Week Ending June 15, 2014

After the excitement of Munster had now come to a close, I started this week off at about 4:30 AM heading up to Minnesota in my car. On the way, I got to add Sandhill Crane to my list of 2014 birds when I saw one in a farm field in central Wisconsin. Most of the drive was nice weather, but the last hundred miles or so in Wisconsin ended up being very cloudy and a little bit drizzly. When I reach Lake Superior though, the sun came out and blue sky could be seen all along the water. I made it to Duluth, MN by 12:30 PM and since it was so nice out I decided to try to get a couple short hikes in along the North Shore. My first stop was at Gooseberry Falls State Park, where the water was really flowing. Apparently they've had quite a lot of rain this season so far, and you could really see it in the falls. While walking along the river, I got my first glimpse, and shots, of a Black-throated Green Warbler. Just last summer I added this one to my life list at nearby Tettegouche State Park, which just so happened to be my next stop on the afternoon. When I reached Tettegouche, I could see some thunderstorms moving in from the northwest. Because of this, I ended up walking very quickly along my favorite trail out to Shovel Point, trying to beat the rain that I expected would hit at any time. Along the lakeshore a large flock of probably 50-75 Canada Geese was traveling northeastward (probably away from the incoming storms). I made it to the point & took many photographs showing off the wild weather around the lake, and the beautiful waters. On the way back I spooked what looked like a Broad-winged Hawk from it's perch in an aspen tree along the tree.

Gooseberry Falls along the north shore of Lake Superior flowing quite full from all the recent rains.

Unfortunately it was gone before I had a chance to try and photograph it. Right after, the trail took me down along the lower part of the Baptism River and I got good looks at a female Red-breasted Merganser, and then shortly after heard what turned out to be a Blackburnian Warbler in the brush. Nearby, a Garter Snake slithered off the trail in front of me and I took some photographs face-on of it in the underbrush while it was trying to hide motionless. I took my time the last couple hundred yards hoping to get a good shot of a warbler but didn't see any others. When reaching the car, a pair of Red Squirrels were chasing each other around on a pine tree but again, no photographs here. I left the park around 4 PM and then made it to Ely about 5:30 PM, pretty exhausted from a long day. At least this time I was able to get some hiking in, as usually it's just a long, long drive instead.

The view across Lake Superior towards Wisconsin from Shovel Point at Tettegouche State Park.

On Tuesday morning, I awoke at 5 AM to the sound of tons of birds singing. The northern forests are alive with songbirds this time of year, and since it is still breeding season, they're all out singing their little hearts out. I didn't know which one was singing so close to the house, but I went outside and after about 20 minutes of searching a tree, I finally found the little warbler who was responsible. It probably took another 10 minutes of trying to photograph it before I was able to identify it positively as a Mourning Warbler. I have seen these birds in the past around my dad's house, but this is the first one I have ever photographed, so it was my first new bird to my life list of the vacation! Kim & I got out fishing at about 7:30 AM to my dad's favorite walleye lake, and we were able to bring in both our limits of 6 fish each after a few hours of fishing. While out on the lake, we saw a Bald Eagle near the outlet, and mostly a lot of American Robins hopping along the shore. I did also see a Tree Swallow, some unidentifiable woodpeckers, and heard many many warblers along the portage in and out of the lake. Also along the portage, there was quite a few Mocassin Flowers (a type of orchid) growing. These flowers look like a shoe, as their name depicts, and are found in the wet forests of the region. After an afternoon of filleting up our morning catch, I went for a walk down our logging road, about 3 miles in total. Along the way I heard numerous Chestnut-sided Warblers, and I located a small nest that initially I believed to be a hummingbird nest. As I was watching the nest, a bird flew in above it, and it turned out that it was actually a Red-eyed Vireo's nest, still under construction apparently with the vireo bringing back more nest-building materials. I marked the spot in the roadway so that I could relocate in the next few days if need be. 

Storm moving in from the hills to Lake Superior at Shovel Point.

