I'm getting anxious for ice-out.
We have busy days ahead of us as we put together the rigging hardware for two loon-nesting platforms. From years of observation I've found that loons arrive on our lake the day the ice goes out.
Kelly Applegate, purple martin advocate extraordinaire, has ordered, received and partially assembled a purple martin house. Because scouting martins arrive early, Kelly says we must have the guard rack up as soon as the ice goes out.
We must clean the wood duck boxes and bluebird houses, too. All four species are among the earliest to arrive in Minnesota each spring. We must be ready if we want them to reside in our houses and structures.
Today, April 1, the lake ice looks solid. It has retreated from shore and is gone from the creek leading into the lake. It makes me a bit giddy in anticipation. My fascination with watching the ice go dates back to childhood. When I was young, junker cars were placed on the ice in spring by businesses and people would predict when the rust buckets would sink. Everyone would by-guess and by-golly the possibilities.
I was as interested as much in the recovery as the sinking. But I don't remember seeing those vehicles removed from the lake. I fear many lakes have old car carcasses from those days.
The definition of ice-out varies from person to person. Some, like me, say it occurs when the lake is completely free of ice. Some say it's when the lake is 90 percent free. Others say it's when navigation is possible from point A to point B.
Due to these varying definitions, the state climatology office attempts to contact the same people each year to maintain consistent records.
According to the University of Minnesota, ice-out as of March 31 is as follows. Still covered are Big Sandy, Leech, Winnibigoshish, Gull, Mille Lacs, Fish Trap, Osakis and Ottertail. In southern and western Minnesota, Sarah Lake in Murray County and Swan Lake in Nicollet County both were declared open on March 24. They're the first lakes to be ice free this season.
Listed below are the lake names, average ice-out, earliest ice-out, latest ice-out and years of data for the following lakes: Big Sandy, April 21, March 31, 2000, May 4, 1996, 47 years; Leech, April 27, April 9, 1945, May 23, 1950, 65 years; Gull, April 22, April 2, 2000, May 18, 1950, 41 years; North Long, April 20, April 8, 1987, May 3, 1979, 31 years; Ox, April 23, April 9, 1973, May 5, 1975, 22 years; Mille Lacs, April 24, April 2, 2000, May 8, 1975, 34 years; Fish Trap, April 16, March 26, 2000, April 30, 1996, 11 years.
In spring, just before ice-out, water near the bottom is 39 degrees. Water above the bottom is cooler, approaching 32 degrees just under the ice. As the weather warms the ice melts and the surface waters heat up. Wind action and increasing density cause the surface water to sink and mix with the deeper water, a process called spring turnover.
So there you have it. After ice out comes the wood ducks and loons and tree swallows and, hopefully, purple martins. We'll leave the light on and hope they choose our offerings of hospitality.
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