Death and Life

The interviews and stories make for an interesting read.

The Great Lakes are the largest body of fresh water in the world. This is a review of the award-winning book, Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan.

The pristine Great Lakes had always been isolated from other bodies of water, but all this changed with the building of canals in the 1800s. Then in 1959 the Saint Lawrence Seaway opened. This is a riveting account of what has happened to the Great Lakes and other lakes in the United States and Canada since the Great Lakes became an avenue of world commerce and transportation.

Death and Life is a must read for individuals that care about the quality of our water, fishermen and women, and every environmental decision maker. I was thrilled my local book club picked it to read, and excited when the New York Times/PBS Book Club chose it as well.

Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario make up the Great Lakes on the border of the United States and Canada. Photo: National Weather Service, Buffalo

The author, Dan Eagan, a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has thoroughly researched and interviewed many of the decision makers and citizens involved. Why did they make the decisions they did?   I was surprised how many of them were still living to tell their stories and defend their decisions. He has put their stories together to tell an interesting narrative.

Why would species from the Black Sea and Caspian Sea thrive in Lake Michigan? We have learned so much during the past thirty to fifty years about invasive species. I remember how surprised I was when I first learned about invasives. A new world opened!  The learning curve has been steep for us, and even if you don’t read this book I encourage you to read about invasive species to learn the harm they do. Eagan delves into the sea lamprey, alewives, zebra mussels, coho salmon, Asian carp, and others that have thrived in this new environment, the Great Lakes, without any predators to control their numbers. Then there are the native lake trout that are native to the lakes, but they are too boring??

Fascinating was the Great Black Swamp that filtered run-off and helped keep Lake Erie clean. Like so many of the wetlands and swamps of the past, our ignorance couldn’t understand their purpose, so drainage began and we have new fertile farmland. Today the farm run-off creates the perfect conditions for toxic algae blooms threatening the drinking water taken from Lake Erie. Interesting stories continue as Egan interviews farmers, and those working to mitigate the effects of farm run-off.

The summer of 2017, a very rainy summer on Lake Superior, I was surprised by reports that for the first time Lake Michigan had better water quality than Lake Superior. The high water level of Lake Superior and the run off from the streams had caused a rusty-brown lake. You will have to read Dan Eagan’s book to discover why Lake Michigan now has cleaner water, and if this is a good thing?

Dan Egan leaves me hopeful. I think he believes, as do I, the earth is capable of healing itself to some extent if left alone to find its ecological balance. It is hopeful that Lake Huron has begun to heal, and that the white fish are adapting to eat zebra mussels. I hope a 10 year sequel is on the writing-table soon.

And finally a quote from the book, “A thing is right when it tends to promote the integrity, beauty and stability of the biotic community.” Aldo Leopold

A link to Dan Egan’s appearance on the PBS NewsHour:

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/great-lakes-author-dan-egan-answers-your-questions

 

 

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Weather Weird

The wind is constantly moving the slushy ice around the lake.

Who would ever think you would wake up to 9 degree temperatures on April 9? It has been a cold two weeks of 20 to 30 degrees below normal! Meteorologist Paul Douglas calls it “Weather Weird!” One theory is that the warm weather in the Arctic and Alaska could be hijacking jet streams causing polar air to move south. I recollect some of this happened during the famous Polar Vortex.

NASA picture of Lake Superior

Yes, it is cold but the days on Lake Superior are sunny and beautiful. Deer are feeding wherever they find open snow-free ground, the eagles are protecting their new babies, and the migrating seagulls and Canadian geese are back. Mourning cloak butterflies are finding sunny muddy patches, and ore boats are again crossing the big lake. All are signals that spring is finally on its way!

April can be the cruelest month, but April can also be one of the best months to be outside. I hope you get outside to experience the changes and new beginnings. Make a daily walk part of your routine. Enjoy!

Too Much Water, Too Much Sediment

Lake Superior and all lakes are precious, protect them!

