Northeast Minnesota

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Colorful Lake Superior

Well, I’ve been back a week, but it took that long to recover and get through lots of photos. I went up to northeast Minnesota for the BugGuide Gathering. I had a great time and it was fun to meet several of the BugGuide members I’ve known online for years.

The meetup was at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, which was the perfect place for it. They are up a small mountain with lots of wilderness, but they’ve got a sizable meeting room with a PC projector and WiFi internet. One minute you’re looking at moths attracted to blacklights and the next you’re trying to ID it on BugGuide.

Friday the 20th I flew up to Duluth. I didn’t realize that I sat next to one of the BugGuiders on the flight from Detroit. I did a little sightseeing along Lake Superior on my way north to Wolf Ridge. In the evening we met up and chatted about dragonflies and damselflies with Kurt Mead and folks who were attending the Minnesota Dragonfly Gathering simultaneously with us. After dark we set up blacklights and tried to attract some moths to the Science Building. The first few moth arrivals were subjected to papparazi-like photography. It was quite a scene. Eventually with the arrival of more moths in various places and folks going to bed, the flash gun rate dropped to a less blinding level. I was excited to see my first Polyphemus moth.

Saturday the whole group loaded up into several cars and headed for a boggy area between Finland and Isabella. It was the first time I’ve walked into a bog and it was fun. The mossy ground is squishy and in some places a footstep will sink just enough to flood your sandals. The bugs weren’t as busy as we thought they might have been, but we still found several species of butterflies and a couple dragonflies. And I can’t forget the deer fly that bit my knee. We moved on to lunch at a lake, my first of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes, or maybe the second if you include Lake Superior. At a creek with some dry brush, I did some photo hunting of beautiful red dragonflies, the white-faced meadowhawks. Just before we left I got a good photo. At the next stop we had to fix a flat on John VanDyk’s car and I saw a female white-face. The final stop was the treat of the day, a beautiful large bog and a pond, with lots of damselflies. In the evening I got my first chance to try rock climbing on a very nice indoor climbing wall. That night we did some more moth blacklighting, but a cool breeze kept their numbers down. We did see a nice Laurel Sphinx, and some of the night owls were treated to views from Wolf Ridge’s telescope and the sound of wolves howling in the distance.

Sunday the group started to break up as some folks had to be on their way. But several stayed and did their own exploring of Wolf Ridge. I joined up with a former Wolf Ridge guide and a forest service worker. We decided to go canoe Wolf Lake. I agreed to let them paddle and I would take pictures from the middle of the boat. Despite being an experienced paddler who should have known better, I slipped on the dock trying to get in and soaked my pants and shoes. At least the camera gear stayed dry! I eventually got in properly and we circumnavigated the lake, not seeing any bugs due to the cool weather. But we did spot a pair of beavers. After the paddle we made an easy hike up Marshall Mountain, which gave us a view of Wolf Lake, plus Raven Lake and even Lake Superior, which was a little tricky to see, since the lake was the same color as the hazy sky. After lunch I went with several folks to Raven Lake, where I made a much better showing in the canoe and did some paddling myself. Kurt Mead took the bow and captured a few damselflies right from the boat. He did a good job explaining how he made his IDs using a hand lens and a well worn field guide. Later a small group of us hiked into the wetlands on one side of Raven Lake. That evening, I enjoyed a great meal with Kurt and his family and a few other Odonata enthusiasts, and spent the night in a treehouse!

Monday I was up a little early, driving up Highway 1 looking for moose. I struck out in this endeavour, but I did get a few bugs on a poorly maintained walking trail. From there I started my run south, stopping at points along Lake Superior. First I drove up to the Palisade Head cliffs. It’s precarious up there (reminds me of Jumping Off Rock), but I was careful and got some good photos. Then it was down to the Split Rock Lighthouse, a very picturesque subject, though it’s probably a better photo in winter with snow all over the place and fewer tourists climbing around. From there I went to Two Harbors and had a chance to shoot the lighthouses there before returning to Duluth and the flight home.

Great trip!