Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him c/o email@example.com.
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By the time we arrive at this date in July, anyone venturing outdoors in the Northland has had many encounters with insects. Shrugging off the very cold winter, most seemed...
After the snow and ice of the late spring surrendered to the mild and warmer days of June, we began to wonder what was next. Though these milder temperatures will not be freezing, other things accompany the warmth. June is a time of two groups of insects we’ve learned to live with: mosquitoes and black flies. Both can appear numerous, and we might wonder where they all come from and whether it’s worse than normal this year. Once the black flies back off in July, their place is taken by deer flies or stable flies.
By late June, the blooming of wild flowers has shifted from the woods to the edges and then to the open country of the fields and roadsides. Anyone traveling on Northland roads will note their blossoms at many sites. Here the yellows of buttercups, trefoils and yellow sweet clover are joined by the abundance of yellow hawkweeds. The hawkweed often grows with its cousin, the orange hawkweed, also called Indian paintbrush.
As we moved through the long and near record-breaking winter, we may have wondered if summer would ever come. But here we are at the summer solstice, the first day of summer, June 21. It is also the time of greatest sunlight: a sunrise shortly after 5 a.m. and nearly 16 hours later, a sunset a few minutes after 9 p.m. June is also our wettest month. The recent rains we’ve been getting attest to that statistic. And temperatures are often warm, maybe even hot. Light, warmth and moisture all make for great growing conditions.
As we reach the middle of June, we are filled with the growth happening this month. We see it in the lawns that call for attention each week. Garden produce is reaching out to be picked soon. And the latest flowers bloom from the woods’ edges, swamps and fields. But I find that this time in June is a terrific time to watch the changes in our trees. After standing bare for so many months, they quickly took on the new foliage during late May. Rapidly, the aspens, willows, birches and maples formed new leaves while those of oaks, basswoods and ashes were a bit slower.
The late spring was quick to move on and warm to summer-like temperatures as we reached the end of May. Unlike the previous six months, May recorded an average temperature above normal, because of the days in the 80s during the last week. And ample rains, as we exited the month, added to the scene. Walking among the leafed-out trees and thick growth on the forest floor, I find it hard to believe that about a month ago, we still had ice on nearby lakes, snow patches on the ground and woods of bare trees. The spring has exploded.
Frequently during a year of a late spring, the weather rapidly warms and we advance into the season at a pace that tries to make up for the slower speed earlier. Such is what happened this year after May 20. Prior to the warm-up that began on that date, the month of May had been acting like the previous six months by giving us below-normal temperatures.
During a “normal” spring (of the last five springs, I consider only 2011 to fall into this category; the others were either early or late), the second half of May is when this greening month really lives up to this name. But even with the late occurrences this year, greening is still happening now. The woods turn green from the bottom up. In the warming air, small plants on the forest floor put forth new leaves, often with fresh blossoms.
For the second straight spring, we are having a very late season in the Northland. It is hard to remember a “normal” spring since four of the last five have been either very early or very late. While 2010 and 2012 saw ice out in many of the regional lakes in March, this lake happening was not experienced until May in 2013 and 2014. Only 2011 may qualify as normal, with ice out in April. Along with the abundance of late ice and snow with cool weather conditions, we experienced a later-than-normal bird migration in April.
Spring is late again this year, but it is still happening, as I learned on a recent early morning walk. I’m out on the road more than a half hour before sunrise. And in this pre-dawn darkness, sounds prevail. A barred owl calls in the woods while a few hundred feet away, a ruffed grouse drums from its territorial log. Overhead I hear the winnowing of a snipe and from a field that I walk by, a woodcock is making strange “pneet” noises.