Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Thanksgiving nature report from the North Shore

The harbor and lighthouse in Grand Marais, with the Sawtooth Mountains in the background

Here is my nature report from the Thanksgiving weekend:

The Thanksgiving weekend started with a trip into Grand Marais on Wednesday. We had lunch at the legendary Sven and Ole's Pizza (quite good!) and then checked out the scenic harbor for signs of wildlife. We saw several ducks, including mallards, goldeneyes, and a lone bufflehead. We also spotted a very stately eagle right in town at the municipal campground.

On Thanksgiving Day, we received a dusting of snow. In fact, Dad and I were hiking in the woods when a microburst of snow started falling for about a half an hour. Big, fluffy flakes! The snow was beautiful and light, clinging to everything, making the woods look like a winter wonderland.

Thanksgiving Day snow in the woods

One of the benefits of the fresh snow is that it makes it quite easy to find animal tracks. It doesn’t take long for the squirrels and other critters to forge many paths through the woods. I even found this print left by a ruffed grouse.

Grouse track in the fresh snow

Norris and Noreen, the resident red-breasted nuthatch couple, are well. I got to visit with them out in the woods, and they very much enjoy their ration of sunflower seeds. In fact, if you would like to read more about Norris, you can pick up a copy of Jim Gilbert’s Minnesota Nature Notes. There is a brief story on Norris, and several of my Dad's wildlife pictures are featured in the book. A great stocking stuffer for the Minnesota nature lover, if I may shamelessly promote! :)

The world’s most famous red-breasted nuthatch

A squirrel nicknamed “Bottlebrush” (because of her uniquely tipped tail) still frequents the yard and is sort of a mascot of ours. Bottlebrush will come up to the picture window and look inside the house if there are no sunflower seeds out there for her! It is always nice to see her because she is actually a very old squirrel (4 1/2 years that we are aware of). In a harsh climate that is filled with various predators, we always appreciate it when she shows up.

The resident red squirrel, "Bottlebrush," enjoying some lunch

And of course, there were the chickadees. I got to hang out with them in the woods as well. As an added bonus, I got to see them go into “alarm mode.” There was a predator up near the top of a cedar tree. One little chickadee went up to confront it and started making a shrill, loud noise. Instantly, more than a dozen other chickadees came to the rescue and joined in (along with a couple of nuthatches), sounding their eerie warning call. They completely ran the offender out of the area. I had never witnessed this before, so that was really cool. They are tough little birds!

One of the tough chickadees; stern, but fair! :)

It was a fantastic weekend in the woods. All of the summer birds are gone, but as you can see, this season still has a lot to offer.

Until next time,

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