On Thin Ice!!

Mud splattered on the snow-covered ice, brought up after I extracted my boot

Have you seen the infographic go around social media, about ice thickness? It features various size objects standing on ice, and how thick that ice must be to support that mass. It’s an amusing reminder to be safe—and it came to mind as I fell though ice this past weekend. (OOOPS!).

At Long Spur Habitat Area (called “Longdpun” in Google Maps???) in Franklin County, I walked out onto the ice of Luke’s Wetland. Despite a stretch of weather with below-freezing temps, the ice was thinner than I had anticipated…this despite having walked around on several ice-covered wetlands previously that day. My foot broke through, and my boot sank in a ways. So, I found myself with two problems: I had insufficient ice thickness, AND my boot had sunk into the mud, and was sucked into the soft muck. My solution was to lean onto the surrounding ice, spreading out my weight; and I made a rocking motion of my foot, allowing water to slip around my boot, breaking the suction of the mud. I took my time, extracting myself safely. But, it’s a good time to remember to be safe outdoors in winter. (Have any tips or anecdotes? Leave a comment!).

The wetland is situated along Spring Creek. The site has a mix of trees and shrubs, and the setting sun made the colors on the buds, stems, and trunks really shine. Let’s have a look with descriptions; you can practice plant identification, something I enjoy (usually!). At the end of the post, I’ll provide my ID for each.

A-this shrub has a profusion of delicate stems, with shiny red epidermis (skin) and opposite leaf/bud arrangement.

B-this tree has clusters of paper-winged seeds, each about 2 inches (5 cm) long; stems were stout with  opposite leaf/bud arrangement.

C-this tree also has opposite leaf/bud arrangement, but upward-curving, thin stems, with shiny red-brown epidermis.

D-this tree has green/gold-skinned stems, tipped with long, sharp buds. The bud and leaf arrangement is alternate (“staggered” on stem). The bark higher up on the trunk is rather smooth and bright.

Across Lark Avenue, a grove of White Pines shelters the birds. I looked for owl pellets (no luck…), but enjoyed seeing many bird prints in the snow (I guess many of you will recognize them? Hint: look closely at the signs to ID the bird!). It was a nice little walk through the trees and along the stream, enjoying the sunset. I hope to return sometime. Thanks for visiting with me!

OK, here are the answers to our little quiz!

A=Redosier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

B=Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)

C=Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

D=Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)

And those bird tracks belong to the Ring-necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus.


Author: Paul Weihe

Associate Professor of Biology at Central College, traditional author (Textbook of Limnology, Cole & Weihe, 5th ed.; Waveland Press), and now...blogger!

5 thoughts on “On Thin Ice!!”

  1. I must be feeling my age today, because mostly all I can think about is how glad I am that you got out safely and are all right:-)!

    Thank you for the plant IDs. I flunked but learned. Oh, and when I saw the name of the habitat area, I assumed at first that it was referring to Lapland Longspurs or McCown’s Longspurs or Chestnut-Collared Longspurs or Smith’s Longspurs, more familiarly known to any occupants of my vehicle from December through March as “a flock of those winter birds that I will never be able to add to my life list because I never have a chance to ID them because they always fly away and/or skitter across the ice and snow at a distance.”

    Actually, I was fortunate enough to see a single up-close Lapland Longspur in breeding-male plumage a few years ago, and it was gorgeous. Just as gorgeous as a pheasant in its own way, though of course much smaller.


    1. Thanks for the comments, concern, and as always, encouragement. I admit I’ve never seen a Longspur, either. The CCB page doesn’t say anything about the origin of the name, so that’s a good guess I suppose. (Or perhaps the last name of a local landowner or conservationist??). Anyway, I’m fine and will be vigilant,. I promise 🙂


      1. Now that I look closer, I see that it looks like a two-word name on the sign and I think it probably does refer to the spurs on pheasant feet. A pheasant hunter told me years ago that the spurs get longer as the rooster gets older, which I hadn’t known, and he had just taken a rooster on my land that he said was four or five years old, which apparently is very old for a wild pheasant.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Another reader emailed the following, and I share with permission:

    “I thought I would comment on your breaking through thin ice. The same thing happened to me on a small marsh near Ames, Iowa (Larson Marsh) a few years back. Ice “everywhere” was adequate EXCEPT in this spot on the marsh. I went through up to my mid thigh on one leg. My knee hit the remaining ice when I broke through and injured it. I was so wet and it was extremely cold — and I was 1/2 mile from my pickup. It was really no problem but I am normally very cautious and this surprised me.

    My main comment is that I believe the ice was thinner in that spot due to “rotting” marsh vegetation under the water. I have seen this type of decomposition in water gardens actually creating some warmer water under the ice. Therefore less ice would be above this area. So for us marsh “lovers” — something to be aware of.

    PS I have since had the knee replaced with a metal one. I am not sure it was due entirely by this accident but who knows.”


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