Emily Stone

Emily M. Stone is a naturalist by birth, training, profession and passion. Her childhood spent as a “mud and water daughter” in northeast Iowa led to a degree in outdoor education from Northland College and a Field Naturalist Masters from the University of Vermont. As the naturalist/education director at the Cable Natural History Museum in Cable, Wisconsin, Emily writes a weekly “Natural Connections” column published in more than a dozen local and regional newspapers. She has also earned multiple Excellence in Craft awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Emily’s first book, Natural Connections: Exploring Northwoods Nature through Science and Your Senses, is on sale now at cablemuseum.org. She loves gardening, cross country skiing, mountain biking, and paddling in the Boundary Waters.

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Recent Articles by Emily Stone

Listening to loon talk
posted on Tuesday, May 29, 2018
The mournful wail of a common loon echoes across the glassy water. From a neighboring lake, another loon replies with the same smooth cry. Common loons are an icon of the northwoods, and while it’s not always easy to see one up close, we can enjoy their unique voices from afar. With just a little practice, one can learn to identify loons’ four different calls and attempt to interpret what they’re saying. Loons use their eerie, howl-like wail as a form of long distance communication. For instance, one loon in…

The winter wren
posted on Wednesday, May 02, 2018
I love floating on a calm lake in canoe country just as the rising sun swirls away the wisps of fog. In May, the morning will be cool, but not quiet. Each day, new voices join the dawn chorus as migrating birds arrive from the south. The piercing whistle of the white-throated sparrow carries for miles across the hilltops. The soft che-bec of a least flycatcher slyly invades your subconscious. There is no such subtlety in the call of a winter wren. His clear stream of tinkling notes blasts across…

Critter Photo Contest
posted on Wednesday, Jan 24, 2018

Getting to know Orion
posted on Tuesday, Nov 28, 2017
North Shore—Since you’re reading Northern Wilds, there’s a good chance that you have regular access to a dark night sky. Even if you live in a city, a short drive or weekend trip might bring you to the shore of a wilderness lake or a remote vista overlooking vast forests. On a recent visit to a sparsely populated stretch of the Lake Superior shoreline, my family and I stood in awe as the Milky Way flowed down to meet its own reflection on the water. Satellites slid between the static…

The Wood Wide Web
posted on Monday, Oct 30, 2017
After the leaves come down, I start to notice all sorts of new things: moss-covered boulders, varying topography, the sparkle of a creek. “Stick season,” say the Eeyores among us. “See-through season,” counter the optimists. While the rough-barked trunks stand stoically separate, delicate twigs trace a burly lace onto gray skies. Although in silhouette they seem to intertwine, in reality they strive to lift their leaves (when they have them) away from the others to claim their own personal space. Occasionally, two trunks or two branches will miscalculate and intersect…

Leaf miners
posted on Monday, Sep 25, 2017
North Shore—October is a fantastic month to look at leaves. Red maples may be past their peak, but other species hold their fall colors longer, and variations in micro-climates allow beauty to ripple across the landscape in eccentric patterns. If you’re lucky, you can find a rainbow of hues on just one hillside. While the long view is scenic and gorgeous, the short view can be fun, too. Leaves that once were high in the windswept canopy now crinkle under your feet in drifts. Often the patterns found there—in the…

The wolves of Isle Royale and Michipicoten Island
posted on Monday, Aug 28, 2017
North Shore—While teaching winter plant identification for a wolf ecology field course in 2005, I read The Wolves of Isle Royale by Rolf O. Peterson. I was captivated by the incredible stories and valuable knowledge generated by his long-term research project on Isle Royale. Wolves protect plants by controlling herbivores, he revealed. With that, I was hooked. The story of wolves on Isle Royale began in the 1940s, when a pack crossed to the island on an ice bridge. Numerous plot twists later, the wolves of Isle Royale have taken…

