What a difference a week can make! This area of borderland went from minus something on Easter morning, to almost sweltering seven days later. Whew, put away those layers and break out the Speedo! I’m betting what moose we have left were sweltering in their winter coats.
Last weekend saw temps soar into the forties, fifties and even some sixties. There was wide disparity dependent upon one’s locale and whether the thermometer was in the sun or shade.
Regardless, “Mother Nature” took over with some big-time snow and ice melting. If the “old gal” wasn’t in enough of a hurry to get spring moving, the melting liquid was, as it spilled out of the hills in rushing torrents toward area lakes.
Our winter was on the wimpy side so to speak. Nevertheless, snow left in its wake was enough to make rivers etch cavernous gullies across and along the Mile O Pine. It seems all the white tried to depart at once last Saturday and Sunday. I’m confident other back country passages were equally gashed.
In all of our sixteen winters at Wildersmith, this is the worst winter aftermath of flooding and mud season observed, and it’s just getting going! If this nightmare of gushing water isn’t enough, a more subtle situation is building by the hour. There still has been minimal rainfall to dampen the growing expanse of dry forest brush. It’s a double-edged sword – we need the rain, but not more water.
Wildfire is just a campfire's spark or dry lightning away from dangerous sudden ignition. It seems implausible that the DNR would invoke much needed burning bans throughout the county while the US Forest Service is not placing a ban on campfires for the Superior National Forest & BWCA. Everyone out this way remembers all too well the 2007 Ham Lake tragedy which was started by careless use of a campfire in extreme dry times such as currently exist.
The concern for wildfire danger is further magnified for area residents and businesses with frozen lakes not allowing wildfire sprinkler systems to be made ready for emergency usage.
More rites of the season have been in evidence over the past week. On a recent trip to Grand Marais, the Smiths came upon a couple late date Easter bunnies along the Trail.
At the time, there was still plenty of windrowed snow along the blacktop and these two critters were taken for clumps of dirty snow. As our trek got closer, it was evident their snowshoe hare DNA has them in early stages of changing to warm weather attire. Yep, they were a little bit white and a little bit dusty brown.
To date, I’ve heard of the first bear sighting along Gunflint Lake, so the winter feeders have been put away. Another sign of the times finds robins flitting about while my open wood shop door has been inviting enough for chipmunks to come snooping around.
Our deck-side feed trough experienced activity beyond the usual seed munching last week. To describe the scene, the action involved feeding, moreover it turned out to be a food fight, and please understand sharing this story will take longer than the actual event.
The stage is set with two characters, a squirrel and a pine marten. Squirrels are here all hours of daylight and spend a good deal of time in two small feeders I’ll call squirrel lunch boxes. These little six-inch by six-inch units are enclosed with a hinged shed-like roof for entry. One side also has a plexiglass window. Meanwhile pine martens are daily visitors, too, coming in for a poultry treat from their own swinging door eateries.
On this day, a squirrel had taken up occupancy in one lunch box, peacefully brunching away. Happening by about the same time, a marten came cruising along the deck rail checking out its fast food chances. Finding a kin had already partaken of its allotment, the marten proceeded along the rail, stopping to sit on top of the squirrels’ lunch box.
At this moment the marten detected the unit to be occupied and hopped off to sneak a peek in the tiny window. Seeing lunch potential inside, in a flash, Mr./Ms. Marten popped up the feeder roof and dove in on the surprised squirrel.
From that point on, confusion reigned supreme as the squirrel sought to escape being the entrée in this fight for food, and the marten determined the rodent was its intended. Seeds scattered about in a flurry as the skirmish spilled out onto the deck rail.
A squirming squirrel, in the marten’s mouth, fought violently. In the end, the tiny red rodent apparently got a nip or two of its own in on the marten's cheeks. Remarkably, the much larger fur ball dropped its prey. Both animals fell to the deck and the squirrel made a mad scamper to apparent safety, not to be seen again while the marten disappeared, unrewarded.
One has to wonder if either animal sustained a major wound as evidence of blood-spilling was not found. Perhaps they were both back the next day – mysteries of life in the woods continues!
Keep on hangin’ on and savor the adventures of spring!
(Photo courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library)