7 December 2014: In to Winter

Early evening, 30 November 2014.

Early evening, 30 November 2014.

It would not be entirely accurate to say I have not been writing because I have had to spend all my time shoveling snow. But it wouldn’t be far from the truth, either.

Since my last post, lamenting the storage of my canoe for the winter, the seasons have shifted drastically. Just three days after putting the canoe up in the rafters, I had to pull out the snow blower and fire it up to cut through the 12 inches of snow that blew into town early in November. Though there hasn’t been much new snow since then, we have been through a wicked cold snap, and there is no sign that it was an early vision of things to come and that winter will withdraw. No, winter is here to stay. As if to confirm the fact, my brother sent this photo taken soon after that November storm. It’s a little hard to make out, but on the roof of his office is a snowy owl, resting between the chimneys and probably grumbling that he must be harassed by the crow and raven.

Snowy Owl (Nyctea scandiaca), Marquette, MI. November, 2014

Snowy Owl (Nyctea scandiaca), Marquette, MI. November, 2014

So here we are again. Closing doors and windows, turning up the heat or stoking the fire, and waiting for enough snow to begin cross-country skiing (which a friend of mine did just after the November storm).

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8 November 2014: Another season comes to an end

Oy, it is a sad day when it’s time to put the canoe up for the year. There is still open water; we could still get out. But I know we won’t. And with snow having already fallen and more in the forecast, it’s more likely than not that winter will overcome us before I find the time.

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5 November 2014: And what about these Snow Buntings?

Good question.

Snow Buntings are a bird of the very far north. They spend their summers nesting on the Arctic tundra, but they move south for the winter, which is when they appear here in the northern U.S. They are a little harbinger of winter.

Snow Bunting range map. From Cornell Lab of Ornithology, www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/snow_bunting/lifehistory.

Snow Bunting range map. From Cornell Lab of Ornithology, http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/snow_bunting/lifehistory.

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25 October 2014: Snow Buntings have arrived

I saw Snow Buntings outside the office window yesterday. There was a flock of them in the parking lot across the road. They were working the gravel then would take flight—a small cloud of white in motion—then settle back down. Unfortunately I wasn’t in my office at the time. I was talking to someone in his office, and my attention was occasionally distracted from him to this scene out the window over his shoulder. Probably a bit disconcerting for him.

Winter is on the way.

Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) by Drew Avery, Wikimedia Commons

Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) by Drew Avery, Wikimedia Commons

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September 11, 2014: A Day of Remembrance

…in honor of the individuals who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

…in honor of the individuals who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

I call upon the people of the United States to participate in community service in honor of those our Nation lost, …

(Presidential Proclamation––Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance, 2014, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/10/presidential-proclamation-patriot-day-and-national-day-service-and-remem)

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26 August 2014: The latest view from the wheelhouse

We’ve been mapping the bottom of Lake Superior at Isle Royale National Park (Michigan) over the past week. This is a scene from my seat this past Sunday.

This is the Rock Harbor Light. It is no longer active as a lighthouse, but it now houses a wonderful little museum on the history of lighthouses on Isle Royale.

You can also see the computer screen that I am watching (well, not as I took this picture, but usually!). The screen shows me what area we have covered with our multi-beam sonar, which is extended down below the hull of the boat.

Rock Harbor Lighthouse, Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

Rock Harbor Lighthouse, Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

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14 July 2014: Summer’s perfume

It’s mid-summer, and the milkweed is blooming. Next to spring’s lilacs, I don’t know of another flower that fills the air with such a sweet perfume. You don’t even have to stand close by or bury your nose in its petals to take in its effervescence. It’s just on the breeze, wafting through the air and calling insects, lovers, and people who find peace in such a wonderful experience. And who wouldn’t? It’s genus name–Asclepias–comes from Asklepios, the Greek god of healing. Shouldn’t we all feel better after filling every pore of our beings with such a wonderful perfume?

Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca.

Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca.

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Still-life with milkweed and beetle.

Still-life with milkweed and beetle.

Working down in the very urban St. Paul, Minnesota, last week, I noticed the butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is also in bloom. What a striking flower! I first learned of it years ago while working to restore remnant prairie and savanna in lower Michigan. It is one of my favorites now; I need to find some to move into our yard.

Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa.

Also common in our area, though I haven’t seen any yet, is swamp milkweed. It’s a “thinner” plant than the more robust common milkweed, but it is simply beautiful. Like common milkweed, though, it seems to be a favorite food plant for Monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Swamp milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa.

Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata.

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Monarch butterfly caterpillar (Danaus plexippus)on swamp milkweed.

Monarch butterfly caterpillar (Danaus plexippus)on swamp milkweed.

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