2019 Wildlife and Landscape Calendars Available Now


Hey friends, I have been asked a lot over the past few years if I make a calendar of my images. This is the first year I have tried my hand at it and they are available now. I have compiled 12 photos, recent and older, that I think capture the essence of the North Shore of Lake Superior, the BWCA and Superior National Forest. Here are just a few of the images in next year’s calendar. You can also click the link or any photo to take you to the ordering page which also will allow you to preview the entire calendar. Just click on “My Calendar” on the order page to get to the screen that allows full preview.
http://www.lulu.com/shop/my-calendar/calendar/product-23866689.html


I don’t like to “spam” you all too often for print purchasing or product selling, but since these are time sensitive and once a year, I have been advertising a bit more than usual. I hope that’s OK 😉
These are some of my favorite images from the past year and previous years and I am happy with the selections. I think you all will enjoy them as well. The calendars are full color, gloss, wire spiral bound and 11 x 8.5 inches. They should make great gifts or nice additions to your home or office.

They can remind you of past trips to the North Shore, help you plan your next trip, or just plain make you long for the seasons and sights we hold dear here on The Lake and in the woods of the Arrowhead region.
I just wish there were a few more months so I could add more photos for you! Oh well, there’s always next year! You can even cut the calendars up and frame the monthly photos for your home after each month expires.

Thank you all for the orders so far, and thanks in advance for anyone else who orders. This support helps me keep going and helps ensure I’ll be able to keep providing you with weekly photos from the North Shore woods and waters.
Here is the ordering information and a schedule for holiday delivery information.
http://www.lulu.com/shop/my-calendar/calendar/product-23866689.html

Calendars are $22.00 plus shipping charges.
Calendars ship within 3 to 5 days of order.
Order by – For Holiday delivery…

Mail 12/7/18 4:59 AM UTC
Priority Mail 12/11/18 4:59 AM UTC
Ground 12/11/18 4:59 AM UTC
Expedited 12/13/18 4:59 AM UTC
Express 12/14/18 4:59 AM UTC

Where EXACTLY Can You Find a Moose in Cook County? – Map Included

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The most frequently asked question I get as a photographer is “Where do you find all the moose?” I probably get asked this question at least once a week online and in person. If you have been following me for a while, you know I am pretty guarded and vague about where I find moose in Cook County. It’s not that I don’t want you to find a moose. I do! I just don’t believe it is good for the moose to announce their exact location on the internet to potentially thousands of people. The moose are already in trouble here in Minnesota and the extra pressure and anxiety it could cause them is probably not worth it. The moose population here in Minnesota has been in decline since the mid to late 2000s. In 2006 there was an estimated 8840 moose counted during the winter count. In 2018, 3000 moose.

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A collared cow moose and a young bull moose in Superior National Forest

Parasites like winter ticks and brainworm are two major factors in the decline of the population. Researchers have also seen a lot of wolf killed moose, though many of those moose already had underlying health issues which likely weakened the moose making them an easier target. They say the decline has plateaued, which would be good news, but only time will tell if these magnificent mammals will survive in the woods of Minnesota.

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A collared “research moose” in Grand Portage, MN
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Ghost Moose – A spring cow moose showing signs of winter tick infestation. The ticks cling to the moose in fall and as winter progresses, the moose tries to rub the thousands(at times) of ticks off their body. This causes hair loss and can severely stress the moose in the cold winter months.
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A pair of young spring moose twins showing signs of winter tick damage.

For many years I took for granted that the moose will always roam the woods of Cook County and Superior National Forest. Since news of their decline, I have tried to photograph and observe moose every chance I get. Over the years I have had countless sightings. Some last only seconds, but sometimes I am fortunate to watch the moose for as long as two hours before they move on.

