Tuesday, July 9, 2013

NWA 7/12/13

A Northwoods Almanac for 7/12 – 25/13      by John Bates

            Eagle and osprey chicks are on the verge of fledging. The chicks of both species usually are airborne by August 1 at the latest.
            The warm water of July brings on the prolific flowering of aquatic plants. One of our favorites, marsh milkweed, was just starting to come into bloom on July 6. A monarch butterfly was already visiting one of the blooms, perhaps already laying its eggs.
            Scott and Kathy Reinhard sent me this note: “Kathy and I enjoyed your article on the white pelicans and found it ironic that it ends with a prediction of them nesting on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage. On June 24 we saw a flock of six white pelicans flying on the southern end of the TFF near Beaver Creek! That's a first for us.”
On July 1, Kathy Esche, who lives a few miles north of where Highways B and M intersect near Presque Isle, sent this email: “When I was out walking this early AM, I saw a moose! He had a huge rack and was a dark chocolate brown color. He was on the edge of the road but started running when my springer started down the road towards him. He ran about 30 or 40 feet and then went into the woods, so I got a good look at him . . .
I’m from CT and have seen moose in Maine, so it was exciting to see one in my new home town.”
I received beautiful photographs of luna moths from Denice Schroeder on the Pike Lake Chain and Kay Streng on Diamond Lake, as well as a photo from Denice of a blinded sphinx moth, a species I was unfamiliar with. Denice wrote about the luna moth: “At first glance I thought it was some sort of bright lime to mint green leaf, and I couldn't figure out why it was on the side of the hemlock trunk. Its wings were closed and stayed that way for quite some time. We were determined to keep an eye on it until it opened its wings. The wait was worth it. An absolutely gorgeous moth unfolded.” 
            We recently saw black terns on the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage and Big Musky Lake. It’s a treat to see them because of their remarkably buoyant flight, but also because they’re quite uncommon. Black terns are listed as a “species of special concern” in Wisconsin, a category meaning there’s a strong suspicion of a problem with the species’ abundance or distribution. The category’s main purpose is to focus attention on a species before it becomes threatened or endangered.
Mary, Callie, and I paddled on Nixon Lake last week, and were really pleased to see a pair of adult trumpeter swans with three cygnets. Nixon was a site for nesting trumpeters in years past, but I wasn’t aware they had begun nesting there again. The lake is very shallow, perhaps seven feet at its deepest, and thus rich in aquatic plants – the lake surface is as much floating leaves as it is water. So, the paddling was slow, but the rewards came from the associated bird, insect, and amphibian life.
            Over the weekend, Mary and I paddled the Manitowish River down into the Turtle Flambeau Flowage, and we noted how high and how stained the water is this year. The root beer color likely derives from the continued high water flushing the wetlands along the river which have been mostly dry over the last drought-ridden decade. We have had standing water in the wetland below our house all summer so far, and the Turtle-Flambeau is at full pool. So, water levels are up this year, though many seepage lakes still have a long recovery ahead of them to reach their normal high water marks.
            The four most common birds we saw and heard in all of our recent paddles were common yellowthroat warblers, song sparrows, eastern kingbirds, and cedar waxwings. Most people associate cedar waxwings with eating fruits and berries in upland areas, but in the summer, they are avid flycatchers over water, using the protein to raise their chicks.
            We also were a bit surprised by the lack of ducks on the rivers and lakes. But we shouldn’t have been. This is the time of year when emergent vegetation along the shorelines provides needed cover for mother ducks and their chicks. They don’t want to be seen, and this year our abundant shoreline vegetation is optimal for their protection.
At one point I did surprise a hen wood duck with her brood, and she proceeded to do an unable-to-fly distraction display to draw me away from her chicks that would have won her an Academy Award. Had I not known what she had up her sleeve, it would have worked, but I just looked in the opposite direction to find where the chicks were hidden.

