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North Shore Weekend

  • Saturday 7-10am
Host CJ Heithoff brings you this Saturday morning show, created at the request of WTIP listeners.  North Shore Weekend features three hours of community information, features, interviews, and music. It's truly a great way to start your weekend on the North Shore. Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP’s North Shore Weekend are made possible with funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.



What's On:
Flicker Tongue.  Photo by Denise Takahashi. Submitted.

North Woods Naturalist: Woodpecker tongues

Human tongues and bird tongues are vastly different.  The difference is more pronounced still if you compare our tongue to a woodpecker tongue, that wraps around their skull and includes barbs to help catch prey.  WTIP's CJ Heithoff talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about the unique woodpecker tongue in this edition of North Woods Naturalist.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - November 15

Superior National Forest Update with Jon Benson.
November 15, 2019



Horses photo by Justin Leniger on Unsplash.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - November 15

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
November 15, 2019    
My how the days fly by! The “freezing over” moon is waning now as the northland reaches the half-way point of month eleven

Conditions were a little crisp around the edges with temps hanging out near the zero mark as the “big cheese” rose over Gunflint territory last Monday evening. The full moon arisin’ was another lunar spectacle while dancing in and out of the clouds above Wildersmith

Added to the charm of the moons’ big November night, squalls of snowflakes twinkled down through the lunar bar of light, as if heaven spilled a bag of stardust. This scene brought back memories of a sleigh ride with friends several years ago over at Okontoe with the late Mark Patton at the reins. Those flakes were falling in like fashion, with nary an adjective doing justice to the romance of the moment.

It’s truly quiet in the Wildersmith neighborhood. Not only are there few folks moving about, with not many deer left in the upper Gunflint, the opening day of the firearms season saw little to no blaze orange hanging out in tree stands or crouching like a bush.

While the long expedition of winter is ahead, the usual November gales have yet to disturb the stillness of the forest. Cold air continues to grip these parts as the ice making business is flourishing, but the big lakes are still rockin’ and a rollin’

Meanwhile little winter precipitation has been added to the white landscape for over a week. Several days with a dusting here or there has accumulated to maybe an inch at best around the Smith place, and a broom easily moved it aside

The puny accumulations have been just enough to cover critter tracks from the previous day. In some ways, regardless of fresh snow amounts, it’s always an adventure each morning to check out tracks of night time visitors

Tracing the mystery of an animals’ mission can pretty much be boiled down to either eating or escaping being eaten and this can lead to uncountable passage prowlings. Always makes me wonder how and where each ended up, in triumph or tragedy

I am intrigued by the serpentine path of fox tracks in the snow as they meander from one side of the Mile O Pine to the other during its’ nightly jaunt. Whereas, it’s distant Canine cousin, the wolf, pretty much strides straight arrow on its’ mission of seeking an edible. This was the case just a couple days ago as I followed tracks of each down the road on my daily mail run

While most days of Novembers first two weeks have been clogged with clouds, a couple days recently have seen bits of sunshine.  Such has perked up even more avian activity at the seed trough. The gang of blue jays has grown to annoying numbers and I’m excited their “whiskey jack” relatives have found their way back.

In spite of Thanksgiving being a couple weeks away for us two legged beings, the days of cold season feasting are well underway for the “wild neighborhood” folks around Wildersmith. I’ve increased my menu selections to include homemade peanut butter cakes, canned frozen
bacon grease and days’ old bread cubes. These items have sure excited all attendees.

I watched the other day as a couple “whiskey jacks” took turns with their beaks buried in the fat can for hours on end, nearly consuming one-half the fourteen ounce container. There’s no way they shouldn’t have been sick for days, but they were back to finish it off the next morning.

Most hibernators have become inconspicuous, but a friend recently reported one such rooting through the snow in a roadside ditch. Apparently it isn’t quite nap time for this stinky black and white striped varmint.

