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Fog, Frost, Ice and a Little Snow

Ely Echo - Staff Photo

by Bill Tefft

The 2024 winter has pushed people to journal. Everyday in February seems like living in some other month.

Temperatures cannot reach minus degrees. A blue sky seldom appears. Snowshoes and shovels await calls to duty.

Water changes state continually by evaporation, freezing, melting, evaporation, condensation, sublimation, and deposition. It moves due to gravity as streams and rivers flow, precipitation falls, humid air rises, and wind-blown weather streams.

We watch and write in our journals about what we reserve. We discuss and compare this winter with others from our memories. Some of us like this kind of February while others miss the typical conditions and what they offered regardless of temperature and snow conditions.

We see some beautiful frosty mornings. We appreciate clear, dark, sky watching nights when they occur – maybe during this weekend’s new moon. We wonder what this February and the following seasonal transition to spring will bring.

Black-capped chickadees non-breeding territories near bird feeders are heard breaking up as the late-winter “fee-bee” song is heard from a flock expressing displeasure with birds from other flocks in the area.

Wildlife action near open water like Shagawa River flowing out of Ely or the Kawishiwi River flowing out of Birch Lake or Pike River flowing into Lake Vermilion. Common goldeneye drakes showed up on Shagawa River last week and by this week there was a group of six drakes and four hens moving about together on the river. The river provides food for these early arrivals and the drakes become increasingly more active in their courtship displays as winter moves toward spring.

On Tuesday, Feb. 6 a family of trumpeter swans were on the river. The two adults and one of their cygnets raised last year were feeding and continue to feed this morning, Feb. 7 in the nutrient rich waters. Waterfowl often congregate as water opens on this river between Ely and Winton while lakes and ponds are still open. This morning a mink raced across the shoreline ice as I took a picture of the swans.

As February progresses and moves toward March, bald eagles, ravens, jays, and great horned owls are already pairing and beginning to nest. Will the spring like conditions spur some earlier breeding season behaviors from some species? Members of the Ely Field Naturalists are beginning to post songs, calls, and other behaviors on its Google group. This week a saw-whet owl was reported calling.

The Naturalist Resource Center at 41 E. Chapman Street in Ely is open on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon to prepare for the Great Yard Bird Count or use the library and other resources for research and information. You can or text 218-235-8078.

The Ely Climate Change Group will meet on Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. in the Ely Field Naturalists Resource Center above the NAPA store. The meeting will be both in person and zoomed.

At our meeting last month Hudson made a compelling case for heat pumps. Last weekend at Ely’s DQ we had the opportunity to see and drive a variety of electric vehicles. These technologies are becoming more known and accepted, and certainly help us reduce our carbon footprint. But making changes is not easy. We have lots of questions, for example:

What is the range of an EV in cold weather?

What will a heat pump cost and is it noisy?

Do I have enough electrical power at my home for all this stuff?

What does LCP or (Minn Power) charge per kWh for a heat pump or EV charger?

What about all those federal and state tax incentives and rebates we hear about?

Bring your questions. This month we have Nik Allen from CERTs (Clean Energy Resource Teams) to help us find some answers. Thank you Nik! Here is an excerpt from the CERTs web page:

The Clean Energy Resource Teams work across the state of Minnesota to provide residents with the best unbiased resources, tools, guidance, connections, funding and financing opportunities, events, and stories to get your projects done. Best of all, we’re not trying to sell you anything: our resources and tools are free.

You can find more information here:

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