A Magical Time on Lake Superior

swallow tail butterfly
Swallowtail butterfly

June can be the best time of the year for pollinators. In northern Wisconsin and Minnesota it is an awesome time for seeing bees, and butterflies! Within two minutes I observed monarchs, swallowtails, sulphurs, northern crescents, painted ladies, dragon flies, and many skippers and bees on a small patch of hawkweed and daisies.

Hawkweed
Orange Hawkweed

Everyone comments about the beautiful lupine near Lake Superior, and it is beautiful to human eyes. If you look closely, very few butterflies and bees crave lupine like they crave Canadian anemone, blooming chives, wild geraniums, blooming trees, forget-me-nots or daisies. The blooming plant that has surprised me the most this year is the orange hawkweed. It is not a native plant, but the butterflies love it.

Female American Redstart

It’s not the best time of the year to see birds, but if you can recognize their songs they bring constant musical joy. The song sparrow, chestnut sided warbler, and a pair of red starts joyfully sing all day.

Lupine on Lake Superior

As long as the sun shines the birds, bees and butterflies seem oblivious to the battle taking place on the big lake. The cold lake ties to dominate the warm tropical winds from the south, and the temperature can fluctuate from 60 degrees to 80 degrees every few minutes. It’s fascinating and refreshing!
The days are long in these northern climes with the sun setting past 9pm and twilight lasting beyond 10pm. No matter where you live get outside and enjoy the marvelous butterflies of summer, in a few weeks they will be gone!

See a Tree

Trees on bodies of water help to keep water clean.

May is Arbor Month. Do you have a favorite tree? When I was a child I had a young  basswood tree growing in my back yard. It was a little tree, but it had enormous leaves. I loved watching that tree grow and change! 

Jane Goodall

The tree I had in the garden as a child, my beech tree, I used to climb up there and spend hours. I took my homework up there, my books, I went up there if I was sad, and it just felt very good to be up there among the green leaves and the birds and the sky” Jane Goodall

Before being logged pine trees originally covered northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Find a tree on your walk, in your yard, or neighborhood to enjoy. Observe it everyday. Watch how it changes, notice the shade it gives, the texture of its bark and leaves What kind of seeds does it have? Watch for new growth. How does it help wildlife? What attracted you to it? What beauty and diversity does it add to your environment? Give it a name.

I have a cedar in my backyard full of mysterious activity. All the birds that fly in and out of its secretive branches intrigues me. Cardinals have built a nest hidden in its branches, but it is too busy an environment to raise a family. It does feels like a friendly place, and all the birds love its shelter. I would love to hide in its branches to find out all that goes on within this cedar tree. Unfortunately, the cats in my neighborhood also sit and watch this tree full of bird activity. Please keep your cats inside!

May is a perfect month to plant trees, but always plant something native to your area, and please plant trees friendly to wildlife. Here is the National Wildlife Federation’s list of best trees for wildlife. Oaks are especially good for wildlife.

Trees are beautiful and add so much to make our environment special, but “Foremost might be trees’ role in purifying the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Of course, they also play a vital role in creating habitats for wild animals, providing food, water and shelter.” Jim Gilbert 

How do trees help keep water clean? Trees improve water quality by slowing rain as it falls to the Earth, and helping it soak into the soil. They also prevent soil from eroding into our waterways, reduce storm water runoff, and lessen flood damage.

Singing Saturday

 

loon
We all love the awesome call of the loon

I hope you can find peace with the sounds of nature. April is the best time of the year hear singing birds.  I have chickadees and cardinals singing outside my window. Ducks are flying overhead, frogs and crickets are singing. Maybe the wind or the sound of waves or running water gives you peace. Listen for an enjoyable sound, or maybe search for complete quiet.   What sounds of nature give you peace?

From 2 writers in the Star Tribune see below:  

“Whatever it is that gets us thinking “spring” should lift our spirits and nudge us forward in this period of newness. The despair surrounding COVID-19 leaves us numb and sad, but events in nature’s spring tell us of better things to come.

These spring mornings are the best time of year to hear the symphony of bird music. Listen as tree swallows chatter; mourning doves coo; ring-necked pheasants crow; both northern cardinals and black-capped chickadees whistle; common grackles squawk; red-winged blackbirds trill; Canada geese honk; American robins sing “cheer-up, cheer-up;” and woodpeckers drum.” Jim Gilbert

 

The white-throated -sparrow sound like a flute when it sings.

“It’s the start of spring in the north. The birds are returning and in contrast to other years when I step outside, I listen for and enjoy the singing. It’s everywhere I stop. I try to listen to what they say — I could be imagining it, but they are saying it all goes on. We’re here. Nature is here. Despite your stress, relax. There’s nothing you can do about the pandemic other than listen to nature and seek refuge in compassion and the truth.” Bryan Hansel

 

Friday Fun

“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
—Christopher Robin ( sidewalk chalk work on my street)

butterfly
Can you find a butterfly?

