Monday, April 8, 2019

More Signs of Spring

Snow banks were reduced further in late Sunday's
rain, and in the morning's warmth mist hung over
Lobdell Point Road.

Detroit Harbor -

Always a slow process, the cool weather of the past several weeks slowed up melting of snow banks, and the reduction in bay and harbor ice.   Ever so slowly it disappears and softens, but it was only Saturday, March 30, a little over a week ago, when the bay broke up and fields began moving.  Large pieces headed toward the Door passage with the potential of blocking, or halting, the ferry in its movement. The last scheduled crossing of the afternoon was called off.  Patience proved a good thing as ice piled against the shoreline on the Green Bay side of the Island, providing spectacular shoves in the late afternoon, we were told.  By morning, ice movement had eased, and broken fields lay to the west of the Door Passage.

Otter's unmistakable profile was an early morning surprise.

We've often observed evidence of an otter having passed through the Bayou area, leaving characteristic sliding and tail marks behind in the snow.  Similarly, it often left behind unmistakable piles of excrement loaded with shells, crawfish parts and fish scales.   Two days ago Mary Jo spotted an otter crossing the harbor ice, harassed by three crows as it scampered its way to the nearest hole in the ice.  This morning while having breakfast, grandson Zander saw the otter on the ice south of our home.  I fetched my camera, guessing it might swim for the next opening to the north.  It did.  Quite elusive until now, I think he or she's making a home nearby.  Could be a rough time in store for the small mouth bass that spawn in this general area later in spring.

As dark crept in yesterday afternoon and rain fell, lowering visibility, 37 sandhill cranes made an appearance on the harbor ice.  They landed one pair at a time, in intervals, as if signaled to do so from a control tower.  There, they congregated on the ice for the night.  This morning they were still together, only farther out, across the harbor, closer to Snake Island.  A variety of ducks, Canada geese, eagles and now the first great blue heron are among the visitors making an appearance each day as the openings in the ice enlarge.

In terms of human activity this morning, members of the ferry crew found ideal conditions to prepare the Washington for the season.

This part of the harbor happens to be ice free at the moment, but up in the shallows there's soft ice.  Fields of ice, given the right push by wind, could still cause challenges.  But, for the most part, reductions in ice will increase.  Wind and rain are now the best thing to speed up the process.  A bit of rain tonight is forecast, then snow Wednesday night into Thursday.  Maybe our last significant snow of the season?

Jeff Cornell buffs fiberglass benches on
the Washington passenger deck.

Pete Nikolai touches up with a wire brush while Tully Ellefson steadies the raft, an annual task to keep the hull and exterior bulwarks in good condition.  Above, on the upper deck, Jeff Cornell buffed fiberglass benches.  Soon, more ferries will be in use, underway, as one-by-one each is cleaned, painted and readied for the season.

Pete Nikolai (L) and Tully Ellefson man the painting
raft in this morning's calm.
 -  Dick Purinton