Superior Views, Summer 2020

Extra fresh? Extra wet? Extra extra? Extra beautiful? Extra Great? Extra gitchy? Extra deep? Extra wide? Extra voluminous? Extra fishy? Extra rocky? Extra clean? Extra cold? Extra Superior?” @Lake Superior (twitter)

monarch butterfly
Monarch on goldenrod

Yes, extra Superior! A world pandemic is still raging, elected leaders incite violence, forest fires and hurricanes are constant, but no drama on Lake Superior. By  August the lake has warmed and the contrast between the cold lake and warm air isn’t so extreme causing less drama. This lack of drama makes the big lake more peaceful as the gentle waves ripple to shore.

The loons call, and the eagles screech from their tree towering over the lake.  The hummingbirds like little fairies hover and suck nectar from the last of the plants as they prepare for  their long journey south.

Frittilary butterfly in July
August garden on Lake Superior.

Plants are turning brown, and yellow golden rod dominates. Blooming plants were early this year so they lose energy and turn brown sooner. Only a few butterflies remain, they have been replaced by grasshoppers, and like the birds the chipmunks are already busy preparing for winter.

July was a perfect time to indulge in watching butterflies and monarch caterpillars. Every new caterpillar was a celebration. Unfortunately, something else found them to be joyful food, and they disappeared.  We suspect the chipmunks. Their numbers were too many this year, and they seemed to be watching my treasured caterpillars as much as I was!  Every new butterfly I see I hope they were one of my precious fat caterpillars.

hummingbid sits at feeder
Female ruby-throat hummingbird

Surprisingly,  in July the lake had a harder time keeping us cool from the hot humid summer south of us, but August brought 70 degrees days while a hundred miles south it was a hot humid 90 degrees.

On to September and more change, turning leaves and intense beauty! Extra beautiful!

 

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!

World Water Day

Climate change will affect the availability, quality and quantity of water needed for basic human needs, thus undermining enjoyment of the basic rights to safe drinking water and sanitation for billions of people, warns the latest UN World Water Development Report.” United Nations

Today as we are all advised to wash our hands because of our world crisis, please take a moment to pause and think about our water. On World Water Day become mindful of your relationship to water on our planet. How do you use water? How many times during the day do you turn on the water faucet? Who keeps the water we drink and use safe? How does the water get to our houses? What can we do to conserve and keep our fresh water clean and safe?

The water we have on Earth is the only water we will ever have. It is used and reused as part of the water cycle. Please be mindful how you use it.

The largest fresh water lake
Lake Superior

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/

 

 

Our Most Precious Resource!

World Water Week

 “We believe water is key to our future prosperity, and that together, we can achieve a water wise world.”

26 – 31 August, 2018, Stockholm, Sweden

Keep Lake Superior clean and Beautiful!

World Water Week is the annual focal point for the globe’s water issues. It is organized by SIWI. World Water Week will address the theme, “Water, ecosystems and human development.”

The water on earth belongs to all of us, not to just big business or farmers, but to everyone. We depend on clean water for drinking and recreation, and our survival.  We can’t choose business profits over the health of people.  Let’s all speak out for clean water.

Water is life! I live in a water rich place, and worry that protecting this precious natural resource isn’t enough of a priority. We are at such an important place in protecting our waterways. The past ten years have shown declining water quality. Forty percent of Minnesota’s streams and lakes are not safe for swimming or boating and Lake Superior has many stresses also. Tell policy makers clean water is a priority.

Climate change and run-off are having an effect on Lake Superior.

We can almost live without single-use plastic. #plasticfree

Conferences and education are important, but each one of us has a role to play in protecting our water. There are simple things we can do that can make a big difference. First, reduce run-off on your property by redirecting drain spouts, planting deep-rooted native plants that absorb water, and making raingardens. Never use chemicals on your yard, and sweep your sidewalks. Third, buy less stuff, and reduce your plastic footprint by reusing and refusing. Fourth, tell elected officials clean water is a top priority. Finally, make a big effort to keep from wasting food. These things can make a big difference in our water quality. If everyone does a small amount it can make a big difference!

Everyone must make clean water a priority!

 

 

 

Awe and Concern

Sphinx Moth on bee balm

Standing in that sea of color, watching Lake Superior’s never-ending blue waters meld with the sky, I wanted to stay there for the rest of my days” Melanie Radzicki McManus

Read Melanie’s entire adventure at Superior Hiking Trail 

Yes, this big lake has a spiritual effect on many of us. I love mornings the as the sun rises and noisy birds are busy with their day. The eagles whistle and screech as they fly along the shoreline. I watch two adults and one juvenile land on a white pine, they sit and watch the lake, and chatter among themselves as they fly away. I wonder what the adult eagles are telling their child about life and survival? The hummingbirds are also active in August. They are eating and drinking and squeaking as they prepare for their journey south. What do they tell their young about the journey that lies in front of them? This all typical of August on Lake Superior

Monarch chrysalis under a step

Sphinx moths and many bees are loving my late-blooming pollinator garden. The monarch caterpillars have become chrysalis , and I watch for new monarchs to emerge, and to my excitement they do!

A new monarch dries its wings.

Sadly, August is not like Melanie (above) describes in June. Signs of our warming climate are wearing on this big lake. Canadian wildfire smoke is creating a milky white sky and foggy horizon. Also, blue-green algae has been found along the south shore, probably caused by the yearly hundred year rains in the lake watershed. The watershed streams over-flow into the lake. Heavy rain run-off of lawn and agriculture chemicals causes a nutrient rich brown lake. Along with warm water these nutrients can lead to a blue-green algae problem. After the brown sediment filters out a greener color lake remains that has not been the Lake Superior norm. Read at blue-green algae

More on the changing climate and Lake Superior

Lake Superior is hidden by milky Canadian wildfire smoke, August 2018