Thursday, March 16, 2017 3:15 pm CDT

43 degrees F  Sunny and Clear  Wind 3 mph SE

Sunrise  7:23 am CDT   Sunset  7:21 pm CDT

 

MINNESOTA - THE THEATER OF SEASONS

Welcome to the latest 'production' at the Minnesota theater!

We have had a very mild winter here at Loon Lake.

Very little snow.  And mild temperatures for January and February.

There hasn't been any snow on the ground for weeks.  Ice fishermen were out on the lake fishing just 2 weeks ago.

Then on Sunday and Monday (5th and 6th) the temperature was in the 60s.  Daffodils, crocus and tulips were peeking out of the ground.

But late in the day on Monday, storms moved in and there were widespread tornado warnings. One tornado touched down not more than 20 miles from Loon Lake!  Way too close.

I could see the dark low-hanging clouds and it was obvious that areas were getting very heavy rain and hail.  Some areas even got softball size hail!

But here at the lake, all was calm.  NO rain. NO wind.  NO hail. NO storm.  But it was more than close enough when you can see and hear it in the distance.

Temperatures started to drop the next day and HIGH winds picked up as the storm system moved out of the area.

On Tuesday the 8th, the wind blew hard all day long.  It was strong enough to start breaking up the ice.  Which was strange since the ice was still solid up to shore.  Usually the ice melts around shore before it ever starts to move and break up.

But these high winds broke it up and by the end of the day, the lake was mostly open!

Except for here.  Here the ice was still frozen right up to shore.  So even if I wanted to (which I didn't), I could not have put the loon nest in the lake. There was still solid ice.   Plus it was still much too early.

I just hoped that the loons also thought it was too early and would not come back right away.

I kept watching for them but even if they had been on the lake, I probably would not have seen them since the wind continued for days and with all the high waves it is impossible to pick them out among the waves.

So far there have been no reports that loons are on the move.  And that is good with the cold weather that has descended down across the country!

Because by this last Sunday the lake was once again frozen over!  And it is still completely frozen.

The last several days have had low temperatures down as low as zero!

I even saw my first robin day before yesterday, the morning that it was zero here!  I think he was having second thoughts about having come so early!

Temperatures are supposed to return to closer to normal over this weekend.  So the ice may not last too long.  But as far as I am concerned, it can still wait a couple weeks.  That would make it closer to normal ice out dates.

But we are getting closer to another exciting loon season.  Spring officially arrives on Monday but here in the "north country" we usually do not consider spring to really have arrived until sometime in April.  March can be one of our snowiest months.  And we need the snow.

Catch up on your sleep because loon time will be here before we know it.  Tell your family and friends to get ready.  Tell your kid's teachers.  Tell everyone.

This year probably will be a VERY interesting and unusual year.

As most of you remember, our beloved male from the LoonCam was killed in August of 2015.

The female came back last year and took some ownership of the nest but she did not have a mate so we had no loons using the nest last year.

However, there were TWO other pairs of loons that took some interest in the nest and some ownership of it.

So when the loons come back,  we could be in for a BATTLE ROYALE over who will actually 'own' it and use it this year.

It should be very interesting and educational.  But it could also be brutal if they battle over the nest.

Who knows what will happen?

That is what makes watching the LoonCam so exciting!  Most of the time it is like watching paint dry or grass grow (BEAUTIFUL paint and grass!).

But then comes that moment of surprise and excitement.  And you don't want to miss a minute of it!

So get ready!

It is COMING!

 

Copyright Larry R Backlund  2017

 

Saturday, November 5, 2016 5:43 pm CDT

 

68 degrees F  Sunny  Wind Calm

Sunrise  7:58 am CDT     Sunset  5:55 pm CDT

 

It is hard to believe that it is November.

First of all when I look to see how long it has been since I have posted.

But more importantly, we are having an unusually mild fall.

Here it is November 5th and today it was 72 degrees and sunny!  And a  new record temperature of 73 degrees in the Twin Cities.

A beautiful blue sky, a blue lake like a mirror with thousands of seagulls and hundreds of coots.  An occasional eagle flies over and sends the coots into a scurry across the surface of the lake.  What I call a 'waterfall of coots' because it sounds like you are standing next to a waterfall.

Most of the leaves are already off the trees with just the few last stubborn ones hanging on.

We have had only a few light frosts so far only down to 30 degrees.  No killing frost here yet.  Further south in the Twin Cities they have not had a frost at all yet and do not expect one until next Saturday morning.  If that happens it will be the longest growing season in the Twin Cities of recorded history.  Breaking the old record of 207 days.

But quickly this will become a season of changes.

Tomorrow night it will already be dark at this time with turning back our clocks to standard time.

There is nothing that speaks more of Minnesota and the Great North Woods than the call of a loon on a quiet Minnesota lake at sunset.

But now we enter the "silent time" of the year as our beloved loons go South to the Gulf of Mexico.

The adults are already on the move.  Some of them already on the Gulf.

Others have made a rest stop on Lake Michigan before continuing the journey south.

