Diamond Point Park

This evening I decided to take a little walk down to Diamond Point Park to see the sights and sounds of spring. Unfortunately, my phone died shortly after starting my walk and I was unable to take pictures. But if you’ve ever visited the park before, you’ll almost certainly understand what I saw.

After spending a few minutes scanning the lake, it’s clear that it won’t be long at all before ice-out happens and I can finally close the chapter on winter in Bemidji. The strong winds and warmer temperatures we’ve experienced in the last few days have really done a number on the remaining ice, leaving probably 75% of the lake with open water. The wind pushes the remaining ice all over the lake – when I walked to class the morning a large ice sheet butted up against the south shore of the lake; as I walked Diamond Point this evening, the east wind had pushed most of the ice next to the park’s shoreline. There are still some large ice heaves along shore (most noticeably right on the tip of the point), but they have gone down considerably since my last visit to the Lake Bemidji shore. My predicition: Lake Bemidji will no longer have any ice after this coming Friday.

Hundreds of ducks are enjoying the large expanse of open water on the lake as well, flying in tight flocks near the surface of the water. While some of these ducks will stay and breed on the lakes near Bemidji, most are simply enjoying the Bemidji area as they continue north following open water. Species included mostly buffleheads, ringnecks, and bluebills. Pairs of mallards were also scattered around the lake, and I even managed to sneak up on a drake and a hen that were resting on the green grass next to a telephone pole near Oak Hall. It amazes me how adaptable wildlife can be – they simply stood up and meandered a few feet away from me before plopping back down on their bellies.

Another interesting sight — two bald eagles fighting (?) each other in mid-air as I walked underneath the oaks and pines of the park. I watched in amazement as I saw just how agile these massive birds can be and they took turns chasing each other overhead. Eventually, one flew off while the other perched itself neatly on a large limb near the top of a tree. What surprised me most were the calls they were making as they flew after each other…it was definitely not what I expected out national bird to sound like. If you’ve never heard a bald eagle call, you’ll be a bit surprised, just as I was tonight.

 

Things began to die down as the sun set, except for the the crackling of the ice sheet as waves crashed into it sending shards floating off into the open water. The ducks disappeared into the darkness as they bobbed in the gentle waves just off shore and the eagle spread its huge wings as it took off to another nearby tree. It was time for me to go as well. As I walked back to my house I couldn’t help but appreciate the beauty of the nature almost literally in my backyard.

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Lakeshore Cleanup

My adventures on Lake Bemidji continue. This afternoon I had the opportunity to pick up trash from the along the shoreline as part of the service learning component of an environmental class that I’m currently taking. The weather was pretty nice, albeit a bit cold, but the sun did its job in warming me up as I walked along the steep banks on the west side of the lake.

Before today I had never had really had the opportunity to help with any sort of shoreline cleanup project, and I was amazed at just how much stuff was littered all over the place! I would estimate that around forty students came out to help, splitting up to cover the entire perimeter of the lake. Working in teams of 5-6 people per group, we scoured the shoreline picking up pop bottles, beer cans, plastic bags, and all kinds of food wrappers. We even picked up a broken TV to be properly disposed of.

All in all, the lake shore cleanup was a great experience. On one hand it was sad the disregard that those who choose to leave their trash anywhere other than a garbage or recycling can, let alone on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in the area. On the other hand, I felt a sense of pride that I was doing my best to help clean that trash up and make the lake look good once again. The weather was nice, the people I worked with were friendly, and I got a pretty good workout out of the deal.

I wish I would have been able to snap some pictures of what I saw but I didn’t quite have a chance to. But what I saw reinforced how important it is for all of us to take responsibility for our actions. It is not acceptable to throw your trash on the ground and just assume that the litter is not a big deal, or that someone else will be along to pick it up for you. If we want to keep the natural beauty of our area, it is important that we all do our part to reduce the amount of garbage we create, recycle when appropriate, and not be too proud to pick up trash when we see it in the areas we enjoy most – our lakes, parks, and trails.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you all have a wonderful week!

