I am sorry to see the month of July come to an end. Lake Superior keeps the hot temperatures to the south, and the temperature has been comfortable, but the lake has been unusually cold.
It has been an incredible summer for birds. The singing has now somewhat subsided, but in early summer we were thrilled to hear many birds singing we hadn’t heard for a few years. Mornings were so pleasant with purple finch, red starts, song sparrows, chestnut sided warblers, Northern parulas, and red-eyed vireos belting out their beautiful songs. Even though the singing has now subsided, we have an active crowd of baby birds trying to fill their hungry stomachs. Red starts and song sparrows were underfoot as I worked in my garden.
Many birds nest here because we have so many insects and caterpillars to feed their babies. This week we had many birds trying to eat the ripe elderberry berries. Today we had flickers, downy woodpeckers, chickadees, and cedar wax wings trying to hover and snatch one of these delicious berries. I’m sure they wish they could hover and fly like the hummingbirds.
The hummingbirds think they are king of the mountain. Life is a game to them as they wiz around. Even though they are the smallest they are the most aggressive and most visible. Their assertive behavior is entertaining as they are protect “their food.” I am sure the baby hummingbirds are learning from mom how to behave and survive.
Monarch butterflies visit daily
The number of butterflies has also subsided since early July, but a monarch makes a daily pilgrimage to our yard visiting the milkweed. Unfortunately, butterfly caterpillars don’t survive long because there are many baby birds to be fed. I hope that some survive as butterflies,
An American Lady caterpillar on pearly everlasting, it probably became bird food!
Ruffed grouse scare me as they fly up as I walk into my yard. A flock of juncos fly into our yard, robins are devouring the Mt. Ash berries, yellow-rumped warblers are diving to eat flies off our house. The nuthatch and blue jays are emptying the feeder, the goldfinch are munching on something in a dead white pine, and woodpeckers are busy making their marks on trees. Yes, it is October on the big lake and we are all getting ready for the winter months ahead. All the energy and activity makes us happy.
For many days thick Fog hung thick over the lake signaling the drought has subsided and rain is again common. After many dark days the sun is welcome
It has been an unusual Superior Views summer with a sun that seemed more intense than usual, and winds off the lake that were calmer than most summers. Sadly, wild fires from Canada and Northern Minnesota polluted the air quality for weeks at a time.
The warmer than normal summer changed the pattern of the plants and trees. The leaves turned earlier than normal and the flowers bloomed weeks earlier than usual. Actually, I think the native plants and flowers enjoyed the warm temperatures and milder winds, but the trees suffered with the heat and drought.
Lake Superior is not for sale! A local resident is trying to sell ground water for profit.
“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)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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/
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
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!
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
It makes me so happy when butterflies dance along as I walk the road by my house. One day there were dancing sulfurs, another day monarchs, swallow-tail and white admirals. I was watching a northern pearly eye, it flew at me, and decided to sit on my hand for 10 minutes as I continued my walk. July is easy to see painted ladies, red admirals, wood nymph butterflies, checkerspots, fritillaries and many skippers. This is the best time of the year to see butterflies! Get outside and look.
Seeing butterflies is so much easier than seeing birds, but the birds sing their ”I love life” song? some of them must have raised their first family and ready to start again? Song sparrows, red starts, chickadees, chestnut-sided warblers, vireos, and white-throated sparrows seem to sing just for me. I sure appreciate their happy songs.
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.
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!
Thoughts for the first day of fall on Lake Superior:
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!
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?
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!