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More often than not, a fleeting glimpse is all you get as the moose run from the road and disappear into the forest…

Now, to share with you the information you kept reading for. Where exactly do I see moose in Cook County?
The Bay in Tofte
I’ll start with a sighting from way back in the mid 90’s. I used to tend bar at The Bridge, the old upstairs bar at Bluefin Bay in Tofte. One football Sunday, as a packed bar watched the Vikings game on the TV, a customer shouted “There’s a moose out in the bay!!” We all looked in amazement as a bull moose swam across the bay in front of Bluefin. The whole bar emptied as everyone went out by the lake to get a view of the swimming moose. It tried to exit the lake from the bay, but all the onlookers must have scared it off and it continued swimming up the shore. We heard later that the DNR saw the moose exit the lake up shore a ways. That is the only time I have seen a moose in Lake Superior other than at Isle Royale. A pretty unforgettable encounter.

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Moose are incredible swimmers

The Highest Moose in Cook County
Encounter two was one of the most memorable. My friend Troy and I decided to take a fall grouse hike up to Eagle Mountain, Minnesota’s highest point, back in the late 90’s. The hike is in the BWCA and passes through some very moosey country on the way to the top. We saw a few grouse on the way, but no moose to speak of on our hike through the woods. Once we got up the final steep climb to the top, we decided to walk over to the plaque which designates the highest point in Minnesota. As we rounded a corner, standing RIGHT THERE in front of the plaque was a beautiful bull moose. We were both frozen in our steps as the moose glanced at us then ran off into the woods. This was long before I had a camera on me at all times, and long before the handy dandy camera-phone, so I have no photos of what was likely a once in a lifetime sighting of the highest moose in Minnesota.

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Have your camera READY. You never know when a moose will appear in the woods of Cook County.

Moose Birth Island – BWCA
Another very memorable moose sighting took place on a spring trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area with my friends Jeff and Korey. We had been on a long canoe route through many lakes and portages and were camped on Makwa Lake, deep in the BWCA. As we paddled around fishing, we trolled around a small island on the lake. We rounded the island and saw a cow moose standing alone on the tiny island. She looked agitated and her hair was standing up straight. A few seconds later, a brand new baby moose shakily got up from the ground and stood on its feet. This calf was just born and we were likely witnessing its first steps if not its first time standing. We were lucky to have a camera with and we got a few photos before backing off and leaving them alone. The cow moose will often times swim out to an island to give birth to lessen the chances of predators like bear and wolves getting to their newborn calves. I have since seen two other baby moose take what were likely their first steps. Always give a cow with calf plenty of space. The cow and calf combo can be one of the most dangerous wildlife situations you’ll encounter in our forest. Respect their size and never underestimate their speed and instinct to protect their young.

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Cow and Calf – BWCA. This was probably the first time this little moose was on its feet.
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Always give a cow and calf plenty of space. They can be unpredictable and fast as they will instinctively protect their young.

Fore!! – Or one at least
Another 90’s encounter happened on Superior National Golf Course and was another time that I had no camera. The golf course in Lutsen has historically had numerous moose sightings. The proximity of the golf course to Superior National Forest lends itself to many wildlife sightings, though maybe not as many as in the past with all the new development. That being said, I heard of at least one moose sighting at Superior National as recent as this past spring. A real hole in one if you are there at the right time!

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A majestic bull moose portrait.

County Line Moose
Seeing moose on Highway 61 used to be pretty commonplace. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have seen the massive beasts on the highway. Those instances are getting more and more rare as their population declines in Minnesota. That being said, I still see about one per year on highway 61. In the early 2000s, I encountered one standing directly on the County line down near Caribou River. Had I been carrying a camera at the time, I could have gotten a photo of the moose and the Cook County sign. Another reason to always have a camera ready to go!!

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Cook County Road Moose – Is your camera ready?

City Moose in Grand Marais
In 2009 I was on a curling team in Grand Marais. It’s a fun way to keep active and somewhat warm during our long winter months. Upon leaving the curling club one January night, I saw a large, dark shadow moving down one of the residential streets. My first though was that it was a large deer. It seemed to be huge so I drove down the street I saw it on. As I rounded a corner to try to find out where it went, a HUGE dark spot in someones front yard caught my attention. To my surprise and amazement, it was a moose! This was the first and only moose I have seen in the Grand Marais city limits, though I am told it was not that uncommon “back in the day”. These days, the Grand Marais water tower or Murray are likely the only moose you’ll see in town.

