Bloodroot (Where’s the Blood?)

•May 1, 2012 • 4 Comments

Bloodroot is a beautiful wildflower found in early spring. A hike yesterday on Lake Bemidji State Park’s Rocky Point Trail revealed large numbers of blooming bloodroot. Despite their name which conjures up images bathed in red, the bloodroot blossom is a beautiful white flower. The plant stands 6-10 inches tall, has 8 to 12 petals in its flowers, and has large lobed leaves.

Bloodroot WildflowerSo, where’s the blood? The name comes from the red juice in its leaves, stems, and roots. It was/is used as a natural red dye, especially by Native American artists. Bloodroot has also been used in assorted medicinal remedies over the years, including dental hygiene products, cancer treatments, and for wart removal. Gardeners enjoy cultivated versions as ornamental plants in their gardens.

White wildflower closing its bloomThe flower opens wide on sunny days, but on cloudy days or as evening draws nigh, it closes its petals.

Bloodroot leaf with spent flowerWhile bloodroot leaves continue to grow after the blossom is spent and can be found all summer, the time period for seeing them in bloom is a short stretch in early spring. They are at their peak right now (May 1st) – I recommend you get out there and check ‘um out. (Bring your cameras.)

White wildflower with lobed leaves

Loons: Summer and Fall

•September 29, 2011 • 4 Comments

A couple evenings ago, out on the lake in our pontoon, I noticed one loon in three different places. All three sightings appeared to me to be juvenile loons in their coloring. At the time I wasn’t sure if I was seeing the same loon 3 times or a different loon each time. The mystery was solved for me while out kayaking yesterday morning when I saw two loons together and realized the adult loon had taken on its winter coloring. The photos below show the baby loon developing into a juvenile loon as well as the adult loon developing winter colors.

The first photo was taken on July 26, 2011. It shows the “baby” loon at approximately 1 month of age.

One month old loon and adult loon

The second photo was taken September 8, 2011.  This shows how the baby has turned into a juvenile loon. Also notice that the adult’s colors are not as crisp and defined as the earlier photo.

Two loons, one with wings spread

The last photo was taken September 28, 2011. Note the winter coloring on the adult loon.

Adult and juvenile loons with winter colors

When researching what loons looked like in the winter, I came across a couple other facts related to their winter migration.  Loons migrate to warmer weather, wintering on the southern coasts in either brackish  or salt water. A loon can  exist in salt water,  because they have special glands above their eye that expel salt from their system. Apparently it drips out the salt taken in from drinking salt water and eating salt water fish. Since I also migrate to the southern Florida coast in the winter, I wondered why I had never heard a loon calling in Florida. Ted Gostomski, the LoonWatch Coordinator at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute in Ashland, Wisconsin stated in an Ask the Expert forum, “Though loons have been heard giving yodels and tremolos on the wintering grounds, it is not common. It probably is because the hormone levels in loons are not high enough (i.e., they don’t feel a need to defend a territory) to bring about calling. Besides that, loons spend more time in groups during the winter, so the long distance calls like yodels and wails are not needed. They can communicate with quiet hoots to one another.”

One other worthwhile site to check out is the Common Loon Movements and Migration site by the Midwest Environmental Sciences Center. Loons from the midwest have been tagged with geolocators. Scientists are tracking their migration south. You can follow loons across the country as they make their way to warmer weather. I will definitely be looking for them in Charlotte Bay this winter.

Indian Pipe – Why is it white?

•September 1, 2011 • 1 Comment

The peculiarities of the Indian Pipe wildflower as described in my wildflower field guides had intrigued me. To my surprise, I discovered several plants growing at the edge of our yard, under some pine trees. Indian Pipe, also known as ghost flower or corpse plant, is a strange looking plant. Its white, waxy appearance is due to a lack of chlorophyll. Indian Pipe does not use photosynthesis to make food. Rather, it obtains sustenance from decaying plant material. Indian Pipe is often found growing in clusters, but is also seen in pairs or as a single flower.
white stemmed wildflowerDuring the pollination process the flower head nods toward the ground, however, the flower head turns upright after the pollination process.

Two Indian Pipe wildflowers, one nodding and one upright

Usually the plant is white when it emerges from the ground, but then, it can turn pink (as the ones in our yard). Once the plant releases its seeds, it starts to turn black.

Overhead view of Indian PipeWhile Indian Pipe lacks the characteristics that many associate with beautiful flowers, I think mother nature has done her job well. Indian Pipe is beautiful in its own way. (The flowers below had been broken off the cluster. I gathered them from the ground to photograph. Since they turn black quickly, they do not make a good picked bouquet.)

three Indian Pipe flowers

The Mother (and Dad) Loon Story

•August 1, 2011 • 2 Comments

Sometimes it’s tough to be a mother (or dad too, but I do not have direct experience in that role). The saga of a loon family on our lake this summer exemplifies the trials and tribulations of being a parent. The story begins in May on one of my first kayak outings of the year. I was kayaking in one of my favorite areas on the lake, a secluded bay where there are no houses and the natural shoreline (full of grass, reeds, brush, trees, etc.) is relatively undisturbed. Cruising the shoreline I came upon a loon nest with two eggs. While excited to see the nest, I did notice that it seemed more exposed than most, susceptible to both predators and the elements as well as motor boats. My concern was founded. A few days later someone reported that the nest was flipped sideways and had no eggs in it.

