Rising and falling: theme of summer

The summer of 2014 will be remembered as one filled with rises and falls. The sluggish ability of the thermometer’s rise last winter resulted in a nearly complete cover of ice on Lake Superior. Lasting for much of the winter, the ice prevented much water from evaporating. It does seem hard to think of evaporation of lake water in winter, but simply picture the open lake on a subzero morning in January with the “fog” rising up and it is easier to picture water escaping. Paired with the spring’s melting pattern and some precipitation, Lake Superior’s level is up nearly 13 inches from last year.

Rising waters on Lake Superior mean low lying beaches and the elimination of habitat for shorebirds stopping to rest and refuel on their way south for the fall and winter.

This is especially true for the the beach around the mouth of the Dead River in north Marquette. Much of the large sandbar on the south side of the river is under water and on the north side a large flooded pool has developed. During the past few years there has been a wide flat of sand with a shimmer of warm water seeping up from submerged pipes from the power plant creating some algae to attract a few insects.

Young gulls have assumed control of much of the south side of the river. The pool on the north side does off some vegetation around the edges for cover, but little fool for shorebirds current exists there.

At the mouth of the AuTrain River in Alger County, Northern flickers are turning up regularly along curbs and on lawns in towns hammering away on ant colonies.

A blue grosbeak has been located along Valley View Drive in Norway. Seen around July 4, it marks the second year in a row this rare to the U.P. species has been seen there.

This birds looks like a larger, slightly paler blue indigo bunting with browner wing bars. Like recent visit(s) from black-crowned night herons it is another species usually found farther to the south -southern Illinois and similar locations, wandering north.

Birding in western Alger County this past week was seasonably slow, but pleasant. The only shorebird encountered was one Dunlin at the mouth of the AuTrain River on the July 13, with a single Common Tern showing up at this same location about every three days.

A previously reported male long-tailed duck has remained on AuTrain Lake, and a male redhead was swimming the waters of the Chatham sewage lagoons yesterday. Three black-billed cuckoos and a single yellow-billed cuckoo were calling from the south end of the Cleveland Cliffs Basin yesterday as were sora and pied-billed grebe.

Sixty-four sandhill cranes and two trumpeter swans were foraging just north of the south end of the basin, but very few other waterfowl were present.

Editor’s note: Scot Stewart is a teacher at Bothwell Middle School in Marquette and a freelance photographer.