An early summer morning at the lakeThe morning is cool, about 50 degrees, when I step out from the house. This is the coolest time of day and patches of fog cling to some of the wetland sites. Songs of the early morning avian chorus greet me as I walk through the yard.
By: Larry Weber, Duluth Budgeteer News
The morning is cool, about 50 degrees, when I step out from the house. This is the coolest time of day and patches of fog cling to some of the wetland sites. Songs of the early morning avian chorus greet me as I walk through the yard. The tiny flycatcher, the wood peewee, as well as an indigo bunting deliver their notes from the tree tops. Lower in the forest, the ovenbird proclaims a “teacher teacher” song and the veery rolls out its churning melody. Recently I found a veery nest, and I wonder if this bird is the owner.
Going through the woods, I hear clearly the red-eyed and yellow-throated vireos, repeating their short but continual phrases. They are joined by the call of a black-billed cuckoo. Normally this bird is not here, but with the mild outbreak of forest tent caterpillars (armyworms) that we now have, they arrived for the feast. The wet woods shows more as I walk by. Fungi have responded to this addition of water and have quickly popped up. I see a growth of yellow waxy cap mushrooms on the ground while the little gray bush-like coral fungi rise from a rotting log. In the damp shaded conditions, ferns thrive, but few flowers bloom. But here along the trail, I find one, a pyrola just beginning to open its petals — a great sight in this shade. The trail is also wet and by the time I get to the lake, I’m carrying a bit of the moisture: Record-setting rains of last week have caused the level of the lake, as well as nearby ponds and swamps, to be higher than it has been in years. Sharing my site with a number of mosquitoes, I settle down to observe the lake life.
Most likely completely oblivious of my presence, the summer-singing frogs, mink frogs and green frogs continue their courtship calls. The “knock knock” sound of the former and the “banjo plucking” of the latter give a finale to our anuran songs that started this year in late March. This late-season duet will continue for another month or so. Birds are singing from the shoreline. I listen to redstarts and yellowthroats while a song sparrow and a catbird provide tunes from the thick alder growth at the lake’s edge. Not as loud, other birds appear here too. The local spotted sandpiper silently alights upon a rock and seeks aquatic insect meals. A pair of loons drifts into the bay from further out in the lake. They seem to be more interested in resting and napping than in fishing. However, fishing is the plan for a chattering kingfisher and a large great blue heron that gracefully flies in and begins its wading. I frequently see them at the lake, but usually in the evening.
Looking along the shore, I see that the irises that have put on such a show this month are now fading, but in their place is the delightful yellow loosestrife. Also known as swamp candles, they light up the scene just above the water. Floating out in the bay, yellow pond lilies have dealt with the rising water well enough to continue to bloom at the surface. These shoreline plants are used by insects of note. Various dragonflies are climbing out from an aquatic immature stage to become adults. This morning, a batch of spotted calico pennants stretch out their wings while upon these plants. These pennants and the black and white chalk-fronted corporals are the most abundant dragonflies here now.
As the morning warms, the dragonflies take wing and I begin my return trip. Out in the water, a few painted turtles climb onto a log for some sun. The butterflies of the woods, tiger swallowtails, white admirals and pearly-eyes, bask in sunny sites. Back in the yard, a couple of young cottontails scamper among the daylilies. These flowers will be in bloom soon as the peonies wane. And a few cedar waxwings have discovered the new ripe berries of the red elderberry trees. The winds and temperatures rise; another early summer day in the Northland has begun. There will be many more.
Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods” and “Webwood.” Contact him c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.