Wednesday, January 21, 2009

FREEZE-OVER!

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.

13 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

This is a lovely piece of writing and super photographs - you make your cottage seem idyllic.

Deb said...

I saw some deer on the ice on a local river this morning. The water is slow moving in that area so it always freezes in winter.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

Thank you for your kind words.

The cottage could use a number of fixes— wiring, a slate floor, new bathroom. The river can be scary when it rises; it will one day doubtless find it's way inside, having flooded about three times since it was built in 1918. Also, achieving a true "cottage garden" look, which I want and love, is problematic—much of the acre I have being in full or partial shade; so I'm having to learn how to shade garden.

Still, for where it is and who I am, it comes pretty close to idyllic. If my neighbors were farther away…and the river held trout…and I could have chickens and a vegetable patch…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Deb…

There are deer on the island across from the cottage, and they do come over to this side occasionally, but usually by wading the riffles.

Saw a raccoon wandering down this stretch last year when it was frozen, walking about midways out. I've not taken a look along the bank for tracks, but I'd imagine squirrels, foxes, skunks, maybe coyotes (there are quite a few around) plus dogs and cats, use it.

River ice hereabouts is a pretty risky option, though. Treacherous for all but the smallest creatures. The water may be relatively shallow, but it is numbingly cold and as you know, scrambling back onto an ice shelf, or even up an icy bank, wet and shivering, can be difficult or impossible. I find dead deer, dead dogs, and dead raccoons along the nearby banks almost every spring. Some of these undoubtedly fell through the ice and perished.

giggles said...

All I can say is "BBBbbrrrrrr!"

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Burr-r-r-r-r-r! Would be about it, although today was a balmy 21 or 22 or 23, depending on the source you believe. My thermometer said 25; I believe me.

Still a burr-r-r-r-r though.

giggles said...

OK.... Today's roll call..... A pair of cardinals (m-f), black capped ckick-a-dee-dee-dees, a pair of wb nuthatches (a PAIR!) one red-bellied, and one goldfinch...so far.... (I gotta get thistle in the finch feeder...I don't have the right kind of food in it for finches.... I expect it was a mighty hungry and disappointed little visitor!) oh, and many slate juncoes....

Bonus sight... 3 galloping deer, one with a small rack, through the waaaaaaay back of the yard.... (I have often thought about putting out a salt lick for them, but am afraid of inviting even more trouble with invasion in the warmer months...thoughts?)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Hey, not a bad count. You make me think I, too, ought to put out a thistle-seed feeder just for the goldfinches. But then I see all the goldfinches hanging around my two sunflower-seed feeders, and I think…why?

Re. the salt block for deer. Sure, if you want to attract them, and it won't cause problems with neighbors, flowers or garden plants in season, etc. It may or may not make much difference—but it doesn't cost much to try.

And come next November, you can take your compound bow, daub some camp makeup on (you do have camo makeup, right?) stakeout the back fenceline, and collect the makin's of venison stew.

gig said...

OH.......you...are......wicked........funny!!!!!!!!! I am giggling loudly!!

giggles said...

I forgot to mention the tufted titmice yesterday... The red-bellied was back today.... I could sit and watch all day...if there weren't more important things to do.... (There aren't, but I have to pretend to be working at the day job!) I have filled all feeders, so we'll see who comes to check out the new gruel...besides the fat, happy squirrels that keep invading!

I see that Solitary Walker had a problem with our back and forth the other day...so I went a-visiting.... He's got much good wisdom to ponder.....

Raph G. Neckmann said...

This has made me feel cold too! I like your squirrel poem.

Until yesterday I had never heard the sound squirrels make. There were five of them chasing around in the woods, chattering away in a very squabblish fashion. A real treat!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Those tufted titmice must be counted! While they may be common visitors at our feeders (mine, anyway) other folks seldom see one.

The RBW is also an interesting bird. They, too, are common here, as are downy woodpeckers. I get a real kick out of 'em.

Solitary Walker is, indeed, a wise and interesting fellow. One of my favorites. His blog is always worth reading. He was just getting a little impatient to tout the return of his long-tailed tits…and perhaps jealous that I had goldfinches a'plenty and he didn't.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph. G.…

It's always a pleasure to have such an erudite giraffe stop by. Especially one who liked my squirrel poem.

Squirrels make several sounds (vocalizations? noises?) which often surprise folks. Right now, of course, it being the mating season, they're into what I once heard described as "love chatter" as they chase each other around at breakneck speeds.