Two common ravens in Fairbanks; cell phone photo
The Curator’s curiosity towards wildlife, knows no bounds, and he has more than once inquired about the difference between the American Crow and the Common Raven. A pair of Fairbanks ravens are pictured here.
Ravens are larger, about the size of a red-tailed hawk, and they often travel in pairs, where crows often travel in a flock. Crows have tail feathers that are basically the same length, so when they spread their tail, it looks like a fan. Ravens have longer middle tail feathers, so theirs looks like a wedge when spread out. Crows also emit a cawing sound, while a raven gives off more of a low croak.
The audio of a raven is an Alaska Field Recording, which is in the public domain. Thanks to floydstinkyboy for sharing it.
Ravens are seen year-round in Fairbanks. They are incredibly smart birds. I knew a sled dog who, I was told, had to defend his meals from ravens as a puppy, and he never forgot. He grew to hate ravens, and just the sight of them flying overhead drew a raucous, angry, bark fest. The ravens seemed to know this, as they would torment him just by chatting with him calmly from the tree top near his doghouse.
One of my favorite raven encounters happened in a lumber yard parking lot. I was in my truck talking to a customer on the phone, when a rather large raven landed on a truck in front of me. I watched captivated as the raven tore off the rubber from a windshield wiper. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man flailing his arms and running towards the truck. The raven quickened its pace, and promptly removed the rubber from the other wiper blade. Just as the man reached the truck’s hood, the raven lifted off into the air, with both rubber strips trailing behind it like a couple of thin snakes. An exasperated gentleman, proceeded to round on me for not defending his truck from the opportunistic flying thief. I had to admit to the man, that I was so mesmerized by the raven’s actions, that intervention never occurred to me. The entire time, the customer was howling in the phone, as I had been giving a play by play of the action.
Historic cabins within the park
I spent some time walking through Pioneer Park, which was originally known as Alaskaland. The temperature was hovering just above zero at the time, and there was absolutely no one else in the park. None of the buildings were open either, with the tourist season running from Memorial Weekend to Labor Day Weekend.
Pioneer Park in Fairbanks; or “Alaskaland”, as it is still referred to by the Sourdoughs
Data for 16 January 2019; information requested by RWS
High temp: -2F
Low temp: -19F
Average Daily high: 0F
Average Daily low: -16F
Record high: 52F
Record low: -58F
Length of day: 5 hours, 12 minutes
We saw a gain of 6 minutes of daylight from the previous day. We have gained roughly 34 minutes in the morning, and 57 minutes in the evening since the Winter Solstice.
2019 is already starting off with colder weather than anything we saw in 2018. In fact, 2018 was the 6th warmest year on record for Fairbanks.
A low temp of 33F was recorded several times during the winter of 2017-18. That low temp of 33 in January & February was a tie for the second warmest low temp on record.
The high temp for all of 2018 was 88F on 22 July.
2018 was also wet, which comes as no surprise. It was the fifth year in a row that Fairbanks saw substantially above average precipitation. Last winter, Fairbanks had 70.6″ of snowfall, which is only slightly higher than average. We really added to that with some wetter than normal summer months.
Three out of the past five years (2014, 2016, 2018) make the top ten warmest on record.
“As the days lengthen, so the cold strengthens…”
We have had a fairly mild winter so far in Alaska’s Interior. There have been a few nights in the -20F range, and little to no -30. As we pass the half way mark, my wood pile, much to the resident weasel’s delight, has well over 50% remaining.
On Saturday, the high temp barely made it to -25F, and Sunday morning it dropped down to -36F. For us, that isn’t drastic cold, but we’ve been spoiled of late, and the drop has people chattering. It also caused the phone to start to ring. Like natural disasters, cold weather brings work for the contractor. A call requesting exterior work was met with a chuckle, and the response: “Not until it warms up”. A call on Saturday night about frozen pipes required a schedule change. I don’t enjoy dealing with frozen pipes, but at least they are not my pipes.
As the forecast stands, there will not be much of a break in the cold front for a week. Next Sunday, we may near single digits below zero, and we currently don’t have positive temps on the agenda until Monday.
“He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.”
— John Burroughs