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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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In the next few weeks, Christmas bird counts will take place in the region. We don't think much of and hardly notice plants at this time. Deciduous trees are bare, devoid of leaves, as they tolerate the cold. Scattered in the Northland forests are many kinds of conifers that add green to the scene. This is not the time that we notice flowers, except for the poinsettias that appear each year with the holidays. And yet, each day as I walk along a road during this cold and drab month, I see a plethora of the local wildflowers in their winter attire.
Shrews are tiny mammals that abound in the region. Though ferocious predators, they are so small that we often do not see them. With a high metabolism and a demanding appetite, they stay active all year, day or night. In winter, they prefer to be under the snow blanket when they can. However, with the light snow cover we had at the end of November, they will just push their way through.
The interlude between the leaf drop in October and freeze-up in November, what I call "AutWin," was short — only about two and a half weeks. The snow cover took away many of the views of mosses, club mosses, ferns and fungi on the forest floor. But in observing nature, we learn that when one situation ends, another begins.
Whether it is the national forests or national, state or county parks, there are plenty of locations to go to if we want to get a view of the woods and wildlife. One such pleasing place is nearby Jay Cooke State Park. Among the river, ponds, swamps and hills is well grown forests. I have found trips to this park to walk or ski the delightful trails are always great outings.
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.