Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ice Out

For the past few weeks the river, except for fast water sections, has been frozen bank to bank. It’s been a number of years since that much ice has formed on the river. But then, on Wednesday, rain fell heavily for several hours putting about ¾ inch on the ground – a warm rain that melted over a foot of snow at the house. Upstream areas also received heavy rain and lost a lot of snow.
The rapid inflow of runoff raised the river by over eight feet, breaking up the solid sheets of ice and carrying them downstream. At the same time, ice from upriver came our way, so for many hours the river was still ice covered – but the ice was not in solid stationary sheets. Instead it was in a mass of churning pieces, constantly on the move headed downstream. For most of Thursday ice flowed constantly, until late in the afternoon there was open water on the north side with mini-icebergs flowing past.

Yesterday, as I walked along the river there was still a bit of ice flowing past, just the remnants of the large masses that had been there 24 hours before. With the open water there was a large flight of ring-billed gulls, headed upstream on their way to the Great Lakes. Some of the gulls rode the chunks of ice for a while, before taking off to continue their upstream journey.
Apparently also arriving as the ice left were some male canvasbacks that stayed just beyond the narrow strip of ice that was still moored to the bank. Were they the same birds that had been on the river at the end of February, or had those birds moved on and been replaced by more recent migrants?
Not far from the canvasbacks a muskrat had climbed out of the water onto the shore ice and spent quite some time grooming its fur.
This morning there was a stiff northwest wind - high above the house flocks of Canada geese were heading north. These weren’t resident birds that had wintered on the small areas of open water, they were long distance migrants flying high and having difficulty holding formation as they flew into the wind. 

No comments: