Saturday, February 21, 2015

Living on a lake - frozen style

The Lake continues to be exciting as the ice continuously forms, breaks apart and shifts around... I'm not sure if this is the type of hobby for everyone, but I've really been enjoying watching and documenting the changes. After the rapid buildup I mentioned a few days ago, offshore winds slowly broke away at the edge, until open water wasn't terribly far offshore. Then after a calm night, I awoke to this scene this morning (21st) -

The dark line is open water (the same edge that was open the day before) but >95% beyond that had solid or slushy ice cover... It was ungodly cold this past week (as you may have noticed) and I guess that even a strong offshore breeze wasn't enough to keep the surface clear. After looking at the ice cover maps it was clear that this must have been a fairly local event, (lots of open water out there somewhere) but it was pretty neat to see. With the ice, came a rather good look (for condo standards) of a Snowy Owl straight offshore at 7:30am this morning.

Not the best photo, but my first in a few days - so I was happy. Interestingly enough the bird was eventually flushed by a passing Bald Eagle, something I have seen happen a few times already this winter. I sorta had the impression that Snowies were too bad-a$s to be concerned by much of anything (other than peregrines?) but I guess a BAEA is big enough for alarm... Anyhoot, probably the most interesting/unusual bird behaviour of the past few days has been large wandering groups of White-winged Scoters

In my experiences here over the past 2.5 winters, White-winged Scoters seem to be the least-interested species in ice cover, wind, waves etc. They often just stay put (and may be well offshore) - but these recent freeze events have seemingly startled them a bit, and I have been watching these large groups mill about. Many times they have flown right to the southernmost (near-shore) open water and begin feeding, where normally they're content to stay far away... 

Things change fairly steadily around here, but I have also recently noticed a pretty big decrease in the numbers of Surf Scoters, Common Goldeneye and especially Long-tailed Ducks. The LTDU's seem to be the masters of wandering, so I'd like to think they have simply flown until they found open water on the deeper lakes, but it is also no secret that some birds seem to be trying to find better places to spend their time - and why not? Throughout the day today (on light winds) I watched their remaining open water start to freeze over, until they had little more than slush-trenches to travel through and dive for some food.

I get the impression that may offshore "open patches" are little more than areas kept open by the movement/diving/bathing of ducks (often WW Scoters) - allowing them to hop around from one place to the next - but how long will this last? ... Overnight they are continuing to call for calm winds, so I will be interested to see how things are in the morning. Beyond that we can expect colder temperatures, but they're also calling for rather strong winds. I presume the winds (NW to SW) will be strong enough to really break things up around here, and maybe even bring them back to a semi-normal state. It probably won't help on Huron or Superior, where things are nearly 100% covered, but it will definitely change things up locally. 

Overall it was a pretty neat (and scenic) day of watching the Lake! 

1 comment:

  1. I sense a trend here...

    10:52 AM EST Sunday 22 February 2015
    Extreme Cold Warning in effect for:

    City of Hamilton
    A period of very cold wind chills is expected.

    As has been the case quite often this winter, bitterly cold arctic air will return to the region later today in the wake of a sharp arctic cold front. Stiff northwesterly winds combining with very cold, possibly record setting minumum temperatures will once again result in extreme wind chills of minus 40 to minus 30 overnight and Monday morning.