Late fall has suddenly turned to winter in the Northland. It has certainly made for some fun photography. I have a lot of photos to share in this post. I had a couple of fun moose encounters before all the snow arrived. They cooperated well for photos! Areas of the North Shore and the forest have anywhere from 8 or 10 inches of snow to 24 inches plus! I’ve got some fun grouse photos included with all the snowy landscape pictures. Thank you to everyone who has ordered my 2023 North Shore Calendar! I really appreciate it. I’m very happy with how they look this year. If you’d like to take a look, follow this link. Calendar! I’ll be pretty short on words in this post, just wanted to share all the recent photos. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Before the snow blanketed the landscape, I was still seeing a few moose around. The first part of November is typically when I stop seeing moose with any regularity until spring thaw. Mating season has long passed and the moose just don’t seem to wander around as much in winter, so they get harder to spot. Most of their watering holes are frozen, so they probably stay put when they find what they need in winter. That’s OK, winter brings so many other opportunities for wildlife sightings and the added feature of winter tracks, which is a huge aid in finding and photographing any critter in the wild. Anyhow, here are a few photos of a beautiful cow moose with her young from last season.
I’ve got a couple of ruffed grouse living nearby, and they visit my big tree often. I was surprised to notice the cool heart pattern on the back of one one day. Take a look! Perfect little hearts. A friend told me they also look like little barn owl faces! Ain’t nature fun?
So many new opportunities for photography with the changing landscape. If you can find a way to tolerate the snow, ice, wind, freezing temps and bad roads, winter can be one of if not THE best season for photography. Looks like we could be in for a long one!
It’s been a spectacular fall this 2022 season. We had a brief, early start in September, with nice weather leading into a peak color season that lingered well into October. The shore was especially vibrant, it seemed, this fall. There seemed to be a proper “peak” that encompassed the whole forest for a week or more. Often times, the reds and higher country will have come and gone before the areas near Lake Superior have peaked, but things seemed to synch up for a spell. I’ll include a few photos I haven’t posted yet. I’ve also had a lot of moose encounters so far this fall. The mating season, or “rut, has come and gone for the most part and moose can often be found grouped up, just hanging around together for a few weeks after mating. I’ve captured a few moose photos this fall that I really like. A couple even made it into the 2023 calendar! We’ve also had a few signs of the coming winter, which could begin any day in the northland! Some areas of the North Shore woods have already seen some snow and definitely a few good frosts. It’s made for some nice photo opportunities, extending the fall color photo season even longer 🙂 Add in a few northern lights displays earlier this fall, and it’s been hard to beat. I’ve added a few photos from those displays in this post too. We even picked up a rare SAR arc in the night sky which I’ll include a picture or two of.
Here is a little preview of my 2023 calendar I have for sale. You’ll see northern lights over the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, massive Minnesota moose in Superior National Forest, a few of Lake Superior’s seasonal moods and a few other surprises and landscapes. I don’t like to spam you all too much or too often, but a few times a year I have an offering like the calendars that I’ll promote through the holidays 🙂 I always appreciate the print and calendar purchases. They allow me to continue bringing you some of the images you enjoy here and on social media. Thanks for taking a look at this link for this years Minnesota’s North Shore – Woods Waters and Wilds – A 2023 Calendar
Fall color season has come and gone although some of my Favorite, the golden tamarack are now the main feature in the North Shore woods. Here are a few photos from the past few weeks.
Fall is such a great time to photograph moose in and around the Superior National Forest and Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The moose become a little more active in September and October. The moose mating season begins in September and is done by early October, for the most part. It can be an exciting time to see moose. The bulls have shed their velvet coating from their antlers revealing a shiny, new rack on their heads, hoping to attract a mate. You can often encounter males with females and males together often trying to attract the same females. It keeps the moose active, and a little more distracted and less worried about us picture takers and gawkers 🙂 I saw a very large bull as well as a few others so far this fall.
The northern lights have been adding a little fall color of their own. September provided a couple of wonderful evenings under the dark, northern skies. As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, our chances increase for seeing these wonders in our skies. With darkness coming on so early in fall and winter, we can often see the northern lights well before bedtime 😃 Here are a handful of recent aurora images.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this little fall recap. It’s always a favorite time of year for many, including myself. The fast, constant change is pretty fascinating to witness. Winter will soon bring another major change to the landscape, so I’ll enjoy these fleeting fall days while I can now. Thanks again for taking a look at and ordering calendars, too. I appreciate it!
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/
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.
Here are a few more interesting and notable visitors to the area including a new one for me here, a yellow-headed blackbird.
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/
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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…
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
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.
I have had numerous wolf sightings and encounters this summer as well. They are always pretty shy, but this one cooperated for photos
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.
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.
The rising moon over Lake Superior is one of, if not the best sights The Lake has to offer. I always try to catch the rising moon over Superior when it is full or near full. While it is spectacular after it has risen high in the sky, shining it’s path on the water of The Lake, it’s the moments it first appears that really grab me. The moon will take on deep orange, red and yellow colors due to atmospheric distortion. It will also distort and waver as we view it through many layers of Earth’s atmosphere. When the moon is high in the sky, we aren’t viewing it through near as many layers as when it is low on the horizon, so it glows a steady white/yellow and the shape is clearly defined. When photographing or viewing from shore level, we are looking at an angle through a lot more atmosphere, so the light of the moon is “filtered” through the atmosphere. I use a phone app called The Photographers Ephemeris to calculate where and when the moon will rise from wherever I am. I use a tripod and a remote shutter release when photographing the moon. This is a series of photos from the recent Full Snow Moon rising from Tofte, Minnesota on the shore of Lake Superior.
February has been a fun month for wildlife, too! The moose have been elusive, but I have had numerous other notable encounters and sightings. Pine marten and lynx have been actively controlling our snowshoe hare population. I have observed a lot of tracks from the marten and lynx. The common denominator has been the presence of snowshoe hare tracks. I think the marten and lynx have been eating well this winter.
Lake Superior Ice
The ice has been fantastic this year on Lake Superior. Though never completely safe, the ice can be fun to explore. Here are a few photos from recent weeks.
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.
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.
April Northern Lights – An All Nighter
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!
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.