Mink Eating Northern Water Snake
            Bob Orgeman in Rhinelander sent me several photographs he captured of a mink preying upon a northern water snake, and added this note: “I watched this mink running up and down on a dock all the while looking into the water. It finally jumped in the water, emerging shortly with this snake, which it killed with a bite to the head.”
            Mink are exceptional predators, but I’m not sure I would have believed they could capture a 3-to-4-foot-long water snake! Northern water snakes are the Northwoods’ only true water-based snake, and while non-venomous, they are formidable predators of crayfish, amphibians, and slow moving fish. Mary and I often see them basking on beaver lodges where they perfectly blend into the piled sticks and mud. If seen swimming near a shoreline, they can clear a bunch of wading people out in a hurry, even though they have no interest in humans whatsoever.
            Back to the mink: as a member of the weasel family, they are consummate predators, but weighing only 2 to 4 pounds themselves (the smaller females only weigh between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds), you wouldn’t think they were big enough to tackle anything as large as a northern water snake. But so they can, as well as an array of other prey like fish, frogs, crayfish, birds, rabbits, muskrats, and various rodents.
Bank Swallow Colonies
            As one paddles the Manitowish River closer to the Turtle-Flambeau, some high, steep sand banks appear along the river, and here last week Mary and I came across two separate colonies of bank swallows having what we hoped was a glorious time eating the empire of mosquitoes that were encamped along the shorelines.
            We rarely see bank swallows, so this was a treat. These gregarious birds not only nest together in colonies, they forage together, darting over rivers and lakes in erratic aerial maneuvers to capture flying insects which comprise 99% of their diet.
            Bank swallow colonies vary from a few pairs to 100 or more, but given that their nest sites tend to erode or cave in frequently, their appearance in an area is often short-lived. They dig their burrows two to three feet into the banks, and sometimes as far as five feet, excavating a nesting chamber at the end that is 5 or 6 inches across.
            This is a species that has likely benefitted from human development, because they are as willing to nest in the vertical walls of a gravel pit or excavation site as they are in a high river bank. In fact, during the lumbering era, bank swallows were observed colonizing large sawdust piles around the sawmills.
            The limiting factor for their nesting is cave-ins. They need stable banks with the right consistency of soil – just the right mix of sand and clay.
            They’re noisy birds, chittering constantly, but it was a welcome lively racket along an otherwise very quiet river.

Reed Canary Grass
            The one major disappointment in our recent paddles? The incredible takeover of shoreline vegetation by reed canary grass. This invasive species has flown under the radar of most of us, and we need to start focusing on it. It does stabilize bank soils, so provides a good service in that respect. But otherwise, it’s an occupying army that quickly becomes a monotype along our shorelines.

Wild Roses
            Wild roses are wildly in bloom along many of our shorelines and wetlands. What a beautiful flower and such a glorious smell!

            Speaking of things that are somehow beyond words, the flickering glow of fireflies occurs every night now below our house. It’s otherworldly – a bug that lights up, flashing in an orderly pattern like a little Christmas bulb to attract a mate. Fireflies contain luciferin, a chemical that, when it combines with oxygen and with an enzyme called luciferase, causes their abdomen to light up. This bioluminescence creates a light that is utterly efficient, producing no waste heat – just light and beauty. Check out this website for some incredible long-exposure photographs of fireflies: www.boredpanda.com/long-exposure-fireflies-yume-cyan 

Low Bird Populations
A number of people have commented to me that there were fewer birds in the woods this year, and I have to agree. We just didn’t hear, nor see, the volume of birds we typically experience on any given walk or paddle. The reason appears to be this year’s exceptionally cold spring. Songbirds that winter in the tropics time their return to coincide with the emergence of insects that occurs when trees are leafing out. This year’s very late leaf-out created a shortage of insects for many migrants that arrived at their usual time.
An example of this occurred on May 19 on Park Point in Duluth, a stopover site for migrating birds. A huge “fallout” of migrants occurred at Park Point on this day. They were “on time” – mid-May is when they invariably appear – but for four straight days 
strong Northeast winds, rain, and fog  grounded the birds. The birds couldn’t continue north in those conditions, so had to wait it out. But there was almost nothing to eat. Local birders were able to observe hundreds of warblers feeding mostly on the ground, giving unparalleled views of 25 species at close range, often within just a few feet. While the viewing was phenomenal, the birds were exhausted and hungry, and many of them succumbed to hypothermia and starvation. The weakened birds were also easy targets for predators, who also took their toll.
So, when the woods should have been alive with bird song in late May and early June, it was relatively quiet as the need to defend territories by singing wasn’t as urgent as normal. We even thought the robins around our house were abnormally quiet. Without real data, this is more my sense of things than scientific evidence, but I think there’s some truth to it.

