Almost Ice-out!

This was Long Lake a few days ago. The weird snow-bridge is Steve’s path to an ice-fishing spot. When the ice melted more along the shore, with a light breeze blowing, the path moved about 30 feet north. The next day it blew back in front of our house.

Ice on the move is a definite “…almost there…almost there” sign of impending ice-out.

Yep. It’s melting.

This is April 20th. These two paddlers threaded their way around the remaining ice, enjoying  the 60 degree sunshine, while our Adirondacks stared.

Soon we’ll be in our kayaks, checking for any beaver damage in Ghost Bay. I’ll also be sitting in the narrows watching for the large-mouth bass schooling through.

Not just knitting this time

It’s been a L-O-O-O-N-G time since I wrote about what’s going on here that isn’t knitting. So, this isn’t knitting. This is blue ice and unless you aren’t from around these parts, you already know where this is. You’re looking at the Big Mac in the background. Mighty Mac.

One of the distinctive things about Michigan is that we’re two peninsulas linked, since 1957, by the Mackinac Bridge. So, we’re not all mitten. Our suspension bridge, nearly 5 miles long, links our upper and our lower peninsulas. Our state motto “Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice” (“if you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you”) should probably have been written in the plural.

Here’s a look at us in knitting:

This is Carolyn Watts’ freebie Michigan Dish Cloth, knit in Knitpicks Dishie. The key to these knitted picture cloths is to knit at a tighter gauge than usual. Mine were knit on size 6 US (the blue one) and size 5 US (the orange). You’ll just have to imagine Big Mac on the cloth, though. I was tempted to add it.

Anyway, what likely caught your eye in Steve’s photo isn’t so much the bridge but the ice in the foreground. Um, it’s blue. Especially at its base. Here’s a better look:

There’s no little gnome warming his toes at a blue hearth down under the ice shelf. Michigan ice (OK, ice elsewhere too) can be blue. At times. Some of our Great Lake ice forms slowly on calm clear water. It won’t have many air bubbles or a bunch of crud in it. So, Pure Michigan can indeed be pure. Ice formed slowly and purely will allow light to penetrate it more deeply. The result is that longer wavelength light is absorbed and shorter blue wavelengths pass through. And our eyes see the blue. Blue ice shows up, every once in a blue moon, mostly in February or March. This was March, 2018.

Spectacular!

Ice also had something to do with this: a 22 degree Sun Halo. It appeared over Long Lake in mid-February, 2019.

This is not some kind of lens flare. This is what eyeballs could clearly see. It’s an ice crystal halo that forms in a ring around the sun, with a radius of 22 degrees. The optics of it are beyond my understanding. The beauty of it, well I get that. Scientists say that these sun halos are an unreliable sign of bad weather to come. That, I take it, probably means that a lot of people think that these halos are a sign of bad weather to come. And that was true in our case. We had a weird week of weather that week. Snow, rain, wintry mix, sleet.

But it’s spring now in Michigan. That means we will have…snow, rain, wintry mix, sleet. But there will be some sun too.

Spring is bringing out the critters. This guy is digging for sunflower seeds under our bird feeder. Since some birds like to sit at the feeders and throw seeds to their brethren below, there will be seeds under the feeder. (Goldfinches you know I mean you.) Stay calm skunk. You are too close to the house to be startled. I didn’t even want Steve to take a photo of this one for fear skunkie would startle. I never got a close look at a skunk’s face before. And I hope never to see one again without the protection of double-pane glass.

Peace out–

Put up your dukes!

This is an American Red Squirrel, a/k/a pine squirrel, a/k/a chickaree, a/k/a Rocky Balboa. Really, this is one of the feistiest little critters in our neck of the woods. If he were even a quarter of our size he’d eat us for lunch. He is tamiasciurus hudsonicus. His Wiki entry says he’s “a diurnal mammal that defends a year-round exclusive territory.”

Technically, Rocky’s year-round exclusive territory is a red pine near the water’s edge. Woe unto the bigger Eastern Gray Squirrel who ventures into that pine. Rocky (or possibly Rockette) will chase that squirrel away and pursue for a good distance. He’s apparently decided to extend his territory.

He’s hungry and getting ready for winter. The hull-strewn area directly under our feeders include plenty of intact black-oiled sunflower seeds, including because pesky goldfinches like to sit at the seed feeders and toss seeds down to the ground for the rest of the flock. Rocky is feasting and he isn’t kind to the other squirrels.

We have recently seen him sometimes call a truce. After all, it’s hard to stuff your face while you’re in attack mode all the time. But it’s not really his nature.

His nature is to speak loud and carry a big stick in his effort to go far.

