Spring Is For The Birds

A little collection of feathered visitors during spring bird migration on the North Shore of Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota.

After a long, cold, snowy winter, we have finally turned the corner along the North Shore of Lake Superior and in the woods of Superior National Forest in the Arrowhead region of Minnesota. The lakes have only recently opened up from their frozen, icy, winter covering. The rivers raged with historic, record breaking levels along the North Shore as the snow-pack and spring melt moved downstream. You can still find some snow in the shadows of the woods, but for the most part, signs point to spring. The cow moose are currently giving birth to this years calves and the bull moose are just starting to sprout their velvet covered antlers. Bears are awake and on the hunt for this years crop of nuts and berries and the deer seem to be moving into the woods, away from the shore. All good signs. All welcome signs. For me, one of the most reliable signs that spring may truly be here is the arrival of the variety of spring birds to the area. Weather it’s at the feeders in my yard, along the shores of Lake Superior, deep in the woods of Superior National Forest or just along Highway 61, there are always signs of the arrival of a new season if you are watching closely. You can almost predict who is going to show up and when.

Here’s a collection of feathered spring arrivals to the North Shore woods, along Lake Superior and in my yard the past few weeks. Keep your binoculars and bird books handy on your next spring visit. You never know what you’ll see flitting around in the trees this time of year.

Warblers are a nice arrival in late April and May in our area. The yellow-rumped is one of the earliest. It’s always nice to see those little flashes of yellow that give them away. Here are just a few that I have seen so far this spring. I’ll include a few of the strikingly beautiful, black-throated blue warbler that graced me with it’s presence in my own yard.
Prints available of these and many others at this link. Thanks for your support!
https://thomasjspenceimages.smugmug.com/2022/

Yellow-rumped warbler – Tofte, MN
Yellow-rumped warbler – Tofte, MN
Tennessee warbler – Schroeder, MN
Ruby Crowned Kinglet female – Tofte, MN – May 2022
Black-throated blue warbler – Tofte, MN – May 2022
Black-throated blue warbler – Tofte, MN – May 2022

You can’t imagine the thrill…
I was on my deck photographing a red-headed woodpecker that has been hanging around. I had ok light and it was eating worms in my yard, so I was standing still on my deck waiting with my camera in hand and ready. From the corner of my eye, a small bird landed. In a flash, I went through the ID process in my mind. Chickadee? No. Nuthatch? No. Warbler?!?! Yes. It stood on my deck for a second, flew to a branch for a second, landed on my railing for a second and landed on a planter for a second. It was a great yard bird to have visit and I’m glad I was ready! You can click on these to open the gallery.

Tennessee warbler (I believe!) Tofte, MN
Having a tough time confirming ID on this warbler. Comment if you know! Cape May? Pine? Bay Breasted?
Tofte, MN

Here are a few more interesting and notable visitors to the area including a new one for me here, a yellow-headed blackbird.

Yellow-headed blackbird – Taconite Harbor near Schroeder, MN – May 2022
Yellow-headed blackbird – Taconite Harbor near Schroeder, MN – May 2022
Gray catbird – Tofte, MN
Hairy woodpecker with avian keratin disorder AKD which can cause beak deformities. This one has been enjoying neighborhood suet for weeks.
Harris’s sparrow – Taconite Harbor near Schroeder, MN – May 2022

Another surprise, entertaining visitor this spring has been a red-headed woodpecker. I can’t recall having one in my yard, and this one seems to have all it needs here. I mostly observe it eating worms off the lawn. It eats, then rests for 20 minutes, then eats another worm. Not a bad day, really. It’s been a welcome addition to the array of feathered friends in the yard.
https://thomasjspenceimages.smugmug.com/2022/

Red-headed woodpecker – Tofte, MN – May 2022
peek-a-boo
A favorite roost for this red-headed woodpecker – Tofte, MN – May 2022
Blue jay and Red-head. They usually get along fine.
Usually…
Taking a break in another favorite tree. Eating worms, taking breaks.
Red-headed woodpecker – Tofte, MN
Indigo Bunting male – Tofte, MN – May 2022
A pair of male indigo buntings – Tofte, MN – May 2022
Indigo Bunting male – Tofte, MN – May 2022
Ruby-throated hummingbird – Tofte, MN – May 2022
We can be certain that most years, the hummers show up on Mothers Day here on The Shore.
Brewers blackbird – Tofte, MN