For planet viewing in July, Venus remains visible low in the western horizon at sunset, setting a little over an hour after sunset by the end of the month. Saturn
remains visible low in the southwest throughout the month.
On July 22, look for the full moon. This moon has three nicknames: The Buck Moon, because this is the month when the antlers become more visible on male deer. The Thunder Moon due to the frequency of thunderstorms during July. And the Hay Moon, because in farming regions, haying begins this month. That same morning, look low in the northeast for Mars less than one degree north of Jupiter. 

NWA 6/28/13

A Northwoods Almanac for 6/28 – 7/11/13 by John Bates

Cecropia Moths
Wil Conway and Addie Hoffman recently sent me beautiful photos of adult Cecropia moths (Cecropia hyalophora), the largest species of moth in North America. Wil’s cecropia was “a hanger-on [a screen door] at my friends hot-dog stand, the Bunn-runner, on the corner of Hwy. 47 and Co. H, outside Lac du Flambeau.” Cecropias belong to the family Saturnidae, the Giant Silkworm Moths, of which some are indeed giants, with wingspans measuring up to 6 inches wide.
The Saturnids, include the Cecropia, Prometheus, Polyphemus, and the Luna moths, which for Greekophiles like our youngest daughter gets them all worked up. Prometheus is credited with the creation of man from clay and the theft of fire for human use, an act that earned him the rage of Zeus who sentenced him to be bound to a rock, where each day an eagle,  the emblem of Zeus, was sent to feed on his liver.
Cecrops was the founder and the first king of Athens. He taught the Athenians reading and writing, marriage, and ceremonial burial, and was said to have been the first to deify Zeus, and to set up altars and statues of the gods. The Acropolis became known as the Cecropia in his honor, and the Athenians are said to have called themselves Cecropidae, during the reigns of the five following kings, in his honor.
And you may recall Polyphemus, the Cyclops in Homer’s Odyssey, who Odysseus eventually blinds in order to escape his island.
Who knew these moths had such classical connections?
Anyhow, the Saturnids (I bet you knew Saturn was the Roman God of Agriculture) are distantly related to the Chinese moth that is used in silk production. North American silk moths aren’t used to make silk, but as yet another in a long line of stories of imported species gone amuck, the horrifically invasive gypsy moth, in the tussock moth family, was originally imported to test its feasibility as a silk producer.
A Cecropia caterpillar starts off tiny and black, proceeds to eat a wide variety of tree leaves, and grows up to be the size of your thumb, pale green, with Technicolor knobs that have earned it the nickname “The Christmas Lights Caterpillar.”
In June, the females emit pheromones, air-borne odors that the males, using their large, feathery antennae, can detect in minuscule concentrations up to several miles away, a period referred to as their "calling time." Calling time for Cecropia moths is from 3:00 AM until sunrise. Since adult silk moths in North America have greatly reduced mouthparts, so much so that can’t feed, they only live two to four days, just long enough to hear that calling, mate, spin a cocoon, and die.

