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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 24

Wildersmith Sign Only.jpg
Wildersmith Sign Only.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
July 24, 2020    

The territory got another reminder of what July can be like last weekend, with another dose of hot and sticky, just as I predicted. It was short lived, however as “Mother Nature” stepped up to end our whining.                                                                                                                           

The Saturday night into Sunday morning saw the “gal” in charge of natures’ things flipped the switch to cool and nice by mid-day Sunday. Perhaps one of those lightening charges from the heavens recharged our natural air conditioning.                                                                      

Severe storm warnings were touted for hours over the County, but area residents were spared predicted damage as there was more “bark than bite” from the rumbling clouds and celestial fireworks. And, precipitation along the Mile O Pine was rather piddly once again, with less than a quarter inch at Wildersmith.                                                                                                                                         

While the stormy “apocalypse” did not happen, interestingly enough, the upper Trail turned around from gasping for a cool breath on Saturday, to long sleeves, sweaters and closed windows on Sunday. “What a difference a day makes.”                                                                                        
Those gale force northwest winds off Gunflint Lake on Sunday were “bullish” or better, “wolfish.” Gusts culled the forest of weak limbs and trees like the Canid pack has done to the white trail population out this way.                                                                                             

Speaking of water, levels continue to dwindle around the region. The weekly measurement recorded at my dock will soon fall below the last tick on the DNR gauge. This usually happens in September. So unless the skies break loose with an unusual deluge in the watershed during the next couple months, Gunflint Lake and maybe others will be at frightening low levels by the time we start thinking about ice.                                                                                                                                     

The summer hiatus of ruby throats has ended at Wildersmith. The streaking little birds are attacking the sweet stop-over with a vengeance. One can barely land and gulp a swallow, before being driven off by others. There’s no calm hovering in line for a turn. They are consuming a bottle of nectar a day.                                                                                                                                                    

An interesting sidelight at the sweetness station finds rusty back bumble bees engaged too. I found this out by accident a few days ago when retrieving the bottle for a refill. One of the stinging critters refused to separate from its position at the fake floret and rode inside the house, only to be dislodged when I began the daily rinse out.                                                                               

Mr. Bumble was none too happy, but luckily for yours truly, the bee decided to escape by buzzing into the window screen. A handy dish rag covered the angry insect, and I transported it back outside. Neither the bee nor I were harmed. Then it happened again, a day or so later.                                                                                                                                    

Perhaps this bee has developed affection for me, much like the squirrel that greets me every day at the woodshop door to demand seed time. Guess I should smarten up and pay more attention before luck gives way to a stinging confrontation.                                                                                                                     

Each Saturday, I volunteer in the Nature Center on the Chik Wauk Campus. In addition to working with visitors along with the Naturalist/s, it is my goal to learn one new component about our natural world, no matter how trivial it may seem.                                                                            

It goes without saying I don’t have enough days to put a dent in the uncountable happenings of our ecosystem. Nevertheless, learning there are over 100 world-wide species of mosquitoes, to three species of thistles found in this area and countless invasive plants trying to take-over border country, I’m invigorated by the things happening that I have never thought about.                                                                                                                                                                
This past weekend, the question was raised about bears eating berries. Specifically, how many berries do you suppose a bear can eat in a day?                                                                        

Through investigative research from the North American Bear Center, the Chik Wauk interns found that bears can eat as many as 30,000 berries a day. That would be mostly blue berries at this time, up this way. Doing some dimensional analysis, based on approximate numbers of berries in a commercial 12 ounce container, this calculates into 161 pounds per day, or the equivalence of three shopping carts full.                                                                                                                               

Now I can’t imagine who might be willing to get close enough to research this tidbit, but if it is near accurate, folks better be getting out there soon, or the blue gems will be gone with a few big bear gulps.                                                                                                                                                                             
In a related matter, the annual biggest blueberry contest is under way along the Trail. Weigh-in stations are located at several resort locations and Chik Wauk. An even nicer rain, this past Tuesday will likely help pump them up, so get a pickin’.                                                                       

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is an awesome refuge from the ills, of humanity!