Loon Nest withTwo EggsDuring the last week of June I was kayaking with a friend in a different area of the lake, but relatively close to where I spotted the nest. While peering through the reeds looking for anything interesting, I saw the distinctive colors and patterns of a loon. Looking closer I concluded I was seeing a dead loon. The loon’s body and head appeared limp and lifeless, lying flat on a clump of grass in the reeds. With my camera in my lap, I began a mental dialogue debating the photo ethics of shooting a dead loon for scientific interest or just letting it rest in peace and paddling away. I turned to my friend who was paddling close by and asked if she was seeing what I was seeing. She indeed had seen the loon, and began to lament about the loon’s demise. All of a sudden there was a rustling in the reeds, and the loon rose up and flapped her way into the water. My friend later commented that the loon’s entry into the water looked like that of an injured bird, an easy target for prey. We began to put two and two together, while the loon swam back and forth close by us. Looking at the spot where the loon had been, sure enough, there was a nest with eggs.  We apologized profusely to Mrs. Loon for our disturbance, and quickly paddled out of the area.

baby loon swimming

Fast forward to the middle of July, once again out kayaking in the same area, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw a young loon out with her parents. (There were 2 eggs in the nest. I do not know the fate of the other.)

Two Loons looking for baby

I watched the family of loons for awhile, and I think I may have been observing a fishing lesson. The parents were making frequent dives, and I did see the little one make a couple quick dives in the close vicinity of her parents. Then I observed the little one go under, but did not see her surface. As I looked around for her, I got the sense that her parents were also wondering where she was.

Two Loons and BabyWhere’d she go? ……. Do you see her? …….. There she is.

Adult loon and baby loonI think she is getting scolded by her dad for going too far away and staying under too long, you know, worrying her parents.

two adult loons and baby loon swimming in a lineThe HAPPY family.

Exploring Itasca State Park

•July 18, 2011 • 2 Comments

One of the last days of June (luckily before July 1st when it was closed as part of the state shut-down), my friend and I spent a lovely day exploring the sights of Itasca State Park. In the morning we hiked the Dr. Robert’s Trail. This is  a 2 mile trail that wouldn’t have taken most people all morning, but we lollygagged-taking photos of flowers, bugs, leaves, mushrooms, dragon flies, a toad, etc. After a delicious lunch at the park’s Douglas Lodge, we checked out preacher’s grove, an impressive stand of old pines that puts one in a meditative state by just being there. Then it was on to the Mississippi Headwaters to watch a steady line of people trying to walk across the Mississippi on the rocks (didn’t see anybody fall in this time.) We ended the day by taking the Wilderness Drive, which winds past a 2000 acre wilderness sanctuary. Check out my favorite nature discoveries of the day below. Also check out my friend’s video of our adventures together this summer, including the day at Itasca State Park. Find the link under LynnColorado Videos in the side column. I have also added links to a few other select blogs  as well as a new feature area, My Favorite Gardens.

(Slideshow starts automatically. To move forward at your own pace, put your mouse over  the bottom of the photo and use the controls.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Damselflies:What’s Happening Here?!?

•June 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

These guys showed up in my camera lens when I was out kayaking early one morning on Long Lake (one of the many) in an area I call the Back Bay. They were perched on a limb emerging from an underwater log. So what’s happening here? Are they trying to resuscitate their buddy? Are they eating one of their own? What’s the deal with the green wing on the one?  My field guide (Damselflies of the North Woods-see reference list) indicates that damselflies start out as larvae and burst forth from their larval exoskeleton “in one grand moment of emancipation”. Could the “body” stretched out on the log be an exoskeleton? I really have no idea. If there’s someone out there with some knowledge on this, please share. I am really curious.

Two damselflies appear to be eating a third damselfly.

Are these damselflies eating one of their own?

Fish Hawk Trail at Lake Bemidji State Park

•June 22, 2011 • 3 Comments

It’s Saturday (June 18th) afternoon, the rain has stopped, and it’s time to get out of the house. While I’ve done the bog walk a number of times already this year at Lake Bemidji State Park, today I decided to check out the Fish Hawk Trail. The Fish Hawk Trail ends in a short boardwalk leading to an overlook of the Sundew Pond. A new area, a couple weeks later in the season, and lo and behold, nature has displayed a whole new array of things to view. I feel so lucky have this park in my neighborhood.

(Slideshow starts automatically. To move forward at your own pace, put your mouse over  the bottom of the photo and use the controls.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.