Pelicans on Trout Lake
Bill and Sue Fehlandt reported seeing a flock of 50 white pelicans on the north end of Trout Lake on June 18. We usually see a flock or two in migration every spring, but wandering flocks in June of unmated juveniles (pelicans don’t breed until they’re three years old) rarely appear in our area.
This is changing, however, and in a big way. While white pelican sightings in the Northwoods are still quite uncommon, white pelican nestings in Wisconsin are way up from the rarity that they were 20 years ago. Nesting pairs during the 2011 breeding season topped 3,000, including 1,263 nests on Butte des Morts, 1,603 nests on three islands in Green Bay, and 159 nests on two islands in Lake Winnebago. They also nested at Horicon Marsh before high water forced them off the refuge, though they still use the area for rest and relaxation, a behavior called "loafing" by biologists (and one lots of humans employ on water as well). It’s a fait accompli that they will eventually be nesting, if they aren’t already, along the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River, from Alma south to Dubuque, Iowa.
The colonies can get massive. The largest North American colony, in Minnesota, is now attributed to the islands of Marsh Lake, a 4,400-acre body of water about 150 miles west of Minneapolis, where the peak count, in 2006, was 38,872 breeding birds.
Adult white pelicans are the cargo planes of the avian world, weighing 16 pounds with a very impressive 9-foot wing span, the second largest wingspan of all North American birds – only the California condor eclipses them. Despite their size, they’re a graceful flier, either singly, in flight formations, or soaring on thermals in flocks.
They’re also skilled swimmers, but they don’t plunge-dive for prey like their coastal relatives, the brown pelican. Instead, they make shallow dives from the surface of the water or just plunge their heads underwater. They often form a circle or semi-circle and, using coordinated bill dipping and wing beating, drive prey toward shore where it is more easily caught. Gizzard shad and emerald shiners seem to be the fish they most readily take, but they’re opportunistic feeders and will eat anything. Before anglers get worried about the pelican’s impact on “their” fish, however, there’s little evidence of white pelicans taking any significant numbers of game fish.
They nest close together in colonies on undisturbed islands and peninsulas that aren’t subject to regular flooding, laying their eggs on bare gravel, sand, or soil with little vegetation.
Historically, the earliest known report of white pelicans in Wisconsin was made by a French explorer, Pierre Radisson, in 1655. White pelicans are believed to have been part of the Green Bay landscape in the 1700s and 1800s. Evidence is inconclusive about precisely when they disappeared, or why. But they returned in the mid-1990s and have been growing in numbers ever since.
In the Northwoods, it's likely that pelicans once nested on an island in Pelican Lake, southeast of Rhinelander in Oneida County.
Nationally, white pelican numbers have been increasing steadily at a rate of about 3.9 percent per year from 1980 to 2003, so they’re very much a success story. Will they be nesting sometime soon in the Northwoods? I’d be willing to bet they’ll be nesting on an island in the Turtle-Flambeau or Chippewa Flowage within a decade.

Moon and Alma Lakes Shoreline Restoration
Several weeks ago I spoke at the annual meeting of the Moon and Alma Lake District near St. Germain, and my takeaway was how engaged and committed these folks are to their lakes. They’ve invested a ton of both intellectual study and sweat equity, and it shows. For me, the highlight of their many efforts is their shoreline restoration project. During the spring and summer of 2009, 1,300 linear feet of shoreline of Moon Beach Camp on Moon Lake underwent  an “extreme makeover” when native trees, shrubs and herbaceous species were planted to restore the shoreline.
The restoration was a cooperative effort between the WDNR, the Vilas County Land and Water Conservations Department, the Alma Moon Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District, and Moon Beach Camp. They planted 184 trees of 16 species, 1558 shrubs of 23 species, 21 vines of two species, and 9684 forbs and grasses of 89 species, all within a 35-foot buffer zone along the quarter-mile of lakeshore. The shrubs and trees included fruiting species loved by birds like serviceberry, choke cherry, mountain ash, American plum, chokeberry, gray and red-osier dogwood, elderberry, snowberry, blueberry, and winterberry.
They also controlled erosion along the steep banks by utilizing a bio-engineered retaining wall and coconut erosion control blankets. And they had the foresight to construct 3,000 linear feet of eight-foot-tall nylon mesh fencing around the entire area to keep the rabbits and deer out. 
A before and after impact study was implemented, including bird, small mammal, and carnivore surveys, to contrast the impact of the restoration.
For the whole story, see http://almamoonlake.org/assets/files/Alma-Moon_Management_Plan_2012.pdf , but suffice it to say, they did work that could, and should, be modeled by individuals and lake association to fit their unique settings. This project represents what can be accomplished when lake property owners work with the DNR, county, and private organizations through a shared vision of stewardship.

