Sunday, January 10, 2016

January 10, 2015 - Ice In

Winter has progressed enough to have finally frozen Lake Wicwas, even if today looks rather April-like as a foggy 45 degree sky rains down upon us.  Cold weather earlier in the week locked up the middle of the lake when the wind let up on January 6th.
January 5th:  Still lots of open water

January 6th:  Frozen over after a cold, calm night

This was the latest ice-in I have seen, the previous record set in the winter of 2012-13 when the lake froze on January 4, 2013 - the only other time it occurred after New Year's.  I saw ice fishermen on Lake Waukewan which is least partially frozen;  I wonder if they will have to use Waukewan for the Pond Hockey Classic this year as they did in 2012 when Meredith Bay didn't freeze in time.  The Bay is still wide open at this point.

The new ice wasn't safe to go on, but the old ice around the edges was six inches thick with a good surface for skating, so I had my first excursion onto the lake in two months.

I wasn't the only, or the first creature to venture onto the ice.  I saw several tracks on the ice, some made when the surface was still soft, including these fox or coyote tracks that went right across the thin new ice.
Canine tracks heading to and over the new black ice

An otter had been out belly-sliding on the slushy lake surface across one of the coves.
Otter love to push themselves along the ice, sliding along like a seal

After the surface froze hard, a tiny layer of snow was extracted from a cold night and spread the perfect surface to record the passage of this mink along the shore line.
Mink tracks in a trace of snow

Our mink must be doing well these days, as these are on the large end of the scale for mink prints, which range from 1-1/4" to 2" long (Rezendes, Tracking and the Art of Seeing, pg. 118)  They are undoubtedly from a mink based on the behavior, poking all along the shore line, exploring all the crevices in the bank and jumping up on the shore on occasion looking for an inattentive squirrel.

So, evidence of canines and weasels on the prowl for food, and of course, the hunted:  lots of rodents.  Even the chipmunks have been out enjoying the warm winter, though I don't think this one will last long based on its lack of respect for potential threats.
A fearless chipmunk won't grow old among the region's many adept hunters

Large areas of the forest are littered with a blanket of hemlock cone shells dropped by the red squirrels which are plentiful this winter.

Including this pretty sight one morning.
Lots of squirrels up in those trees

Rain today, cold weather tomorrow - when will mother nature make up her mind?  Without a drastic change in the weather pattern, skiing and snow shoeing will remain elusive.  Perhaps skating will be the main event now that the lake is finally frozen.  I'll spare you the sad sight of today, ending with a more pleasing memory from this past week:  a summer-like sunset.

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