Monday, May 18, 2009

Snow flurries in May, and other tales from the Shore

A hike through the "Big Cedars" is always a treat

First and foremost, a belated Sytennde Mai to those of you of the Norwegian persuasion! :)

Today I returned from my trip up to the North Shore to visit my family. It was a fun way to spend a long weekend, and it was wonderful to see my whole family. My little nephew Will is doing great. Amazing how he has grown in just a few weeks!

Uncle Jean with nephew Will and father Brett; notice Will is flailing and not at all happy, and his father is mimicking him! :)

I went running twice over the weekend, a five miler on Friday, and an eight and a half miler on Saturday. This, coupled with lots of hiking every day I was up there, ensured that I got my exercise. I needed to when Mom and Dad are feeding me things like Italian sausage and penne pasta, home-smoked BBQ ribs, prime rib of beef, and double-smoked ham from Old World Meats in Duluth. What I am saying is that Mom and Dad took good care of me this weekend!

Quite possibly the best ham, ever.

The Saturday run was particularly interesting as snow flurries started to fall. Yes, I said snow flurries. This was May 16th, for the record! Tempertures hung around in the 30's for much of the morning and early afternoon, and we had snow showers on and off throughout much of the day. There was nothing that accumulated, and the snow was very light. But it was snow nonetheless. I think this is the latest in the season I have ever personally witnessed snow. Wow, what a state Minnesota is!

One of the reasons I timed this trip is because the bird migration is just starting to get into the swing of things up on the North Shore. Most of my time was spent out in the woods with Mom and Dad.

Yours truly, out on one of many birding expeditions

The birding was pretty good, but I suspect many of the birds (warblers in particular) are still en route. It has been a colder than normal spring up here, so the leaves have barely popped, and the insect population is relatively low. I anticipate with some warmer temperatures expected this coming week, there will be many new arrivals.

A stand of birch trees; you will notice the lack of leaves...spring is still arriving up here!

I have previously written about Norris, Mom and Dad's charismatic resident red-breasted nuthatch, and he is still doing well. We didn't see as much of him, as he and his mate Noreen are beginning their spring nesting. But Norris still managed to show up for a sunflower seed or two, along with a few of his chickadee friends.

Our buddy Norris, making his video debut!

Saw some interesting stuff, including Cape May and Tennessee warblers that like to drink out of a hummingbird feeder, Dad and I tracked down a winter wren (a magnificent vocalist) in thick underbrush, and a Baltimore oriole made a first ever appearance at Mom and Dad's feeding station (they are at the far northern edge of this oriole's range, so this was a rarity). A complete list of birds is at the bottom of the post.

Despite the lack of leaves, the woods is still a beautiful place. The forest floor is staring to come to life. The Canada violets and wood anemones were the only flowers that had started to bloom up there. Mourning cloak, Compton's tortoiseshell, and spring azure butterflies made their appearance. It is extremely enjoyable hiking through the area we call the "Big Cedars," and also appreciating the various micro-climates that we have come to identify as favorite areas of certain birds. I am envious of my retired parents who get to do this every day.

The lush forest floor

An excellent trip, as you can tell. Good running, good food, good birds, and an even better family! Lots of fun was had.

Until next time,


Complete list of birds from the weekend (39 total):

Black-capped chickadee, red-breasted nuthatch, chipping sparrow, white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, ruby-throated hummingbird, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, pine siskin, purple finch, American goldfinch, rose-breasted grosbeak, blue jay, winter wren, brown creeper, Baltimore oriole, common raven, herring gull, merlin, broad-winged hawk, Cooper's hawk, turkey vulture, hermit thrush, ruby-crowned kinglet, American robin, tree swallow, and a dozen warblers (Cape May, Tennessee, Nashville, yellow-rumped "Myrtle," magnolia, chestnut-sided, ovenbird, Blackburnian, northern parula, black and white, palm, and the black-throated green).
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