On Wednesday, after being fully exhausted from the prior day's fishing & hiking, I slept in til about 6 AM. When I got up, I went for a long hike along our logging road, hoping to find some of the critters that I got to see last summer along the same stretch with Kim. This year I was by myself since her knee has been causing a lot of pain recently, and she is going to go in for surgery in a few weeks. It was a pretty cool morning, and very dreary out, absolutely perfect for the bazillions of mosquitoes that call the northwoods their home. I was doused in 30% deet spray, but it had very little effect on the clouds of bugs I encountered. The first 3 miles were the worst, as there was no breeze whatsoever, and no sun either, perfect weather for them. At the bottom of the 1.25 mile hill (I used to run this road as a teenager so we had all the distances memorized), I spooked a grouse into flushing off the roadway and landing in a nearby tree. I frantically shot some photographs but then realized it wasn't going anywhere, so I worked slowly around it taking photographs in an arc hoping to get some good shots. While zoomed in on with my camera I could verify that it was a Spruce Grouse by the red patch above it's eyes, and the chestnut colored tailfeather tips. Like yesterday's Mourning Warbler, this bird is another that I have seen in the past here, but is a first for actually photographing the species, so my 2nd bird to add my photography life list! I continued walking and getting eaten alive by the bugs, thinking there was no way I'd see anything neater that what I just had. I made it to the end of vehicle-useable portion of the logging road and then headed down an old snowmobile trail to the north towards a group of beaver ponds.

Eastern Garter Snake hiding among the underbrush at Tettegouche State Park.

When I got to a rocky spot on the first pond, I cut through the woods towards the water to see if I could find some ducks, or geese like last summer. I found a pair of Eastern Kingbirds that were nesting on the pond, and watched as they hunted for dragonflies, even catching a couple, while I stood along the shoreline. I left this pond and headed back north to where the next downstream pond was. Last year, a family of geese was seen on this one. On the way, I was looking around, and focused on the trail in front of me, when about 50 yards out, a large Black Bear came running straight across the trail from right to left. It was only in view for a couple of seconds, and caught me completely off guard. I shouldn't have been, as it was only about a half mile away from where Kim & I had seen probably this same bear last year while out hiking. But, I missed my shot again. The beaver ponds run along the path that the bear was headed, and since I didn't hear any splashing, I figured he didn't try to cross them. When I reached the dam on the next pond, I caught a glimpse of the very same bear just reaching the other side after having walked across the dam. I got a pair of photos of it's backside as it ran up into the woods away from the pond. At least this time I got my first Black Bear photos! But then, it turned in the woods and I could barely see it's black fur through the underbrush, as it paralleled the shoreline. I watched it and then focused my lens on a patch of the ridgeline with no cover, hoping it would keep moving towards it so I could get a shot of it's side. It did just that, and even better than I could have planned for.

Yours truly & the limit of Walleyes that Kim & I got on our first day out fishing in Ely.

When it reached that point, it actually stopped and turned it's head to face me, for a solid 10 seconds or more during which time I shot several photographs! It then went further up into the brush and then vanished. I absolutely couldn't believe it. There is something about being alone in the woods, several miles from anyone else, and having a full grown adult Black Bear staring right at you; it was an amazing experience. I'm very grateful that it wasn't a sow with cubs though, as these animals do have the ability to take a person down if the need arises, fortunately, this one seemed content to put distance between us. After the bear was gone, a Beaver surfaced on the pond I was standing by, and swam some slow laps on the surface while watching me. Twice it smacked it's tail on the water and dove down, alerting others that danger was nearby. I got a lot of photographs of it swimming, and even paused to take some shots of a Northern Leopard Frog that was in the water near me. I left the beaver and headed down to the 3rd pond, the largest of them all, where last year a Canada Goose had been nesting right on top of a beaver lodge. This year though there was no geese to be found back here, perhaps I was just too late in the season and they've already moved on, or perhaps they were just hiding better than last year. I did find one female Ring-necked Duck, which circled me and then headed off into the woods. Last year there was several mated pairs of these ducks on the ponds. Near this spot I also got my first shots of the year of a Red Squirrel, which chattered loudly as it hopped around in some small trees. On the way back I got yet another great surprise, I had happened to look at some maple leaves off the road, since one was turned upside down and stood out in color, when I realized there was a Green Treefrog sitting on the leaf! This is the first time I can remember seeing one in Minnesota, and everyone who knows me, knows I love seeing Treefrogs!

