Icicle Towers, Snow Walls, and Winter Wildlife

by Derek Stoner, Family Program Coordinator

A tower of icicle columns on the north side of Ashland Nature Center.  The longest measured 18 feet! 2/13/10 by Derek Stoner.
A tower of icicle columns on the north side of Ashland Nature Center. The longest measured 18 feet! 2/13/10 by Derek Stoner.

The after-effects of back-to-back big snowstorms is still being seen across the region.  Bit by bit, the snow is diminishing and melting away. 

Nature’s artistry is evident in the incredible icicle formations dangling from buildings everywhere.  The snowmelt from rooftops is creating some epic icicles, growing longer with each passing day.  Drip by drip, each bit of melted water then re-freezes and adds to the the growing icicle.  The best and biggest icicles “grow” on the north side of buildings where they are sheltered from the sun’s rays.  At Ashland, one tower of ice contained mutliple icicles over 10 feet long, with the longest stretching to 18 feet!   

A 15-foot wall of snow along Route 9, the result of high winds and drifting.
A 15-foot wall of plowed snow along Route 9, the result of high winds and drifting. 2/15/10 by Derek Stoner.

A drive south along the scenic Route 9 corridor revealed a scene usually reserved for the Great Plains: major snow drifts completely closing the road.  A massive DelDot tractor used a bucket as large as a pickup truck to move the snow off the roadway.  One could not see over the fifteen foot wall of snow left behind, making it seem like a snow-a-phobe’s worst nightmare!

A Gray Catbird scratches for food in the dead leaves amidst the snow in Port Penn, DE.  2/15/10 by Derek Stoner
A Gray Catbird scratches for food in the dead leaves amidst the snow in Port Penn, DE. 2/15/10 by Derek Stoner
The wildlife is working hard to scratch out a living– literally.  Gray Catbirds are uncommon in winter, typcially migrating further south.  Some catbirds linger and feed on berries and seeds in thickets.  This individual and other birds like the robin below were scratching through the exposed leaves along the edge of the road near Port Penn recently.   
An American Robin investigates a patch of grass amidst the snow.  2/15/10 by Derek Stoner.
An American Robin investigates a patch of grass amidst the snow. 2/15/10 by Derek Stoner.
An American Tree Sparrow at Bombay Hook NWR.  2/15/10 by Derek Stoner.
An American Tree Sparrow at Bombay Hook NWR. 2/15/10 by Derek Stoner.
Another bird that is showing up at bird feeders in backyards recently is the American Tree Sparrow.  This handsome sparrow typically feeds in fields of warm-season grasses, foraging for tiny seeds.  With this food source buried under snow, these birds are coming to feeders for handouts of sunflowers and other large seeds.   
The season of snow and cold weather is a challenging one for wildlife, but most animals are adaptable enough to find what they need to survive during hard times.  We can all admire wildlife for their ability to hang tough!   

3 thoughts on “Icicle Towers, Snow Walls, and Winter Wildlife”

  1. The snow cover has shown how important it is to keep meadows uncut through the winter leaving the seed heads available. At Flintwoods we have observed 25 or more field sparrows at a time feeding on warm season grasses in the meadow along the driveway.

  2. Bill, absolutely true. I observe lots of sparrows doing this as well. Cardinals switch over to feeding on ragweed seeds too.

Leave a Reply