Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him c/o email@example.com.
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- 4 years 9 months
The woods of early November is open and reveals conditions of the autumn interlude – between leaves dropping from trees and the lasting snow cover.
This year, the late peak colors of this annual arboreal show did not last too long as the strong off-lake winds and above normal rainfall brought down most of the foliage. This leaf drop of mid-October does not happen all at once, and many trees lingered with their leaves.
Shorter days — now 11 hours of daylight — have triggered the migration with many kinds of birds and the flight of raptors, geese and songbirds continues to show this phenomenon.
The trees that have been here in full foliage since May now give us a superb show before dropping their food-producing leaves. The deciduous trees are mostly red and yellow in fall.
Whatever raptors that we want to observe, Hawk Ridge will likely give us the opportunity to see them. Another raptor that I like to see and usually do so at this time is the northern harrier.
The woods are shady and spring wildflowers that were so dominant a few weeks ago now are faded, leaving only the shade-tolerant clintonia, starflower and wild lily-of-the valley still in bloom. But as I look at this floral display along the road, I see something else as well. Upon approach, I see that I have come across a large snapping turtle laying its eggs.
> We have a trio: chorus frogs, wood frogs and spring peepers that wake from their winter sleep and quickly move to the water to begin courting and mating. I'm always amazed at their activity in the chilly waters of these pools, which frequently freeze over at night. But this year, the tiny chorus frogs were even more amazing. We received about a foot of snow April 15. Temperatures were in the 20s; all the ponds were solidly frozen. Slowly in the next few days, the temperatures rose to the 30s, 40s and 50s by April 20. On April 21, as I passed a small shallow vernal pond, I stopped when I heard the creaking call of a chorus frog. Even more impressive was a few days later, when I found one calling from a vernal pond that was about 80 percent covered with ice. Chorus frogs are only about 1 inch long with brown or greenish-brown stripes.
We look for many happenings in early spring and with some searching, maybe more than normal, I have seen a few: crocuses blooming, dandelions with blossoms, alder catkins forming pollen and silver maple buds starting to open, female or male. Not as obvious as in some years, but all of these are taking place now. And also a bit slow, the migrant birds are moving into the Northland as well.
Thanks to the daylight that we get at this time, I always look for some things to happen at the start of March.
Foxes and coyotes are common neighbors throughout the winter, and it was not the recent thaw that brought them out. They were responding to other changes. These January days are their breeding season. Since we are cold and a long way from spring, it seems a bit weird that this month and the start of the next would be the breeding time of coyotes.