Dragonflies had plenty of food this time of year in Ely!

The last couple miles of the walk were more uneventful, but there was no way I could have kept that momentum up from what I saw earlier in the day. I did see a large number of Tiger Swallowtails again along the road, and several other butterfly species as well. The dragonflies now were out in large groups, and the wind had picked up a little bit, so the bugs weren't as horrendous the rest of the way out. I made it home in time to enjoy some lunch, and then relaxed a bit. In the afternoon around 1 I had been standing outside talking to Kim when I saw a grouse walk across the driveway. I couldn't believe I was seeing a second one on the day. I ran inside and grabbed the camera, then got back out looking around for it. I couldn't find it anywhere and assumed it had just ran away. Then from about 2 feet from my foot, the bird flushed with wings screaming in the air and landed 50 feet away and ran into the woods southwest of the house. I ran over and was able to re-track the bird down in the forest and got a fair amount of photographs in the low light. This one, unlike the other this morning, was a Ruffed Grouse. I can't believe I got both species in the same day after having never gotten a photograph of either yet! That makes 3 new photographed species in two days! After the excitement of the grouse was over, or at least calming down, I decided it was too nice outside to be at the house, and so I went for another walk down the logging road. This time, I went to the 1.5 mile mark & back for 3 miles in total. Along the way, I was able to pish down a Chestnut-sided Warbler from a grove of aspens, and I did get to see the Red-eyed Vireo on it's nest. I scared off a Broad-winged Hawk that was perched over the roadway but couldn't get any photographs before it cruised down the road and out of view. I ended up getting in 10 miles on the day or so, much more than I've been doing lately, and my ankle seems to be holding out OK, though I can tell it's getting a lot of use since it is sore. The forecast is calling for rain in the evening lasting through tomorrow afternoon so I'm not sure what I'll get to do next, but hopefully I get to keep seeing more wildlife, it's been great thus far in Ely.

A Red-eyed Vireo carrying some nesting materials for it's nest located adjacent to the logging road.

Overnight Wednesday it rained hard & steady, leaving a very wet forest on Thursday morning. Since it was expected to continue throughout the day I didn't think fishing made much sense. I didn't want to just sit around and wait for breaks in the rain, so Kim & I went on a drive to the north shore of Lake Superior hoping that maybe the weather was clearer there or at least we'd hopefully see something neat along the drive that we couldn't see while sitting at home. It didn't take too long to see something, as a pond we drove past on Highway 1 south of Ely had a male Bufflehead sitting out on it. Shortly afterward, at another beaver pond off the road, there was a male Ring-necked Duck visible which I pulled a double u-turn on the road to get photographs of from the vehicle before it sailed off to the far side of the pond out of view from the roadway. Fortunately, it is pretty easy to do this up in Minnesota since there isn't very much traffic on these roads during the weekdays. Just before we reached Murphy City, I saw what looked like a female (cow) Moose on the side of the road! I stopped the vehicle a couple hundred yards back of it on the road and turned enough on the roadway so I could shoot a few photos through the passenger side window. After getting good enough shots for proof of having seen a Moose finally, I drove in closer, which prompted it to run across the roadway and enter the spruce swamp on the east side of the road. I got a couple more shots of it running, though a street sign in its path took away some of the wild feel of the photographs. It was still amazing to see and is probably the first one I've seen since the summer of 2003 (I believe) when my dad & I saw a cow & calf out on a tucked away bay on Knife Lake while on an end-of-summer canoe trip. Last year on my trip to Ely I had hoped to find one but never did get the chance to see one so seeing one today was really incredible. After I drove away from the Moose sighting, we had a White-tailed Deer feeding on the side of the roadway pause long enough to again get shots through the passenger side window.

The first Spruce Grouse I've photographed! Sighted along our logging road early in the morning.