Dogwoods in Flower
We boast 6 species of native dogwoods in the Northwoods, and I believe all are in flower right now. Red-osier (Cornus stolinifera), gray (C. racemosa ), alternate-leaved (C. alternifolia), round-leaved (C. rugosa), silky (C. amonum), and the diminutive bunchberry (C. canadensis) comprise our natives, and all provide a bounty of berries for birds. If you’re looking to plant a large shrub/small tree that attracts wildlife, you can’t go wrong with any of our native dogwoods.

Brown Thrasher – North America’s Best Songster
A brown thrasher has appeared off and on this June beneath one of our feeders, a visitation that we are celebrating. Brown thrashers are relatively uncommon in the forested Northwoods, preferring edges and shrubs and fields more than woodlands. We rarely see them and get pretty worked up when we do because they are the virtuosos of all birds on Earth, which is a very large statement indeed. In the book The Singing Life of Birds, avian researcher Donald E. Kroodsma describes a brown thrasher that in one recorded two-hour session sang 4,654 songs, 1,800 of them different (many mimicking the songs of other species). Kroodsma estimates that the brown thrasher is capable of singing 3,000 distinctive songs, which makes on wonder since birds hear four times better than humans, what are they hearing?           
And what are they saying? They repeat their phrases usually twice, so one version of the thrasher song is given by a Mrs. H. P. Cook as one end of a telephone conversation, "Hello, hello, yes, yes, yes, Who is this? Who is this? Well, well, well, I should say, I should say, How's that? How's That? I don't know, I don't know, What did you say? What did you say? Certainly, Certainly, Well, well, well, Not that I know of, Not that I know of, Tomorrow? Tomorrow? I guess so, I guess so, All right, All right, Goodbye, Goodbye."
John Burroughs wrote about this evasive songster in Fresh Fields, “There is no bird so afraid of being seen, or fonder of being heard.”
We listen for it every morning, but so far we’ve only heard it once. Perhaps it is nesting a little ways away in a more open area, its song just out of our limited hearing. We’re just glad there’s even a chance of hearing it.

Last Hurrah for Intense Bird Song
            Bird song typically quiets down dramatically in July, so if you haven’t filled up your heart and mind with enough of their beauty, you only have a little time to do so. To be sure, some will still sing throughout the summer, but by July the time for defending territories and attracting mates has passed by. Get out early (dawn is the best!) and enjoy them while you can.

Eastern Gray Treefrogs Din
            While the birds may be quieting down, the Eastern gray tree frogs are still continuing their evening noise-a-thons. Their staccato blasts are loud, short, emphatic, and not in the least harmonious. But then I’m not a female gray treefrog, so what do I know? Perhaps these males are all Pavarottis and my limited interpretive skill does them no justice.
They, like the birds, should soon be quieting down, so enjoy their “music” at its peak right now. 

