Thick, gray clouds still hung low over the glassy lake, but in the west, a sliver of clear sky had begun to show above the dark trees. All day, the air had been so damp that rain gear was needed, even though drops never coalesced enough to fall. It had felt like a typical day in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness as we paddled and portaged into a pink granite campsite on the Kawishiwi River.
With the pots washed and firewood gathered, we picked up books and journals to relax. I was immediately distracted by a flock of active locals twittering between a tall white pine and a thicket of baby birch. Chickadees scolded and gurgled at each other in the hierarchy of a relatively new winter flock. Even-smaller birds with drab feathers and faint white wingbars kept up a constant chatter of tsee-tsee-tsee. It’s a wonder that these golden-crowned kinglets can survive Northwoods winters. They do it by feeding frantically on cryptic caterpillars all day, then diving into cover with their friends at dark and sharing body heat all night.