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NORTHLAND NATURE JOURNAL: Summer of plenty -- for some

Monarchs have been plentiful this season.1 / 4
Baby loons hitch a ride on their mother's back. 2 / 4
Sightings of the striped hairstreak are few and far between.3 / 4
Dakota skipper butterflies were once widespread across Minnesota’s prairie. Now, they have almost disappeared. (Photos by Dallas Hudson/For the Enterprise)4 / 4

It's the hot, muggy and buggy part of summer — and the last few years a time of drought, but not this year. We have had timely rains, and it shows.

There are lots of berries and fruit this year. I have already picked pails of blueberries and seen ripe raspberries and pin cherries. The choke cherries are now ripe in spots. It looks like there will be lots of blackberries, too. It's been a great berry year.

The wild rice is blooming.

Pin oak have acorns like I have never seen, and the burr oak are setting on heavy as well. Plums are looking good. The beaked and American hazels are also bending branches, but soon will all be taken by the forest critters. The squirrels already cutting them.

I'm seeing baby cottontails and fawns everywhere I go — and that's the reason my garden is gone.

There are also high numbers of bumble bees, dragonflies and butterflies. I'm seeing high numbers of monarch butterflies this year. Now let's hope they have a good migration to Mexico where they winter in the mountains. The coppers and hairstreaks are lacking, but I did see my first striped hairstreak in three years so there is hope for them, unlike the Poweshiek skipperling who has disappeared from our prairies under our watch.

Last week, I got to see the reintroduction of the Dakota skipper at the Hole-in-the-Mountain Preserve. The Minnesota Zoo is the first and only institution to successfully breed multiple generations of Dakota skippers entirely in human care. In June 2017, the zoo's Dakota skipper population was large enough to reintroduce to The Nature Conservancy's Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie Preserve, near Lake Benton.

Now could you imagine the media frenzy this would be if it was an iconic species like the loon or wolf? It's funny which species we place high value on and which ones fall through the cracks to be forgotten. We have become so focused on the iconic species with politics and court battles as others disappear forever on our watch. Who will be next? The jack rabbit? How long would the jack rabbit be gone from our prairies before anyone noticed it missing? How many of you remember seeing jack rabbits around Park Rapids? Yep, they were here 30 years ago. So will it be the jack rabbit or one of the hairstreaks? Will anyone care? But I can guarantee you it won't be the wolf, with or without a season.

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