Lastly, I had a fantastic close encounter with a scarlet tanager deep in the woods of Superior National Forest. I usually see one of these birds at home near a feeder during migration, but I hadn’t had one yet. On a drive looking for moose and other critters, I spotted an orange/red dot along a gravel road. Upon inspection I was shocked to see a scarlet tanager just hopping and flittering along the road. I thought it was injured, but it was hunting some kind of bugs and having great success! It may have been off course, but is was getting all it needed, it appears.

The glowing scarlet tanager – Superior National Forest – MN
Hunting for insects in Superior National Forest – Minnesota – Scarlet Tanager – May 2022
Hunting for insects in Superior National Forest – Minnesota – Scarlet Tanager – May 2022
Hunting for insects in Superior National Forest – Minnesota – Scarlet Tanager – May 2022
Hunting for insects in Superior National Forest – Minnesota – Scarlet Tanager – May 2022

Thank you for reading along and taking a look at some spring birding photos. Please take a look at my online catalogs and consider a print purchase if you see anything you like. Stay tuned and subscribe to this newsletter. I’ll do a recap of photos from my early spring trip to Utah and the southwest in my next post. Happy Spring everyone!
Tom
https://thomasjspenceimages.smugmug.com/

A Collection From Winter 2022 – Lake Superior and Superior National Forest

A collection of winter photos from Superior National Forest and Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota – 2022

It’s the last official day of winter. Spring begins tomorrow, and a lot of us are probably ready for it! Here’s a collection of photos from the past few winter months. There are some dog sledding photos, a lot of grouse, some lynx, a moose and some other random, scenic winter wonders. I hope you enjoy.

This winter, we got some ice. It never really stayed long enough up here in our neck of the lake, but we did have some great ice piles and ice sheets breaking up and moving.

Ice Break Up at Sunrise on Lake Superior – Schroeder, MN 2022
Piles of ice along the shoreline of Lake Superior – Tofte, MN 2022
Morning light on the rocks – Schroeder, MN 2022
Icescape – Tofte, MN 2022
Sunrise Sunburst – Schroeder, MN 2022
Icy Overhangs on Lake Superior – 2022
Sunrise Glass – 2022
A pastel sunset on the shores of Lake Superior – Temperance River State Park, MN 2022
Lakescape in Ice – 2022

Grouse are probably the most abundant wildlife species I find in the winter months. The moose tend to move a lot less, and therefore, I rarely spot one. The grouse seem to be plentiful, especially the spruce grouse. Here’s a fun collection from this winter.

A spruce grouse gives me a quick, beautiful warning with his stunning tail display. The spruce grouse will do this display for females, or for territorial reasons as well.
Superior National Forest, MN 2022
Here is a little video clip of the strut that leads up to the tail flash. It’s in slow motion, so you can imagine how quick the full flash actually is. If you study the strut, and have seen it enough times, it can be easier to time for a photo! Enjoy the slow-mo video.
And a flash for good measure! from up in the tree – Superior National Forest, MN 2022
Morning sun for the spruce grouse in Superior National Forest, MN 2022
Roosting on a below zero Morning
Superior National Forest, MN 2022
This was possibly the largest group of spruce grouse I have ever seen. 15 in the photo, 2 more out of frame on the ground, and more in the trees. At least 20 out pecking gravel in the road on a below zero morning in Superior National Forest 2022
The grouse needs small gravel in their gizzard to help grind up undigested foods. You’ll often encounter ruffed and spruce grouse in the mornings, pecking gravel for their digestive systems.
Female spruce grouse
Superior National Forest, MN 2022
A group of grouse pecking gravel.
Superior National Forest, MN 2022
Winter grouse Tracks
2022
Fresh tracks from a Canada Lynx deep in the forest of northeastern Minnesota 2022
hunting the roads together on a cold winter morning.
Canada Lynx
Superior National Forest, MN 2022
Canada Lynx
Minnesota 2022
Tracks from the Canada Lynx.
Moose sightings are a bit more rare for me in the winter months. I saw a lot of tracks this winter, but probably only a handful of brief sightings, including this one.
Minnesota Moose 2022

The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is always a winter highlight along the North Shore. The race takes dog teams from Duluth, MN through the forests along the Lake Superior Shoreline inland, almost to the Canadian Border and to the finish in Grand Portage, MN. Here is a small collection from the race at the end of January.