But in one of the great miracles of nature, the young from this year's young loons will not begin their journey until a MONTH AFTER their parent's have left!

Having never been down to the Gulf of Mexico.  Having never seen it.  Having never known about it.  They will find their way down there all buy themselves.

YOU explain it to me!  I can't explain it.  Other than once again saying, "God, I don't know how you done it.  But you done good!"

Two weeks ago today a neighbor across the lake saw one of the juvenile loons.  He said  it was doing well and was flying.

There had been some concern because a week or so before that they said it looked like the young loon may have gotten tangled in a fisherman's line.  But there was no way to catch it to see if that was the case.

So it was good when he saw it flying and that it seemed to be doing well.

It had been a couple months since I had seen them.  For several days one of the adults and both juveniles spent most of the day out in front of my place.  Both of the juveniles seemed to be doing very well at that point.

I still do not have word on the cause of death of our male loon from the LoonCam nest last summer.  I hope that we get an update soon

I have done several loon presentations in the last couple months.  All the way from a school group of kindergartners to 4th graders and week after next to a group of seniors.  

Being with those kids gives one hope for the future.  What a great bunch of kids.  So inquisitive.  So informed.  So well behaved.

And so in love with loons.

As we enter the "silent season" of having no loons for a few months, we already look forward with anticipation to their return next spring.

In the meantime, as we enter this busy holiday season of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and Christmas I wish you , your family, your loved ones and friends the best of everything.

God Bless!

 

Copyright 2016  Larry R Backlund

 

 

Thursday, July 7, 2016 9:35 pm CDT

71 degrees F   Clouds and Rain Moving In  Wind S  3 mph

Sunrise   5:34 am CDT     Sunset   9:03 pm CDT

 

I just came up from an extended swim in the lake at dusk and I have a couple very special things to share with you.

First of all (unrelated to my swim), we have TWO loon chicks on the lake!

You may have read some about it in the comments to the previous post.

Mary on the lake was apparently the first to spot them.  She spotted one on Saturday night.   She said it was riding on the parent's back and she only saw one chick and one adult.

And then she called me on Monday to let me know that she had seen TWO chicks and both the adults.

This is exceedingly good news.  And VERY surprising news.

I have not seen them yet myself but my next door neighbors have confirmed that they saw them and saw both little chicks.

I don't know who these loons are.  But if I had to guess, I would guess that it is the other pair on the lake that I told you about before that had nested but then for some reason they lost their nest.  But that is only a guess until I actually see them and maybe I am able to see the bands.

If I had to guess, from what Mary said I would guess that the first chick hatched sometime on Saturday.  And the second chick hatched either late Saturday or more likely Sunday.

Now they enter their most vulnerable time for the next 2  weeks.

They have trouble diving at this stage so it is very difficult for them to get out of the way of danger.  Whether it be eagles or fish or boats.

The second thing that I wanted to tell you about was what happened while I was swimming just a little bit ago.

It has been a little muggy here tonight,  I had been working on several things and was hot and sweaty.  So I decided to go for a swim to cool off and clean off.

Shortly before dusk I was just sitting quietly in the lake with only my head out of the water.

Then in the shadows I thought I saw something moving near the bulrushes.  As I watched, it became clear that it was a loon.

I remained very quiet and still.  I could not quite believe my eyes as the loon kept swimming straight toward me.  It was very obvious that he saw me.  But he kept coming slowly toward me as I stayed as quiet and still as I could.

He kept coming.

 

To my amazement, he swam within about 10 feet of me.  He swam BETWEEN me and the shore.  He kept looking over at me, fully aware that I was there.

I wanted to 'talk' him but did not want to alarm him so I stayed quiet.

As he slowly swam by me, only then did I 'talk' to him with some quiet hoots.

After he had passed by me a little ways, he turned and started to swim back towards me.  I gave a few more hoots.  He returned 2 quiet hoots of his own.  Two or three times he swam a little ways away and then turned and came back towards me.

Then finally he dove underwater and I lost sight of him.

Encounters like this are ones that forever stay emblazoned in your memory.

What a privilege to have a close encounter of this kind with a beautiful loon.

As I was walking toward the shore, I thought to myself that no one will believe a loon swam within 10 feet of me.  So in my own mind I decided I was going to change it to 15 feet.  lol  Even then I did not know if people would believe such a close encounter.

When I got up to shore the neighbors were sitting on their front lawn.  Their kids and grandkids are here from Denver.  They had had a picnic and were sitting around the campfire.

I didn't know if they had seen what happened so I started to walk over to tell them.  But even before I got over there, they said they had watched the whole thing.  They said 'it looked like he came within 10 feet of you!'

I said THANK YOU for saying that because I had decided that no one would believe it if I said 10 feet.  But we agreed that the loon was only about 10 feet away from me.  So that put my mind at ease that I had not exaggerated how close and special this encounter was.

May you have your own special "loon encounters"!

 

Copyright 2016  Larry R Backlund

 

Friday, June 24, 2016 11:49 pm CDT

72 degrees   Partly Cloudy   Wind SE 5 mph

Sunrise   5:26 am CDT     Sunset   9:03 pm CDT

 

We are now officially into summer.

