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Monday, March 27, 2017

FOG AGAIN

FOGGY BAYFIELD
Monday, 9:00 AM.  32+ degrees F at the ferry dock and on the back porch, just above freezing.  Wind variable and calm.  The sky is overcast and it is foggy again, the humidity 95%.  The barometer is rising, now at 30.0".  The forecast calls for mixed skies and warming temperatures for the next ten days.
   FOG SONG
Denel Kessler
The night so long
Ships calling
Stay away, come

Sunday, March 26, 2017

BRING THE OUTSIDE IN!

PUSSY WILLOW AND RED OSIER DOGWOOD (don't forget to put water in the container)
Sunday, 9:00 AM.  33 degrees F on both thermometers.  Wind variable, mostly calm with light gusts.Humidity is 95%, and it is foggy and drizzling.  The barometer stands steady, at 30.01".  Weather for the next ten days is predicted to be mostly more of the same, with some clearing and temperatures warming up into the forties and higher, with lows around freezing.
   The red twig, or red osier, dogwood shrub, Cornus stolonifera, in the Dogwood Family (Cornaceae) is particularly beautiful and useful in the native landscape.  It usually occupies wet areas but will grow on drier sites as well.  The species name, stolonifera, refers to its growth habit of spreading by stolons, or underground stems.  This characteristic makes it very valuable for stabilizing stream banks and wet hillsides, but also renders it pretty invasive in the smaller landscape.
Fortunately there is a horticultural selection of the plant, Cornus 'Baleyi' that does not spread and can be used to good advantage in the home landscape.  The red osier also flowers and fruits very nicely, and thus offers year-round visual interest.  There is also a yellow-twig dogwood of European origin, Cornus alba,  which is a nice contrast to the red in the winter landscape. Many willows also offer winter contrasts of yellow to orange.
   The native pussy willow, Salix discolor, in the willow family (Salicaceae), is almost ubiquitous in the eastern and Mid-western US and northern Canada.  It is a large shrub to small, multi-trunked tree with gray bark and simple leaves without teeth (or very finely serrated); leaves are shiny green on top, gray underneath.  It occupies wet spots along roadside ditches, stream banks and similar wet areas
   Late winter and early spring doldrums can be relieved by bringing these and other dormant branches inside, where they will soon leaf out and some even flower. 
   Bring the outside in!
   

Saturday, March 25, 2017

SWAMP WHITE OAK

SWAMP WHITE OAK TREES HOLD THEIR LEAVES THROUGHOUT THE WINTER...

...WINTER LEAF...

...AS A YOUNG STREET TREE IN COLUMBUS, OHIO
Saturday, 9:00 AM.  33 degrees F at the ferry dock, 31 on the back porch.  Wind ENE, very gusty at times.  The sky is overcast, the humidity 88%.  The barometer is falling, now at 30.25".  The forecast calls for ice pellets tomorrow, followed by temperatures in the 40's and lows around freezing, with mixed skies, for the balance of the week.
   A tree that stands out in the winter landscape and into spring is the swamp white oak, Quercus bicolor, which is not native to the far north but is nevertheless  quite hardy. The swamp white oak is a good, dependable street tree, and is quite adaptable, despite its common name. Trees of riverbanks and swamps are usually suitable to drier sites because they have adapted to fluctuating water tables. We have planted a number in Bayfield but they  are still small.
  

Friday, March 24, 2017

A NEW SQUIRREL CONDO

SQUIRREL CONDOMINIUM
A  COOL, DAMP, FOGGY MORNING
Friday, 8:15 AM.  32 degrees F both at the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm, the skies overcast and foggy, humidity 96%.  The barometer is rising, now at 29.99".  It is a damp, foggy, quiet morning and looks to be so for the weekend at least, then it is forecast to warm up into the forties and more late next week with some clearing of skies and the possibility of precipitation.
   We have been without heat for ten days but a new furnace is going in right now.  As my mother used to say:
    "you can get used to anything."
   "You can get used to hanging, if you hang long enough."
   There is an old sugar maple up the road that is being worked on by a pileated woodpecker.  The excavations are perfectly sized for squirrel nests.  Sort of a squirrel condominium.  I think pileated woodpeckers eat acorns, and that would certainly be a good rental agreement for the squirrels if they do.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

AH, SPRING, WHEN A YOUNG BIRD'S FANCY TURNS TO LOVE!

A PAIR OF NATIVE TUNDRA SWANS ON LOWER CHEQUAMEGON BAY...

