Trumpeter Swans on Ice, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Trumpeter swans stand on ice, waiting for it to melt, on a frozen lake in Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

So spring’s finally here, and summer’s just around the corner. Well, so thought the trumpeter swans, anyway. They headed north, arrived, and trumpeted the standard ‘What The Heck?” when they saw ice everywhere.

This family of 4 trumpeter swans were amongst the first to arrive – good flyers, I expect, as I doubt they took a shortcut. I’m sure they’re about as keen as I am for the ice and snow to melt and some warmer weather. I was surprised to see a couple of youngsters with them – what a way to start your life, a crazy migration thousands of miles north to the land of ice and snow. The youngsters are last year’s chicks, I didn’t realize they stayed with their parents more than a year.

The birds are starting to arrive, and I’m keen to get some more waterfowl as the lakes and rivers open a little more. I found a Great Horned Owl next the other day, but it’s not very accessible to photos .. deep in the thick of a stand of cottonwoods. I hear Great Horned Owls every night outside the cabin, but I’ve not seen them yet. They’re too sneaky for me.

So, today’s pop quiz. It’s really, REALLY hazy here the last few days. The temperature’s up around the 50 degree mark, not a cloud in the sky, there are no fires, so it’s not smoke. Who knows what’s going on (I do)? The word you’re looking for starts with an ‘s’.



9 thoughts on “Trumpeter Swans on Ice, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

  1. Guy

    Hey Carl,

    Is that steam fog or something more nefarious?
    I’m enjoying catching up on your musings. I could sure use some of that quiet wild Alaska time right about now (well, right about any time, to be honest). I’m sure the months ahead will result in some amazing moments, experiences, and image as the world comes out of hibernation.

    Live it up, man!


  2. Pete Zwiers

    Hey Carl, I’ve seen a similar haze (I think) a few times around here late this winter. Usually if it’s been quite warm during the day, and then a fair amount below freezing at night. Not sure what it’s called … certainly anything starting with an ‘s’ isn’t ringing any bells! Slog? Snork? Smorg?

    Hey man, my theory about leaving the big lens behind works (for me anyway). I was out on a small lake down the road by my place yesterday, and came across a lone wolf (nicely posing for a minute or so on the lake ice about 150 feet away … and of course, the evening light was pretty sweet). My camera & big lenses were safely stowed in the closet at home. 🙂

  3. Beth Lunsford

    Is it spring mist? Certainly it wouldn’t be smog!? Because when the tempatures warm, the difference in tempature between the sun and the snow melt automatically make a mist or fog rise up. My answer is spring mist. Also Carl, great photo!! The background pulls this together with all the right colors. Love it! Stay safe!!

  4. Ron Niebrugge

    Hi Carl,

    Poor Swan!

    I heard the haze was really bad in Seward. A friend there told me it was a combination of fires in Russia a huge dust strom originating from the Gobi Desert.

    Cheers Bud,


  5. connor booker

    hi uncle carl

    I like the photo of the swan on the lake
    I watched ‘Into the Wild’ last night with your mum and dad
    I am 8 and a half now and want to go to Alaska when I grow bigger

    Love connor booker

  6. Carl Donohue

    Hey Connor,

    How are you? Great to hear from you. Eight and a half is a great age to come to Alaska – no need to wait until you grow bigger. I’m 39 and a quarter, and I wish I’d got here years ago. Mum told me you watched “Into the Wild”. Did you like it?



  7. Carl Donohue

    Hey Guy

    Thanks for dropping by, buddy. You’re sure getting a lot of mileage out of the word ‘nefarious’ lately. 🙂

    Funny you mentioned the “Alaska quiet”. I’ve been working on a little thing I want to put in my book about silence and stillness, in the Alaska winter. it’s really something else – an incredibly powerful thing. That said, yeah, I’m keen for the summer. I have some really cool trips lined up, and can’t wait to hit the highcountry. Come on up!

    Hey Pete

    That’s a bummer about the camera and lens not being with you when you saw the wolf. Ain’t it always that way? Bummer. Still, a treat to see one, for sure. Hell, I got excited when I saw fresh wolf tracks in the snow last week.

    Hey Beth,

    I’ve never heard the term ‘spring mist’. You’re not that far off though.

    Hey Ron,

    It doesn’t count if you get the answers to my quiz from the news!

    To all – actually, the haze is a combination of things. As Ron suggested, here in the Anchorage area it’s largely (apparently) a function of dust from a SANDSTORM all the way west in the Gobi desert, and SMOKE from fires in Russia. But over in the Wrangells a few days ago, it was also a function of SUBLIMATION. So what’s ‘sublimation’, I hear you ask? Well, I’ll tell you:

    Sublimation is the term given to the chemical process of an element or compound moving from a solid state to a gaseous state. In a very simple explanation, it’s like evaporation, but evaporation is a liquid to a gas, water evaporates, right? Well the snow sublimates to gas, and with a few days of clear sunny skies and long warm days, massive amounts of snow turns to vapor, relatively quickly, and that is the haze we were seeing over in the park a few days ago. Snowflakes and frost are the opposite of sublimation, when water vapor changes directly into a solid state (ice) – called ‘deposition’.

    For a great example of sublimation, think about ‘dry ice’ – the ‘fog’ that surrounds it is a mixture of carbon dioxide gas and cold humid air as the dry ice sublimates. In the mountains, at high altitude, with low air pressure, low relative humidity and dry (particularly warm) winds, and intense sunlight will cause sublimation of the snow – you often see it as wind blown snow off mountain peaks, but it’s not really wind blowing snow – it’s sublimation (well, sometimes it IS wind blown snow, but often sublimation is inaccurately labeled wind blown snow.

    The famous ‘Chinook Winds” are a contributor to sublimation – warm westerlies, low in moisture, coming in off the Pacific, crossing high mountains like the Rockies, they’ll hit a snowpack, and the frozen H2) turns directly to vapor without melting. Heat is an integral element (the energy component) and it comes from both the wind and the sunlight. Sublimation.

    We have a few scientists on board this blog from time to time, they should’ve known this. Tsk tsk tsk.




  8. Sergei

    With all due respect, sublimation is NOT a chemical process, but a physical one, as no making/breaking of chemical bonds is involved, just a thermodynamic change in the phase

  9. Carl Donohue

    Hey Sergei

    Thank you. You are, as always, correct. Sublimation is not a chemical process, particularly for someone who is a chemistry professor. I think your post is the first time the word ‘thermodynamic’ has been posted on my blog. Thanks. 🙂



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