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A big bull and cow – love is in the air…

Downtown Tofte 
The last location, and a fun one for sure, was just this past spring. You can even pinpoint the EXACT location by the photos if you know the area 🙂 One morning this spring I was alerted by a friend that there were two moose in the Tofte Town Park. I grabbed my camera and headed to the park hoping to catch a glimpse. I hung around the park area for half hour before deciding I had missed them. I figured they had moved on across the highway and back into the woods. As I waited to turn onto Highway 61 from the Tofte Park Road, I saw them appear out of the small patch of woods between the park and the highway. There was a fair amount of traffic, and everyone stopped to watch the two moose as they cautiously crossed the busy highway. Pretty fun to see them in town, especially after spending hours deep in the forest hoping to see one. This was a fun encounter.

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One of the two “downtown” Tofte moose from this past spring.
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Moose Crossing!
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A real traffic stopper.

So, as promised, I have given you plenty of information to find a moose on your next Cook County/North Shore adventure. The map below will be your key. Take a pen and trace on the map from point to point to point until you have all the locations connected. It doesn’t matter which point you start or end with. Once the points are all connected, you will have an outline or a crisscross pattern of lines. If you have an oblong outline, you should be looking anywhere inside the outlined area. If you have a crisscrossed pattern of lines, you should be searching anywhere along those lines. I hope this was helpful in your search 🙂 I don’t often give out this valuable information. If I have any notable sightings, I may add them to the map. Let me know how your fall moose safari turns out and keep following my photo pages for the latest Minnesota moose sightings!
I hope you aren’t too disappointed as this was a pretty tongue in cheek post with pretty rare sighting locations. But keep in mind, a moose can happen just about anywhere in Cook County. Be ready!

 

Links to info and photos of Minnesota Moose

https://thomasjspenceimages.smugmug.com/
https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/moose-madness/
https://files.dnr.state.mn.us/wildlife/moose/moosesurvey.pdf

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Bull moose in fresh snowfall – Superior National Forest – Feb. 2018

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https://thomasjspenceimages.smugmug.com/

Ice Out, Green-up, Aurora and More – May 2018

May 2018 – in a few photos…
In May we saw a lot of changes and it seemed like we had all four seasons crammed into the month. Ice went off local lakes during the first week of May. It’s been great to back on the water in the canoe and boat. The open water brought loons, loons, loons! I am seeing a lot of loons including a nesting pair. Hoping to encounter babies soon. We also had some very warm weather for May. some mid 80s and a lot of 70 degree days. The Spring green-up has also been a welcome sight. The woods have come alive with buds, birds and flowers in the forest. We had some nice northern lights last month, too. Always a pleasure to be outside at night under our dark night skies in just a sweatshirt again. I saw a handful of moose in May, but not a lot of photo opportunities. June has already been better for moose 🙂 I am seeing a ton of tracks and occasional moose now. Cow moose had their babies at the end of May and are being seen in the woods of Superior National Forest. I hope to have some calf photos for next months post! So here are some photos from May, one of my favorite months on The North Shore.

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Temperance River after ice out
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The Temperance rushes into Lake Superior at Temperance River State Park
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Loon “running” on the water of an inland lake. You can still see some ice at the top of the photo. Early May
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Common Loon – Inland Lake
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The Lovely Loon
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Northern lights and “STEVE” on the left. A little info on the newly named phenomenon known as STEVE. https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/the-aurora-named-steve
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The aurora borealis and STEVE 
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Temperance Aurora
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The lights and the trees…
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Sawbill Trail Aurora 
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Sawbill Aurora
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Lots of birds last month…
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Male spruce grouse displays…
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Loon pair on an inland lake
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The male evening grosbeak
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Loon pair
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The indigo bunting visits my house for a few days each spring. Always a surprise and a treat to see in my trees…
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A Lake Superior Sunset
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The Lake and The River 
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Turtle on a log, reflecting…
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Back in the BWCA! A pair canoe the shoreline of Square Lake. The 2011 Pagami Creek Fire burnt all the way to this lake. Half the lake was burnt and half was untouched. It is quite a contrast but things are growing well and greening up nicely. 
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Fishing at sunset in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area
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The end of the day in the BWCA
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The pack and paddle…
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Baskatong Lake – BWCA

