Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Easter 2010, and the arrival of spring in MN

Buds popping on the hazelnut shrubs - spring arrives in northern MN!

Spring is arriving on the North Shore! It was a pleasure to take it in over a long Easter weekend with the family.

I went on three runs; a 16 miler and a couple of 5 milers, all done on a mix of quiet dirt roads with a little bit of trail thrown in for good measure. The long run was exceptionally difficult for the last 6 miles, as I was running directly into a very strong wind, and the last few miles didn't so much represent actual running as it did simply surviving! The 5 milers were both really good, however, feeling both speedy and spry.

Weekend food was good as always - Dad's burgers on the grill one night, Mom's homemade lasagna another. Mom and I also went into town to have lunch as My Sister's Place, where I got an additional burger fix with the "Trail Center's Bull Moose" burger, and Mom had a veggie calzone (which I also got to try...yum!). Never any shortage of good chow when visiting the folks.

Good burgers at My Sister's Place

Easter Sunday was fun. It started with Sunday church service where I was recruited to sing in the church choir! They were a little short-handed with some of the usual folks being out of town, the choir is somewhat informal, and I can at least carry a tune, so it all worked out in the end. We capped the day off with and Easter ham dinner and my nephew's 1st birthday party, which was a blast - mainly for us. The little guy doesn't quite understand the whole premise of gift opening yet, but he will figure that out soon enough! We all enjoyed his delicious Easter-themed birthday cake, made by Grandma Susie.

A festive cake for a special birthday

Lots of good birds have started to arrive on the North Shore - golden-crowned kinglet, yellow-bellied sapsucker, eastern phoebe, northern flicker, Merlin, red-tailed hawk, and the turkey vulture were new arrivals while I was there. The Compton's tortoiseshell and mourning cloak butterflies have emerged from hibernation. Of course, the resident chickadees and nuthatches (a.k.a., "Dad's birds") were a treat, as always. And various plants are coming to life, such as the pretty little flowers on the hazelnut shrubs pictured above. It is enjoyable to see the gradual arrival of spring.

Mourning cloak butterfly from our Monday hike

A friendly chickadee enjoying a handout

Dad with a feathered friend

I had a couple specific birding highlight that were memorable learning experiences:

1. A male pileated woodpecker was busy excavating a hole in an old dead birch tree. We watched from afar with binoculars (so as not to disturb the nesting site) for more than an hour. The woodpecker was busy hammering away on the inside, occasionally sweeping out the debris. The damage he can impart in a short period of time is remarkable, and it looked as if he was using a broom as a large cloud of wood chips and sawdust would fly out of the hole. It was an amazing sight to see.

2. While walking in the woods on a quiet afternoon, I had the attention of a solitary red-breasted nuthatch who followed me around. He would take a seed from my hand, fly to a tree, and embed it in the crevasses of the bark (nuthatches will do this to store a cache of seeds for later - there must be thousands upon thousands of seeds in the sides of trees!). While I have seen this countless times before, what I had never noticed was a very fast and subtle move. Once the seed was packed into the bark, the nuthatch would quickly flake off a small piece of bark and pack it on top of the seed to effectively hide it from view. Clever little nuthatch. What fantastic camouflage!

With both birds, I was struck by their work ethic, creativity, and tireless efforts to build a nest or store food. They are constantly on the move and work so hard to make a life for themselves, and their perseverance and determination can only be admired. There truly are no deadbeats in the bird kingdom!

So that was the weekend in a long-winded nutshell. I returned to the Cities to find leaves popping out on the trees, even more new bird arrivals, and some wildflowers starting to bloom. More on that later!

Until next time,

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