While checking the status of frazil ice from standing on the North Creek bridge a while ago, I was startled to see a hooded merganser in the open water below. (See the picture by Larry Master, www.masterimages.org. He's a master birder, too.)
Larry says some hoodeds winter in the Adirondacks on rivers that stay free of ice. I often see common mergansers here, but this hooded was a first for me in winter. I do see them every spring in the Ski Bowl Park pond when they are migrating, and on secluded ponds, the female raising the broods alone. And once I saw some males on Cole's Pond on our River Road snapping their magnificent crests up and down, displaying to whoever cared. I don't know if this display is a challenge to other guys ("My crest is faster, bigger and noisier than yours!") or intended to impress the ladies. Within days of my seeing the merganser on the Hudson there were five miles of ice filling the river from North Creek to North River and beyond. He must have headed downriver in a big hurry.
The other bird of note this winter has been the common redpoll, up to about fifty birds feeding at once on our carport roof/bird feeder. When the seeds are spread out enough, the constantly moving, roiling flock chatters happily while they peel off the thin membrane covering the seeds and eat the heart. They are very "flighty", taking off in a mass at the slightest disturbance (such as a squirrel), but they come back quickly if the Feeder Guardian scares the squirrel away. (I hope the people walking by do not think he is yelling at them.) It's wonderful to have these charming, red polled Canadian visitors for a change. I hope you have them too.
But back to the ice. At 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 13, friends and I inspected the river at the Depot for quite some time. It was chock full of jumbled white frazil and blue solid ice, this time for a mile or so up and down from the bridge. We were opining that it would probably be there until April as there was no sign of movement, though the water was at the historical high of 12.19 feet as measured on the gauge at the bridge. (Google "USGS real-time data" and click on the map to find the North Creek gauge and the amazing graph showing when the ice jam happened.)
But by 2 p.m. the ice was moving out! I missed the start but got to see the frazil and floes rushing by, some slabs of ice big enough to carry a polar bear or two, but mostly loose frazil. It was eerily silent because the ice was floating freely.
Today, Monday, I did the "frazil loop" from The Glen to Warrensburg and back up on the west side of the river. There were high banks of ice, in some places studded with slabs of blue ice from the stillwaters upriver, some of the huge ridges in unusual places. The front of the clog of "our" ice was a mile up from the Thurman bridge, with just sheet ice covering the river below the jumbled mass and on down the river and out of sight from the bridge.
I predict there will be an ice jam at the bridge when the rain and warm weather raises the water level again at the end of the week and loosens the ice. I also predict there will be lots of ice on the shores until mid-April, but my recent batting record isn't too good!