Due to below-average temperatures beginning November 11 and through the first part of Thanksgiving week, many Minnesota lakes from north to the Iowa border are already covered in ice.
Some examples: The Lake Bronson freeze in Kittson County in far northwest Minnesota occurred on November 16 (November 22 in 2021); Lake Hendricks in Lincoln County on the South Dakota border froze on November 13 of this year (November 25, 2021); Lakes Budd, Hall and Amber in the Fairmont frozen on November 20 (December 7, 2021).
I consider the freeze date for a lake to be the first day that at least 90% of a lake is frozen and remains ice covered. For over 50 years I have been collecting freezing and glaciation data for the Minnesota lakes and submitting the information to the Department of Natural Resources’ Climatology Office for inclusion in its records. Her website is climateapps.dnr.state.mn.us for anyone interested in ice outbursts and freezing of Lake MN over the past few years.
Always treat ice covered ponds and lakes with respect and remember that it takes at least 4 inches of new solid ice in contact with standing water to walk, skate or ice fish safely.
A snowmobile requires 6 inches of ice; 8 to 12 inches is needed for a car or small truck; and 12 to 15 inches for a mid-size pickup.
You don’t want to fall through the ice. Cold water removes heat from the body 25 times faster than air of the same temperature. In 32 degree water it takes about 15 minutes for a person to lose consciousness.
Northern cardinals arrive at the feeding sites about 25 minutes before sunrise. They are seed eaters and prefer to feed on the ground. Dark-eyed juncos are now plentiful at feeding sites, where they like corn and millet seeds scattered on the ground. Commercially available immersion heaters keep birdbaths or waterers free of ice. You will be amazed at the number of birds and other wildlife that come to fetch water.
Low-angle sunlight makes driving difficult on those late fall mornings and afternoons. Frost digs into the ground. Evergreens such as pine, spruce and arborvitae add interest to the landscape in November.
Short-tailed weasels are now all white except for the tip of the tail, which remains black. They have turned white at home in the snow and are now called Ermine. In southern Minnesota, jackrabbits have turned from brown to white, and in the north, snowshoe hares have similarly donned their winter coats.
Jim Gilbert has taught and worked as a naturalist for more than 50 years.