And the last several days have been spectacular.  Temperatures in the 80s, blue skies and light breezes.

These are the days we dream about in the middle of a Minnesota winter.

We still have loons on the lake and still hear some of their beautiful calls.  But the calls get less and less as the summer goes along.  Especially when the loons do not have chicks and are therefore not nearly as territorial.

But one of the things that has surprised me is the number of 'flying tremolos' that we have been hearing.

A couple nights ago the flying tremolos went on for almost 2 hours.  Why they were flying so much or why they were calling so much, I do not know.  It seems to be more than what I remember hearing before.  But it is a beautiful sound.

As many of you will remember the 'flying tremolo' is similar to the tremolo that loons make when they are alarmed or concerned.  But the flying tremolo does not seem to be an alarm call.  And they seem to make the call only when they are flying.

I cannot even adequately describe the call or how it differs from a regular tremolo.

But whenever I hear it, I know to look to the sky to see if I can see the loon that is calling, rather than looking to the lake.  Once again tonight a single loon called with his flying tremolo as he first circled the lake and then flew off, still calling as his call disappeared into the distance.

As he circled the lake, another loon answered with a wail from down on the lake.

A number of you have asked if the other pair of loons on the lake hatched chicks or not.

I am sorry to say that their nest failed for some reason.  Why, I do not know.

The USGS had asked me to check on the nest again to see if the chicks had hatched.  

When I checked, the loons were not on the nest and there were no eggs.  The cattails had grown enough that I could not get near enough to the nest to see if there were egg fragments.  I did not see the loons around nor did I see any chicks.

I asked other people on this part of the lake to watch to see if they spotted any chicks.

No one has.

So I don't know what happened to the nest.  Did a raccoon or mink get the eggs?  Did the chicks hatch and then were lost for some other reason?  Once again a lot of questions and no answers.

So unfortunately without chicks, we will not be able to recapture these loons and retrieve the data recorders that we put on them several years ago.

But most surprising after verifying that they were not on the nest, that pair of loons showed up here checking out the loon nest.  Or at least the area where it had been.  They actually seemed to be taking some ownership of the area even though there was not a nest for them to use. 

Even tonight there was a single loon that came in very close and just sat there and 'we talked' until a couple passing kayaks convinced him to move further away.

A few days ago an eagle dive bombed one of the loons twice.  Obviously the loon was not a happy camper.

On the second dive bomb, the loon 'stood straight up in the water' with his beak pointed directly at the eagle.  Apparently the eagle thought better of it and moved on.

What all of this tells me is that next spring may be a VERY interesting spring to be sure.

We have the female from the last couple years that definitely has an interest in the nest and shows ownership of it.

Then we have the female from a few years ago who has a new mate who also shows some ownership of the nest.

And now with the other pair of loons on the lake showing interest in the nest as well, we could have some pretty intense competition for which loons will use the nest next year.  This could turn out to be a battle royal!

So we enjoy the loons for the next few months while they are here and we look forward to next year.  Not knowing what it will bring.

But we know it will be interesting and educational.

 

Copyright 2016   Larry R Backlund

 

Friday, May 20, 2016 9:24 pm CDT

 

Well, even with the extra week it is obvious that the loons are not going to nest on the LoonCam nest this year.

As disappointing as that is, it is the reality of nature and the unpredictability of nature.

We knew going into this season that it was going to be 'different' because of the death of last year's male.  We just did not know what the difference would be.

Now we know.

This is only the second time in well over 10 years that this nest has not been used.  The first year it was not used was in 2013 when we had a change of mates.

The encouraging part is that we have at least two loons that are interested in the nest.  Probably the female from last year and the female from 4 years ago.

But one does not have a mate and the other one seems to have a mate that is not ready to nest yet.  Or at least to get up on the nest.

But it means that next year we will also probably have a very interesting year.  Which one of the loons who feels some ownership will be the one that will prevail?  We will probably have some very interesting confrontations.

So that is something you can think about over the winter and wonder what next year will bring!

The other good news is that the other pair of loons on the nest is nesting.  Let's hope that they have a successful hatch in the next week or so.

What I found especially encouraging is that they found a new nesting area that is out of the line of boat traffic and the constant disruption.  That should improve their chances of successfully hatching their egg(s).

So ...... it is time to face reality and shut down the camera for this year.

And let the humans have use of their property on the lake.

I will plan on letting you still view the LoonCam tomorrow and then maybe plan on shutting it off as we hit nightfall tomorrow night.

THANK YOU ALL for your interest and kind words of support and encouragement.  You are the BEST!  And this has become an amazing community of "loonatics"!

I will update you once in a while over the next year.

And then we will plan on meeting up again next spring and all becoming very sleep deprived!!

God Bless!

 

Questions or comments?  Email us at LoonCam at yahoo dot com.  Because of the volume of email I will not be able to respond personally to each email.  But I will eventually read every one and for recurring questions I will try to answer them here in this blog.

Copyright 2016    Larry R Backlund