NWA 6/14/13

A Northwoods Almanac for June 14 – 27, 2013 by john Bates

The Once Big Block
            I’ve been working off and on for a decade on a book describing the remnants of old-growth forests left in Wisconsin, their history, their ecology, and a vision for old-growth restoration. I’m pushing hard to get it done, and so am trying to visit many sites that are described as having mature to old-growth trees somewhere within them. In the last two weeks, I have visited 19 sites, most of which were state natural areas. Mary has gone along with me on nearly all of these jaunts, and her ability to decipher our relatively new GPS has been mighty helpful.  It’s one thing to compass your way into a site – it’s an altogether different thing to know where you actually are an hour later.
            We’ve found some sites that were better than advertised, others that disappointed, and some that were just plain confusing. But that’s the joy of exploring – you never know exactly what you’re getting into.
Most sites we visited could be best categorized as “mature,” meaning they had been cut in the late 1800s, but had recovered and are now over a century old. They’ve reached a mature age, but really aren’t truly old – a century-old pine is only part of the way on its potential journey to 300 or 400 years of age.
True remnants of presettlement old-growth may occupy 0.2% of the landscape at best, and that’s with a very liberal definition of old-growth. Two sites that I’d recommend visiting, if you have the inclination, are the Cathedral Pines near Lakewood in Oconto County and Drummond Woods just outside of Drummond in Bayfield County. Both are a healthy drive from here, but are readily accessible and contain some of the very few old-growth white pines left in the state. We measured one white pine in the Cathedral site to be 48 inches in diameter at breast height, while the big pines at Drummond were more in the 36 inch diameter range, which is still quite large.
The site that was most bittersweet to visit was the Flambeau River Hardwood Forest State Natural Area, in Sawyer County about 15 miles southeast of Winter, which was once known as “The Big Block.” Prior to 1977, the Big Block was the state’s finest remnant of old-growth northern mesic forest, a stand dominated by 250 to 400-year-old trees. Designated in 1952 as a State Scientific Area, and later as a National Natural Landmark, the original 1052-ha (2,600 acres) Big Block was set aside as one of only a handful of large tracts of old-growth northern hardwood forests remaining in the upper Great Lakes region. Nearly two-thirds of the overstory was dominated by eastern hemlock, with smaller amounts of yellow birch, sugar maple, basswood, and some supercanopy white pine.
Windstorms ultimately decimated the site. On July 7, 1951, a windstorm ripped completely through the Big Block in one place, destroying a nearby heron rookery, dropping trees, and ultimately destroying 5 million board feet, 2 million of which was in the Big Block. Many trees were twisted “so the fibers opened up like so many pieces of raveled rope . . .  [and] widow-makers were so thick that they practically created a canopy.”             Then came the coup-de-grace: a series of extraordinary downbursts hit the area on July 4, 1977, and felled the entire stand except for a few large trees along the Flambeau River. Following a path 166 miles long and up to 17 miles wide, twenty-five separate downburst episodes struck, leveling the Big Block along the way. Two years after the blowdown, only 11% of the total trees in the stand remained, representing only 6% of the total basal area.
So, the site has now become important for education and research, especially for the study of regeneration of old-growth forest following a natural disturbance. The 36-year-old forest is now composed of sugar maple, yellow birch, and basswood, while the hemlocks have mostly disappeared. Walking there today, one struggles to believe it was once the finest stands of trees left in the state, but that’s the nature of Nature. As William Cronen wrote, “There has been no timeless wilderness in a state of perfect changelessness, no climax forest in permanent stasis.”

            On June 3rd at one of the State Natural Areas near Cable, we saw a male common goldeneye near shore. This would not be an unusual sighting a month ago during migration, but in June, goldeneyes should be long gone into far northern Minnesota and the boreal regions of Canada, indicating that perhaps this goldeneye had remained to breed.
Records of breeding goldeneyes in Wisconsin are few and far between. A few pairs breed in Wisconsin every year and only eight confirmed records of breeding common goldeneyes were obtained fromn 1995-2000 when observers were collecting data for the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Wisconsin.
Goldeneyes nest in tree cavities or in nesting boxes, and typically only on lakes surrounded by heavy forests. This site had old-growth hemlocks and maples along its shore, so perhaps the goldeneye had found an old snag tree with a usable cavity.

            Fawns are typically born around Memorial Day, and on occasion a doe gives birth near someone’s home. Pat Drought on Spider Lake near Mercer sent me a photo of a fawn they found sleeping right at the base of their front door. If the door had been open, I wonder if they would have found the fawn in their living room!
            On May 31, Mary and I observed a rough-legged hawk on Powell Marsh, a quite late date for a roughleg to be still this far south. There are only two records of roughlegs nesting in Wisconsin, one from 1872 and the other from 1945, so this bird almost certainly was just lollygagging his way north.
            Silver maples are heavy with seeds and will soon be dropping them along wetland edges and receding floodplains.
Johannah and Brent Holleran on Upper Gresham Lake shared the following stories: “On May 6, that warm 80-degree day, I dragged a chair out of the garage and sat on my deck beside a 4-foot pile of ice/snow and a frozen lake. I was quietly reading when I believe what was a redpoll flew down and lit on the seat of the chair I was sitting on. I started to softly talk to the bird, no, I'm not loosing my mind, when it hopped up on my thigh. This whole process was about 45 seconds. What a thrill! What a gift!
“[Then] around the 12th, I put out our bird feeder that looks like a miniature 1950 truck and put grape jelly in the bed, and within 2 hours I had 2 male Baltimore orioles and a couple of females feeding. They have come everyday since then. I have to put the jelly in twice a day and have been through 2 large jars. I wish I had a picture to show you of a male sitting on the tailgate of the truck pecking away.” 

