January Takes Its Leave

Being stuck who knows where on the trajectory of the decades-long mega-drought that has been haunting the American West since the year 2000, precipitation in any form is welcome.

Living in Colorado, in winter one has the not unreasonable expectation or hope for this precipitation to assume the form of snow. However, as I have pointed out before, the state is not one monolithic landscape and ecosystem, but several. And although many of out-of-staters think of big mountains and winter wonderlands when they hear the name Colorado, well over half of the state stretches out east of the Rocky Mountains and is composed of shortgrass prairie, where January tends to be a relatively dry month, even without drought conditions.

Knowing those facts, one can nevertheless be disappointed when winter doesn’t make at least a few appearances. In El Paso County, where we reside, December was the 9th driest on record, and January, no less disappointing, only brought about a quarter of its expected snowfall. At our house, we had exactly two events that left us with measurable snow: the first on New Year’s Day, when my husband shoveled about 3.5 inches; and the second on January 27, when a mere inch barely managed to cover the ground. According to Colorado’s weekly Drought Monitor map dated 01/27/2022, nearly 85% of our county is in a severe drought. While 100% of Colorado is abnormally dry, thanks to this winter’s above-average snowfall in mountainous areas west of here, “only” 66% of the state suffers from severe, and “only” 20% from extreme drought, an improvement from earlier statistics.

Whereas snowflakes proved to be scarce and short-lived, January’s chill nonetheless enabled Artist Winter to become creative with brush and sculpture tools, which, in turn, enabled me to capture some of the picturesque moments the waning month held in store.

Artist Winter working her brush on a small scale

Not much snow, but a Snow Goose

Sun-illuminated ice sculpture

Ice Octopus ? (technically a Heptapus or Heptapod)

A charismatic American Dipper who walks and swims in cold (!) streams foraging for aquatic insects

“River delta” on a frozen lake

Rock Pigeons before a waxing January moon

Artist Winter applying his hoar frost brush on a more dramatic scale

Hoar frost lining and highlighting every single branch

Hoar frost, reminiscent of magnetic shavings used in physics class to illustrate magnetism

When starting to prepare for this post, I didn’t know about the predicted blizzard which has, by now, descended on the East Coast. So while some parts of the country yearn for snow, others might have had more than they wanted. As if we needed a reminder of last year’s horrendous weather event in Texas.

If you were in the path of this most recent winter storm, I hope you and your loved ones are safe.

64 thoughts on “January Takes Its Leave

  1. Sorry to hear winter is not living up to your hopes. Shockingly, we’ve had almost as much snow as you! But even though you’ve not had much snow, you are surrounded by beauty…the hoar frost is stunning, and the snow goose very handsome.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nature truly is the most wonderful artist. I hope February brings you some unexpected snow and/or other moisture.
    I recall my first astounding trip across the broad High Plains, not at all what I expected to find in Colorado.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think many have shared your surprise upon beholding Colorado’s vast prairies, so different from the mountains, but no less rich and varied, if only on the second (or third) glance.
      And as I’m typing these words, we are expecting a storm predicted to bring a healthy amount of moisture. We are waiting with bated breath! ❄❄❄

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Was für traumhaft schöne Bilder, Tanja.
    Eine Schneegans habe ich in Bremen erst ein Mal gesehen.
    Sie sind hier in Deutschland nicht gern gesehen da invasiv, aber ich hab mich riesig gefreut.
    Hab einen schönen Tag.
    Liebe Grüße Brigitte

    Liked by 1 person

      • Ah ok I just didn’t understand it in connection with my post. It’s good that you can talk about it or, in this case, write about it

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      • Es ist immer interessant zu sehen, welches Interesse und welche Assoziationen manche Wörter hervorrrufen, und daß ein Kommentar Teil der Völkerverständigung werden kann. 😊
        It is always interesting to see the interest and associations engendered by certain words, and to have comments contribute to international understanding. 😊

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    • Ich danke Dir, lieber Werner. In manchen Gegenden in den USA kommen die Schneegänse zu Tausenden vor, aber hier sehen wir sie meist vereinzelt, so daß es immer eine nette Überraschung ist, sie in einem Meer von Kanadagänsen oder Zwergkanadagänsen zu entdecken.
      Einen lieben Gruß zurück,
      Tanja

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      • Tanja, die weißen Gänse die sich unter unserer Grau und Kanadagänse mischen, sind überwiegend weiße Hausgänse.. Später entwickeln sich daraus auch schon mal grauweiße Hybriden.
        Liebe Grüße Werner

        Liked by 1 person

  4. To modify a title by Eugene O’Neill, with this post The Ice Woman Cometh forth with great photos. And in heptapus (heptapod) you came forth with a good new name. Your pictures of natural ice sculptures made me wonder if anyone has taken photographs from multiple angles and then used a computer and 3D printing to recreate the natural formations in plastic or other materials.

