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!
“There is a privacy about winter that no other season gives you. Only in winter can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.” Ruth Stout
January has been a month of peace, quiet and intense beauty on Lake Superior. Snow frosted balsams radiate a charm that goes unnoticed during other seasons.
The face of the lake can change hourly as the lake refreshes itself, and the wind shifts. The lake dramatically changes from ice-covered to a few floating chunks of ice, and then back to ice-covered. Sporting new looks adds to the mystique of this enormous fresh water lake.
Wow, who doesn’t love June? The weather is perfect, and everyday brings new budding/blooming flowers, birds and butterflies. The red-eyed vireo, song sparrow, and least fly-catcher sing constantly in our yard. Painted lady, northern-crescent, and tiger swallowtail butterflies add to the beauty of the days.
The best plants are those that pollinators frequent. The bees and the hummingbirds love
the wild geranium, and the flowering maple is a favorite for bees and many birds.
The dominant roadside flowers are daisies, lupine, hawkweed and buttercups that create a beautiful mix designed by nature. Unfortunately, the road crew of my town cut down all these blooming beauties. So much for our butterflies and bees which are now in a struggle to survive. Mowing roadsides in late September would help pollinators and enhance enjoyment for you and me.