May is an incredible month with the changes we see in the North. I always hate to see it go. Now, we move into the busy and buggy season! The black flies and mosquitoes are now here, waiting if you dare. The fishing is heating up a bit and the wildlife sightings are more frequent now so look for more wildlife in next months post. I have a few little local trips planned so I hope to have some nice photos to share. As always, thanks for following. If you are interested in prints or more photos, please check these links. Summer officially begins in two weeks! See you soon.
https://thomasjspenceimages.smugmug.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ThomasjSpenceImages/
https://www.instagram.com/toftetom/

April – The Lake and its Moods, The Northern Lights and Wildlife

From Crazy to Calm – Lake Superior
April weather really covered all the bases this year. We had snow, cold, warm, rain, wind and gorgeous. The big April Gale on the 14th and 15th was a highlight for sure. The northeast winds brought massive waves crashing along the shore. some of the best places to watch a northeast gale are in the Split Rock and Tettegouche areas. The cliffs in the area can make for dramatic scenes from the waves crashing and rebounding off the cliff faces. Even a smaller gale can be impressive against these walls. This particular gale wasn’t accompanied by much precipitation which made for a fun day of photographing the waves. Often times, these gales come with heavy rain or snow which can hinder photographing them a bit.

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Crashing waves at Tettegouche State Park – 4/14/2018
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Massive splash on the cliffs along Lake Superior. Wave height was in the mid teens but splash heights were reaching 100 feet, 150 feet and more in places.
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The ice coated trees take a beating in this little lake side forest at Tettegouche State Park.

The calm clear views from Tettegouche State Park and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park one week after the gales…

Earth Day was a picture perfect day to be outside in our State Parks. I made it a point to hit three in my travels that day. The calm, clear day was a huge contrast to the chaos of the previous week. Keep a circular polarizing filter in your camera bag. They are great for days like these. They can help you see into the water even more by removing some glare. They will also help create more contrast between blue sky and white clouds. A valuable tool to use in many photography conditions.

 

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Lone tree on Shovel Point – Lake SUperior, MN
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Beachside at Tettegouche State Park
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Clear, Calm, Beautiful
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A view of Shovel Point
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Split Rock Lighthouse
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Kayaking on the calmest of lakes…
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Split Rock Reflections
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Kayakers passing by Split Rock Lighthouse.
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The view from Shovel Point looking towards Palisade Head
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Stack Reflections

April Northern Lights – An All Nighter 

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April Aurora And The Setting Moon – 4/20/2018


The night and morning hours on April 19th and 20th produced a rather remarkable northern lights display. What started out as a faint glow for almost two hours, erupted into shimmering sheets and dancing waves of aurora which lasted until morning light. I put in a 4 1/2 hour shift of sky watching and photographing the lights. The slideshow shows you the progression, in a way, from around 10:00 PM CST on April 19th until around 1:00AM on April 20th. When the lights are strong, I have a pretty good view of the dark, northern skies from home. I spent another hour or two watching from the deck and even out the windows.
While there is no way to truely predict a good aurora display, you can do a few things to help alert you. Space Weather dot com is a great resource which can alert you via email when solar activity may cause aurora. They have a great photo gallery and information on all things space and sky related. Another resource are regional aurora “hunter” groups. These groups are full of entusiasts who will report in real time when the aurora are visible in your area. Great Lakes Aurora Hunters is a good one for my area. As far as viewing in Cook County, one needs to know that viewing with the naked eye and photographing the aurora can be two entirely different experiences. I won’t go into detail in this post, but our cameras see in the dark much, much better than we do, to make it short. So for viewing, you’ll want to get over the hills and into the darkest areas, away from towns, resorts, cabin lights. The overlook just past the Britton Peak parking area on the Sawbill Trail, just a few miles off highway 61 is a fantastic place to watch from a car or lawn chair. It has the best, widest northern view you can drive to that I know of. If you aren’t in Tofte, go up one of the “trails”, Gunflint, Caribou, Arrowhead, Cramer Road, and find a north facing lake, boat landing or hillside. Our dark skies won’t disappoint during a northern lights storm. For photography, I like to find a river, lake, or other point of interest for foreground attention and a sense of place or location. The scene becomes more important to convey the feeling, maybe, moreso than seeing the entire sky and display. If you have never seen the northern lights, and are not interested in taking photos, you’ll want to just stay put once you find a big, wide northern view. Hope this helps you see the aurora someday on the North Shore!

