camouflage to blend with the colors to avoid being eaten.

Butterfly needing ID?

Butterfly needing ID?

While this wild flower needs all the color it can muster to attract scarce pollinators.

Red Flower in Dunes - Needs ID?

Red Flower in Dunes – Needs ID?

On the sound side of the dunes (where we windsurf) the scene seems more peaceful,

Sound-Side Sunset

Sound-Side Sunset

This luminous green fly is a good contender for the Best Dressed Bug contest.

Green Fly

Green Fly

I don’t know if it is eaten by this magnificent large spider we found living in the reeds.

Black and Yellow Argiope

Black and Yellow Argiope

The female “Black and Yellow Argiope” (thanks Carol for ID) is 1 ½” (35 mm) long. She (not Carol!) eats her web (plus contents I presume) every night, and next morning spins a new one.

This one cormorant stopped for preening and was close enough for a photo.



Many, many thousands of these birds stream by every day, low over the water, sometimes diving en masse for fish, while flying south to some unknown destination which must be unimaginably crowded if they all congregate there together. (I now read that deep diving cormorants, mergansers and loons are dying in Lakes Michigan and Huron from a Type E botulism which they may be eating from the lake bottom)

On the water were kite boards and windsurfers.  Jim’s amazing GoPro waterproof, high resolution cameras attached to the end of my windsurf boom reveal some of the tensions and subtleties involved when you try to connect with foot straps and harness, while riding the wind and the waves.  At first it seems the foot straps are never where my feet are, but then later I find the straps actually are perfectly located.  The harness is another matter: hooking in and out should be effortless, provided it’s properly adjusted – and you must always avoid accidentally hooking in when you should be out!

Footstraps and Harness (not stabilized).

The road back to Ohio goes past Kitty Hawk, where you can appropriately pay homage to the Wright brothers by taking hang glide lessons – very tempting. It would be good to try it one day with a GoPro.

Hang Glide_8696

Back home in Perrysburg this bug landed on my Prodigy board and showed me it has evolved a pretty good helmet to protect at least its shoulders from being eaten.  I see now it is called a “Wheel bug” (Arilus cristatus). Very good to have in your garden as it devours aphids and others who’d eat your flowers and vegetables. But beware, while not easily provoked, it does have a very nasty bite. It injects digestive enzymes into its prey so it can more easily suck out the nutritious innards. Perhaps that’s what makes it so painful for humans.

Buzz Saw Head Bug

Wheel Bug

And in the honey bees’ hive I found some of these tiny ants on the comb. Presumably their giant stinger gives them some protection from the much larger bees.

Small Ant with Big Stinger

Small Ant with Big Stinger

A Santa Spotter

Santa should arrive tomorrow, (if you’ve been good?), 4 days after last week’s Winter Solstice. The sun arcs across the sky on a different path every day for 6 months (from solstice to solstice) so when sunrise this morning came wavily through the old sheet glass and shone on a south facing wall

Sunrise spot on wall_4811

I put a small mirror on it with Silicone and tape so I could get just the right angle.

Santa Spotter Mirror_4820

On the opposite wall I placed a Santa image.

Santa waiting_4823

So set one up and tell your would-be astronomer kids .  When the the sun spot first shines on Santa there are 8 days to go. When the sun lights him up again it should be Xmas Day.  You can set it up for any time of day that sunlight shines into your house. Sunrise, midday or Sunset are perhaps more interesting times at which to observe the seasonal changes of the sun’s position.

Santa Spotted_4812

If the distance is good, and the mirror is flat (I still have a few 25 mm squares if you’d like one?) then the sun’s path across the wall should be different every day.  Perhaps John M. can show me how to take a pinhole camera image of the tracks?

Meanwhile, down by the cold Maumee River one of our two Bald Eagles waded in for a drink and waited in vain for a foolish fish to swim by.

 Eagle in water 092

 Two weeks ago (Dec. 15) it got to 56 F (13 C) on a sunny day and the bees came back to life. Some even brought in some yellow pollen from I don’t know where.

Bee with pollen 118

The  harvest is all in. Pounds of honey poured.

Honey pour  027

Pumpkins gathered from the fields.

Pumpkins 1664

And Ohio grain is trucked to the silos by the I75 bridge

Trucks 1773

where I see it shipped to the world. A moving image in today’s  turbulent times.

Grain Freighter 062

Finally a present to you from Santa: A frost-free windshield. If you park your car outside at night be sure the windshield (windscreen) faces dense trees or a house wall so you don’t get frost and ice on it. 

No ice on front facing house 058

When the back window ‘sees’ a very cold (perhaps -100 C or less) clear night sky, the glass can cool (losing heat by radiation) to 3 or 4 degrees C below air temperature. This easily creates dew on the glass which turns to ice if the air temperature is near freezing.

Ice on back window facing sky 057

Very Best of Seasons Greetings and Happy Solstice to All, Everywhere.