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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Like many others who spend the entire cold season in the Northland, I put out food for birds. Unlike some of the local avian feeders, I do not keep the feeding sites stocked with grain throughout the year. I began the feeding and watching of birds this year about the middle of October.
Deer, fox, coyote, squirrel, mouse, vole and shrew tracks are present nearly every time I winter walk and so were not a surprise. But others were here, too. In the forest, a porcupine waddled through. In the field, I noted where a weasel leapt through the crusty snow. In the woods, its cousin, the fisher movement was discovered. And in a few secluded sites, I saw where the snowshoe hare, probably turning from brown to white, had hopped about. <
These big dragonflies are of several colors, but mostly blue-green with various spots. Also here are the small red meadowhawks. Plenty of variety is seen also with these little dragonflies, but mostly, the males are red, the females are yellowish. Among the darners, a common one — the green darners — are restless now as they are taking flight on a south-bound migration.
Butterflies, frequently the white cabbage and the yellow sulphurs, are here along with stinkbugs, crane flies and small red dragonflies. Here too are a couple of kinds of grasshoppers. All of these insects are living their last days as we move towards October.
Berries are small fruits that have formed a covering their seeds. (An exception: strawberry seeds are on the outside.) Often they are very colorful and good tasting to get the attention of passing animals that will pick and eat these berries, thereby dispersing the plants seeds. Though many are edible for us, we are not going to eat lots that I see in the woods.
With no chlorophyll or need to use sunlight to manufacture food, fungi thrive in the shade. They are of many shapes and sizes. And though colors can vary and also be quite pronounced in fungi, they are not usually green. We tend to think of mushrooms when thinking of fungi, but the familiar mushrooms as seen on our lawn are only some of what we can now find in the woods.
And at Hawk Ridge in Duluth, the raptor flights are going overhead by mid-month. With these activities in the lives of birds, they are no longer singing. August days can be strangely silent, devoid of bird songs. This void is partially filled by insects as crickets, grasshoppers, katydids and cicadas all add their noises to the scene. Not as abundant as they were in July, local Lepidoptera of butterflies and moths are still active. We see them each day. But there is much more in this awesome month.
Common milkweed largely lives up to its name. The milk is a reference to a white latex juice in the plant. This can be seen in breaking open nearly any part of the plant. Unfortunately, the suffix of "weed" is misleading.
Bogs are unique sites that seem to combine a mixture of aquatic with terrestrial plants. They may vary from being very wet — maybe even with open water — to being just a damp place to walk on.
I heard the early spring frog trio of wood frogs, chorus frogs and spring peepers all calling during the first week of this month. And then the second half of April came to us.