No foolin,' March is into the books! Out here in the Gunflint forest, segment three has been fickle to say the least. We’ve seen about all Mother Nature has to offer in terms of weather. And as the month comes to an end, “Zigwan” (spring) is gaining a foothold day by day. Mud season in back country is advancing to become the norm.
Atmospheric happenings in our upper end of the Trail have dished up a few inches of mixed snow, sleet and freezing rain along with a couple mornings around the zero mark, necessitating snow removal once more. Sandwiched in were slots of pleasant, sunny times. In short, our past weeks’ weather pretty much paralleled what the rest of the month was like, drippy where the sun shines while wintery under the clouds and evergreen canopy.
The disappearance of winter character remains a bit sporadic, and back country roads are still white for the most part. Meanwhile along the Trail, a gnawing sun has eaten away at snow banks revealing the ugly look of urban America grit.
Lake ice has remained stable in support of this final week of trout season angling. Keying this report, I still see everything from snowmobiles to four wheelers and pick-up trucks heading back and forth on the Gunflint as catching’s zero hour approaches tonight.
The fresh snow of last week provided what may be a final tracking opportunity of “wild neighborhood” visitors. The mystery of who might have been here during darkness hour always captures yours truly.
On the morning following our last flaky episode, smooth new carpeting found imprints of a fisher, wolf and a myriad of smaller forest beings. Such evidence always stirs wonder of whether they were pursuing or being pursued. Guess we can be guaranteed all were in some mode of finding something to eat.
The Smiths were in the right spot at the right time last week to catch two quirky avian incidents. The first involved a curious “whiskey Jack” (Canadian Jay). This saga happened one early evening, moments after I put a couple burgers on the grill. I noticed this gray jay hanging out, and apparently it was keeping an eye on me too, or at least what I was doing.
Stepping away from the grill, I turned back just as the jay swooped down to the deck rail near the grill. I could tell it must be eyeing the exposed side of raw ground beef. Who would ever believe that in a surprising advance, this guy/gal flapped in and for an instance, hovered over what was cooking. It took but a nanosecond before a sampling could be snatched, when the hungry critter discovered it was too hot in the kitchen.
Avoiding a feather roasting catastrophe, the jaybird made a hot footed escape off into the tree tops. Farfetched, yes, but the story is absolutely true.
The second birdy interlude took place in darkness hours, long after these feathery folk should have gone to roost. In this episode, a sudden noise at the window startled us away from the “boob” tube. Inquiry as to what was going on found a misguided flyer had flown into the glass. This happens often, but it has never occurred at 10:00 o’clock at night.
The stunned bird, of sparrow or finch size, lay on the deck for several moments before regaining its feet. Then it stood motionless for a longer time before beginning to hop about. Eventually, a few flaps of its wings and it took off into the dark of night.
Why this little fellow was not snoozing at this time, or why its GPS might have malfunctioned, leading it to a near death experience, we’ll never know. Maybe it just had days and nights mixed up? I’m supposing it found a safe place for some shut-eye.
Speaking further of and for our winged friends, scientists are finding some surprising discoveries about avian behavior in spring migrations. Did you know that flock size affects flight speed? The larger the flock, the faster the birds fly. Belief is that this principle applies to all bird species.
In a related note, a study documented in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, found for the first time birds fly much faster migrating north after winter, and put forth more effort to stay on course than they do during autumn flights south. More specifically, birds fly 39 percent faster in the spring than in fall. Speculation is they are jetting to claim the best breeding sites.
This information was discovered in the spring edition of Wildlife magazine published by the National Wildlife Federation. This is a good read to learn of the innovative technologies used to gather these interesting facts.
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, always with promise of a natural adventure!
Photo courtesy of Parks Connect, Flickr