Today have fun outside. Yesterday on my walk I saw an eagle sitting in its nest, a beautiful mourning cloak butterfly, and heard a grouse drumming its wings. Many of us are using nature to help us get through this coronavirus crisis. How can you more engage more with the outside? How about a scavenger hunt? Look for sidewalk art, a butterfly, a beautiful tree. Look for blooming flowers, a bird building a nest, an interesting cloud, or something that surprises you? How many new things in nature can you discover? Please have fun.

Bald Eagle
I saw an eagle sitting on their nest

The Daily Good suggests you take pictures of what you observe? Are you taking pictures of what you’re seeing around you? For today’s Daily Good, we invite you to take and share a picture with someone; you can even share it with a lot of someones by tagging it #TheDailyGood2020 on social media.

Thoughtful Thursday

kindness
Kindness creates a ripple, spread it now.

Thoughtful Thursday

Everyday should be kind and thoughtful, but make a special effort today. Our collective actions for kindness can make a difference. Put water in your bird baths, fill your bird feeders, check-in with someone you haven’t seen or heard from in awhile, especially those living by themselves.

Be kind and smile.

Let’s take collective action to flood our communities with positive energy and kindness even as we social distance.

It’s a perfect time to be outside and connect with nature. Many people are using nature to help them survive this crisis. An idea from the Daily Good: “Identify a plant, bird or bug in your immediate environment, whether that be through a window, in your yard or around your neighborhood. See that robin alighting on your fence or bee buzzing around your window box flowers? Pause a minute to really study it and think about what role it plays in the environment around you. If you don’t know what it is, try using a book or online tool to identify it.”

24 inches of snow!

Lake Superior in December
A December Lake Superior

December 1, is the beginning of meterological winter, and it showed its true winter colors by stiking the south shore of Lake Suprerior with a massive snowfall.  Yikes, have you tried to shovel 24 inches of snow? Never have we seen so much snow. It’s beautiful, but some people haven’t managed to get shoveled out 4 days later. Snow plows, trucks and snow blowers have broken down. A strong back/legs and a good snow shovel needed, and many help their neighbors.  I am so thankful for our snow plower who faithfully cleared our 600 foot driveway. Read about the snow here.

Heavy snow hangs on branches
Many balsam trees wear a snow skirt.

With such heavy snow I worry about the survival of wildlife. For a few days I only saw crows, but today the chickadees are back singing. They are at the feeder with their friends the nuthatches, and blue jays and wood peckers are now out looking for food. The deer had to contend with deer hunting last week, and now they have to forge for food in almost impossible conditions. Deer tracks can be spotted in driveways so some have survived hunting and a major snowstorm, but the winter food find will be tough for them. See tracking animals

LAke Superior bank
Water from the lake covers the trees

 

Superior Views in August

My August pollinator garden. Lake Superior is in the background.

Oh August, what an enjoyable month on Lake Superior! The cold wind off the lake subsides making for sunny calm 70 degree days,and the quiet ripple of the waves is soothing.  Eagles and sea gulls still screech at each other in their constant conflicts, and a pileated woodpecker bangs on dying trees, but like the hummingbirds most birds are getting ready to head south and are unusually silent.

White admiral like to sit on the road
White Admiral Butterfly

August is one of my favorite months for watching butterflies. They bring joy as they flit around from plant to plant. The most common in my neighborhood is the white admiral, with frequent sighting of monarchs, fritillaries, and the tiny eastern-tailed blue.

Climate change is affecting the big lake.  Weather patterns get stuck, and the rain and high water of the past few years is causing banks to collapse into the lake. Also, plastic is becoming a serious problem. Read about it here.

Lake superior
Goldenrod dominates the August Lake Superior wild flowers.

A MPR photo essay of sunrise on Lake Superior.

Our Actions Matter

What kind of world do we want to live in?

I think most of us would agree we don’t want polluted air and water, or a world without interesting animals, birds, and butterflies. Can we accept a world where people are staving to death? Do we want to live without diversity, in a mono-culture where we can’t accept anything different from how we live? Do we want a world where disrespect is accepted?

Too much food is waste!
How can you use those leftovers?

Several recent studies and events should wake us up and shake us to action. First a study from the United Nations that says we are going to have a food crisis if we don’t change our land use. We just aren’t going to have food for everyone if we continue on our path of land use and wasting food. The study encourages a reduction in our meat consumption. The raising of meat, especially beef and lamb takes an enormous amount of energy, land, and water resources. It also states we must stop wasting so much food. Read the study comprised by over a hundred scientists here.

