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Ice fractures are a subject that I love to photograph but all too frequently can’t find during the winter. Conditions have to be just right to find them. There has to be a stretch of cold weather that freezes the water. There can’t be much snow, no sleet or rain nor can it thaw and freeze. This year things came together at the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. There was open water followed by a very cold stretch and no snow to speak of. While everyone else was wandering around looking at the ice caves I was spending time looking for beautiful examples of ice fractures. Given the amount of clear ice they were not hard to find. The ice was so clear in some spots that I could see the bottom of the lake.

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More photos from the Apostle Islands Ice Caves can be found on my website.

Here are a few more photos from my trip to the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. These were taken along the shoreline. We found that the ice close to Meyers Beach was not as good as it was a mile or more down the shoreline.

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More photos from the Apostle Islands Ice Caves can be found on my website.

 

When we were at Meyers Beach the first weekend in February there was open water at the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. The following weekend strong northwest winds on pushed the ice onto the south shore along the ice caves. The bitterly cold weather following the storm solidified the ice. The National Park Service opened access to the caves on February 28th.

We made our visit on Monday March 2nd. We were returning from a trip to Calumet, Michigan and drove down to Ashland, Wisconsin so we could get an early start to the caves. When we arrived at 8:30am we were surprised to find that the parking lot was already full. We ended up parking along the Meyers Beach Access Road.

We were prepared for a difficult walk out to the ice caves. This year, for the first time in my experience, there were large patches of bare ice on the lake. In addition to the bare ice there were areas along the shore where the ice had been pushed together an lifted up. It looked like someone had broken glass and stuck it up from the ice. As a result both my wife and I were glad that we had ice cleats and trekking poles for the walk to the caves.

When we arrived we found that the ice was not nearly as impressive as it was last year. The first shot is from last year and the second shot from this year from approximately the same location.

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However, as we continued to walk along the shore the ice formations became more interesting. We actually walked further along the shore that we have in past years and only stopped when the jumbled ice made it difficult to get through.

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With the large amount of bare ice I was able to take many photographs of ice fractures. Ice fractures are one of my favorite winter subjects but it’s rare that I can find them. Usually the ice is covered with snow and you can’t see the ice fractures. The last time I found them at the ice caves was 2007 and there were only a few of them to be found.

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In addition to ice fractures there were some beautiful ice formations in the ice. It looked like the ice had broken up then refroze with the broken sections imbedded in the ice at various levels.

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Another interesting subject were pieces of ice that had broken off and looked like small diamonds.

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This was the first year that I saw an airplane land by the ice caves. It made several passes out on the lake before landing on the smooth ice. Soon two people got out and walked over to the ice caves.

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A number of people took advantage of the large amounts of smooth ice to ice skate out to the caves. Several of them skated way out onto the ice. This year it was probably one of the better ways to get around on the ice.

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More photos from the Apostle Islands Ice Caves can be found on my website.

Snow has been hard to come by this winter. We had a brief snow squall last week and I was able to capture a few birds before it ended.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

More bird photographs from Canadian Hill Farm can be found on my website.

As I mentioned in my previous blog we drove over to Bayfield, Wisconsin to watch the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races. When we left the race it was raining but by the time we reached Superior, Wisconsin the sun was peeking out.

Northern Pacific Ore Dock-No. 1

Northern Pacific Ore Dock-No. 1

We stopped at the Kwik Trip in Superior to get gas I noticed the light was shining on one of the abandon Iron ore docks. There were folks fishing out along the dock so I figured it was a good chance to walk out and get some photos. I had been wanting to photograph the docs but didn’t have a way to get close to them until the ice formed.

Northern Pacific Ore Dock-No. 1

Northern Pacific Ore Dock-No. 1

Apparently the docks are in the process of being removed. There was a crane working alongside the docks.

GN-BN Allouez Ore Docks

GN-BN Allouez Ore Docks

One of the fishermen I talked to said they were going to make a marina out of the area. There were a number of boats stored on shore and under the docks. At one point I noticed a car driving along inside the docks so they must be massive.

