Six tundra swans whir overhead as I move into my old observation place in the deep woods by Ham Lake. I say “whir” because they make none of the insistent honking of geese as they approach and pass over, only the heavy beating of their wings against the air.

The woods are fully leafed out on this, my first visit of the season to the old haunts. The delicate seven-leafed star flower with its perky little white blossom covers the forest floor. I do not recall them later in the season, so this must be their season to bloom. The columbine appears in the more open forest areas.

A few of my mosquito friends land on my bare arms to check me out. My body heat from moving about attracts them, and they compliment me by suggesting I taste good. As my body heat subsides, when I have settled down here, we will see if they do not find me as easily. Stay tuned for the result of the contest.

Several larger birds fuss about in some leafy branches above me. They don’t make themselves visible enough for me to name them. I am wondering if they are bluejays. Last year I suspected the jays were nesting in this cluster of trees.

A kingfisher sounds off with his harsh chatter to my left. He must be fishing along the shores of Hay Lake, about 500 yards in that direction.

American crow sounds off at some distance to my left. He is not persistent but only makes his presence known every so often, as if to remind us he is still a presence to be reckoned with. I often consider that crows are only signaling to each other with such casual calls.

Now one hears the wail of the loon behind me on Ham Lake, a few hundred yards away. His is a lonesome sound, a symbol of the northland.

And now I see two Canada geese fly across the patch of evening sky that opens among the pines and cottonwoods that  tower above me. And those two flyers have made a liar out of me: They passed across without a trace of their honking. I was only alerted to their passing by the beating of their great wings against the air. Somehow they felt no need for their signature honking.

The evening settles in. My mosquito friends have decided they have had enough of me, as the evening air cools me off. Blue jay cranks out his call to my left, as if to say it is time for me to leave “his place.”

James Alger, who lives in Fargo, N.D., has been a summer resident of the Leech Lake area with his family for over 45 years. Over that time he has grown to love and appreciate the people and the woodlands of this area.


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