February 4, 2014

Halos and Sundogs

22° Halo phenomenon

Wispy cirrus and veil-like cirrostratus clouds lingered over Osage Hills State Park for most of the day yesterday.  The millions of tiny ice crystals that make up these high clouds can refract the sun’s rays into halos of light and rainbow-like designs as they pass through.

A little after noon, I noticed a halo around the sun called a “22̊  halo” (22 degrees is the visual distance of the halo from the sun).  The halo remained visible for several hours as a nearly complete circle.

Towards evening, another phenomenon called a “sundog” — A bright patch of colored light at the same level as the sun, but at a distance from it — came into view on both sides of the sun.  Sundogs usually occur at 22̊  like the 22̊  halo, but these were at the less common angle of 46 degrees.

Both of these phenomena occur when sunlight passes through optically pure and perfectly formed ice crystals shaped like six-sided plates or columns.  To further complicate matters, these ice crystals must be suspended in the cloud layer in a uniform orientation.  The angles at which the sunlight enters and exits each crystal dictates what kind of effect is created.

Very specific conditions are necessary to create these features, yet they are actually fairly common.  Unfortunately, we rarely see them because we don’t spend much time looking at the sky.

To learn more about halo phenomena, as well as fantastic information about all cloud types, check out my favorite book on the subject:  The Cloudspotter’s Guide – The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney.

January 29, 2014

Scottish Rite Temple is Site of 2014 NAI Region VI Workshop

Guthrie Masonic Temple

The National Association for Interpretation Region VI Workshop will be held in Guthrie, Oklahoma on February 24-26, 2014.

The Temple of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry will be the primary venue.

I traveled to Guthrie with other members of the planning committee on Monday to iron out some final details.  The temple is an incredible building.  If you don’t join me at the NAI convention, be sure to take a tour of the Temple the next time you find yourself in Guthrie.  You’ll be glad you did!  (Until then, you can take a 360° visual tour online!)

One of the rooms in the temple. The others are just as grand!

One of the rooms in the temple. All the others are just as grand!

January 24, 2014

A Visit To Lake Murray Nature Center

Lake Murray Nature Center

Earlier this month, I attended a meeting at Lake Murray State Park in south central Oklahoma.  The primary reason we visited this location was to admire the new Lake Murray Nature Center below the park’s iconic Tucker Tower.  The purpose-built structure is fantastic, and all the exhibits are modern and relate to the park or the immediate area.

I also enjoyed an overnight stay at the Lake Murray Lodge.  If you haven’t been there in a while – no worries, it looks exactly the same as it has for decades! …But that is all about to change!  The park is scheduled for a major overhaul that includes a new lodge and many other exciting updates.

Of course, there’s no need to wait for the new lodge before you plan your next visit to Lake Murray!  Even in January there are a variety of things to see and do.  Check out the new nature center, the recently renovated Tucker Tower, and the parks’ rich WPA/CCC history.  On any hike or drive around the lake you are sure to see bald eagles and whole flotillas of waterfowl.  (A Lake Murray employee even reported seeing swans during my visit.)  Then there’s the best part: A visit during the off-season almost makes it feel like you have the place to yourself.

Check out their website!

January 12, 2014

Five Trumpeter Swans on Lookout Lake Today

20140112 Trumpeter Swan Line

 Five trumpeter swans — two adults and three juveniles — found their way to Lookout Lake in Osage Hills State Park this morning.  The swans have used the lake off and on this winter, with a maximum of seven swans observed on the lake at one time.

The trails around the lake are still open. However, I ask that you stay on the trail any time the swans are present.

January 11, 2014

Stories in the Snow

Animals venturing out in the snow leave a story behind. These stories, often otherwise invisible, shed light on animal behavior and provide visual clues into how critters make use of their habitat.

Snow Tracks

Snow Tracks 06The photo above, taken Tuesday, shows the imprint made by the feet and the tail feathers of a crow during landing. The crow walked up to a tree, turned left to walk down some steps, and then took flight again.

In the photo at left, we see a mouse hopped out a short distance from the rock and then returned to protective cover. At some point, a cross-country venture started here, too. But although this mouse only made one trip in this direction, a wider view shows a well-established “runway” between the rock and the tall grass in the other direction.

Both of these events are commonplace in the park, but the snow “captured” these two stories in a way that revealed something more than I could see with my eyes alone. In the first case, because I wasn’t there to witness the event, the crow’s landing and short stroll would have escaped my notice had it not been frozen in the snow until I happened along. And in the second case, even had I observed a mouse near the rock on several occasions, I probably wouldn’t have realized that a single runway existed between it and the grass had the snow not shown the cumulative track lines.

Next time snow carpets the ground, why not head outside and see what stories you can find “printed” in the snow?