Just when you think you've seen it all...
I'm no stranger to the outdoors, and might even make a claim of being a keen observer of natural history phenomenon, but these miniature round haybales of snow were a new one on me. Upon return to my office and access to The Google and other online resources, it didn't take long to figure out what these circular lumps of frozen water were.
Fortunately, last night's frigid temperatures worked to preserve the Snow Rollers pretty much as they were yesterday, and I tossed the camera gear in the car before setting off to the office today. Around 9 am, I begged out of the office for a short while, and headed out into the -8 F temperature to make Snow Roller photos. The grassy expanse above is the yard of a school only a few minutes from work, and I headed there to photo-document Snow Rollers.
First, the ground must be slick and icy - a surface to which snow will not adhere very well. Two, the ice must then be blanketed by snow of just the right consistency - not too dry nor wet, and of just the right fluffiness. Three, a fairly forceful but not overly powerful wind must whip up and start moving chunks of snow. As the nucleus of the Snow Roller begins to gain momentum, it collects more snow and eventually forms a near perfect roll. Too much wind, and the snow rolls will disintegrate.
Snowy Owls. It turns out that she is also a meterologist, so I grilled her about Snow Rollers. According to her, they are indeed a rarity and I probably hadn't just been overlooking them every winter. Most of the people that I've talked to today had never seen any, either. I spoke to my 87 year-old father today (after he finished shoveling 4 inches of snow off his driveway, the dynamo) and he didn't recall ever seeing Snow Rollers either.
So if you happen across any Snow Rollers, take a moment to drink them in. It may be a long time before you see any again.