A “Quiet” Day on Powell Marsh
            Mary and I hiked out on Powell Marsh last weekend, and we had what we would describe as a “quiet” day. Of course, all things are relative. A quiet day on Powell still yielded the following: sora rail and Virginia rail, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, common loon, ring-necked ducks, bobolinks, common yellowthroat warblers, yellow warblers, tree swallows, geese with goslings, sedge wrens, marsh wrens, Savannah sparrows, song sparrows - among others.
            A male common yellowthroat seemed to be singing from the willow shrubs every 50 yards or so. I recommend learning its simple “witchety, witchety, witchety” song, given how common they are in the shrubs along waterways (see my daughter Callie’s rendering of this thought).

In Flower
Two somewhat uncommon flowers of note: Calla lily (Calla palustris) is blooming in the muddy shallows of wetlands, while nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) is flowering along the riparian edges of lakes and rivers.
We’re biased a bit toward callas because it comes from the Greek “kalos” which means “beautiful.” And since we named our youngest daughter Callie, we’ve always looked at this flower with additional pleasure.

Celestial Events
            On 6/20, look after sunset for Mercury just 2 degrees south of Venus in the west-northwest.
Summer solstice occurs on 6/21, marking the longest day of the year – 15 hours and 45 minutes, or nearly two-thirds of the entire day. The sun will now rise one minute later for the first time since December 27th. It hardly seems like it could the solstice – didn’t the ice just go off last month?
The full moon occurs on 6/23. Called the Strawberry or Rose moon by various northern tribes, this is our southernmost and lowest full moon of the year, the closest full moon of the year (221,823 miles away), and the year’s largest and brightest full moon.
Hardly Any Mosquitoes So Far
            Did I get your attention? The current army of mosquitoes is on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days, as well as in everyone’s eyes, ears, shirts, etc. We’ve been luxuriating in a decade-long drought that everyone complained mightily about, but was just the ticket for reducing mosquito populations. Now we’re having a wet year, and suddenly we’re back to normal, which used to mean running for it wherever you were at dusk, and just general suffering during the day.
            Just for the record, once a female mosquito gets her blood meal, she lays around 200 eggs (depending on which of the 54 species she belongs to), which hatch into larvae in two days, then metamorphose into pupae after 12 days or so, and then after two days in the pupal stage, hatch into young mosquitoes. And then they can lay a batch of eggs again three or four days later. Literally millions hatch out every day in counties like Vilas and Oneida, which justifiably pride themselves on how much water they have.
Since summer floodwater mosquitoes can travel as far as 20 miles from their breeding locations, you can be hermetically sealed in your home, have bathed your property in various cancer-causing insecticides, and still have the little beasties clothing your screens (by the way, I believe the screen window to be one of the greatest inventions of humankind).
            Years ago, Mary and I had perfected a sprint we did at dusk from our car to our house, and we’ve just recently had to dust off that aerobic activity – all exercise is good, we tell ourselves.
            Mosquitoes are marvelous hunters, capable of smelling your skin odor or sensing your heat or tracking your exhalations of carbon dioxide from quite a distance, so there’s no total escape.
            Just remember it’s the Northwoods, and not the Northlawns. Mosquitoes go with the territory, and since we can’t overcome them (nor would we want to, ecologically speaking), we have to just stay calm, slap softly as needed, and enjoy life in a place still wild enough to support loons, otters, walleyes, 150+ species of breeding birds, and, yes, mosquitoes.