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April Wildlife 

It was a good month in the woods for wildlife. From grouse to lynx to moose and loons!
Spruce grouse could be found most mornings pecking for roadside gravel. I have heard some drumming this spring, but not much. Moose sightings were few. I did manage to snap a few recent photos though. Two very healthy looking moose together at the end of the month.

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Female spruce grouse – April in Superior National Forest
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Male spruce grouse – Superior National Forest
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Whiskey Jack or Canada Jay – Superior National Forest

 

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Turkey vulture and the nearly full April moon.
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Though I had heard loons the previous week, this was the first one I actually saw close enough to get a photo. Always a fun spring “first”.
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A pair of moose on the run in Cook County.
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And gone, into the woods.
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One would emerge, briefly, and gone again!
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I had a late afternoon encounter with 3 lynx in earlier April. I saw each one alone, about a mile apart from each other. Something tells me this was 3 of the 4 kittens I had been seeing earlier in winter with the mother. Once the mother mates again, the kittens are set off on their own to figure out how to hunt and survive alone. The size and proximity to one another tells me this is the same family, now entering the next phase of their lives as solitary animals.
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A lone lynx prowls for an afternoon meal
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Grouse – Superior National Forest
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Male Spruce Grouse – Superior National Forest

 

Last year at this time we had already been on the lakes for almost two weeks. Now, we are still waiting for the thaw. The lakes still have a foot or more of ice on them in some areas. Recent warmer weather is helping to speed things along and I think we will see open lakes in the coming days. Fishing opener is near and I hope you’ll tune in again for all things May in my next post. Please subscribe so you’ll be notified when I post again.

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Current conditions on local lakes as of 5/2/2018 – Little ways to go for that Fishing opener! 😉

 

 

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March – Two Full Moons, Some Moose and Florida

March 2018 was a fun, quick month in my world. This post will cover the month I had in photos. From two full moons, to moose, grouse and a lot of Florida birds, I hope you enjoy these photos and notes on the month of March. We still have a lot of snow and ice in the Northwoods and it still feels like winter here, though we shifted to “spring” on the calendar!

March 1st, 2018 Full Moon
March 1st, 2018 Full Moon
March 31st Full Moon Rise
March 31st Full Moon Rise Reflection and Shadows

 

I had a few moose encounters early this month. We still had a lot of snow in the woods, and one moose had stepped into the “deep stuff” on the roadside and got itself into a bit of trouble. It was stuck to it’s shoulders in the snow. I can happily report the moose and it’s partner both safelyu made it into the woods that morning. Video below…

Another moosey month in the area. One of four I spotted earlier in March.
The two moose from the video after getting unstuck from the snowbank.
Moose in the deep stuff!

Spruce Grouse were plentiful in the early morning hours this month. I had numerous encounters with them as they pecked gravel on the roadsides in the morning sun.

Male Spruce Grouse
Male Spruce Grouse
Female Spruce grouse getting gravel in the morning sun.

We did have some aurora activity in the month of March! Here are a few photos from earlyh March along the Sawbill Trail near Tofte, MN.

Aurora and Snowshoes – March 2018
Aurora and iridium flare from a satellite.
Star trails and northern lights – Sawbill Trail March 2018

 

Aurora along the Sawbill Trail near Tofte, MN

Florida and Smoky Mountains
March has historically been a time to get away for me. Below are a collection of photos from a roadtrip to Florida including a stop at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cedar Key, Florida, on the Gulf Coast was my destination, but other stops included Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, Manatee Springs State Park, Shell Mound Archaeological Site, Smoky Mountains, Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge to name a few.