The backroads are always a treat in the winter months. We really had a LOT of snow piled up by the end of February. It was a TRUE Minnesota winter.

Winter beauty on the backroads – Minnesota 2022
Sun breaks through on a morning drive in Superior National Forest
Winter trees – Minnesota 2022
A 22 degree halo around the winter morning sun 2022
A boreal chickadee in Superior National Forest, MN 2022

Happy Spring, everyone! As much as i like the beauty and variety our winters bring, this has been a long one and I’m ready for the greens of spring and summer. Thank you for taking a look at this winter collection.
Tom


Fall Photos – A Fogbow! – A Big Moose – A Broken Antler – And A 2022 Wildlife Calendar

A Bull Moose and Some Fall Color in the Background – Superior National Forest – Minnesota

I hope everyone is having a fantastic fall season. We have finally been hit with rain off and on for a few weeks. It’s been a much needed reprieve from the dry summer. Fire bans are off, the BWCA and surrounding areas are open, and foggy and rainy has been the norm for a bit lately. The rains seemed to save the fall color season to some extent. September was gorgeous and the yellows of October are here, including the glowing tamarack trees deeper in the forest. It’s also been a moosey fall season! Ill share a few encounters as well as some fall photos in this post. I’ll also share a couple video links and a link to buy my 2022 Wildlife Calendar. I always appreciate the support!

A Black Bear Crossing a Forest Road on a Fall Color Tour

Quiet October Morning at the Sawbill Lake Entry Point to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

So, here’s a fun phenomenon I encountered this fall. Have you ever seen a FOGBOW on Lake Superior?? It’s formed much like a rainbow, but in the fog, usually quite low to the water and when the fog is burning off or fading in the mid day sun(here on the North Shore, anyway). The tiny droplets that make up fog are the cause of the lack of color in the fogbow. You can faintly see color at the top and bottom of the bow, sometimes. Here’s a YouTube video minute of one.


A Minnesota Bull Moose Peering Through the Trees
An Autumn Cruise on the Hjordis in the Grand Marais Harbor – Lake Superior – Minnesota

I have had some fun moose encounters over the past couple months. In one instance, I came across a scene in a road where there was an obvious bull moose fight. In addition to the dirt road being torn up with hoof prints, digging and sliding, there was also a brand new, busted off antler! It must have been one hell of a fight and I JUST missed it. I also have bumped into one MASSIVE bull moose this fall. I will include photos and video below. Thanks for taking a look, and thank you for your calendar orders! Links are above.

A Freshly Broken Moose Antler and Signs of a Struggle in the Road – Moose Rut
A few scenes with a massive Minnesota moose
Bull Moose with a shrub stuck in his antlers from rubbing the ground and raking the brush
Another view of “Octo” the bull
Another Side View
Mr October
Morning Smoke on the Water – Sea Smoke –
A Moose in the Foggy Mist
A long view down a long stretch
Carlton Peak – Tofte, MN
Happy Fall!
Cross Fox reminds you to order your 2022 calendar!

Two 2020 Calendars and a Lot of Fall Photos

I’ve got a ton of fall photos to share. It seemed like a long, vivid and memorable fall color season. Early September was showing nice reds and oranges in areas already, giving way to 3 weeks of bright yellow, orange and red autumn change along the Sawtooth Mountains and surrounding woods. October started just as colorful with the yellows along the shore filling in and the blazing yellow tamarack following back in the forest. The October 12-13 snowfall added to the mix and really capped of a great color season. Now, with the leaves all gone and the tamarack starting to fade, we move into the next phase of fall. Another season of change and beauty all it’s own. Below I will share a lot of fall photos I haven’t really posted anywhere. Thanks for taking a look.

