The Morel of the Story

Northwoods Journal

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The wind did blow the heavy clouds away overnight but unfortunately it did not stop blowing and we woke to a cold and blustery morning.  The birds were all waiting for breakfast when we arose.  You know I’m dedicated to my birds when I fill all the feeders before I even have my coffee!

One of the first visitors of the day was a red-bellied woodpecker.  I took this photo while standing in the doorway, trying to keep the dogs from escaping while I took a couple of shots. 🙂

Red-bellied woodpecker.

Red-bellied woodpecker.

Mark didn’t dawdle around this morning but got dressed right away to go out searching for morels.  It was much too cold and windy for sitting out on the porch so I settled myself at the kitchen table with my coffee, working my jigsaw and enjoying the birds from behind the glass.  There were three male orioles this morning along with lots of rose-breasted grosbeaks and all the “regulars”.  As I sat there I realized I was shivering so got up to check the temperature.  Only 60 degrees!  So, I turned on the two radiant heaters to chase away the chill.

I heated water for my shower and was just getting dressed when Mark returned around 10:30.  He found a dozen mushrooms.  He said the woods were crawling with people everywhere he went and that it was bumper-to-bumper cars parked along Stevens Spring Road.  Morels are a big deal up here this time of year.  He said he saw just about every warbler possible including palm warblers, black and white warblers and yellow-rumped.

Yesterday we had bought a loaf of fresh baked Italian bread to go with last night’s soup, so this morning Mark sliced some of it thick and made us French toast and bacon for brunch.  Seems a bit funny, French toast from Italian bread.  Topped with bananas and real maple syrup – delish!

I asked Mark if he wanted to go to Lewiston to the Morel Festival but he wanted to get started on his projects of kitchen sink and faucets and said we wouldn’t have time.  Since he had things to do, I agreed to take the dogs for a hike on my own.  I decided to strap on my firearm.  I am licensed to carry a concealed weapon but have gotten out of the habit of doing so.  This causes Mark a lot of duress when he finds out I have done dangerous activities such as going to the mall or hiking by myself without my 9mm.  I’ve always wondered just how, if I did need to protect myself, I would pull my gun and hold onto three beagles at the same time.  Thankfully that is a mystery I have yet had to solve.

The dogs and I headed up Stevens Spring to the two-track to Sportsmens and walked to the lake.  Of course, with the three dogs I didn’t even bother to bring my camera.  When we got to the lake what should greet us but A DOZEN tundra swans!!  I couldn’t believe it!  There was also a lone duck of some sort but it was too windy with waves on the lake for me to tell what it was.  Since there were so many swans I didn’t take the dogs down to the shore, which really annoyed them.  They were not the least bit happy about turning around and heading home.

I think Milo’s days of two-a-day hikes are over.  Actually, I think his days of one-a-day hikes may be over and we may have to start leaving him home with Nathan when we come up.  I had to pretty much drag him all the way back to our place, which is not the most pleasant way to end a hike.  While walking I heard a loud crack-crack and then the crash as a large tree fell in the woods off to my left.  I guess this addresses the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one to hear it, does it still make a sound?”  Hmmmm, I guess since I was there and I heard it, perhaps it doesn’t answer the question after all.

Dropping the dogs off with Mark, I grabbed my camera and the keys and drove back to the lake, parking at the fork in the trail.  Quietly I walked toward the lakeshore, prepared to take pictures.  The swans had separated into groups of two or four but as they sensed my presence they began honking and swimming toward one another.

Tundra swans.

Two tundra swans.

Only two of the twelve stayed separated, at the far north end of the lake.  The duck was nowhere to be seen.  I took lots and lots of photos and then shot a one-and-a-half minute video because they just kept honking and honking and honking as they gathered together.  Unfortunately the wind was so strong that when I loaded the video on my laptop almost all I could hear was the 90 MPH wind.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration, it wasn’t quite that strong, but it was probably gusting to a good 60 MPH.

Four tundra swans.

Four tundra swans.

Eight tundra swans.

Eight tundra swans.

Ten tundra swans.

Ten tundra swans.

Not the greatest picture but the best I could do trying to get them all in one frame.  The other two stayed in the northern corner of the lake, beyond my camera range.

Since I was on my own, I left the FJ parked where it was and walked to the dam, hoping to see some other interesting things or birds.  Sadly, there wasn’t anything to be seen.  A kingfisher did fly over the lake but too far away and too fast for a photo.  I tramped around a bit where the creek comes out under the dam.  Eventually this flows into Voyer Lake, for which our road is named.

I think this may be called Smith Creek.

I think this may be called Smith Creek.

By time I got back Mark was ready to head into town for a few plumbing supplies.  Atlanta has a grocery store called Freddie’s that also has a large hardware department in the back.  While we were there I decided to buy an orange and some grape jelly for the orioles.  It was funny because the produce gal said I must have orioles.  She said, “I can always tell when the orioles are back, my oranges all go.”  With the items Mark needed to complete his projects in hand, we headed back to our place.  A scarlet tanager flew across Voyer Lake Rd. right in front of our vehicle but didn’t stop to pose on the other side.

I couldn’t wait to put out the jelly and the orange for the orioles.  I tried putting them on the platform feeder but the orioles didn’t seem to want to perch so I drove a nail into one of the aspen trees and skewered the orange on that.  It was a big hit!  I got some pretty good photos of them enjoying the orange and the jelly.

