Tuesday, July 27, 2010

park point, late july

I used to live on South Street and 16th, literally just a block from Lake Superior. The shore there is not a sandy beach, but I did have really easy access to the water and I could usually find a little stretch of lake all to myself and go swimming a couple times every summer. Since I moved from that apartment five years ago, I haven't gone swimming once, so I was long overdue. It's been actually hot this past week (at least Duluth's version of hot, in the 80s) so yesterday I went down to Park Point to go baptize myself in the Lake.

Even on a Monday afternoon, there were about a million people on the beach, and I had to walk all the way down to the pumping station before I found a stretch of sand all to myself--not that walking halfway down the Point is really the worst thing in the world. On the harbor side by the airport I saw these guys. Sanderlings? I am not confident at all in shorebird ID.
There were also many speed-of-light warblers in the woods that I never got a good look at, let alone a picture of, and I cannot ID warblers by song. They had yellow on them. That doesn't help.

Sunflowers were blooming along the trail, and milkweed was just finishing up. Jewelweed, fireweed and harebells were blooming in the woods, and rattlesnake root was just getting ready. The blueberry and raspberry crops on Park Point this year are phenomenal. Unfortunately, the poison ivy crop is also phenomenal, and picking berries requires playing Poison Ivy Twister: right foot not on poison ivy, left foot not on poison ivy, right hand on blueberry (not poison ivy). 24 hours later, I seemed to have escaped unscathed.
This spring it got so warm so soon, and this summer we've had a couple of hot spells already, and what that means is that Lake Superior is, for once, not hypothermia inducing (note to non-locals: the average year-round temperature of Lake Superior is 40 F; it's usually somewhere in the low 50s in the hottest part of summer). It is not exactly bathwater, and I still had to ease myself into it, but it's still excellent for pushing yourself away from the land and floating on the shining big sea water. I think I'm going to need to go swimming more often this summer.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

black swallowtail pupation pics

I'm raising black swallowtail butterflies again this year, and tonight I got to watch one of them pupate. I wrote about it in my other blog. Go check it out!

Monday, July 19, 2010

rush of summer

Okay, wanting to post stuff on the day that I observe it obviously isn't working, because the result more often than not is that I don't post at all, and in the middle of summer when there is so much happening--even if I'm not getting out enough to see it all--I really don't want to go back and post date entry after entry. So from here on out I officially switch to slapdash summaries and catch-as-catch-can posting.

In Lester and Hartley this past week there was fringed loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata) blooming everywhere, which, despite the scary L-word is not evil like purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), which it isn't even closely related to, but is instead a delightful native wildflower of moist, shady areas. Also blooming now is Joe Pye, Indian pipe, vervain, and jewelweed. This photo of Indian pipe was taken on the forest floor around 8:30 p.m. on an overcast day when we were doing one more frog survey in Hartley for the summer (nothing - nothing! - except one out-of-season wood frog). Any other flower picture from that time and place would have been unpostably dark and blurry, but Indian pipe seems to give off its own light.

There are also right now berries everywhere. Wild raspberries and dwarf raspberries are at peak, and there may be a few late strawberries hanging around yet. I've heard lots of talk of blueberries, but haven't been able to get out to my blueberry spots yet. Serviceberries are just starting, but depending on the species and the locale, they could be producing until the end of August. Baneberries are also ripe, but you can probably guess from the name that they are less-than-edible. Also in the do-not-eat category are lots of amanita mushrooms, which look very cheerful with their pretty red caps with white dots, but which are also potentially very, very deadly.

Monday, July 5, 2010

inflated and exploding fabaceae

Mowing the lawn with an electric mower is a pretty hateful task, but mowing the lawn with a reel mower is almost enjoyable. You can hear the birds sing, watch butterflies (I had to wait a few times for cabbage whites to finish nectaring at the hawkweed; luckily for the butterflies the reel mower tends to just roll over some of the taller, wirier plants like hawkweed, so even after I mow there's still plenty of flowers.) Today I also got to stop and watch a bumblebee pollinating my snap peas. The bee crawled inside the flower, and the petals puffed up like a balloon. Once inside the flower, the bumblebee made a high-pitched buzzing noise, different than the buzzing they make in flight. I got to watch the butt end of the bee a few times when she was working, and if the buzzing was made with her wings, they were moving too fast for me to see.

Later today I went for a neighborhood walk. The lupine is more or less finished up for the year, although there are some stalks that are still blooming and some that haven't even started yet. Last week the seed pods were still all green, but this week they are starting to turn black, which means that they are ready to harvest if you want to use the seeds to plant your own lupine. A few days after they turn dry and black, the pods explode and fling the seed, so you've got to get the pods after they turn black but before they explode. (And after you pick them, store them in a paper bag so the pods can breath and when they do explode you don't lose the seed.) I picked some green pods last week and they are starting to turn black now, too. I'll plant the harvested-green and harvested-black in different plots and compare germination rates.

(And it turns out my cell phone camera can take serviceable pics if the light is right.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Chester tonight

Cells phones are annoying and horrible inventions, but I have one anyway because there's always the possibility I might fall into a ravine and break my legs and have to call for help (anti-spoiler: that is not what happens in this entry). My very old, decrepit cell phone was finally starting to die, so I got a new one, and the new one has a crappy camera. The camera is very crappy, and the pictures are not worth posting, but they are good for reminding me what I saw while I was out without having to try to shove a notebook and pen in my pockets in addition to wallet, keys and cell phone.

Chester tonight was lovely, and surprisingly unpeopley (maybe everyone was at the carnival or grilling dead things in their backyard?). Some serviceberries were ripening at the edge of the trail just past a rocky drop off, and I managed to pick a few without falling into the ravine and breaking my legs. Later I found a trove of ripe wild strawberries growing in the cracks in the rocks alongside the creek that had somehow escaped all other human and critter visitors to the park. The berries were tiny, maybe a quarter inch to a half inch long, but very soft and sweet. The leaves and flowers were all very tiny, too, which I guess is what happens when you are growing directly out of stone.

Also growing in the rocks along the creek was a cheerful clump of harebells, which are another favorite flower of mine (I have many favorites) and I found exactly one stalk of blooming white pyrola. Thimbleberries are finishing up flowering and are starting to produce fruit, but it's still fairly flat and very green still. In one folded thimbleberry leaf that I saw, a funnel weaver spider had built its nest. Outside the park, along Skyline, wild raspberries are starting to ripen. I'm usually pickier than that about not eating stuff on the roadside, but I ate them anyway.