Heron in Cedar Key, FL
Gator at Manatee Springs State Park near Chiefland, FL
Roseate Spoonbill – Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge
Great Horned Owl – Cedar Key, FL
Barred Owl – Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
Great egret – Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
Cedar Key, FL
Spoonbills in the rain
Cardinal – Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge
Owl Nap – Cedar Key, FL
The cemetery at Cedar Key
Preening Spoonbills
Cedar Key by Night – Old Fenimore Mill Condos
Great Smokey Mountain Sunset
Smoky Mountain Views

 

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

It was great to get away from winter for a while, but it is always nice to be back on The Shore, near The Lake. April should bring us some warmer weather and the hopes of open waters on the inland lakes for paddling and exploring. Melt and break-up are on their way. Stay tuned for notes on April next month.
Tom

February – On The Shore And In The Woods

Here is a collection of photos and notes on February in the woods and along the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. As some of you know, things began a bit exciting for me this month with a rare encounter with 5 Canada lynx. In the weeks following, I was fortunate enough to spend well over 2 hours with these cats during multiple encounters. It’s my opinion/observation that the family has moved on to a different area. I haven’t seen signs in a while. The mother has likely moved on to mate and left the kittens to fend for themselves. After watching them hunt on a few occasions, I think they will do fine.  I’ll talk a little more about that in this post. There is also a fun video of the lynx family if you find the link at the end of this post.  I’ll try to keep you posted on the conditions and activity in our neck of the woods each month and A few winter or seasonal photography tips will be added as well. Please subscribe so you get a notification when I update! Otherwise you’ll miss out on most of my photos each month.  February was full of Ice, moose, lynx, wolves, pine marten, snowshoe hare, snow, cold and a few unforgettable experiences.

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Lake Superior from the hillside – February beauty on the North Shore.
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Tofte, MN sunrise after an 8 or 10 inch snowfall. We had some snow in February and it’s looking good. Even the smartphone can take a nice photo!
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Sugarloaf Cove and Lake Superior Ice. We had some great Ice pile-ups on Lake Superior this month. Lots of below zero nights and cold, calm days caused a lot of lake ice to form. When the wind picks up, the sheets move, and often come into shore where they break up and pile up. It’s a favorite winter phenomenon along Superior. I have video over on Facebook. Plate Ice Piling on Lake Superior

Winter can be tough on you and your camera gear. There are a few precautions you can take and some tips that can help you on your February, winter excursions. Most modern DSLR gear can take fairly extreme conditions and still function, but there are things you can do to prolong and enhance your experience. Here are three big ones which will help you get into, and out of the cold…
Acclimate Your Gear – From your house to your vehicle, vehicle to your location, back into your vehicle, and back into your house, your camera gear can experience a lot of extreme temperature differences. Quickly going from one to the other extreme can cause unwanted condensation in and on your camera. The key is to acclimate slowly which can take hours. . You’ll also very likely want to look at those images on your SD card right away! Your camera body and lens are cold after a day of February shooting. Very cold. Bringing it into your 70 degree house or cabin has to be done slowly. Before you put your camera away, remove your SD card while outside so you can review your photos sooner, if that suits you. Then, seal your camera either in a plastic, zip-lock style bag, or in your camera bag if it seals up decent enough. Leave it alone to acclimate for a few hours before opening your bag. I also keep some silica packets in the camera bag to help with any condensation issues. When you can, bag your gear and try to keep it from going through those extremes. It can be a challenge in winter, but it’s worth paying attention to.
Batteries, Batteries, Batteries – You really can’t have enough fully charged camera batteries in winter. The cold can drain batteries in a hurry and you have to be prepared. I usually have 3 or 4 on hand. Try to keep them in a pocket in an inner layer, closer to your body to keep them warm. This can also prolong your battery life. Nothing can end a photo session faster than dead batteries, and winter is notorious for causing quick drainage. You can use the cheaper, off brand batteries, but I have had the best luck with my camera’s brand name Canon batteries.
Gloves/Keeping Your Hands Warm – This can be a tricky one as everyone is different in the way they handle winter temperatures, especially when it comes to fingers and hands. My best advice, and what works for me, is layers. I have a two/three layer system, depending on the conditions. You’ll need something you can control your camera settings with, so a glove is essential for a base layer. I often use a cheap, knit work glove that is comfortable to me. My other glove is a Fjallraven Forest Glove which is warm and comfortable on most days. When it gets very, very cold, I use a lorge, gauntlet style mitt over the gloves. I use a 20+ year old pair of Granite Gear Lutsen Mountain Mitts. I don’t think they are made anymore, but they have truly stood the test of time, and use. A lorge, gauntlet or chopper style mitt which can fit over a glove will do.

