A Week in the North Woods – Part One

View of the lake from our dock

We spent last week in a secluded cabin on a small lake in the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Sounds good already, doesn’t it? Wait till I tell you more….

The cabin was on 28 private acres, with a 60-acre lake just steps from the front door. We took our kayaks with us and enjoyed them on the beautiful lake every day. Well, except for the one time it rained all day. Other than that, we were lucky with weather and got to go for three nice hikes during the week.  (I admit there was one unpleasant part of the vacation though: the mosquitoes. Oh man, I couldn’t step outside unless I was coated from head to toe with repellent. Those buggers are vicious! I’m home now, but my arms and legs are covered with bites. Phooey on them.)

There was fishing from the dock....

...and fishing from the kayak.

We both agreed that this was THE quietest place we’d ever been before. I think there was only one time we heard a jet ski from a neighboring lake, but otherwise it was extremely quiet. One night I even got out of bed to make sure I’d left the window open because I couldn’t hear any noise at all! That’s a very odd feeling for someone who’s used to hearing traffic outside her door all day every day. But I could definitely get used to it.

Au Sable Lighthouse

So where did we hike, you ask? We drove about 30 miles east of Munising and walked a mile and a half to the Au Sable Lighthouse. Not only is this cool because it’s the most inaccessible lighthouse on the US mainland, but as you walk along the shore of Lake Superior you pass the wrecks of several ships from the early 1900s. The lighthouse opened in 1874, but I guess this area was still too treacherous for some vessels. I’ll talk more about our bird sightings later, but on this hike we were thrilled to have a Bald Eagle fly right over our heads. It was our only sighting of our national symbol on this trip.

Shipwreck on shore of Lake Superior

Our second hike was in Seney National Wildlife Refuge, a real jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge System if you ask me. We first did a 1.5 mile hike around a nature trail loop, where we saw a gigantic nest in a treetop. We thought it might be Bald Eagles, but couldn’t tell with out binoculars. When we got back to the nature center we found that they had a scope set up on it (duh) and it was an Osprey nest. We saw one parent and one youngster in the nest, and we think we saw another adult along our walk but couldn’t be sure of what it was. Wish I’d been able to get a picture of it because this was our first ever Osprey sighting. Gorgeous birds.

After that we killed time for a few hours, hoping to do the 7-mile driving tour nearer to evening hours so we’d have a better chance of seeing bird activity. We ended up starting the drive around 5:30 because we just couldn’t wait any longer. It’s a one-way only driving route with a speed limit of about 15 or 20 mph that passes between a whole system of marshes and woods. At the beginning we had our windows down but quickly had to put them up because of the swarms of black flies attacking the car. It felt like we were in a Hitchcock movie, with dozens of flies just hanging on the outside of the car trying to figure out how to get to us. Ick.  But after we made that adjustment, and despite the heat of the day, we saw Common Loons, a Red-breasted Merganser, lots and lots of Trumpeter Swans, lots of Eastern Kingbirds, an Ovenbird, Canada Geese, a Belted Kingfisher, Ring-billed Gulls (of course), a Great Blue Heron, lots of Ravens, Goldfinches, and some other warbler that we couldn’t identify — looked like a possible Redstart or Blackburnian. Oh, also what we think is a Broad-winged Hawk (can anybody confirm or refute this ID from these pictures?)

Is this a Broad-winged Hawk? You tell me.

I’ll talk about our third hike and put up some of the other bird pics in Part Two of the story…stay tuned.

By the way, right now there’s a flock of House Finches at our feeders, with several males and about 3 times as many females. One of the males is a very bright red — just beautiful!

This entry was posted in Birds, Ecotherapy, Insects, Michigan, Travel, Walking in the Woods and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Week in the North Woods – Part One

  1. Dave Irons says:

    Hi Kim,
    The raptor in your photo appears to be an adult Merlin. Based on the bulk of the bird, I’m guessing it’s a female. Note the really flat dark crown, which contrasts with the fairly conspicuous pale supercilium. The face pattern is much too bold for a Broad-winged Hawk, which would also not show such a tapered, chest-heavy profile. If you look at the extended wings, they are pretty tapered on the outer third and appear to be pretty pointed. Broad-winged Hawks, like other species of Buteo, have broader wings that are more blunt and rounded at tip.

    • Kim says:

      Dave, thanks so much for helping me with this. I appreciate the details because I don’t have much experience with the large birds of prey (obviously).

  2. Sharon says:

    Sounds like it was a perfect vacation for you and Eric–except for the insect activity. Very familiar with the black fly problem. I remember going into the woods with a white sweater and coming out covered in black flies.

  3. I can practically smell the pine trees! There is nothing quite as beautiful as the Northwoods. Your post brings me back to my childhood in Northern Wisconsin. 🙂

    p.s. Your pictures are wonderful – thanks for sharing.

  4. Sounds wonderful, except for the mosquitoes =)

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