In May the first green leaves show themselves, the lawn mower gets dusted off and tuned up, the mud dries up and normally the smelts run during the first week. If we are lucky, we get some beautiful warm days with no biting bugs to pester us when we sit outdoors in the sun. It is also the time for birds to return from faraway wintering sites to their nesting territories. Everyday a new species arrives and the cacophony of birdsong increases.
May began with sadness from the loss of two dear friends. “Doc Marshall”, the owner of a set of cabins at Spencer Lake and Ron Joseph’s lifelong friend and mentor died peacefully after a more than 90 years of a full and adventurous life. The lease on the land under the cabins ends with him and so ends an era that began for Ron when he was a teenager. I was so lucky to have been included in Doc’s circle of friends and to be invited on some trips to Spencer. My own family has a connection to that area, but without Doc and Ron I might never have made it there myself.
Audrey Hutchinson, with her husband Scott spent nearly a full year with me in my old Grandlaker. For more than 30 years we fished at Pierce Pond in June and September. After Pat and I retired from full time summers at Cobbs, I would still go in to guide Scott and Audrey. On the 2nd of May I attended a memorial for Audrey. She and Scott are now together in an old cemetery in Litchfield near the family homestead. They both lived long productive and active lives with lots of loving family and friends. Again I was lucky enough to know them and share some great adventures.
This was a very dry warm May and birds have returned early in great numbers. Sapsuckers are all around the yard tapping, Flickers are calling and tapping, warblers are arriving every day and birdsong in the morning is loud enough that even I can hear some of it. The Red Shouldered Hawks have returned to nest somewhere in the maples at the end of the field. Pat can hear them calling, and occasionally we see them flying across the field. Our rooster has become very aggressive toward any intruder (including our grandchildren), but on the good side, he gathers his flock to cover at the sound of a hawk.
Ron, his brother Don, and I took the first weekend in May to try for smelts at Spencer and start the sad chore of sorting through years of accumulated stuff. Some will be hauled out and saved and some will remain for the next camp users. As in other places the smelt run was over, but fishing for Brook Trout and Bass was good. Don and I did a lot of fishing while Ron mostly puttered around camp reading and napping. I suppose he wanted to soak up all those years of memories as much as he could before it all ends.
Our first May guests were old friends Bob and Leslie Westphal for a short visit. We spent most of our time just sitting on the porch catching up. We did take a day to go fishing at Pierce Pond. The early Mayfly hatch was underway and we saw a few fish but we did not have the good fortune to actually catch one. It has been a long time since we have seen Leslie so this trip was quite special.
Our first birding weekend was a full house and we had a friend attend who went to high school with Pat and me (of course Ron too). It was a great weekend, and we spent some time in canoes and a boat on Gilman Pond. This is something we used to do but haven’t for quite a while. Ron and I went early on Thursday the 19th to scout. At the upper end of the pond is a large delta area wetland and we got a big surprise there. Ron saw some Lesser Yellow Legs feeding in a brushy area, and when he put glasses on them he discovered a flock of Long Billed Dowitchers resting on their migration to the northern edge of Alaska. Gilman Pond has some interesting visitors that stop during their spring and fall migrations and you never know what you might find. Of course when we brought our birders there the next day the Dowitchers had already moved on. With such good conditions for birding we expected a high species count, but the number was somewhat less than usual. On our second weekend we had fewer guests but it turned out to be one of our best as far as number of species and unusual sightings. After two days we had 107 species and on the third it rose to 114. In Pierce Pond Township we got a Black Back Woodpecker that was a life bird for all of our guests. In my years of birding with Ron I have seen several Black Backs but this is the first time we got one with a group of guests. Our walk to Black Brook Bog produced a Palm Warbler and a Bay-Breasted along with both Ruby and Gold Crowned Kinglets. Near there we caught a Boreal Chickadee singing right out in the open as if he had been waiting there just for us. On Monday we drove the van through Sandy Stream Valley and discovered gates and blockades of boulders that closed the summit road on Stewart Mountain to vehicles. I don’t know if the gates will get closed but vehicle activity on the summit road has been destructive, and though it has been convenient for us to drive near the summit, it is better for the environment if it remains closed.
Moose and deer are moving into the places where they intend to give birth and tracks of both are all around the lodge. Maybe we will get another fawn born in the field to watch. My salt block is getting plenty of attention but we haven’t seen a moose on it yet. The chickens have torn up half of the front lawn making dust holes to roll around in. I am not sure what to do about that but the hens are quite tickled with themselves. We are looking forward to what June will bring. Take care all.
Greg and Pat