Snowy opening game

The first baseball and softball games of Cook County School were played today one hour south in Silver Bay, MN. I don’t know how they got their fields mainly free of snow but they did a good job. They did need to explain any ball that rolled into the snow in the outfield would be considered a double! The high temperature for the day was 33 degrees and there was a brisk wind blowing the snowflakes around. Bundled up in my winter coat, mittens, hat, scarf and a big blanket I still managed to shiver and my feet froze because I didn’t wear boots. I used to think watching hockey was cold, then I started going to cross-country ski meets and found out what cold really was. The good thing about cross-country ski meets is a race only lasts fifteen to twenty minutes not two hours long like a ball game. Hopefully the next games will be a little more enjoyable to watch.

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False sense of security

The late spring has lulled me into a false sense of security. The snow covered ground and ice covered lakes makes one think summer is far away but in reality it’s not. It’s this time of the year we check our lists and wonder, “Are there enough hours in the day to get everything ready for the season?” The answer is always, “It doesn’t matter, summer won’t wait.”

As soon as the ice goes out summer is here, ready or not.  A spring BWCAW canoe trip right after the ice goes out is something not many people experience. It’s very quiet in the woods and on the water except for the occasional slap of a beaver’s tail or splash of a fish. Not too many people brave the chilly nights and possible mid-day snow flurries. But the ones who do are rewarded with discoveries of snow beneath the pines and chunks of ice floating by.

Lets not forget one of the reasons people brave the freezing cold water to venture out into the canoe country early in the spring, don’t let them fool you, it’s because the lake trout fishing is amazing.

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Ore boats, eagles and deer

We’ve made a few trips up and down the north shore the past week and have noticed some things. There’s still quite a bit of snow in the woods but closer to the big lake there’s grass beginning to show. The deer are hungry and appear in large numbers in the ditches.  We didn’t count but we’ve seen several groups with 5-10 deer at a time. It’s kind of like a game of Frogger where the deer are the frogs attempting to make their way across the road without being squished. It’s not as fun as the original video game but it does hold your attention.

We’ve also noticed a bunch of bald eagles. They too like to congregate near the shore of Lake Superior because the deer that don’t make the trip across the road provide an easy meal. I’ve read where sometimes eagles will eat so much food when they try to fly they aren’t able to get airborne quickly enough and they will get hit by vehicles.  So, if you happen to take a drive up the North Shore anytime soon be sure to keep your eyes open for deer, eagles and other interesting things like ore boats.

The ore boats aren’t hanging out in the ditches but they are making trips again as the shipping season has re-opened. In the late fall and early spring we see them closer to shore and it’s always fun to see them.

 

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Spring will come, just not soon enough for some

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Cold won’t kill pests

It would be nice if cold temperatures killed pests but unfortunately they don’t. Trying to think on the bright side of our extended winter…

Cold temperatures not a cure-all for pests

Two gypsy moth caterpillars feeding on white oak leavesTwo gypsy moth caterpillars feeding on white oak leaves in State College, Pennsylvania

If you have spent your winter looking for a silver lining behind the incredibly cold temperatures, we have both good and bad news for you. The good news is that some insect pests, like invasive gypsy moths, are not very cold hardy in the absence of snow. Gypsy moth females lay eggs on just about any surface, and when that surface is exposed to temperatures below -20°F, eggs die relatively quickly. When they lay eggs lower on a tree, more of them survive due to the insulating effects of snow. This winter we have seen temperatures reaching -20°F and lower in many places in northern Minnesota. In these areas, we can expect fewer gypsy moth eggs to survive.

The bad news is that these temperatures are not cold enough to kill off all gypsy moths or any other pest species entirely. Arthropods (insects, spiders, ticks, and related animals) have many ways of dealing with the cold, including the creation of their own antifreeze . Many insects and ticks are able to avoid the cold altogether and burrow into the soil to insulate themselves. While we can expect some emerald ash borers to die at temperatures as warm as -14°F, it takes temperatures of at least -30°F to kill a significant number of this invasive insect. This is because wood-boring pests like emerald ash borer spend the winter under the bark of trees. Bark provides insulation against the cold, and if temperatures rebound quickly, they are even less likely to experience mortality.