I also have 2020 Calendars available for purchase now. I made two different calendars, all with different images. The Up North – Superior Country Calendar is all landscapes of Lake Superior, the surrounding woods and the BWCA. The Superior Wildlife Calendar is all wildlife from the woods of the Arrowhead region. You can take a look at a preview and order at the links or this link below. I appreciate your support. They would make great gifts. Print within 5 days of order and shipping info will be shown when you order. Plenty of time for holiday deliveries. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/ThomasSpence

And now some more fall color photos from the past month or so…

Gold Against Carlton Peak
Fall in the Fog
Blazing early color
Sawbill
Male and female spruce grouse in fall foliage
Lusen views from the Honeymoon Trail area
Big Fall Bull
Foggy fall mornings in Superior National Forest
Milky Way at Sawbill Lake – Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Fall – Minnesota
Welcome to Superior National Forest
Tofte Park Bridge
Fall Walk Around
the layers of autumn color
Seagull River on the Gunflint Trail in full fall color
Carlton Peak
Carlton Peak one week later
October snowfall
Temperance River Valley Fog
Snow Grove
Same Grove Different Day
That snow though…
Tamarack Flocked Forest
Fall Blanketed in White
Reflections and Morning fog
Spruce Grouse in snow and foliage
Big bull in the snow
The Temperance River Valley and a flocking of snowfall on the autumn woods.



Summer So Far in Pictures…

It’s been a fun summer for wildlife and landscapes in Minnesota’s Arrowhead region. I have spent a lot of time working on the Gunflint Trail and the rest of my time exploring and photographing the rest of Cook County, mostly on the backroads and at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Here is a selection of photos that may or may not have been shared on my social media pages. We still have plenty summer left, so I’ll update and do another post a little closer to fall. Thanks for stopping to take a look. As always, you can browse more photos for viewing and for purchase at my Gallery Site by using this link. Photo Gallery

Morning fog on a canoe country lake as a camper enjoys coffee by the shore.

I have had numerous moose sightings this summer. I think I have already seen more moose this summer than I did all of last summer. This young bull ate in a swampy river area for 30 minutes one cool morning at sunrise as fog moved across the water.

Turtles have been abundant. Early summer, our painted and snapping turtles can be seen along roadsides near lakes, swamps and rivers as they lay their eggs. It is a time to use caution, but it is a great opportunity to see turtles somewhat close. Of course, do not disturb them as they are digging and laying eggs. Give them and all wildlife a respectable amount of space. Pictured here are a couple Snapping turtle shells and an odd, deformed painted turtle. The painted turtle has a condition known as kyphosis. Kyphosis is a condition that causes an abnormal, convex curvature of the spine. It happens in humans as well as turtles. I had never witnessed this condition in our painted turtles.

Working this summer in the mid Gunflint Trail area has provided a few fun wildlife sightings. The early morning commute was good for a handful of great, yet brief moose sightings. This red fox greeted us many mornings at our jobsite on a BWCA entry point lake. Some mornings, it would be sitting in the grass nearby when we arrived.

Red Fox near a BWCA entry point lake.
Our red fox friend was often willing to pose for a photo before it moved on.
Cabin Reflections off the Gunflint Trail

I have had numerous wolf sightings and encounters this summer as well. They are always pretty shy, but this one cooperated for photos

Gray wolf – Superior National Forest
Gray wolf in the tall grass
This gray wolf wasn’t too impressed with me taking it’s photo. 🙂

More moose! This healthy looking cow moose gave me a few minutes of photo opportunities. She looked pretty flighty at first, but she calmed down and allowed me to take a few photos and some video as she chewed on the grass and brush one morning near the edge of the BWCA wilderness.

Cow moose and a sideways glance
Canoe country sunset at Sawbill Lake – Boundary Waters

And a few more summer photos from the past few weeks in the forest. Still plenty of summer left, so I will be back with more in a few weeks. In the meantime, keep following on Facebook and Instagram for more weekly photos from Minnesota’s wildest, most beautiful area. The woods and lakes and shores of Superior National Forest.

Bald eagle eyeing up lunch in Superior National Forest
Morning light and morning fog in canoe country
Lupine, morning fog and morning light on an inland swamp