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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: April 2008
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « March 2008 | May 2008 »

4/28/08 - Yesterday, Cindy heard a loon calling for the first time this year. On my run I saw a flicker, sharp-shinned hawk, a red wing blackbird, and a fox sparrow. The recent storm seems to have blown in the migrating birds. - Bill

Just to show that Lee doesn't do all the work, I took my turn on the auger today. Although 13" thick, the ice isn't completely reliable anymore. Notice my wet left leg.

Today's measurement. We didn't get above freezing yesterday....

It doesn't look promising for this weekend, but we're still hoping that it will be gone before the opening of fishing on May 10th.

4/27/08 - Northern Minnesota is having trouble shaking winter this year. The latest storm dropped an inch of rain followed by 2.5" of snow and a low temperature of 19 degrees. The standing water around the edges of the lake have refrozen and every tree is covered with snow. It doesn't look good for ice out until next week sometime. - Bill

Lee drills yet another hole. I would have used a more original picture, but the camera battery went dead after one picture. The ice was 14.5" thick today. The ice is floating at least a foot higher than it was three days ago and the streams are all in full flood.

4/23/08 - I missed measuring the ice for a couple of days. It is busy around Sawbill right now as we race to get the pre-season chores done. It was a beautiful 65 degrees and sunny here today, but the forecast is pretty dire. We are under a flood watch with 1 to 3 inches of rain expected tomorrow and the next day, followed by snow - possibly heavy - the following night. With the ground saturated, still mostly frozen, and no vegetation yet, the runoff could be epic. The streams around Sawbill are already nearly at flood level. Here at Sawbill, flooding doesn't normally do much damage, except a few washouts in the road.

The eagles are back in force and I saw a beautiful red tailed hawk yesterday. - Bill

Lee pulls the auger out of a new hole. The ice "floated up" yesterday, which means that it has separated its connection with the shore and is now floating in a giant cake on the lake. Floating up is a major milestone, usually indicating ice-out in a week or two. We had to use the canoe to bridge across the ice near shore which is weak and covered with two feet of standing water.

15.5 inches of pretty dense ice still remains. It would bear the weight of a car, but I wouldn't recommend driving on it.

Always fun to strand the unsuspecting out on the floating ice. I relented after taking the picture and sent the canoe back out to him.

4/20/08 - Real progress today. As I was drilling today's test hole, two male merganser ducks lifted out of the small patch of open water down by Sawbill Creek and flew north. A sure sign of spring. I heard the first robin singing yesterday. - Bill

19" with only an inch or two of slush. Ice is somewhat degraded through and through.

It is getting pretty sloppy in front of the canoe landing.

A pileated woodpecker has started working on a home in one of the big red pines in our canoe yard. It's fun to see one of these large, primitive looking woodpeckers close-up, but it's probably bad news for the pine. The woodpecker may have found some rot and is certainly weakening a tree that we don't want to fall across a rack of Kevlar canoes!

4/19/08 - The ice thickness keeps growing on Sawbill Lake. Today we measured 24.5" - up 2" from yesterday and 4.5" from the day before! My hunch is that the ice thickness isn't changing, but it's clear that The upper 12 - 14" of ice is much softer and more degraded than it was earlier in the week. So rest assured that progress is being made. This is why it's so interesting to monitor the ice, because its behavior is a lot more complex than it would appear. - Bill

Taking the measurement with a high tech scientific instrument.

A better picture of Lee. Compare this picture to the one a few posts below to see how the snow cover has changed.

4/18/08 - Today's ice thickness test actually measured thicker ice than yesterday's. 22.5" today and 20" yesterday. I don't think this means that the ice is getting thicker (although it did get below freezing last night). Lake ice is not perfectly flat on its bottom surface. I think we just randomly picked a slightly thicker spot to measure. There is 5" of slush and water on top of the ice. - Bill

4/17/08 - After another day and a half of warmth the ice thickness on Sawbill Lake stands at 20" of solid ice with another 6" of slush and water on top.

Soon it will be summer and velvet antlered bull moose will be feeding in bog meadows dotted with wild iris and pitcher plants. Kevin Van Den Hemel from Rochester, Minnesota was kind enough to send this great picture from his canoe trip last season. - Bill

Hard to believe, but this scene will be possible again in less than two months.

4/16/08 - Spring is finally arriving at Sawbill. After two late season snowstorms, the weather has turned very warm. Yesterday we lost 6 - 8" of snow. The lakes are still white and solid. Starting today, we'll give a daily ice melting progress report on Sawbill Lake.

Lee Noble, the first Sawbill crew member to arrive this season, drills a test hole in Sawbill Lake.

Ice thickness is 26.5 inches. There is about 8" of snow and slush on top of the ice.

4/11/08 - OK, this is getting ridiculous. We awoke this morning to another late season winter storm. 7.5 inches of snow overnight and more since I measured this morning. High winds are adding to the mid-winter feel today.

We are starting to get calls and emails about when the ice will go out. The earliest ice-out date that I can remember in the last fifty years was in 2000 when Sawbill was ice free on April 12th. Since the millennium, the ice has gone out sometime in April every year except two. Once it went out on May 1st and once on May 2nd. The latest ice out in my memory was May 24th. I can't remember the year, but it was at least twenty years ago.

Predicting ice out dates is dicey at best. I've seen thin, rotten, black ice hang in for weeks during a late season cold snap and I've seen a solid 14 inches of ice go out in a couple of days. Within the next few days we'll start a daily report on ice thickness and condition. I'm still hoping for at least a few good days of lake skiing and kite flying. - Bill

Plowing on April 11th!

4/6/08 - While most of the country is sliding gently into spring, Sawbill is still firmly entrenched in the winter season. While it's true that we've had some significant melting recently, we awoke this morning to 6" of fresh snow and more on the way!

Phoebe and Roy checking the new snow for tracks while on hourly security patrol.

April snows belie the impending canoe season.

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