Northland Nature: A late June morning at the lakeRecent mornings have been cool with mist and fog, and so I’m ready for these damp conditions when I step out on a walk to the lake.
Recent mornings have been cool with mist and fog, and so I’m ready for these damp conditions when I step out on a walk to the lake.
In this early hour, the birds are actively singing as I go on the road along the way. I hear several kinds of warblers, a couple of vireos, a wood peewee and a veery. All are proclaiming their territorial ownership now that the breeding season is going on.
Passing by a swamp and a pond, I see the usual red-winged blackbirds and a kingbird, but nearby is news: A mother hooded merganser and her newly hatched family of seven swim by. A lone ring-necked duck has arrived as well. Yellow pond-lilies and white water arum show their colors amongst the wet fog.
Along the woods path that leads to the lake shore, I find plenty of yellow clintonias still in bloom, and the tall and colorful red and yellow columbines. The woods is all leafed out and the rain of the last several days has caused a thick growth of ferns here. Some of these green plants are three or four feet tall.
A catbird is singing in the shoreline alders as I reach the water. A misty cover makes it hard to see across the bay, but I notice movement as a great blue heron glides in for some fishing in the shallows. Silently stalking, it grabs a small fish, probably one of the perch that abound here.
A kingfisher takes its meal with a plunge in the water, while the local loons do their searching quietly below the surface. Frogs are often silent in morning and despite the loud gray tree frogs of last night, I hear none of this kind now.
But at the lake’s edge, a couple of summer frogs, the mink and green frogs, the last of the season to sing, add their sounds to the calm morning.
There’s plenty going on with the larger critters, but I find that the smaller residents, the insects and spiders, are just as active. The fog and mist that limits visibility in seeing birds allows me to detect spider webs more easily. Dew drops on these threads make the circular orb webs stand out well on such a morning. Later, as the day warms and the dampness evaporates with stronger winds, such intricate constructions will not be noticed.
And there are many insects here too: This is dragonfly time, and I find many as I walk along the shore. During the night, many of the immature dragonflies (known as either larvae or nymphs) have made the bold move into
They do this by climbing up on a plant, rock, dock or any other structure they can find to emerge from the water. Most kinds have been in this water world since last summer, and here they went through several stages of growth as they lived as predators among the other aquatic invertebrates. Now, the longer days tell them that it is time to move into their next stage: adulthood, and life on land.
Looking among the emergent plant stems, I see the newly-formed adults clinging. Often they are near the discarded exoskeleton (shed skin) of their immature days. When first coming from their aquatic exoskeleton, they pull out the long abdomen and then two pairs of wings. All these body parts need to have fluids pumped into them and stretched out to warm in the rising sunlight.
Fog and mist, as I see now, tells me that these present emergers may need to wait a bit longer for that to happen today.
Dragonflies hold their wings out perpendicular to the body while their smaller cousins, the damselflies, keep wings parallel to the body, folded along the abdomen. But when first coming on the scene, the dragonflies hold their wings much like those of the damselflies.
Once their wings are fully developed and warmed, they will quickly take flight. Though they’ve never flown before, the dragonflies that I see emerging this morning will soon be maneuvering around the wetland like veterans.
By late morning, sunshine has reached these patient critters, and with each step, I see several dragonflies and damselflies taking wing. They scatter and go about looking for food and a mate. Soon I expect they will be laying eggs here too.
Late June mornings are full of such activity, and I expect there will be a new story here again tomorrow.
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 email@example.com.