Isle Royale: How did you get here?
posted on Monday, Jul 24, 2017
A mainland red squirrel at Isle Royale. | EMILY STONE Isle Royale—Besides its significant natural beauty and storied history, the most notable thing about Isle Royale is, of course, that it’s an island. So, during our first day of hiking north on the Greenstone Trail, we made sure to ask everyone we met “How did you get here?” We were particularly interested in other people’s transportation experiences because our ferry ride from Grand Portage had been awful. Eight-foot waves and 30 mph gusts actually convinced the captain not to depart…

Foraging in the forest: Cattails
posted on Tuesday, Jun 27, 2017
North Shore—Starting around the Fourth of July, I begin watching my local cattail marsh like a hawk. Slowing my car and rubbernecking shamelessly, I search through the sea of green. As summer heats up, cattail flowering stalks begin to emerge shyly out of the tight bundles of leaves. Signs of this emergence are what I’m scanning for. The stalk is round, and the top is sheathed in leafy green husks like an ear of corn. If you peel back the husks, what you’ll find looks like a pair of skinny…

Canada 150: Bunchberry and warblers
posted on Friday, May 26, 2017
North Shore—On a sunny, summer day in the Northwoods, it’s a delight to hear the clear voice of a white-throated sparrow sing “Oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada” beside a sparkling lake. This summer, with the celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial, I expect that those patriotic sparrows will sing even more incessantly than usual. They aren’t wrong either—about Canada being sweet. Its hardwood forests produced a record 13.5 million gallons of maple syrup in 2016, which amounts to approximately 70 percent of the world’s maple syrup. Quebec’s maple forests may be lovely,…

Spring singers in the swamp
posted on Friday, May 05, 2017
Wood frogs are easily identified by the black bandit mask across their eyes, and their duck-like quack given from the water. | EMILY STONE Each spring, I find myself stepping outside on mild evenings to listen for the frog chorus. If my own wet woods are silent, I’ll pick a warm afternoon to ride my bike slowly down a certain stretch of road where a southwest-facing wetland always seems to thaw first. The rough quacks of wood frogs rise from pools where a skim of ice still floats. Spring peepers…

Turkey vultures: Soaring to purity
posted on Monday, Mar 27, 2017
North Shore—Even as the snow melts and signs of spring emerge, green-up can feel far away. Some birds return early though, and their lilting calls or soaring silhouettes can lift our eyes and spirits. Turkey vultures are one of the earliest returning migrants, even though they may have journeyed back from as far away as South America. They don’t have the jaunty colors of red-winged blackbirds, or a thrilling conk-la-ree! song, but by drawing our eyes skyward, they can still provide us with an early spring mood-boost. Although their soaring…

The Pileated Woodpecker: Northwood homebuilders
posted on Monday, Feb 27, 2017
North Shore—Throughout the snow-packed forest in the Northwoods, piles of wood chips can be found at the base of rotting trees; pileated woodpeckers have been busy this winter. Large, oblong feeding holes riddle the trunks of punky snags. Signs of the pileateds’ presence far outnumber the actual number of birds in an area. Despite their relative rarity, these large, charismatic birds have an outsized impact on their ecosystem. The rectangular feeding holes we see so commonly in the woods are just one example. Through their forceful foraging habits, pileated woodpeckers…

Hey sweetie: The colors of chickadee attraction
posted on Wednesday, Feb 01, 2017
Although snow still blankets the ground, the sun’s rays are intensifying just enough to give the impression of warmth, if not the reality—that’s all it takes for black-capped chickadees to get spring fever. Go outside and you can hear the amorous songs of male chickadees. The simplicity of their “hey sweetie” two- or three-note song is charming. But then, almost everything about a chickadee is charming. Their large head, tiny body and gregarious curiosity combine to make them easily perceived as cute. What’s difficult to perceive about chickadees is which…

A relationship on the rocks
posted on Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016
Grand Marais—In early winter, when the sky, the trees, and your mood all turn gray, it’s time to head to the lake. The shore of Lake Superior is always a source of beauty, solace and adventure, but—if you know where to look—it also hosts inspiring teamwork and fierce competition to rival Sunday’s game. Crusts of lichens splash rainbows onto smooth gray basalt and rhyolite ledges all along the North Shore. Orange, yellow, gray and green are the most common colors for these remarkable teams. Lichens aren’t a single organism; instead…