Microplastic in Lake Superior
Lake Superior

Second, how about some plastic in your drink? Plastic is everywhere, and it might never break down. The amount of plastic microfibers in our water and air is troubling. Read about it at Plastic. Read about the plastic in the big lake at Lake Superior.

Bald Eagle
Smart environmental policy brought back the bald eagle

Finally, the  quality of life will decline if we don’t have song birds and crickets singing, if we don’t have eagles, hummingbirds or happy chickadees to entertain us.  We all want a world with penguins, giraffes and elephants. Our changing climate makes it necessary that we protect and support animals that will take longer to adjust to this change. Protecting some animals might be as simple as keeping oil and gas companies from drilling in certain areas. Read at Endangered Species Act . The Trump administration intends to end special protections of some of our most cherished animals.

Food waste picture
Wasting food wastes water, energy and labor!

What actions matter? These are the things my household tries to do everyday. If everyone does a little, it adds up to a lot!   1. Reduce food waste. This is the hardest, but the most important!  https://savethefood.com/  2. Eat less meat, https://damndelicious.net/2014/12/02/15-best-quick-easy-meatless-recipes/  3. Reduce our plastic foot-print and work for zero waste 4. Buy less stuff, and purchase items that will last, not junk! 5. Be kind. It would be a boring world if everyone had blue eyes, blond hair, tiny noses, and a perfect weight. Be respectful of our differences.

Everyone can help
Thanks for making a difference!

If everyone does a little, it adds up to a lot! Our warming planet is real, and we need to find ways use our land more efficiently, and to slow down our warming planet. What do you think? What kind of world do you want to live in?

 

Superior Views, The Longest Days

Picture of Lake Superior
Lake Superior

As I sit and listen to the waves, I can tell this is no ordinary lake. The sound of the waves tell of a deep cold big lake, and this year it is colder than usual making for a late spring and summer.

hummingbid sits at feeder
Female ruby-throat hummingbird

Song sparrows have built a nest on the ground a short distance from my window. Building a ground nest is surprising to me, but these sparrows know more about nests than I do. Any outside activity near the nest is off limits for us, and I am thrilled I have such a good view from my window.

painted lady butterfly
Painted lady butterfly

Along with the song sparrow the common yellow throat, red-eyed vireo, red start, oven bird, mourning warbler and chestnut sided warbler sing their hearts out and bring joy. The painted butterfly, monarch, and yellow swallow-tail are searching for host plants for their eggs. I hope the lateness of plants this year doesn’t harm the butterflies.

Lupine on Lake Superior

During these long days the sun rises at 5:10am, and sets at 9:03pm giving us lots of daylight to enjoy the big lake, the birds, the butterflies, and new blooming flowers.

 

Buffer strips
Buffer strips along lakes protect water quality, would they keep the shoreline from collapsing?

Run-off from the rivers and high-water levels are making the big lake brown. The dirt banks are wearing away.  The wet climate of the last few years has really changed the lake! And a local news article about powerful Lake Superior grabbing land as the lake levels rise. Lake Superior is always changing and renewing itself in every season, including the shoreline that surrounds it.

October’s Superior View

The leaves on these trees have survived some strong winds off Lake Superior.

October is a magical month. Nature’s paint brush thrives with the fall colors. The hues change from green to red to orange to yellow to brown. And the fleeting colors and leaves hang on for life as the wind blows. Today the leaves gently fell from the trees like the first light snowfall. The first half of the month was unseasonably cold, cloudy and rainy, but the bright autumn colors kept the landscape bright and happy. I love October!

 

The wind dominates the weather. Eighty-mile an hour winds were recorded with twenty-foot waves pounding the Lake Superior shore. Some days and nights the waves from the lake pound our sandstone cliff. The spray can actually travel 75 feet to splash our house.

75 foot lake spray on our windows.

Interesting birds are migrating through from the north. Yellow rump warblers eat flies sunning themselves on our house, hermit thrush jump in the leaf litter, palm warblers wag their tails, and my favorite white-throated sparrows look for food in the brush. The junkos, harbingers of winter, are everywhere, and groups of snow buntings have just arrived.

Wildlife and humans hunker down into thoughts of the winter ahead. The brisk temperatures and short days become a message that our warmth is fleeting. The chickadees, gold finch and nuthatches are busy emptying our bird feeder. It is amazing they can remember where they hide their seeds. The squirrels and chipmunks wait below for scraps to be part eating and hiding fun.

The big lake is seldom quiet. The sound of moving water and lack of human noise is refreshing. We love our sounds from nature, and our one square inch of silence. https://onesquareinch.org/