...NOTE THE BLACK BILL

Cornell Ornithology Lab

DOESN'T LOOK MUCH LIKE SPRING
Thursday, 8:15 AM.  30 degrees F at the ferry dock, 28 on the back porch.  Wind S, mostly calm with light to moderate gusts.  The sky has a high overcast, and the humidity is 91% after a dusting of snow that left walking iffy.  The barometer is falling, currently at 30.25".  The forecast calls for overcast skies, temperatures around freezing and chances of precipitation.  Enough already!
   We saw our first migrating native tundra (also called whistling) swans of spring yesterday on lower Chequamegon Bay, just outside of Ashland, yesterday.  We assume we will see a lot more of them from now on. 
   The Chequamegon Bay region is a good stopover for them on their way to northern Canada and Alaska in the spring; they often pass over us on a good tailwind in the fall.  Note their black bills, which easily distinguishes them from the European mute swans, which have orange bills.  We sometimes see the later as escapees from captivity that are able to fly (have not had their wings pinioned).  The somewhat larger and quite rare trumpeter swan is quite similar in appearance to the tundra swan but larger.
   I also saw two bald eagles flying over the ice in what was obviously part of a mating ritual.  Sort of a first date, I would guess.  The swans are obviously already paired up.
   Ah, spring, when a young bird's fancy turns to love!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

TAG ALDER CATKINS

TAG ALDER MALE CATKINS

...HAVE ELONGATED BUT ARE NOT YET SHEDDING POLLEN
 Wednesday, 8;30 AM.  22 degrees F at the ferry dock, 20 on the back porch.  Wind variable with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is partly cloudy, the humidity low, at 63%.  Today will be cooler than yesterday, but temperatures will warm into the 40's tomorrow and Friday, with a chance of rain.  The thermometer will then drop back to around freezing, with mixed skies.
   Gulls and geese are raising a ruckus along the lake shore this morning, as they begin to mate and establish territory.  Up here on the bluffs the mourning gulls are calling, as are the chickadees, and the woodpeckers are drumming on trees.  These are the sounds of spring.
   Tag alder, Alnus incana subspecies rugosa, in the birch family (Betulaceae), are nearly omnipresent large shrubs or small trees with multiple trunks in the northern landscape.  With speckled, shiny dark brown bark on young stems and trunks tag alder is easily confused with young birch saplings (see post of 4/06/15) when both are dormant, except for the persistent dried female "cones"(technically called a strobile)  that hang on the alders after seeds are shed. 
   The long, pendulous, worm-like male catkins of the alder, usually hanging in groups of three, are also very distinctive, both catkins and cones occurring on the same plant. Leaves are simple and toothed.  There are still a few "cones" left on alders at this point, but most have disintegrated and fallen off by now.  The catkins are fully developed but have not yet opened to shed their pollen, as the new female flowers buds are not mature and have not opened as yet.
   The tag alder, or speckled alder, is native in the far northeast of the North American Continent and around the Great Lakes, and inhabits wet locations, roadside ditches and disturbed areas almost to the point of ubiquity. It is replaced in the northwest  of the continent and western mountains by the thinleaf alder, and it hybridizes with the gray alder in the east.  The complicated hybridizations of these species are beyond my expertise.
   The tag alder is one of the very first plants to bloom in the north, often as early as late March, and their flowering will be completed by the end of April.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

JE ACCUSE...FISHING WITH WORMS!


A FLY FISHERMAN,... MEMBER OF AN ELITE SOCIETY


Tuesday, 9:00 AM.  25 degrees F both at the ferry dock and on the back porch. Wind NW, constant and strong. Skies mostly clear, the humidity a low 66%.  The barometer is rising, currently at 30.36".  Today will be cool but sunny, Tomorrow a bit warmer and sunny, Thursday warmer  still with a chance of rain, then cooling off to around freezing, with wintry weather.  The sap buckets will be full this afternoon.
   I believe that Buddy, whom I have from the start of our relationship identified as an English Pointer, is actually an Italian Pointer, as last night he polished off all the leftover Chicken Alfredo, peas and all.  That's OK, we're all immigrants, but I don't think he would make a good Supreme Court Justice, his heritage and considerable talents notwithstanding. 
   Continuing in that vein, today will be the start of questioning by the Senate of Judge Niel Gorsuch, the President's nominee for the Supreme Court to replace that famed magistrate of Italian descent, Antonin Scallia. I have good information that contrary to most expectations, the nomination will not be easy, as the Democrats will accuse Gorsuch of one of the greatest crimes known to man, or at least to fly fishermen, that elite group of sportsmen to which the candidate claims to be a member in good standing.
   My sources tell me that Gorsuch, who has made great claims to be a fly fishermen, will be accused of an apostasy, a crime against humanity,  that greatest calumny of all, which he will probably deny and thus perjure himself:
   Fishing with worms!