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FOREST INK: Chilcotin ice songs enjoyed at the cabin

I am constantly amazed at what nature has to offer
Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Williams Lake Tribune.

I always look forward to the cold winter weather when the lake ice freezes we can begin the winter activities, skating, skiing, ice fishing or for me just walking on the ice to explore all the patterns which constantly change as the snow and sun change the surface.

Of course, I am amazed at how the freezing and thawing causes the groaning and cracking sounds, sending some cracks across the lake which seem to go from one side to the other.

As much as I enjoy these deep winter activities, my favourite time is in the spring when the open water appears, usually along the shoreline where any darker colour of the rocks and vegetation attracts the sun.

Once the open water becomes large enough to not freeze over at night the water fowl start to show up. Swans, geese and ducks start to arrive and many are already pairing up which makes the less distinctive females easier to identify.

The Canada Geese tend to take over a small island on our lake and the honking can last all night as the couples battle for the best nesting sites. Timing is critical as warm weather and high winds can cause the ice to disappear quickly.

This year I got lucky as the open water in front of the cabin attracted lots of Goldeneyes, Mergansers, Loons, Buffleheads and of course Canada Geese so I could go about my clean up around the cabin and enjoy the bird life as it changed through the day.

One year the open water was a narrow band along the shore and I was able to use the canoe to get close to some small flocks if I took my time.

Getting close to the melting ice was an opportunity to see that ice does not form in layers but forms columns the depth of the ice sheets.

The long vertical ice crystals easily crumble making a delicate tinkling sound similar to the finest wind chimes and emphasizes the importance of not walking on the ice at this time.

When I arrived at the lake this year my neighbours remarked that the ice was particularly noisy with sounds like a jet plane taking off along with the normal booming and cracking noise.

The sunny periods during the morning were continuing to melt the floating ice sheets but the edges froze again at night and the sounds intensified as the sun shone on them the next morning.

The sounds were definitely more intense and different than any I had heard before so I attempted to record them with my digital camera without much success. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, the same goes for a good recording so when I got home I did a quick search to see what was available on YouTube.

A short video entitled “Frozen lake sounds like Star Wars,” produced sounds similar to what I remember but still not the same as being there.

I also recommend another video “Did you know ice can sing? Ice sounds, singing ice” which includes some good pictures and commentary and so far has attained over eight million views.

My goal is to use a better tape recorder to see if I can capture some of the unique sounds which I think are being magnified by the steep rocky slopes along the west side of the lake.

I am constantly amazed at what nature has to offer if we take the time and happen to be in the right place the right time.

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