I’m sorry to report the loss of a Gunflint neighbor. Word has been received on the passing of Joan Elbers on November 4th, in Houston, Texas. Joan and her family (the Swenson’s) first came to the North Shore in the 1930’s. In 1959, the Swenson’s established cabin residence in the summer home group on Gunflint Lake. Since 1990, Joan and husband Gerald had a cabin on Gunflint Narrows. The Gunflint lake Property Owners and the Gunflint Community extend sincere condolences to Gerald, her family and friends

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as the image of winter comes more into focus each day!


Vicki Biggs-Anderson

Magnetic North - Retro for Radio "Abetting Creation Above the Frostline"

Magnetic North - Retro for Radio by Vicki Biggs-Anderson

This "Retro for Radio" edition of Magnetic North, "Abetting Creation Above the Frostline", is from Vicki's column from the Cook County News Herald - October 1997.


Red-tailed Hawk. Photo by Ron Knight via Flickr and Creative Commons.

North Woods Naturalist: Late bird migration

Late fall offers a chance to see some birds that we normally don't see along the North Shore.  Some late migratory birds include eagles, northern harriers, hawks, and many more.  WTIP's CJ Heithoff talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about late bird migration in this edition of North Woods Naturalist.


Starwath Map Nov 2019.jpg

Northern Sky: November 9 - 22

Northern Sky by Deane Morrison
Nov. 9-22 2019
Now that we’re back on Standard Time, nightfall comes early. The switchover sucked an hour of darkness from the morning sky, so now we have to get out really early to watch the morning stars and planets. Sure, the sun has been rising later each morning since the switchover, but we won’t get all that darkness back again until December 17. The sun will keep coming up later for the rest of December and into January, but on January 6 it starts coming up earlier. 
If you’re out an hour before sunrise between November 9 and 13, you can watch Spica, the brightest star in Virgo, the maiden, climb in the eastern sky and slide past Mars. Spica and Mars are closest on the 10th. Then on the 11th and especially the 12th, the two are at virtually the same altitude, with Spica on the right. Spica and the other stars go right on moving higher and westward, but Mars’ orbital motion eastward keeps it from pulling away from the rising sun as fast as the stars do. So Mars will be low and dim for a while, but in less than a year it’ll be the star of the evening show.
Over in the west, the sky is waiting for the next “evening star” to climb into prominence. That would be Venus. Venus is slowly pulling itself out of the setting sun’s afterglow. Meanwhile, Jupiter and Saturn are sinking toward it as Earth leaves them behind in the orbital race. By the 22nd, Venus and Jupiter will have drawn close together, very low in the southwest, with Venus, the brighter planet, below Jupiter, getting ready to pass it. As they approach each other and pass, the trick is to catch the planets when it’s gotten dark enough to see them but before they drop too close to the horizon. When Venus and Saturn pass next month, it’ll happen a little higher in the sky.
At nightfall on November 10th, the waxing moon will be above the eastern horizon. At about the same altitude, off to the left, is the bright star Capella, in the constellation Auriga the charioteer. Later in the evening, when the bright winter constellations are all up in the east, Capella will be at the top of the heap. As for the moon, to see it closest to full, look westward on the morning of the 12th, at least a half hour before it sets at 6:51 a.m. 
On Monday the 11th, the sun rises with a tiny round, black dot on its face. That's Mercury, making a rare transit, which occurs when Mercury passes between Earth and the sun and we see Mercury crossing the face of the sun. Mercury passes between us and the sun three or four times a year, but because the plane of its orbit is tilted seven degrees from Earth’s, its orbit usually carries it above or below the sun from our point of view. If our two planets orbited in the same plane, we’d see transits during every passage of Mercury between Earth and the sun. For us to see a transit during a passage, Earth must, at that moment, be at or very near one of the two points where its orbit intersects the plane of Mercury’s orbit. That puts both Mercury and the sun in our line of sight, and so the planet appears to crawl across the sun’s face. From Minnesota, the transit will be under way at sunrise, but it lasts until 12:04 p.m. Don’t watch it without proper eye protection, especially when some websites will stream it live. Just search online for “live webcast Mercury transit 2019.” 