This summer I wished I could have given some of our rain to drought stricken North or South Dakota. Everyday on Lake Superior seemed to sprout a rain shower.  When I read the water quality of Lake Superior wasn’t superior to other Great Lakes anymore, my first thought was of this summer’s rain. Because of the rainy summer, the lake level became very high, and this high water caused some of the soft lake banks to erode into the lake causing lake sediment.  The streams running into the lake bring more sediment into the lake.

An unusual fact about Lake Superior: Many streams and rivers drain into the big lake, but only one river drains out of the lake, the St. Mary’s River, and that is regulated at Sault Ste. Marie. I know the water that flows out through the St. Mary’s River is complicated with many factors, but releasing more water from the lake could probably help water quality of Lake Superior. Read at St. Mary’s River.

We can all do better to protect the water quality this magnificent lake, and other lakes also.

Buffer strips along lakes protect water quality.

Slowing down the water flow can help. Buffer strips of deep-rooted plants along streams and along the lake can reduce sediment run-off, and putting in rain gardens and rain barrels can also slow the water.

The below ideas for protecting our lakes is from the Superiorforum.org , Sigurd Olson Institute, Northland college, the EPA, and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative:
1 .Be conservative with your water use.
2. Recycle as much as you can with the 4 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and repair. And….NEVER burn trash.
3. Curb Yard Pollution. Put your lawn on a chemical-free diet!!
4. Stop aquatic invasives by cleaning plants and animals off your boat.
5. Plant native plants, and reduce turf grass.
6. Plant native trees According to Audubon, oak trees are the best for attracting insects and birds.
7. Install a rain barrel
8. Create an energy-efficient home.
9. Bring hazardous waste to waste collection sites.
10. Love our lakes!

I would add a few more:

  1. Plastics have become a big problem for our waterways.  Reduce plastic use and be sure any plastic-use is recycled. Also remember to say, “No straw please!”
  2. Micro-fibers in our clothes also are polluting our waterways. As of yet there isn’t a good solution. Read about micro-fibers here.
  3. Always pick up litter.

The water we have on earth is the only water we will ever have, we must take care of it!

Happy Autumn!

Thoughts for the first day of fall on Lake Superior:

Bees love the fall asters

Crickets sing, eagles whistle, the wind howls and pounds waves against the sandstone bank.
The red tips of the maples, the blooming asters, and the shortening days say one thing, summer has turned to fall!

Summer’s End
By Judith Viorst

One by one the petals drop
There’s nothing that can make them stop.
You cannot beg a rose to stay.
Why does it have to be that way?

There is an unusual explosion of painted ladies this fall

The butterflies I used to chase
Have gone off to some other place.
I don’t know where. I only know
I wish they didn’t have to go, and all the shiny afternoons
So full of birds and sun are done. I do not want them done!

The sun sets on summer 2017, Lake Superior

Life and Death on Lake Superior

August 2017

Many bees on the native plants.

I had just seen a hawk fly along Lake Superior, but was surprised when two large birds came crashing into a window where was sitting. This created a 45 minute ordeal below my window. The flicker cried, fought and cried some more, but the talons of the hawk had a firm grip. Blue jays and crows came to watch the commotion. The persistence of the hawk ruled and she was too strong and determined for the flicker. An unusual number of hawks in our neighborhood this August have changed the lives of chipmunks, squirrels, and the birds.

On a happier note, A a fresh bright monarch was drying her wings after emerging from her cocoon, and a monarch caterpillar was weaving herself into a cocoon and will hopefully evolve into a new monarch in two weeks.

The great south migration has started with groups of night-hawks and yellow-rump warblers migrating through, and in another week the hummingbirds will be gone, also.  Harbingers of fall.

Common Wood-nymph

The flowers are at their peak and the bees are crazy for bee balm and anise hyssop. The wood-nymph butterflies have been plentiul, but they too are at the end of their life cycle to be replaced by white admirals, cabbage whites, and fritillaries.