East Side

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.

One last holdout.

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.

Rebirth (and auger maintenance)

Minnesota is slipping further and further out of the grasp of old man winter.

I’ve spent most of today closing the chapter on my 2015-2016 ice fishing season by finally giving attention to the dirty, damaged, and neglected ice fishing equipment that has been riding in the back of my truck all winter.

For those like me who are always interested in reading about how others maintain their equipment for the off-season, I thought I would make a post outlining a few of the post-season rituals that I like to go through after the ice goes out in Spring.

First, I always add the recommended amount of fuel stabilizer in my auger’s gas tank and then proceed to run the auger for 5-10 minutes. This step is a win-win: not only does it ensure that the fuel treatment finds its way throughout the engine and carburetor, but it lets me have one final whiff of 2-stroke engine exhaust before I retire it for the summer.

After running the engine for a bit, I drain the excess fuel into a one gallon gas can to store for the summer. While some prefer not to do this step, and prefer to properly dispose of the gas instead of keeping around, I find that as long as the fuel is treated properly and stored in a dark garage it stays good enough to use the next year. At this point I also remove and wash the air filter with warm, soapy water. The carburetor is then cleaned out and inspected. A once-over of the engine’s external plastic housing with wet, soapy rag removes any oil build-up or exhaust residue.

I also like to oil the auger blades to prevent rusting, remove the shaft from the engine, and store them in the garage, away from summer’s powerful sun.

After the auger is put away, I then move on to my portable ice house. For me at least, the first order of business is to soak up all the water and spilled gas that always seems to collect at the bottom of the sled. Then I normally try to grease up the support poles, always looking for areas where a pole may be bent or close to breaking. To keep mice and other rodents from chewing holes in the canvas tarp, and I cover the house well before storing it away in the garage.

Lastly, fishing poles, slush scoops, bait buckets, and scoop shovels find their way to their respective haunts to hibernate until next December.

It’s a bittersweet day. On one hand, the warm, spring-like temperatures sweeping their way through Minnesota makes me excited for what is to come. On the other hand, ice fishing is one of my favorite outdoor pastimes and I hate to see it go by as quickly as it always seems to.

I’ll get over it, though. Large numbers of waterfowl – especially Canada geese and mallards, continue to move through the state at a very steady space. I can hear flocks of geese passing over the house heading towards the large wetland southeast of town as I write this post from my parent’s living room. Robins and red-wing blackbirds are seemingly everywhere, calling from the tree branches. The grass is starting to green up everywhere I look, and I can’t imagine it will be long before the Oak trees start producing their green leaves.

The cold harshness of Minnesota’s winters, while enjoyable, always lead to a magical time of life and rebirth – Spring.

Self Portrait, Pt. 3

If there is one single song I can identify with and strive to live my life like on a daily basis, this would be it.

 

What role does identity play in blogging? In my opinion, it shapes the overall theme of a blog, and gives readers an idea of who the blogger is either personally, professionally, or a combination of both. Based on my three self-portrait posts, I think I know what personal representation of myself I’m giving to my readers. This representation is up for discussion, however, as one reader might try to describe my proposed identity in one way while another might describe it in another way all together.

-ES

 

New Year, New(ish) Me

This past weekend my girlfriend and I were sitting around watching TV when she received a notification from the Timehop app on her phone (for those unaware, Timehop is an app that reminds you daily about the embarrassing statuses and selfies you posted to your Facebook and Twitter accounts back in 2009).

Staring back at us from her Timehop was a picture of us together two years ago at a charity auction in which she spent $48 dollars for a date with me. While she was reminiscing about how much fun that event was, I couldn’t help but notice how thin I looked! I knew I had put on a few pounds since my sophomore year, but I didn’t realize how much of a difference 20 pounds could make.

So I’ve been making an effort to eat a bit healthier and limit the amount of junk food I eat. In the past, I’ve never really been one to pay any attention to what I eat – if it looks good, I eat it. It also doesn’t help that I know next to nothing about dieting. Continue reading “New Year, New(ish) Me”