A couple of days ago, I took a walk down by a small spring-fed creek. The air temperature was about 4°F (-16°C), but since the creek is fed by numerous springs the stream was nearly free of ice. Wintertime in one of these spring-fed trout streams is really interesting. While the world around us is in a deep freeze, life goes on in the water.
While I was taking photographs next to the stream, I saw a Green Frog crawling through the shallow water of a muck-filled backwater of the stream where spring water seeps up through the ground. The amphibian was half in the water and half in the cold air where condensation had frozen into hoarfrost on old grass stems only millimeters above the water’s surface. No hibernation for this frog. The frog was very cold, and when I approached, it just got down low in the mud and stayed still. I took some photographs while trying to keep my winter pack boots from overfilling with water and mud. I got a few different angles, and so I left the frog in peace.
I made my way back to shore and resumed my photography. A few minutes later, I happened to look down at my bootlaces and found them to be encased in ice. Later, when I got back to the car I tried to get them off, but couldn’t untie the laces.
Even though a Wisconsin winter is bitter cold at times the aquatic insects are still busy eating algae, detritus, and each other. Some of these stream invertebrates are so bold as to grow wings and fly in February. When I looked at the photo of the frog later I could see to tiny flying insects lying dead on the surface of the water. It may seem odd that insects would try to fly in the winter to mate but in makes sense. In winter, there are very few birds around, no bats, and no aerial insect predators like dragonflies. The winter-hatching insects must brave the cold, and I wonder if the ones I found suddenly froze to death just above the water’s surface.
After my visit to Emmons Creek, I went to another larger, but mostly frozen-over trout steam, where I took this underwater video of the Waupaca River.