Monday, December 16, 2013

A Winter's Solstice

The extra cold that the West had last week, was surely felt in Yosemite. Snow fell well below the park boundary and still persists in the shady parts of El Portal. The Merced River has frozen over in much of the Valley and the southern cliffs are streaked with frozen waterfalls. We did not get enough snow to open the Badger Pass area to skiing, etc.

The Merced is running at less than 30% of normal volume, and the watershed still has a way to go to recover from two dry winters.

Yesterday's Christmas Bird Count featured a frosty cold morning then comfortable warmth in the afternoon (unless you were in the shadow of the south wall). Compiler Sarah Stock organized quite a large group of birders, and the birds responded. It's a good year for the colorful varied thrushes, a species that migrates here for the winter, though it doesn't come every year. Early efforts turned up quite a few owls, too: pygmy, screech and great-horned.

Solstice happens on Saturday, when the long, cold night dominates the Sierra. Have a closer look at Yosemite's winter on one of our snowshoe outings. Here's hoping for a snowy new year.