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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - November 8

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
November 8, 2019    
The last chapter of 2019 is unfolding, and the Ojibwe, “freezing over” moon, unquestionably defines the theme. Our last few days along the Gunflint Trail have been cold with temperatures locked below freezing.                                                                                                                                                                        
Although not too unusual, the shivery conditions have crept onto the scene quicker than some had hoped. We commence a long, beautiful time, of stillness in the forest.                                                                                                                                                                  

The earth up this way is now frozen to about four to six inches, and going deeper each day, so it’s now able to support snow. This neighborhood had a thin layer of white as I set to keying this weeks’ scoop and has added more since. At the same time, water on smaller inland bodies has been under a “Zamboni” spell since our last meeting on the radio.                                                                                                                                                       

With exception of the big lakes, ice has skimmed in varying thicknesses, smooth as glass. Barring a heavy dose of snow anytime soon, rough seas and/or a warm-up, hard water should grow to be safe for human usage perhaps by Thanksgiving. I can see water solidarity being a skaters’ delight based on current surface observations.                                                                                                                                                                                   

The onset of “Biboon” (winter in Ojibwe) up the Gunflint has shown dramatic changes. Visitor traffic has suddenly come to a halt as most businesses have closed down for this shoulder season. About the only excitement up or down the Trail are “white knuckle” navigating of Byway slippery spots, and roadside explosions from hosts of “winter welcoming” snow buntings. Oh yes, there’s an occasional critter crossing as well.                                                                                   

Speaking of critters, on a recent trip up to Trails’ end I met up with a dapper cross-fox. I had crossed paths with one up on the Sag Lake Trail this past summer, but it was in motley summer attire. It’s hard telling if this was the same I met earlier. Regardless, this one was outfitted in regal winter fleece, a mixture of black, silver and rust, with a luxurious fluffy tail. Truly a striking example of nature’s wonder!                                                                                                                                                                 

Another report came to me, regarding a border country battle for the attention of the opposite gender. Somewhere up in this neck of the woods two Bull Moose were observed in an antler to antler confrontation. Other than hearing of this happening, I have no word as to a winner being declared.                                                                                                                                                                             

Betting that bears have turned in for the winter, I have commenced opening the deck side feeding station. Within minutes, “wild clamor” must have echoed through the forest on the “moccasin telegraph.” Chickadees, nuthatches, juncos and blue jays swooped in and have been here non-stop ever since.                                                                                                                                                                          
Of course my ever present squirrelly friends sprung out of the trees too. There is frequent mayhem for the mini-red rodents as they nervously try to minimize jaybird access. It looks to be a busy winter at the Wildersmith seed cafeteria, and I’m anxious for return of those whiskey jacks and pine marten cuties.                                                                                                                                                                                   
While nearly every Gunflinter seems to have a fox tale to tell, a fellow recently shared one of his, after reading of the return of my furry red friend.                                                                                              

As the story goes, this guy and his family raise free range chickens. Among them, a rooster is “Chair-chicken of the Board.” It dictates control over most all things chickens do, including hen scratching areas around the yard.                                                                                                                                                     
Mr. Rooster is quite territorial and scurries around keeping others of the flock out of his pecking territory. Further, it gets after several household cats too. Guess the cats fear this feathered bully too.                                                                                                                                                                       
A while back, this ruffian cockerel discovered a fox in his part of the yard. Perhaps mistaking foxy for one of the felines, it decided to assert his jurisdiction by lighting out after this uninvited visitor.                                                                                                                                                                
Now the fox was having none of this, and reversed pursuit on this rascal rooster. The chase was short as this barnyard fowl obviously “bit off more than it could chew.” In fact, it became the “chewee”, He’ll strut and crow his stuff no more, a final lesson learned.                                                                                          

As in many lifetime happenings, for beings of all species, timing is everything. The fox didn’t even have to get into the hen house for its chicken dinner while for the rooster, neither timing nor judgement favored him on what turned out to be a bad feather day.                                                                                                                                       

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, in the land of whispering pines!


