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Many Minnesota lakes from the north to the Iowa border already have a coating of ice because of below-normal temperatures starting Nov. 11 and lasting through the first part of Thanksgiving week.

A few examples: Freeze-up for Lake Bronson in Kittson County far northwestern Minnesota was Nov. 16 (Nov. 22 in 2021); Lake Hendricks in Lincoln County on the South Dakota border froze over Nov. 13 this year (Nov. 25 in 2021); Budd, Hall and Amber lakes at Fairmont froze over Nov. 20 (Dec. 7 in 2021).

I consider the freeze-up date for a lake to be the first day when at least 90% of a lake is frozen over and stays ice covered. For over 50 years I have collected freeze-up and ice-out dates for Minnesota lakes and delivered the information to the Department of Natural Resources' Climatology Office to become part of its records. Their website is for anyone interested in MN lake ice-outs and freeze-ups from past years.

Always treat ice-covered ponds and lakes with respect, and remember it takes at least 4 inches of new solid ice in contact with stationary water to safely walk, skate or ice fish.

A snowmobile requires 6 inches of ice; 8 to 12 inches are needed for a car or small truck; and 12 to 15 inches for a medium-sized pickup.

You don't want to fall through the ice. Cold water saps body heat 25 times faster than air of the same temperature. In 32-degree water, a person will last about 15 minutes before losing consciousness.

Northern cardinals arrive at feeding stations about 25 minutes before sunrise. They are seed eaters and prefer feeding on the ground. Dark-eyed juncos are now numerous at feeding stations, where they like cracked corn and millet seeds scattered on the ground. Immersion heaters, available commercially, keep birdbaths or drinkers ice-free. You will be surprised by the number of birds and other wildlife that will come for water.

Low-angle sunlight makes driving more difficult these late fall mornings and afternoons. Frost digs its way into the ground. Evergreens such as pines, spruces, and arborvitae add interest to the November landscape.

Shorttailed weasels now are all white except for the tips of their tails, which remain black. Having turned white, they are at home in the snow and are now called ermines. In southern Minnesota, jackrabbits have turned from brown to white. In the north, snowshoe hares have similarly put on their winter coats.

Jim Gilbert has taught and worked as a naturalist for more than 50 years.