I rode my bike around the Antenna Farm today, and the endless ruts and potholes and the small but numerous inclines convinced me that the Antenna Farm is better for walking than biking (or driving, for that matter). The ice is almost completely out on the pond now, and today there was one red-winged blackbird proclaiming his might. A bit further down the road I saw a pileated drumming on a phone pole again, on the opposite end of the woods as the last one I saw, although it could be the same bird. (I managed to shoot some shaky, dizzy-making video this time, but I will not inflict that on you all.)
Elsewhere, there were two separate snowshoe hares merrily gamboling down the dirt road and nibbling on greenery in the woods, offering me excellent views of their limited-time-only piebald coat, brown on top and white underneath. They both scattered when I reached for my camera. Before this year I can't remember the last time I saw a for-sure snowshoe hare (not a regular cottontail rabbit) here in town, and now I've seen three in the Antenna Farm woods. Today I also nearly ran into a cluster of five deer, a mix of adult does and yearlings, and finally saw my first chipmunk of spring.
A lot of land off of the road is impassably flooded now, quite a bit of a contrast from other wild places I've been recently, which are mostly much drier than they should be. If there was a place in town to find skunk cabbage, the Antenna Farm would be it. (Although I've heard from several reliable sources now that there is none in Duluth to be found, but that kind of makes me want to find some even more, to have my own private, special patch of skunk cabbage.) But I'll be interested to see what other wildflowers there are up there, and unless radio signals do something funky to amphibians, it should be frog central up there in a few weeks.
The area around the Antenna Farm--and possibly that pond in particular--is the headwaters for Brewery Creek, a poor neglected urban creek that has mostly been shoved underground. It's above ground briefly just downhill of the Coppertop Church, then again just above 10th Street, once more behind the Co-op, then it empties into the lake by Fitger's Brewery. That little pond may also be what's left of the "ancient lake" mentioned in this DNT article. (I haven't explored Duluth Heights enough to know if there's another lake or pond further to the east; there's certainly wetlands.) The pond could also be the headwaters for Buckingham Creek, and according to that DNT article, Brewery and Buckingham once both flowed from the same source (and were once trout streams! can you imagine?).
At any rate, the Antenna Farm woods is an example of what that part of town looked like before it was all mall and sprawl. One of the things that fascinates me most about natural history is just that--the history of natural places. What did the land beneath me right now look like before 1886 when my house was built? What did downtown look like before it was buried under concrete? What did the mall look like before it was the mall? The towers on the Antenna Farm do uglify the area, and radio tower cause havoc with bird migration, but at the same time building radio antennas has saved the land from even worse development, like dredging and filling and franchise building. Even with the radio interference, nature is trying to find a way to make do anyway, and the woods around the Antenna Farm offer a rare view of what this portion of Duluth used to be before white people came in and tore it all up.
Birds in the News Redux: Mass Extinctions
5 days ago