I took some time for myself today to get away from the routine that I’ve found myself in lately and was able to kill two proverbial birds with the same stone. Based on a suggestion by one of my readers that I focus less on finding outdoor articles to expound on and write more about my own experiences in nature, I decided to zip up my jacket, slip on my hat and gloves, and go for a stroll along the walking trail on the east side of Lake Bemidji. The walk was pretty cold thanks to the gusty April air that brought the wind chill factor below freezing. Getting off campus helped me put a lot of things into perspective, both in terms of this project and in my personal life in general.
As with nearly all the lakes in the area, the ice is receding at a pretty impressive rate. More than 100 yards of open water stands between the shore and the remaining ice in some spots, and despite less-than-blistering temperatures, any type of steady wind and visible sun will break up the rest of the ice in short order. I think one of the coolest aspects of the spring thaw for large lakes is how much the ice pushes up against the shoreline. I was able snap a couple pictures of the ice heaves where I walked. The power of frozen water is incredible.
Spring is one of the best times to see different species of native Minnesota wildlife and Lake Bemidji continues to be a hotbed of biodiversity. For being a relatively large city, the city of Bemidji and Beltrami County have done an excellent job in making sure that most of the wildlife habitat along the lake’s shoreline has not been altered to the point in which it loses its attractiveness to the many duck species, squirrels, and chickadees that I came across on my walk.
In about a quarter-mile stretch near where the Mississippi River flows out of Lake Bemidji into Stump Lake I counted nine mating pairs of mallards resting on floating wild rice beds. The black and white backs of buffleheads, bluebills, and goldeneyes rested in small pods further off shore, bobbing in the waves. Every few minutes the wings of a small flock of divers would whistle overhead, veer into the wind with soldier-like precision, and land near their friends.
Ducks weren’t the only birds that I noticed today. Groups of chickadees fluttered in the trees along the trail, often resting on limbs only a few feet away from me. I’ve always like the small, inquisitive birds. For being so small, they sure don’t seem to mind humans all that much. Maybe that’s why I like them so much.
I also witnessed a pretty intense David vs. Goliath match-up between a fat grey squirrel and its much smaller pine squirrel cousin. I only caught the tail end of it, but I can only presume that the pine squirrel wanted its acorn stash a lot more than the gray squirrel as I watched the larger of the two animals scurry for cover with the pine squirrel hot on his heels.
I enjoyed my walk today. Even though it was cold and windy, walking along the lake and seeing the beauty of nature helped me realize that all my doubts and struggles are small in the overall picture and that I should take more time to enjoy the little things.