Moose cow and twins on the Gunflint - Photo by Colin Smith

North Woods Naturalist: Moose and nutrient cycles

Moose contribute to the nutrient cycle in the forest in many ways.  WTIP's CJ Heithoff learns more from naturalist Chel Anderson in this edition of North Woods Naturalist.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - November 1

Superior National Forest Update with Renee Frahm, visitor information specialist with the Superior National Forest.
November 1, 2019


Fox by David Grinstead

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - November 1

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
November 1, 2019
What happened to October? November has suddenly opened the gates to our next thirty days.  The reality of month eleven finds Mother Nature giving us her final warning, and the warmer season has made its’ final curtain call.                                                                                            

The “gal” in charge of all things natural has been busy checking things off her list. She too has been “getting ready.” Three items of current note include:  golden needles trickling down from those beautiful Tamarak torches, the first skimming of ice on ponds and wetland swamps along the Trail and this weekend, she takes back control of the timepiece. Don’t forget to “fall back” before retiring Saturday night as we go back to “nature’s time.”                                                                                                                                        

Meanwhile, her kin, “old man winter,” dropped another dose of the white stuff on parts of the Trail late last week. Although it was much lighter than the first attempt, it made for winter driving conditions along the Byway. Good planning on my part had winter wheels in position where the rubber meets the road. Since that episode, things have vanished back to normal. Nevertheless, I’m declaring winter official as the temp has remained below freezing in this neighborhood for few days (my self-contrived criteria for such).                                                                                                                                                               

With exception of inland lakes yet to freeze, I’d say the rituals for dealing with character of the next six months are in order. In fact, taking this “getting ready” to the next level, organizational planning is already under way for the first big snow activity up the Trail. Yep, the call is out for volunteers to help administer the annual Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Races. Director Cathy Quinn is hard at work on the event which will be held on January 11th. If residents and others didn’t get their “E” mail volunteer sign-up notice, Cathy needs to hear from you, 387-3352.                                                                                                                                                                               

One day last week, as I was finishing up the snow blade installation, I had one of those eerie feelings I wasn’t alone. This turned out to be no Halloween trick as I puttered around putting tools away.                                                                                                                                                                            
As this feeling dogged me a little, I started looking around. Sure enough, my hunch soon became a reality, and it wasn’t “Sasquatch.” The friendly fox that buddied around with me late last winter came out of the woods and meandered down to see what was going on. I soon confirmed this was definitely the one AWOL, as it was quite familiar with the process to get a free hand-out.                                                                                                                                                               
With my furry red pal right behind me, I trudged down the drive way to my wood shop where treats are kept in the freezer. Mr. Fox has a good memory and was not bashful as it came right up to the door threshold.                                                                                                                                                                     

The hungry critter caught me unprepared for early season hand-outs, but a couple frozen Ciscos seemed like a good offering. I tossed them out on the ground, but after a little sniffing, the Fox kind of turned up its nose.  Guess it may not have been in the mood for frozen fish at this particular moment.                                                                                                                                                                 

I next turned to a bag of old frozen French fries I’d been saving for my Whiskey Jack visitors. Offering a few of these morsels was “just what the Doctor ordered.” Foxy scarfed them down like a hungry teenager at McDonalds. I’ve got to assume it was the greasy aroma and not a need to load up on Carbs. Anyway, after a second helping of FF, it trotted away into obscurity.                                                                                                                                                        

Apparently, it came back later, as next morning the Ciscos were gone as well, or maybe some other craving varmint sniffed them out in the darkness. To assure me he favors my kindness, it was back a couple days later.  So I have the responsibility of “pet-manship” in the cold days ahead.                                                                                                                                                                                      

I don’t know how Halloween went for area ghosts and Goblins, but there was nothing scary around WTIP this past week. There were no tricks, but plenty of treats as new and renewing members showed their continuing loyalty during the “Fearless Radio” autumn support campaign.                                                                                                                              

The Board of Directors, management staff and uncountable volunteers cannot say enough in thanking the wonderful family of WTIP Radio listeners.                                   

Together we did it, made the goal! With all the gracious support, WTIP will continue to bring you the best Community radio has to offer!                                                                                                        

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, and some are even better than great!