At that point, I half-expected a Cougar to show up around the next corner since we seemed to be seeing everything I had hoped to see this week, especially after the Black Bear & both species of Grouse being seen yesterday! However, I didn't get my Cougar, which are extremely rare in the region, and still scientifically disputed as to whether or not they live here at all. Every year though, there are reports of sightings in the area and I tend to believe that they could survive just fine in the remote wilderness here, with an abundance of secluded habitat, and tons of feed (deer). We didn't find any more wildlife along Highway 1, and then reached the shore of Lake Superior. From the junction of Highway 1 with the shore, we headed northeasterward toward Grand Marais. Along the drive we stopped at the usual spots where we'd walk a bit, Cross River, Temperance River, and Cascade River. All the rivers were flowing extremely full of water, but I opted not to take my camera out of the car since the weather was just pretty miserable out, with temperatures in the mid 40s & a steady mist raining down from the overcast skies. When we reached Grand Marais, we grabbed a quick bit to eat along the shore where I saw a family of Mallards with about 8 ducklings dabbling along the rocky beach. Also, a flock of Canada Geese had flown in and landed on the bay just outside camera range. On our way back we saw a pair of Herring Gulls that appeared to be collecting debris for nest-building somewhere nearby. These seem to be the main gull of the region as I haven't yet identified any other gull species last summer here or this summer. The Herring Gulls were showing breeding colors and looked quite striking in their white/gray/black bodies with the bold red spotted bill & bright pink legs. From Grand Marais, which was a very nice little town with a lot of small restaurants and shops in it's downtown, we headed back down the shore toward Illgen City at Highway 1's junction.

An Eastern Kingbird with a recently captured Dragonfly.

Along the way, the wind picked up greatly out of nowhere and the trees along the roadway shook violently, tossing leaves and smaller branches all over. The car was catching a lot of wind as well which was visibly noticeable as we travelled southwest on the road. When we again reached Highway 1, I pulled the car over on the shoulder so I could take some photographs of the lake, which was a beautiful blue color and had mighty big whitecap waves building due to the strong northwest wind that was now buffeting the lake shore. The dark gray & white clouds provided a perfect background for the photos, which came out quite dramatic looking, so I'm glad I stopped and took the time to take the shots from the other side of the guardrail, I almost lost my dad's hat in the progress, having it blown off my head and traveling about 50 feet before it then skidded across the road to a stop. Once back in the car we headed northward towards Ely, and did find one more White-tailed Deer right near the same pond where we'd seen the Ring-necked Duck earlier in the day. Additionally what looked like a Ring-neck was out on the Bufflehead's pond this time. I kept a close watch at all of the river & creek crossings hoping to spot some other ducks, but we didn't find any more. The Kawishiwi River leaving Birch Lake was flowing very high, taking water right through the trees on the small island downstream of the bridge. After getting back to my dad's house & looking at the weather, it sounds like tomorrow is going to be a nice warm (70) sunny day, so we're planning to get up early to go to Sletten or Tee Lake to do some Largemouth Bass fishing.

The first time I've ever photographed a Black Bear in the wild!

We got off to earlier start on Friday for fishing than we had on Tuesday and probably made it to Fenske Lake by about 7 AM or a little later. I decided not to bring my older camera today since it's just difficult to focus on taking photographs when you're also trying to catch fish and keep the canoe in the right spots. Naturally, there was some wildlife to be seen right at the canoe launch on Fenske. A pair of Common Loons was swimming out around the small island that sits a couple hundred feet from the launch, and a female Merganser was sitting on one of the rocks in the shallows to the right of us. After we launched and paddled out towards the middle of the lake, just out from the swimming area where I spent a good deal of my childhood in the water, I released some of my father's ashes into the lake. Or, if you're a ranger with the National Forest Service reading this, I didn't, since I know that's not allowed. When my father passed away, he had always wanted to be cremated, and he wanted his ashes put back into all the lakes that I'd canoed on with him while growing up. Since he loved to paddle, and also loved to see what I was made of, we traveled across a large number of the lakes in the Ely area, over 200 by my last count. Last year, Kim & I were able spread ashes onto 4 lakes (Agassa, Pauline, Nigh, & Everett), and Fenske was the first new one to be added to the list this year. After the release we continued on across the lake, through the far side narrows, and out onto the marshy south bay. Here we could see a canoe already parked up at the short portage to Little Sletten Lake. I knew there was a canoe somewhere since we'd seen bubbles on the water going through the narrows and this was where they came from.