Those are just a few of the many survival tips you’ll need in winter months to explore the snowy, icy, frigid, rocky, unforgiving landscape and conditions along the North Shore.

More photo fun from February…

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Great grey owl – I watched great grey owls on numerous occasions this month along the North Shore. Usually, you can catch them hunting near dusk along the edges of clearings. Early morning is another great time for owling on The Shore.
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Great grey owl hunting a field – I watched this owl at dusk make a few plunges into the snow. It was a cold, windy evening, and the owl was having great success hunting a clearing in Superior National Forest. February is a good month for North Shore owling.
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Beautiful February ice on the Temperance River – Winter photography on the rivers and on The Lake can be incredible. February was no exception.
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More February beauty along Lake Superior
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Ice on the river side…

Sunbursts can be fun with a dslr camera and I really like them in certain winter scenes. Here are a few tips on how to make the sun burst out in rays…
Sunbursts are fun and rather easy to do. You need to use a small aperture on a dslr. Anything around f/11 and up will work but the smaller the aperture the sharper the rays. I usually use f/18, f/20 or f/22. You want to partially block part of the sun with something, in this case, some of the branches of the tree. You can use a building, tree, person, the horizon, clouds etc. The number of rays coming off the sun is due to the number of diaphragm blades in my camera lens. The lens I am using has 9 blades and produces 2x as many rays, so there are 18 rays. I believe if the lens has an even number of blades, say 6, you get that many rays, 6. Odd number of blades it doubles. It can be a fun thing to experiment with in different situations.20180224-_MG_0056

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Tall pines and sunrise in the forest

And now for some more February, winter wildlife
February was full with many different sightings in all areas of our forest and shore. Owls, lynx, marten, moose, snowshoe hare, and even two very brief fisher sightings. I have yet to photograph a fisher. They are much larger and much more elusive than our pine marten. I saw a lot of marten and caught one hunting a snowshoe hare one morning. Fun photos below… The resident red fox made a few appearances as did the occasional roughed and spruce grouse. I’ll let the photo captions do the talking about the many reasons to enjoy February in the North Shore Woods.

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Yearling bull moose with antlers in late February – Minnesota
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Tracks, tracks, tracks… Use tracks to your advantage when winter hunting with your camera. You can tell how old tracks are by observing a few things about the tracks and knowing a few things about the current and previous days weather. If it’s windy, they’ll be washed out and drifted in. If it has snowed, less defined and slightly covered. If it’s been warm, they can be melted a bit on the edges, softened. You get to know how “close” you are by the tracks. You can also make note to return to an area based on the tracks you see and how old they appear. These were very, very fresh tracks. I knew that because I also saw the moose who left ’em!
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Doin’ a little dance. Those hooves…
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Yearling bull holding antlers in late February – My previous blog post talks more about a couple moose I ran into in February. Looking for moose in winter months can be a challenge, for various reasons, but the rewards are always special. This was the latest I can remember seeing a bull with antlers personally. This was February 23rd, likely a yearling bull. Those antlers will soon fall off, only to begin the regrowth process again. The bull moose can gain almost 3/4 of an inch per day in summer months when the antlers are growing strong. Here is a collection of Minnesota Moose photos Minnesota Moose Photos

 

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Red Fox On The Temperance – See my website for purchasing this February favorite.Ordering Info Red Fox
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Red Fox – The fox can be very curious, often to a fault. This red fox is a fixture in one area I frequent. While I don’t feed or entice the wildlife with food, it’s clear that this fox has been getting handouts. It often approaches me, sometimes very closely. It is always looking at my hands, especially if I reach for something or crinkle anything paper/bag like.
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I watched this pine marten attack a snowshoe hare one morning in the woods. The chase went on and off for about 15 minutes. Both seemed to take rest periods. I think the marten eventually had it’s breakfast judging by the noise I heard in the brush at one point. The marten is a vicious little creature for its size.
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Following in the hare tracks in fresh snow…
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Hare hopping along, likely tired from being chased. The marten was nearby…
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Not a good morning for the snowshoe hare.

