Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Night before last the prolonged bout of single-digit temperatures finally had it’s way with the river—at least the slower stretch upstream of the cottage—locking the surface water under a layer of ice which stretched all the way across. From bank to bank, not even a narrow channel of open water snaked down the long hole to mark the current’s main line. The view was unfamiliar—from one side to the other a flat, white cap of solid ice with a layer of snow on top. There was still open water in the cottage riffle, and open water downstream at least as far the bend. Ice shelves on both banks didn’t appear to have extended themselves, either. Which doubtless reflects the amount of current throughout this lower half-mile stretch as opposed to the half-mile of river visible above the cottage. The river’s freezing over hasn’t made any difference in terms of wildlife—at least so far as I can tell. The resident great blue heron is still fishing patiently in his favorite downstream riffle—a stark, gangly figure dressed in a gray overcoat and looking somewhat forlorn. Of course the water in the long, slow stretch upstream is waist-deep or a bit more at the center when the stream’s at its normal level. (I know because I often wade though it when fishing for smallmouth or rock bass.) Too deep for a heron, though great for the kingfishers which sit on overhanging sycamore limbs that offer a strategic perch from which to launch their dive-bomb attack on hapless minnows below. Otherwise the long stretch is more the province of true waterfowl—mallards, wood ducks, Canada geese. These tend to move around from place to place anyway, and since there’s ample open water downstream, I doubt they care whether this particular stretch is temporarily unavailable. I haven’t noticed any squirrels using this new “bridge” to cross over from the island side to the mainland, though I did see a handful of crows ambling about. They didn’t seem to be doing anything, poking, prodding, investigating; just congregating for a brief crow chat, smack in the middle the frozen, white plain—a location doubtless chosen because it showed them off to their contrasty best. The prediction is for above-freezing temperatures to replace the single digits for a couple of days. If so, the river upstream will once again prevail with open water. But for how long…only winter knows.