American Beaver swimming around his pond down our logging road.

When we hit the portage, water was flowing down it like a creek, which is unusual at this location since there actually IS a creek just a few feet to the south of the trail. Apparently some intrepid American Beavers realized that with just a few feet of dam construction, they could raise the level of Little Sletten by a couple more feet, and add to their real estate holdings. Due to this, the lake was higher than I've ever seen before, and it looked like it could keep being raised easily by the beavers with more vertical additions to the dam at this natural bottleneck. We passed up the crew that was already portaging and made it across the lake to the next portage about the time they were heading out. In the rush to get across, I forgot to release more ashes on this lake, but fortunately we had to come back out this way so it wasn't a big deal. We got our rods tied up and ready to go after crossing the 40 rod (all the portages in the area are measured in rods for whatever reason, 1 rod = 5.5 yards = 16.5 feet) portage to Sletten Lake (my childhood favorite lake). Sletten is a small lake, probably about 40 acres or so (another strange measurement, 640 acres = 1 square mile, so it's very small). But like the cliche says, what it lacks in size, it makes up for in other areas, namely the Largemouth Bass fishing. Having remembered how I'd forgotten the ashes on Little Sletten, I didn't make the same mistake on Sletten & released them quickly just off from the portage. Just a few minutes into the lake I had already caught a pair of bass, one about 8-10" long, too small to keep in my eyes, and another about 5" long, roughly the size of the lure I was using. It was quiet for a little while as we worked our way around the lakeshore in a clockwise fashion, but I did see some Cedar Waxwings fly over, and a few American Robins were hopping along shore to keep me entertained. The wind was also making it surprisingly difficult to hold the canoe the right distance off shore in which we could make long casts and hit right where the fish would be (as shallow as possible).

A hyperactive Red Squirrel far back in the woods from my dad's property.

By the time we reached the far west end of the lake, where the wind was calmer, we finally started picking up fish. I caught a large one, probably in the 2.5-3 pound class, but let it go since it appeared to have a full belly, presumably filled with eggs. We worked our way with the wind along the north shore, in and out of all the coves and picked up probably 10 bass in total on the way. When we reached the east end, we checked out the beaver dam that holds the level of Sletten at a constant, and then started fising again. On this end, the wind was troublesome, so we had to move back westward toward the portage where it was calm. On the way, we had a Bald Eagle fly in high over us, being harassed by a seemingly tiny bird by comparison, though it was actually a Broad-winged Hawk, a bird with several feet of wingspan, but next to the largest bird of prey in the region, it looked like a pigeon. Also, while fishing here I caught a very brief glimpse of what I suspect was a Mink running up from the water along a strip of granite outcropping into the woods. Unfortunately it never came back out so I can't confirm, but I'm pretty certain it was a Mink. For a while the fish quit again but we did pick up a couple more with repeated passes along the shoreline east of the portage. When it was all said and done though we had kept 10 bass all between about 1-2/2.5 pounds. On the paddle back out I did get to release some ashes on Little Sletten, bringing the total number of lake to 7 now, a long way to go, but I'm glad to have gotten started.

A Green Treefrog & a prime example of a Minnesota Mosquito.