Overall, we may see lower numbers of a few insect species in 2018, like gypsy moths. This minor setback does not mean much in the long-term, however. This winter will not be enough to kill all emerald ash borer, gypsy moth, or any other pest of concern. For more information, listen to Jess Hartshorn’s interview on KAXE Phenology .

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Anxious for summer

Winters are long in the north and some people are tired of waiting for nice weather. Today Abby asked me where her hammock was and I wanted to know why. “I’m going hammocking!” Dressed in her winter coat, wearing a stocking cap and grabbing the warmest blanket in the house she made her way to the front yard where she proceeded to hang her hammock up in the trees. She is tired of spending all of her time indoors but her hammock time was cut short due to the big snowflakes that started to fall from the sky. Yes, winters are long.

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Helping fish habitat

When I’m hiking a river or a stream in the summer I often curse all of the down trees and woody debris I have to scamper over or around. Who knew I should actually be thanking the woody debris?

According to an article by Dayle Wallien, “Large woody material (LWM) , including whole trees, limbed logs and rootwads, to forest streams can provide many benefits to fish.  Scientists have now come to understand that in-stream LWM is ecologically important for a number of reasons:”

  1. LWM can help spawning gravels accumulate , by stopping the gravel from moving downstream;
  2. Pools can form behind LWM, which provide important juvenile rearing habitat, as well as habitat for all fish during periods of low-flows;
  3. LWM can help slow stream speed , which helps adult fish as they move upstream and shelters rearing juveniles from using too much energy fighting currents;
  4. LWM provide shade , offering pockets of cooler water, and can help to lower the temperature of an entire stream;
  5. LWM provides fish with refuge from predators ;
  6. LWM can help to stabilize banks, prevent erosion and decrease sediment movement that can harm downstream fish habitat;
  7. LWM is important to the aquatic food chain, because it traps organic matterand provides habitat for insects and invertebrates, which are both food for fish.

The next time you have to paddle around a downed tree or get scratched by a branch, remember, wood is good for fish habitat.

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Chilly temperatures on the Gunflint Trail

It still feels like winter on the Gunflint Trail. For the last week our daily high temperature has hovered around 30 degrees. The sunshine feels warm but the wind has been brisk. The nightly low temperatures have dipped into the single digits as low as 2 degrees. The forecast calls for more of the same through the weekend and then the temperatures are supposed to warm up next week. We shall see what Mother Nature brings us.

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Minnesota Fishing

From the MN Department of Natural Resources

Minnesota fishing facts
Anglers and waters

There are about 1.4 million licensed anglers in Minnesota.
About 500,000 people are expected to fish on Minnesota’s opening day of the walleye and northern pike season, Saturday, May 12.
Minnesota has 11,842 lakes, 4,500 of which are considered fishing lakes. There are over 18,000 miles of fishable rivers and streams, including 3,800 miles of trout streams.
Average annual expenditure per angler in Minnesota is about $1,500.*
Although not every kind of fish lives everywhere, 162 species of fish can be found in Minnesota waters.
Participation and the economy

Fishing contributes $2.4 billion to the state’s economy in direct retail sales, ranking Minnesota third in the nation for angler expenditures.*
Fishing supports nearly 35,500 Minnesota jobs.**
Minnesota ranks second in resident fishing participation at 32 percent, second only to Alaska.*
Who goes fishing?

Most resident anglers are from urban areas. However, a higher percentage of people living in rural Minnesota fish compared to the percentage of people living in urban areas who fish.*
Males account for 65 percent of fishing license holders. Females account for 35 percent.
Fishing habits

Significantly more time is spent fishing on lakes than on rivers and streams. *
The average Minnesota angler spends 15 days fishing each year.*
Walleye are the most sought-after fish in Minnesota, followed by northern pike and muskie combined, then panfish, bass, crappie and trout.*
Visit mndnr.gov/LicenseDollarsAtWork for more information about how the DNR spends fishing license dollars, and select a Fisheries area to find local information.

Sources:

* 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, (U.S. and Minnesota reports) U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

** Sportfishing in America, January 2013, produced by Southwick and Associates.

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Happy Easter!

Or should I say, “Hoppy Easter?” Have a great day.

 

 

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