I woke up this morning to Sonja telling me to look out the window. Normally, I consider seeing an unexpected and fresh dusting of snow on the ground in the morning one of life's great surprises. However, when that unexpected dusting comes in the form of horizontally propelled snow/sleet three days before the start of May and after an entire winter of slush/snow/ice/mud/sleet/hail/more rain, it tends to lose some of its magic.
To take some of the sting off of this morning's gloomy reminder that summer is still a ways off, I figured I'd post a nice colorful photo from last summer. This was taken in the Marathon Bowl, about 1900 feet above Seward. That's Luna in the background.
I drove out toward Exit Glacier today to check on road conditions and see if we'll be able to start getting the Nature Center ready for the visitor season. The road has been plowed nearly the entire 8.6 miles. It's possible to actually drive into the park right now (if you have the combination for the locked gate, that is), but the driveable section extends only a couple hundred yards into the park itself. Beyond that point the snow is still about four feet deep. Preparations for summer will have to be put on hold for at least another couple weeks.
On a brighter note, though, the spring migration is in full swing. I saw another Trumpeter Swan this morning, along with several hundred Northern Pintails, American Wigeons, Mallards, and Green-Winged Teals. The sounds of spring migration are also pretty cool, particularly once you get a bunch of wigeons and Long-tailed Ducks calling (for that second link, click on "play sound from this species").
Spring is always one of my favorite times of year (once it actually shows up) for this very reason. As ponds open up ducks, geese and swans move in. A few weeks after the first waterfowl appear come thousands and thousands of shorebirds. As of this week the only shorebirds I've seen have been a handful of Greater Yellowlegs and a pair of Wilson's Snipe. I figure that in the next week to ten days, however, the scene will be completely different as the majority of the small wading birds (or "peeps" as birder's call them) stop for a while to resupply their energy reserves for the remainder of their trip to the North Slope of Alaska. These shorebird migration stopovers can provide some pretty spectacular scenes.