The wind continued to be a problem for me trying to turn the canoe properly, and even on Fenske, which is probably a little over a mile in length, it felt like a hurricane to me in the back of the canoe coming out of the northwest and picking up steam along the lake's longest reach. When we did reach the northwest corner where the canoe launch was, a Common Loon rose up onto the surface about 50 feet away, a perfect shot had I brought my camera. As always, anytime I don't have a camera I see awesome things, but it always begs the question, should I bring it & miss out on seeing these things, or should I leave it at home & miss out on the photos? After we'd loaded up the vehicle and driven home to grab some lunch, we filleted up all the bass and I set a group of 4 fish aside to take back to Virginia so I could cook up a couple of my favorite meals for Ruth & I like last summer. When everything was cleaned up, I decided to take a walk since it was actually sunny out for once, and I didn't want to waste any of that beautiful light that my camera needs for nice photographs. What I thought was going to be a 3 or 4 mile hike turned into one about 7 miles instead. I ended up walking the entire length that I had done on Wednesday morning, plus a little extra. With all the rain we had gotten the day & night before, the logging road was full of rainwater pools, many more than I'd encountered on the last hike. There was 4 or 5 spots where I had to walk out into the woods to get around the flooded roadway. On the way eastward, I saw a fair number of warblers in the trees but could never get close enough or have a straight shot to photograph any of them. I also saw a pair of Black-capped Chickadees in a pine tree, which I remembered, I don't get to see these guys back home since we have the Carolina Chickadees, though I'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference in an area where their ranges overlap, if they weren't sitting next to each other.

Tiger Swallowtail sighted along the logging road.

The other day while hiking the same route, I saw a rainwater pond that had bubbles coming up in one spot constantly, spread out over a few square feet area and didn't know what was causing it. Today I got to find out, as I saw a mass of thousands of tadpoles all swimming in unison just under the surface. I've never seen so many in one spot before in my life, the mass covered easily a 10 square foot area of water and was probably a foot thick of just tadpoles, tucked closely into one another all moving together. It was pretty incredible. Whenever these start to grow legs, there are going to be a serious number of frogs in the area. The only types of frogs I saw around here was Wood Frogs, so I'm not positive what type the tadpoles are from. I ended up continuing further and walked into the same beaver ponds that I had the last time. This time, I didn't encounter any bears, but the same American Beaver was swimming again in its pond. This time, it didn't hesitate, and slapped its tail three times in quick fashion. I took a few photographs of a Northern Leopard Frog nearby, and then walked away from the pond to leave the beaver in peace. Nearby I also saw a lone Cedar Waxwing hopping amongst the trees, and could hear a number of Chestnut-sided Warblers, which are very common in the woods here, but I couldn't get any shots of the little fast birds. When I walked to the lowest beaver pond on the system, I spooked a family of ducks off a log. When I got into a good spot I could see a female Common Goldeneye, and the 7 semi-grown youngsters that were tailing her as she led them to safety across the pond into the marshier areas with more cover. Also on the pond were two pairs of breeding Ring-necked Ducks, though I didn't see any ducklings, I'd expect they'll be along shortly on the pond.

An adult male Ring-necked Duck seen in a pond along Highway 1 while driving to the North Shore one rainy day.

The ducks sure seem to love these tucked away beaver ponds where people don't normally get too. I'd question whether anyone else has even laid eyes on the ponds this spring since the path to get there is pretty overgrown, and its a good distance away from any road, the Echo Trail is the closest, about 3.5 miles away or so. After checking out the ponds I decided to head down the logging road beyond where it is vehicle accessible, down the hill towards the marshy southeast arm of Grassy Lake that we used to cross to go ice fishing when I was younger. Someone has put together a make-shift bridge of boards & poplar cuttings to get their ATV across. I could see the tracks around this spot, and additionally, I came across a set of massive Moose tracks near here also, heading westward up the hill towards the travelable logging road. I can't even remember the last time I saw Moose tracks in our home territory but it was pretty amazing to see. Maybe next year I'll get lucky and come across one for a photo. After seeing that, I looked around all over the nearby beaver pond & marshy spot, but couldn't see any wildlife. I thought maybe I'd see some more ducks but nothing seemed to be there, so I headed back up the hill. This hill was where last year I'd seen presumably the same Black Bear that I photographed a couple days ago, so definitely its home territory, though it didn't show up again today. On the way back down the road, I passed two Painted Turtles in different spots that must have been searching for locations to lay their eggs. One was right on the logging road, and the other was walking across a stretch of granite adjacent to the road (near the junction with the trail that leads along the beaver ponds that flow out to High Lake).

The turbulent storm rolling across Lake Superior from Illgen City.

