Outdoor Adventures with Gary Lee - Vol. 131
Well, we finally got some snow that might just stick around for a while with temperatures staying below freezing and some in the single digits. Some of the shallower lakes have frozen over, but just because you can throw a rock out on the ice and it doesn’t go through, doesn’t mean you can walk on it. Not many ice fishermen have an ice spud anymore, they mostly have augers. By the time they get out far enough to see if the ice is safe, they are wet already. A couple chops with a spud and you probably wouldn’t have left shore. My spud has saved me from getting wet many times, as it will chop through two inches of ice with one chop, so I know when to go and when to stay on shore. I have heard of some already out on the ice, but not me. Don’t take a chance just for a few fish.
One day during Christmas vacation from school years ago, we had a few cold nights around zero and Saratoga Lake had frozen over. I had trapped some minnows and got my brother to drive me over to the lake. We chopped our way out to a fishing spot on about four inches of ice and he left me there and went to work on a farm milking cows. The walleyes were biting and the temperature never got above ten that day. Luckily, there was no wind and the lake was making ice, as it cracked and boomed all day. One crack opened up about two inches wide between my tip-ups, but you could step across it with no problem. When I caught a fish and put it on the ice it would become an instant icicle. I picked up my tip-ups just before dark with five nice fish and my grandfather came to pick me up in his ‘56 Chevy. It sure was nice to get into his warm car after a day in the cold out on the first ice.
I took these fish home and put them in my minnow tub to thaw them out and they had frozen so fast that when they thawed out a couple of them actually swam around. I had never seen this happen before, but we had fresh walleye fillets for supper that night. Mother dipped them in beaten eggs and then in cracker crumbs before putting them in the frying pan and they were great. I was about warmed up by that time.
This snow and cold moved some half hearty birds to the feeders. I have about thirty juncos and a few American Goldfinches. I’m still seeing lots of them out in the woods, as the yellow birches are covered with seeds and they are getting plenty to eat out there. The chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers are also getting enough food out in the woods with the abundant cone crop on the hemlocks, balsam, tamarack, and spruces all covered with cones that must be filled with seeds. Most every big hemlock I pass out on the trails have Red Crossbills and Red Breasted Nuthatches working up top on the cones. I did see a flock of American Goldfinch feeding on grit in the Uncas Road the other day. If you do see these birds in the road, just give them a friendly toot and they will fly up, so you don’t run over them. The Red Crossbills and White Winged Crossbills will be eating grit in our roadways, also to break down some of the seeds they are eating. Some of these birds come from the far north where there are very few roads, if any, so they take longer to leave the highways when you approach and you need to give them more space to fly off.
I haven’t had any Northern Cardinals at my feeders this Fall, so far that I’ve seen. They usually stop in for a snack and continue on their travels south. Maybe they found enough wild food out here with the big berry crop and didn’t need to stop by. For weeks, every walk I’ve taken out in the woods, I always found a raucous bunch of Blue Jays who were feeding on the beechnut crop, but in the last few days, I haven’t heard one. I did have four or five at the feeder the last couple days. I guess all the nuts have fallen to the ground and they don’t know how to hunt for them in the snow. I saw where the turkeys and deer have pawed around under the beech trees that have burrs on their limbs, so there must be nuts in the snow and leaves for them to eat there.
I did see a picture of a Snowy Owl that had come south already, and it was feeding on squirrels in a town park in Troy. We haven’t had a big invasion of them in a few years, but they may have had a bunch of babies this year that want to go south for the winter and that would be great.
I did see some skis on car racks over the weekend, so they must be going somewhere to ski, but that’s another story. See ya.
Christmas ferns the day before Thanksgiving
Photo Above: Ferd’s Bog the day after Thanksgiving