Did you ever wonder about the expression “put up your dukes?” It’s a vestige of British rhyming slang. Rhyming slang is where a word or phrase that rhymes with another comes to substitute for what the word or phrase means. And then the rhyming slang loses its context (or is shortened) so that the original word disappears. “Fork” was British slang for “fist.”  So, “Put up your forks” was an invite to a fight, as in “Put up your fists.” And then the fork phrase was played with and rhymed so that one pugilist might say to another “Put up your Dukes of York.” And, eventually, that was shorted to “Put up your dukes.”

There’s been no fisticuffs out on the lawn. Just Rocky being feisty chasing around the bigger brown and black Eastern Grays. Oh. And he’s eating and stashing a ton of sunflower seeds.

Passing the buck

This buck was headed to the water’s edge in Ghost Bay last week as we paddled in our kayaks. We don’t see bucks often, so he was quite a treat.

White-tailed deer are named for that large patch of white fur on the underside of the tail that you see as the deer beats a retreat. Odocoileus virginianus to you scientific types. There are many subspecies of deer in North America and those subspecies are very difficult to tell apart.

These are the Hillman Long Lake subspecies. This is the subspecies that especially likes to eat Japanese Maples in people’s gardens. They wait until the leaves fill out nicely, the rain washes away the Deer-B-Gone stinky spray, and then they enjoy a nice red-leafed salad. They are the subspecies of deer that eat hostas before the slugs can. And they eat every day-lily bloom just before the flower opens. That subspecies.

Oh well. We don’t really begrudge them feasting on what passes for our garden. We are completely undedicated to gardening. We do sort of wish they’d leave us something for our trouble though.

White-tail herds are a matriarchal society. But we’ve been surprised this year to see that the herd browsing in the morning and evening on our property still has a young male moving with it. We don’t think he’s the same buck we saw in Ghost Bay, though. The one with the herd is small, with just two dinky spikes. The Ghost Bay buck had four points.

Here’s a look at one of the females, drinking in the narrows.

Some of the deer in Montmorency County have chronic wasting disease. That’s why bait piles and other unnatural ways of drawing deer in to feed are banned here. When deer gather snout-to-snout the disease spreads more easily.

On our lawn, the deer gather this time of year to eat the acorns falling from the large oak tree near our deck. At the water’s edge, they will stand on their hind legs with their front legs resting on the cedar tree trunks to browse. And we even see deer jumping on two legs to reach some tasty bits of cedar.

Kingbirds in the Cupholder

Once again this year, as in the last two, an Eastern Kingbird couple decided that the cupholder in one arm of our dock bench would make a nifty home for their brood. Out in the baking sun. No shade. In a black plastic cupholder about 5 inches deep and 4 inches across. Good idea. Eventually, there were 4 eggs in the nest.

Eastern Kingbirds’ scientific name is “tyrannus tyrannus.” That tells you all you really need to know about what happens when the birds hatch. The parents both become fierce tyrants. We let the growing family have the dock and dock bench all to themselves except when we wanted to come and go from our pontoon boat moored about 8 feet away from the nest.

There was hell to pay for our passage to and fro. This first photo shows the kingbirds’ otherwise hidden red patch flared, about to bounce off Steve’s behatted head.

We’ve both had our heads and torsos bumped and wingslapped. They even took to flying under the pontoon canopy to go after us once we were underway.  Here’s sort of the gestalt of the experience.

I tried not to think about the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds.

The parents had four growing babies to feed and they did not look kindly on intrusions. (These photos, of course, were taken at considerable distance.) And their definition of intrusion is born of a tyrannus tyrannus approach to the world around them. An osprey flying overhead? One parent, sometimes two, would mob it. They bounced off the osprey with the same abandon as they bounced off our hats. Their aggression bears no relationship to the threat, since osprey only eat fish and we don’t eat baby birds. Cornell reports that Kingbirds will defend their nest by attacking crows, hawks, squirrels and “have been known to knock unsuspecting Blue Jays out of trees.”

We let the tyrants rule the dock and only ran the gauntlet to get our pontoon boat out into the lake.

This next photo shows the scene on a nearly 100 degree afternoon. The parent, beak agape, seemed a bit stressed. The two parents rotated responsibilities. One would stand guard while perched on the back of the bench while the other hunted for dragonflies and other tasty morsels to feed the hungry babies.

The babies unstuffed themselves from the cupholder the day before they fledged. We think they fledged early. We’re imagining it was just way too hot out there to do otherwise. Anyway, we wish them lots of Long Lake buggy meals. We especially hope they are fond of mosquitos and deer flies.