I got some good closeup shots of both of them, though the latter turtle had a much more appealing background with it not being just gravel roadway. By this point I was pretty well exhausted, and the last couple mile were pretty rough. At the 1.5 mile marker from the house, I heard a crash in the wood left of me and turned just in time to see a brown flash and a white tail in the air, clearly a White-tailed Deer that got spooked by my walking on the noisy gravel. The last mile I passed the Red-eyed Vireo on it's nest again, and then didn't see much more, until just by the garden where a Pileated Woodpecker flew past me at high speed, and later spent some time climbing up a tree just outside the screen porch while I was relaxing in a chair out there. When I got back in, we started up another fish dinner, this time the bass, which proved to be just as delicious as any walleye I've ever had, and then I got to bed. 

A gigantic mass of recently hatched Tadpoles swimming in unison on a small spring pool next to the logging road.

After a gorgeous Friday, Saturday & Sunday proved to be much more dreary outdoors. Early on in the morning, I got another chance to photograph probably the same Ruffed Grouse that ran through the yard earlier in the week. This time it was perched on a rock right near the clotheslines. It again tried to hide from me, but then flushed and ruffed up it's neck feathers, providing me with some great shots, although with little natural light to help me out. Rain was expected basically all through the weekend, so instead of going out fishing or hiking & just getting soaking wet, Kim & I did an all afternoon drive up the Echo Trail. We drove up to Vermillion Falls near the town of Crane Lake just beyond the end of the Echo. The last time I went to the falls was when I was only about 11 or 12, during a spring break trip when all the ice had gone out off the lakes, so we had to find other activities, like hiking, to occupy our time. This time, the falls was pretty incredible.

Eastern Painted Turtle out looking for a place to lay it's eggs.

With all the rain the northland has gotten this spring, and definitely this week, the water was flowing through the narrow chute at probably record levels as no high-water mark was visible on any of the surrounding granite. The falls now has a handicap accessible trail going to a wooden overlook, which I didn't remember from the last time, though that was 18 or 19 years ago. Along the trail this time, I did hear a number of Chestnut-sided Warblers and managed to get some photographs of one male also. On our way back from the falls, we decided to take the Moose Loop Road around the Moose River area. On this trail, we got to see a number of Black Bear signs, and quite a number of Moose tracks as well. One set, was that of an adult female (cow), and a younger one (calf) side by side along the gravel roadway. We ended up driving the loop twice hoping to see one, but the signs were all we could find. Since we had caught such a haul of fish the day before, I got to enjoy yet another fried fish dinner on Saturday, finishing off the rest of the bass from Sletten.

One of the many, many Moccasin Flowers seen during the trip, probably due to the huge amounts of rain.

Sunday, we ran into the same problem as the day before...a very dreary day. Kim drove us down the logging road so I could point out the location of a massive swarm of tadpoles on a rainwater pond next to the gravel road. Of course, the tadpoles were nowhere to be found when we did finally reach the right spot, and with rain coming down it was tough to try and spot anything outdoors, much less under water. I did a quick walk in to the beaver pond where I'd previously seen a River Otter & heard what may or may not have been youngsters crying from a den (last summer). This time I couldn't locate anything, though it could have been due to the poor weather. We did see the Red-eyed Vireo up in the tree at about the 3/8 mile mark, and actually saw a pair of Cedar Waxwings nearby on the straightaway also. After driving the logging road, we drove up the Echo Trail to the Moose Loop again for one final attempt at finding a Moose.

A very ruffled up Ruffed Grouse that was seen right in the yard!

Like the day before, we circled the loop and saw some sign, but never did find one. On our way back we did come across a couple of deer along the Echo, and I did at least get some photographs of them. Also, on our way up we saw a pair of Canada Geese out on the Portage River just north of the road's bridge. I think it's interesting that they appear to be all over the area now, when growing up I never saw any in the summer around. We did also swing by the Little Indian Sioux bridge on the way up but no Moose sign there like we'd hoped. It may have ended very dreary, but I did take a lot of photographs, and did get to see some really neat stuff over the week, though seeing the Black Bear up close by myself was probably the one that will stick with me the most, it was a great week in the northwoods.

Chestnut-side Warbler seen at Vermillion Falls!