    In 2017 we got to experience what you said about different zones in Colorado. We drove north through the prairie not far west of the Kansas border, then on the return spent time in the Rocky Mountains.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Steve. Not having read any O’Neill, I had to follow your comparison to learn about his play, “The Iceman Cometh.”

      I have no trouble imagining someone having conceived of your idea, and having created said 3-D images. But feel free to do more research in your spare time and pursue the printing in case it hasn’t been done!

      I think many cross-country, westbound travelers are at least a little surprised when they first arrive in Colorado and are surrounded not by mountains of granite, but by oceans of prairie.

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      • Thank you for sharing the map, Steve. Just another detail of the tumultuous way this country “acquired” land, and the tenuous Union that was held together at a huge cost from its very beginnings.
        I just finished “American Republics” by Alan Taylor, a very sobering read.

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  5. Liebe Tanja,
    du verwöhnst und wieder mit herrlichen Bildern. Deine Tauben vor dem zunehmenden Mond sind bezaubernd.
    Bei uns hier im Osten sind es die Atlantik-Provinzen, die jedes Mal von den „south of the border“ kommenden Tiefs mit Schneefall bedacht werden. Hier bei uns liegt zwar Schnee, aber eigentlich nicht übermässig viel. Aber die schneereichen Monate Februar und März kommen ja noch. Anscheinend sollen wir am Donnerstag (3.Feb.) so um die 15-20 cm Schnee bekommen.
    Viele Grüsse
    Christa

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dankeschön, liebe Christa. Du bezauberst uns ja schon seit einigen Wochen wenn nicht Monaten mit winterlichen Bildern aus Kanada.
      Und dieser Sturm, der Euch Schnee bringen soll, wird, wenn die Meteorologen Recht haben, auch bei uns endlich mal größere Mengen hinterlassen. Hoffen wir, daß Mensch und Tier keine Schäden erleiden.
      Februarliche Grüße,
      Tanja

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I continue to enjoy your creative eye. You really captured the theme of January leaving.

    Although here in central Florida we didn’t get any hoarfrost in our landscape, we DID have a couple of uncharacteristically cold days. No worries. Our warmth will return soon!

    The good news is our birds (residents as well as migrants) just don’t care about the weather. Only about where the next meal is located!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the compliment, Wally.

      I always worry about your birds and other creatures not accustomed to wintry conditions, whenever I hear that snow or ice are headed into Florida. Or Texas, for that matter. I know last year’s storm was calamitous in that regard. Let’s hope nobody has to live through anything similar anytime soon.

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  7. Beautiful photos! I’m sorry to hear that the area you live is on severe drought…I live in west coast and usually got warning for drought too, but the past month brought us heavy rain that caused flood in my neighbor. Hope you get some more snow/rain to recover from dought🤞✨

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Tanooki. The weather forecast for the next several days promises a high chance for snow and we hope it will materialize.
      I follow the cycles of drought, wildfires, and floods in California with great concern. The experts tell us that we have to get used to it, which is very sobering.
      I hope you will stay safe.
      Best,
      Tanja

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Tanja –
    So sad to hear about the drought conditions in Colorado. I just loved your photos of the frost, animals and ice sculptures. You captured the delicacy of the frost perfectly. I so enjoy reading your posts and seeing your photos. I hope you are doing well and keeping busy.
    =Jill

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Tanja,
    Whoa! Hoar frost is amazing! We have frost and ice, but I don’t remember seeing anything as wondrous as that!
    Sorry about your lack of snow. Our weather patterns don’t bode well for our future, do they? Where I am in Central Massachusetts was far enough inland to be spared the heavy, wet snow, although the 16 inches of dry-ish snow we got does get tedious to shovel after a fashion. 😉 We were just glad not to lose power, and that it wasn’t the kind of snow that piles up on the roof.
    Fingers crossed for a bit of February snow for you!
    Regards,
    Julie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Julie. I’m glad to hear you are safe and didn’t suffer any major damage from this last East Coast storm, other than maybe some sore muscles and joints from having to shovel so much snow. I hope you will recover.
      And we are under a winter weather advisory for the next several days, with a good chance of receiving some much-needed moisture. ❄❄❄
      Stay warm,
      Tanja

