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Wildersmith May 20

Hooded Merganzer
Hooded Merganzer

Finalcut_Wildersmith_20110520.mp34.81 MB

Regardless of summer still being a month away according to the calendar, I believe we can declare the season pretty much upon us. One of those summer-like days hit us last week, with temps reaching from the high 60s to near 80 depending upon where one’s thermometer is located.

Although we have slipped back into cooler times since that one-day thermal occurrence, the fact that the walleye opener hit this past weekend, and then the return of hummingbirds to local sweetness stations, surely has to count as summer up north.

To take things one step further, there’s a tint of green in the treetops over the granite landscape. Aspen buds are about to spring forth with the first deciduous foliage of the season, while their birch kin are not far behind. In all likelihood we’ll have green leaves of summer by the time this news exercise reaches your eyes and ears. Believe it or not, the first wild strawberry blooms have been spotted, and all of this natural wonder is being bathed in nighttime brilliance of the full “budding flower” moon (Zaagibagaa Giizis).

On the fishing opener, the day was pleasant and cool with a good walleye chop on the sky blue waters. Anglers from whom I’ve heard had good luck in getting their prizes. Remembering that the fishing is always good, one can only hope that the kick-off catching matched the joy of being on the water.

Ice out is complete on area lakes with the smaller bodies becoming liquid only by last Tuesday the tenth. Few examples remain of the past season’s character, with a couple man-made piles of snow and one ice dam all that’s visible along the Mile O Pine. Bet they’ll be gone by first of June for sure!

A couple from over on Hungry Jack Lake celebrated the May 10 demise of ice on their lake with an afternoon paddle to see how winter has bid adieu to our newly found warmth. Stirred with the smell of spring in the forest, their search was on for that last patch of white. Sure enough, a spit of winter was found still clinging to the rocks and moss beneath the shadows of a great white pine and a couple white cedars.

Listening to the calls of two loon pairs, winter wrens and white-throated sparrows, under bright blue skies, they watched a gathering of male mergansers while an eagle towered high above. What a day it must have been, sorrow in the passing of Old Man Winter but joy in the renewal.

The beauty of their day was tainted slightly by the shoreline litter reminding us that much of mankind doesn’t give a hoot about how they treat their environment. Wild inhabitants of the territory surely don’t leave styrofoam, plastic bait containers, fishing bobbers, minnow buckets and floating fish spot markers… so sad. Thank goodness there are folks like these who do care, and who proceeded to pick up.

A wonderful hike on the Chik Wauk Trail system last weekend saw our end of the Trail gem working more of its magic. A pair of loons have moved into the bay and taken up residence. A recently placed nesting platform is floating just across from the museum’s north windows.

It was just by chance that the Smiths got to see the apparent mom-to-be scramble up onto the new natural dwelling, wiggle around a little bit and settle down on what appeared to be her nesting site. Field glasses didn’t reveal if there’s an egg yet.

Thanks to the persistent and diligent work of Gunflint Trail Historical Society member/supporter Phyllis Sherman and Chik Wauk Nature Center guru Kathy Lande, the potential nesting site looks to be a wonderful attraction for Chik Wauk visitors as the new museum season is rapidly approaching. Hopefully the attention from on lookers across the bay will not be disturbing to the handsome pair. We’ll all be hoping for a new addition.

Speaking of the museum and nature center, 2011 opening day is set for Saturday, May 28. To learn more about the storied Gunflint past, schedule a day trip and come out for a step back in time. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through mid-October. Currently the vehicle admittance gate is closed until opener, but hiking trails are open to walk-in traffic, so folks wanting a splendid day outdoors are welcome to explore at their leisure.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor some wonders of the wilderness!

Airdate: May 20, 2011

Photo courtesy of NYCArthur via Flickr.