Don’t you just hate it when the weatherman is right?
Take for instance, the snowstorm predicted for November 26th, the day before Thanksgiving. They called for snow to start about 2 a.m., and truthfully it didn’t start until about 4 a.m., but it came down fast and furious after that. Heavy, wet and slick. A cool trifecta. The hat trick of winter nastiness.
Accu-weather called for four to eight inches, but it was closer to 10 inches by the time the storm ended late that day.
The first power outage here at the Green Bank Observatory came at 0600 hours. It was just a few seconds but long enough to set off several alarms and confuse several computers and machines. Later the power was off for several hours here and off several days in other areas nearby as snow laden tree branches grounded out and sometimes broke power lines.
But there was one interesting side effect from the storm that didn’t really show up for a couple of days. And that was the ducks. Every little pond between here and Bartow had a few to several ducks floating around. Normal migration is usually finished by mid-November, so ducks showing up in early December is somewhat unusual.
Apparently, as the winter storm called “Cato” passed over us and spun its way up the coast into New England, it dislodged and dislocated thousands of wintering, coastal ducks and flung them inland to our area. Lost and disoriented, they showed up in big flocks on our waterways to rest and recuperate for a few days.
And these were not just any ducks. These were diverse and colorful – ducks that we often don’t see during the spring and fall migrations. Canvasbacks and Buffleheads showed us lots of white while Redheads, Teal, Scaup and Black ducks added to the diversity of colors. A little diver called a Ruddy duck with his little pointed, upright tail was also well represented. Throw in a few seagulls and Canada geese and you had a rowdy mix. In fact, upwards of 500 birds were seen resting on one of the wastewater ponds here at the observatory. Most probably blew in from the Chesapeake Bay.
Conspicuous by their absence were the Mallard and the Wood ducks. Though very common here in the summer, they tend to winter a little farther south and probably were not moved by the storm.
After a few days of R&R, building up their strength and getting oriented to the area, they began to get jumpy and nervous. By Wednesday after Thanksgiving, as the skies began to clear, huge mixed flocks of ducks took off, headed south and east to the little coastal bays and creeks where they hope to spend the rest of the winter.
Dave is a telescope operator at the NRAO and can be reached at davecurry51@ gmail.com