Observations From Our First Utah Winter

Snow on branch

Nancy and I are having a delightful time with our first Utah winter. After many years in Florida, even the sub-zero temperatures are fun and exciting. As we have adapted, we have also learned quite a few things about Utah winters.

Snow tracks

1. Snow is wonderful for learning about animal tracks.

When the snow first falls, it will capture even the very light footprints of mice and small birds. After the sun has been out for a while, it gets a firmer texture, which gives great tracks for larger animals. In addition to helping me learn to identify tracks, I am also learning which animals live around our house, where their favorite paths are, and how frequently they are active.

Snow on branch

2. Snowflakes are not as easy to photograph as I expected.

I found several methods of capturing and preserving snowflakes on the internet and in various reference books. So far, without resorting to very toxic chemicals, none of the methods work very well. I found instructions for preserving them using Superglue, acrylic sprays, etc., and have yet to get a single snowflake. So far, my best efforts have been with the macro lens on my Nikon. Even so, I found that you have to be very careful about your breath, as it can melt the flakes while you are trying to focus.

Snow on branch

3. Snow is wonderful for spotting wildlife.

This is partly because many of them stand out against the white background, but also because they move out into more visible areas looking for food. Each snow brings new wildlife to our yard.

Snow on branch

4. Cameras don't like the cold!

This is especially true for my video camera. I quickly discovered that when the temperature drops below 0°F, my video camera turns itself off. That has slowed down video production a bit, and made it challenging to capture some of the shots I want. I have learned to pre-heat the top of the tripod, which gives me an extra five minutes or so before things shut down.

My Nikon lasts longer in the cold, but it also reaches a point where it decides it is too cold to take photos. Because it works for longer, I have to be more careful about bringing it into the house. The quick temperature change could be dangerous to the lenses.

Junie Moon in snow

5. A small, furry dog can quickly collect several pounds of snow in her fur.

Junie Moon loves to run in the snow, but when she comes in, she tends to leave a trail of snowballs for us to step on.

Nancy and I are looking forward to the continuing change of the seasons, and the new discoveries that come with each change.

Anonymous wrote on Tue, 02/05/2013 - 23:57:

Thanks for once again bringing us a smile!

Anonymous wrote on Tue, 02/05/2013 - 22:11:

I'm a fifth grade science teacher and I love your blog and website. Full of great ways to teach the standards we are tested on here in Florida. Your pictures and questions are a great resource. Thank you for your work and sharing it with those of us who don't have time to do all you do. Keep up the great work! You make us better teachers.

The Happy Scientist wrote on Wed, 02/06/2013 - 00:35:

You are very welcome! Be sure to check out the FCAT Science Photos: http://thehappyscientist.com/fcat-photosall

blori1 wrote on Tue, 02/05/2013 - 21:04:

Have a wonder filled Week bro :)

budgysmom wrote on Tue, 02/05/2013 - 20:45:

Snow is a wonderful thing, isn't it? Oh, and thanks for the email about the wildlife websites. I will have some fun in the spring/summer.

Hannah Age 11

Sharla Brechbill wrote on Tue, 02/05/2013 - 20:20:

I love this picture of Junie Moon! She looks so determined to turn herself into a snow dog!