Baltimore oriole enjoying the orange.

Baltimore oriole enjoying the orange.

Baltimore oriole sampling the jelly.

Baltimore oriole sampling the jelly.

I put the jelly on a Cool-whip lid and had to put a rock on it to keep it from blowing away in the strong wind!

Of course, I couldn’t resist more photos of the rose-breasted grosbeaks as well.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak.

I loved this one with the grosbeak and the oriole in the same tree!

I loved this one with the grosbeak and the oriole in the same tree!

I did feel a little bit guilty because I could tell Mark was getting pretty fed up with his projects and all I was doing was sitting around on the porch taking pictures.

Blue jay.

Blue jay.

And here is the best picture I took all day, possibly the entire weekend – and it’s of a purple finch!  I am very proud of this photo!!

Purple finch.

Purple finch.

With his projects complete – the new kitchen sink and faucet DO look so much nicer! – Mark took a little rest and then said he wanted to go back out looking for mushrooms.  He wanted me to come, too, assuring me that I would get to see plenty of warblers.  Needless to say, we left the dogs behind.  He drove over to the area around Meaford and Mills Road but there were people everywhere.  We found a spot that looked promising and he wandered around looking for ‘shrooms while I crawled around trying to take photos of tiny flowers or sat on boulders trying to be still to see warblers.

Bellwort.

Bellwort.

Teeny-tiny flower - I think spring beauty, or maybe wood sorrel?

Teeny-tiny flower – I think spring beauty, or maybe wood sorrel?

Mark never did find any mushrooms and I never saw any warblers so we moved on to another spot.  There we did see plenty of warblers but not a single one of them wanted their photograph taken!  We saw yellow-rumped warblers, black-and-white warblers, golden-winged warblers and several others that I could not identify.  Sadly, no mushrooms were to be found.

The wind, which had been blowing a gale all day long, finally died down around dinner time and even though it was cool we were able to eat out on the porch.  A pileated woodpecker landed in the trees just beyond the suet and a little while later returned and hung around for several minutes but unfortunately I only managed one terrible photo.  Very disappointing!

The species count in our yard is 16 for today: purple finch, red-bellied woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, Baltimore oriole, rose-breasted grosbeak, white-breasted nuthatch, goldfinch, grackle, chickadee, mourning dove, robin, red-winged blackbird, blue jay, pileated woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, and cowbird.

Mark was tuckered out and didn’t want to take the dogs out for another hike so I agreed to take the two girls while he and Milo stayed behind to wash dishes.  I myself, was too tired to drag Milo back again!  I took Daisy and Ruby up the road toward Hungry 5, to where the big power lines cross the road.  We went south at the power lines, up the first hill which is fairly small, then up the second hill which is a little higher and then to the third hill which is steeper and higher still.  By then I had had enough.  As I’ve mentioned before, hiking uphill always does me in.  So, at the top of the third hill we paused long enough for me to catch my breath and then turned around and headed back the way we had come.  There was nothing interesting to see but the beagles got plenty of good sniffs and that is mostly the point of taking them.  There were some very large tracks all along the side of the road and I tried to determine if they were coyote or someone’s dog.  None of the other neighbors are up this time, so I don’t know where a dog would have come from.

Since the wind had died down, Mark decided to have a campfire.  It was truly amazing how incredibly still it was after blowing a gale all day long.  The nearly-full moon shone bright in a crystal clear sky.  The spring peepers peeped loudly away and we also heard a barred owl, a hermit thrush and some whip-o-wills.  A fitting ending to a busy up-north day.

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10 Responses to The Morel of the Story

  1. avian101 says:

    I’m proud of you Amy, you’ve improved your photography tremendously! Good post too! 🙂 Have a great day!

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  2. tootlepedal says:

    Great pictures today.

    Like

  3. How lucky you were to see such colorful birds and flowers. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Carol! I’m so glad you stopped in to visit. I could sit and watch the birds all day, especially at this time of year when they are migrating. I get so much joy from the pastime.

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  4. Bob Zeller says:

    Amy, I absolutely love your stories. They bring back my own memories of growing up in Michigan. I always loved hunting those morels, too. Back then there were no big crowds, probably because morels weren’t that big a thing to most people — only to us that knew how to appreciate them. We always liked doing jigsaws, too. Unfortunately, I wasn’t interested in birds then. I wish I hád been. Live your pics, too. Keep these tales coming. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much, Bob! I’m glad I can bring back those good memories for you. I remember going mushroom hunting with my grandmother when I was a kid. The whole family always joked about grandma and her nose for those morels, she always knew right where to find them! Now the morels have become big business, people sell them for high dollars now.

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  5. Great photos of the birds! It’s hard to get close to any species of warbler sitting still, but you can do it with more practice. 😉 It’s great to see so many swans that aren’t mute swans. They’re OK, but they’re not as cool as our native swans are.

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    • Being still and quiet are two talents I haven’t quite developed yet, LOL. I was so excited to see twelve swans together – it was amazing to see that many! I wished I could have gotten a better video of them all gathering together and honking so much while doing so, and one or two lifted out of the water flapping their wings, it was really cool. My video skills obviously need some work, along with my photography. LOL

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