And enter the Lynx…

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Lone Canada lynx eyeing the woods for a meal
A mother and two young lynx get back to hunting after an already successful morning hunt. Their diet consists mainly of snowshoe hare. I was fortunate enough to witness them hunt on more than one occasion earlier this winter. The family would hunt together as a team. One or two would wait in the open, usually on a road or in a clearing, while the others stalked and flushed snowshoe hare out of the thick brush.
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A lone lynx, or was it…
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A few parting looks from the group…
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Hare in the snow – The hare is the main food source for the lynx in our woods…
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One of the young kittens looks at me curiously through the brush.
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Back on the hunt, following tracks and using their acute hearing and sight…
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More about the lynx…The characteristic ear tufts which top the lynx ears are thought to further aid their already impressive hearing. Once the cats seemed to decide I was not a threat, they went about their business. They would sit and look, and listen, sometimes for minutes. When it appeared that they heard something, they would silently slink through the brush in search of the hare.
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A cat-nap in the road after a breakfast of snowshoe hare. The cats would break for about 20 minutes after eating, and before resuming the hunt. It takes a few hare to fuel this large group on a daily basis. Lynx Link
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Cat pile – young watching mom as she holds the newly killed snowshoe hare firmly, making certain it was dead. She would then tear it into a few pieces and which point the young took a hunk off into the brush to eat.

 

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In a flash, they burst into action at the sight or sound of something deeper in the brush. Soon, the whole group would be back to stalking, watching, listening for snowshoe hare.
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A re-take session with the lynx family earlier this winter. Getting them all to look at the camera is nearly impossible. I’ll take 4 out of 5! If you made it this far, here is a link to some lynx video footage I put together. See you next month! Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog to be notified about new posts. Thanks – Tom

February Moose in the Minnesota Woods

I hadn’t had a good moose sighting in quite some time. A couple quick, blurred flashes of black in the distance, but nothing identifiable or photographable. Late February was better though! Here are some photos of a nice, healthy looking yearling bull moose. He and I had a nice standoff and photoshoot before he took off into the newly fallen snow, deeper into the woods. The bull moose will shed their antlers anytime between November and March. Larger, older male moose have likely lost their antlers by early and mid winter, but the youngest moose can hold them into February and March. This was the latest I had personally seen a moose with headgear. February 23rd, 2018. At first, I thought the rack was bigger but it turned out to be it’s ear I was seeing! This is a yearling bull moose and I hope to run into him when he’s older.

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Bull moose in fresh snowfall – Superior National Forest – Feb. 2018

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Doin’ a little dance. Those hooves…
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Yearling bull holding antlers in late February – Minnesota
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Yearling bull moose with antlers in late February – Minnesota

 

Then there was the cow moose… When I saw her, she was standing still with hair raised. She did not stick around long and I was pretty far off in the distance. She ran within seconds of me stopping, running through the deep, new snow. First tracks. I thought she would reappear on the other side of the clearing, so I waited. She looked to be pregnant, and hopefully with twins! She would be about five of eight months along right now. Usually they give birth in May to one, two, and even three!!! calves at times.   About 15 minutes passed when I saw motion in the woods near where the cow went in. She had company, and who knows how long they were on here tail. Hope she is still out there fighting the good fight. Here are a few photos I got right at sunset. night was falling and the wolves didn’t look like they were in a big hurry. Mama was healthy looking.
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What appears to be a pregnant cow moose in Superior National Forest. She should be about 5 months along by now, usually giving birth in May. She had company about 15 minutes behind her.
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Following mother moose by 15 minutes…
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With hair standing up, mother moose had been on the run for a bit. A pack of 3 wolves were close behind.
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Hot pursuit – just 15 minutes after I saw the moose, the wolves moved in.
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Two of the three, sniffing the tracks of the pregnant cow moose as the sun set and night falls…
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And a pine marten just for fun!