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Beautiful snow-capped mountains in your header! We are having a dismally dry January here on the coast, too. I don’t think it bodes well for the coming summer.
    In the meantime… what a delight to see the snow ice sculptures. And you caught a little dipper braving that icy cold water. Makes me shiver just to think about it. Nice catch with the moon behind the pigeons. But most of all… the hoar frost is simply marvelous!Hoping we here in the west get some more snow or rain where it’s needed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Gunta, I’m glad some of the photos spoke to you. That hoar frost day was special and I’m glad I braved the cold to experience it. And dippers are among my avian favorites, especially if I also get to hear them sing.
      I hope you and we and all the other drought-stricken places will get some moisture. There is a good chance of snow here tomorrow and we can’t wait. ❄⛄

      Liked by 1 person

  11. That river delta in ice reminded me of a sumi painting of a tree — but oh, those images of the frost — stunning — especially when viewed from afar.

    I don’t miss the cold weather – ever. You might appreciate that this past weekend I traveled to document the Chestnut-headed Oropendolas nesting — they are way off their normal range, but now for the third year. The rains resumed, so I left before the road got too sloppy, then paused just before crossing the dam and over to the civilized side of the reservoir. Half an hour later I was still there – and in no hurry to resume my trip, as if I were being held there by some silent and greater force of expectation. I was trying to see the various species feeding on the Cecropia catkins, when a large bird flopped to the crown of some of the highest trees. I thought, ‘Raptor? Limpkin? and then it – and others – flew to the other side of the gravel road and into lower trees – “Ah! Anis! – but wait. They are huge…’ It was almost dark so the photos were not good – but good enough to document ‘ yes, Greater Ani!’ — another species showing up to say, ‘please document our existence in this area of the country.’ – and indeed, I did!

    https://ebird.org/species/greani1/EC-M

    Maybe that little epistle gave you a tiny respite from winter – and a cyber immersion in the neotropics.

    I hope that you get lots of doses of rain/snow in moderation, and that the balance returns to your area.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for your comment, Lisa. I do like to experience four seasons but think I could live in a place like Ecuador because of its incredible avifauna.
    I appreciate you sharing your Greater Ani sighting and eBird link. A few years ago, a Groove-billed Ani somehow made it to the Denver area and I was among the many pilgrims who went to enjoy it. It’s tantalizing to know how many birds there are whom I will never get to see.
    And I’m happy to report that the first day of February brought a winter storm which dropped at least half a foot of snow on our area. It’s very cold and I’m getting ready to put out a lot of seeds and suet for our birds. 🙂

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  13. I love the icy shots – something we see so rarely here. Most of Texas is in a drought cycle again and it’s worrying. As you say, our states are very varied in landscape and ecology. We are benefited by being closer to the coast and get that awful humidity that keeps the trees happy!! When I worked at the airport, newcomers to Houston would always comment on how green it is from the sky. I expect they wanted tumbleweed and horses…🤠

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Kerry. I always enjoy discovering (and interpreting) new ice sculptures, but I hope you won’t get to see any in Texas. No repeat of last year’s horribly destructive storm, please!
      I do, at times, envy you your green, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We are frozen, currently. It was 25 F yesterday. One little squirrel kept lingering after I had fed them apples and peanuts. I went outside to see what the problem was. She jumped down to show me that the water bowl was frozen. Lukewarm water was brought out immediately (in a new bowl) by her ever loving servant!

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Wow! The hoar frost looks fantastic. I’ve seen as much frost only a couple of times (back in Scotland) but never seen it like that here. It’s truly spectacular. I love the two ‘ice sculptures’ too – the octopus is fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Ann. Hoar frost doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s always memorable. We usually get cold enough for ice sculptures, though, and it’s fun looking for unusual ice animals, be they eight- or seven-legged. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Herzlichen Dank, liebe Heike. Glücklicherweise hat der Februar fast 20 Zentimeter Schnee mit sich gebracht, was uns sehr gefreut hat.
      Ich wünsche auch Euch noch etwas Schnee bevor der Winter zu Ende geht.
      Herzliche Grüße,
      Tanja

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  15. Droughts are terrible. We also had regular droughts around till two years back. A lot of fight to divide the river water between two states was regular in newspapers. Now due to global warming, the whole ecosystem is disturbed and now rain is too much.
    But your photographs are stunning. You have captured the nature so beautifully!!

    Liked by 1 person

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