Northern Pacific Ore Dock-No. 1

Northern Pacific Ore Dock-No. 1

My main interest is photographing birds while it’s snowing out but I do shoot at other times. These are a few birds seen at my feeders in the last few weeks.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Last weekend we took a roundabout road trip to the 2015 Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races. Our first stop was at ABR in Ironwood, Michigan for a half day of skiing. The next morning we were up early so we could make it to the races before the 10am start. As usual we were early and had plenty of time to wander around and look at the prerace activities. We were fortunate that we were early because we had to make a couple of trips back to the car for extra cloths. While the air temperature was around twenty degrees there was a strong wind that made it a bit cool.

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We had a chance to check the dogs out before they became excited about getting hooked up to the sleds. Many of them had eaten and seemed to be relaxing before the race.

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Many of the mushers already had their sleds out and were getting ready to hook the dogs up to the sleds.

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As with just about every place in Wisconsin there was a lack of snow. This was the first time that I’ve been at the race where they had to haul snow to the parking lot so the sleds could make it to the starting line without running on gravel.

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As with any sled dog race it requires many volunteers to get the teams to the starting line. This group reminded me of the typical group of tourists following the leader holding a flag. They were heading out to the teams to assist the mushers to the starting line. It takes five or six people to get the eight dog teams to the starting line.

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This was one of the first teams to head out onto the course. The dogs were overly excited and became all tangled up just before they were given the signal to go. One of the handlers was trying to get the dogs straightened out when the team took off and the handler ended up on the ground. The dogs were still tangled up but the musher was able to get the lead dog headed in the right direction using voice commands.

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Unfortunately this team did not make it through the race. They had a problem on the first turn and the musher was injured. They had to send a snowmobile out to pick him up and someone had to bring the team back to the starting point.

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After photographing from near the starting gate I walked down the course a ways to photograph from a different position. I have to say this is the first time I’ve seen a musher smoking a cigarette either before or during a race. My wife was at the starting gate when he started. She said he was trying to light the cigarette in the wind when the team started.

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After photographing out on the course for a while I wandered back toward the starting gate to photograph some more mushers starting the race.

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I then moved up to the starting line to watch the teams being brought into the starting gate. I believe this girl was 8 years old and had a team of two dogs. The announcer said that she got an early start to racing because her mother was racing when she was six months pregnant with the little girl. The musher listed her day job as a student.

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The final musher of the day has raced in this race a number of times and his entire team consists of dogs rescued from shelters.

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After the race we met up with some friends that had moved from Menomonie to Cornucopia, Wisconsin. We talked for a while and planned on having lunch but it started to rain just after the race finished. We decided to head to Duluth before the roads turned bad. As it turned out the rain stopped after about a half an hour and the sun came out.

Many more photos from the first day of the race can be found on my website.

We had, what has turned out to be, a rare snowfall earlier in the week. Unfortunately I was out getting a Measles shot because of some nut cases refuse to get their kids vaccinated. As a result I missed most of what was a beautiful snowfall consisting of large flakes drifting out of the sky. This brought the birds out in full force.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

House Sparrows

House Sparrows

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

 

Overnight we had a fresh snowfall. The next morning it was clear, bright and very cold but the wind was not blowing. The snowflakes were hanging on all of the summer flowers so I walked around the prairie and took some shots just before the wind started blowing.

Gall

Gall

Daisy Fleabane

Daisy Fleabane

Canada Goldenrod

Canada Goldenrod

A year ago my wife purchased some Poinsettia plants for the holidays. After they were done for the season she looked on the internet to find out how she could keep them for another year. I gather she trimmed them back and put them in the basement until last fall.

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She then started rotating them between sunlight and night. At one point we were on vacation so she took them to a friend’s place. The actually turned out quite well for someone who does not have a green thumb.

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There were nearing the end of the season and I don’t have a lot of color to photograph in the winter so I took some photographs of them last week.

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