Sunday, March 10, 2019 12:55 am CST

Winter just does not seem to want to let go.

We are once again in the middle of another snowstorm.

It had been predicted that we would get 8 - 11 inches of snow here at ‘Loon Lake’..

Even though it is still snowing, it appears that we will get less than that because it started out as rain instead of snow. So that has cut down on the amount we will get.

But the far western part of the state has gotten upwards of a foot of snow and no travel is advised in some places.

It is the wet heavy spring type of snow. What as kids we used to call “snowman snow”.

So it will still be some time before our loons can come back home.

No doubt they have already changed into their beautiful black and white plumage in anticipation of their trip north from the Gulf of Mexico. And some of them may have already begun their journey north.

But until we get rid of the snow and ice here they will not be able to return.

Some meteorologists have estimated the amount of water that we have in our snowpack in Minnesota. They say that there are 6 TRILLION gallons of water. That is more water than is in Lake of the Woods. And is equivalent to SIX Mille Lacs Lakes! And that is just here in Minnesota. Surrounding states also have massive amounts of snow.

So now we hope and pray for a very gradual melt. If it warms up quickly and the snow melts fast, we will have real problems with widespread flooding.

But as usual, there is nothing we can do but to watch and wait.

And hopefully it will not be too long before our beautiful lakes are open and our amazing loons are back home.

Copyright 2019 Larry R Backlund

Sunday, February 24, 2019 10:54 pm CST

-8 degrees F Clear Sky Windy

Sunrise 6:59 am CST Sunset 5:52 pm CST

I was a little surprised when I saw that I have not posted anything since the end of July last year. But with the loons not nesting last summer, there was not much to report. Hopefully this summer will be more normal and productive.

We had a fairly mild winter with very little snow.

That is up until the last month.

We have set an all-time record for snowfall for the month of February with well over 30 inches of snow. And the month is not over yet and we are supposed to get more snow this week.

Along with it, we have also had some brutally cold temperatures with windchills at times in the minus 50 and 60 degree range.

We have gotten over a foot of snow in just the last week with some areas getting more than that just last night. And today the whole western and southern part of the state has been under blizzard conditions with Interstate freeways close in the southern part of the state and many people stranded on roads drifted shut. Schools in the western and southern part of the state are either closed or delayed in their opening tomorrow.

The winds have been driving the snow across the lake horizontally today, at times with whiteout conditions on the lake.

So we have no sign of our loons. They are smarter than that. They are safely ensconced down on the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

We are one month away from the official arrival of spring. But it may be a little late this year.

I have mounds of snow 8 feet high where I have shoveled. And I am running out of places to put the snow.

We can hope that we will a gradual thaw. If there is a quick warm-up there is a possibility of spring flooding.

But sooner than we know it, spring will arrive.

And our beloved loons will return once again.

Copyright 2019 Larry R Backlund

Sunday, July 29, 2018 10:15 pm CDT

63 degrees F  Partly Cloudy  Wind 5 mph NW

 

Where does time go?  

We are already two thirds of the way through summer.  

Didn't it just begin yesterday?!

My apologies for not giving you any updates for a while.  But then there has not been much to update.

First of all let me tell you that the pair of loons that visited the nest a number of times is doing well.  They have remained in the area and on many days spend several hours just sitting in the general vicinity of where the nest was. 

There have been no chicks on the lake this year.

After the LoonCam was shut down, it took several days for me to do the work of pulling the nest in.  And during that time the loons never once even visited the nest, let alone got on the nest.  So that seems to confirm that it was the right time to pull the nest in.

The other two times that the loons did not use the nest were years when we had a change of mate like we did this year.

But they have still displayed interest in and even ownership of the area.  Several times they have come in and 'gently' ushered Canada geese away.

So hopefully we will see this pair once again next year with one 'small' difference.  Next year hopefully we will see beautiful 'small' loon chicks!

In a sign that summer is rapidly fading away, this pair of loons has several times peacefully spent time swimming with a third loon.  This happens more and more as loons even with young that are almost grown become less and less territorial.

Let me tell you about something else totally unrelated to our loons but may be of interest to many of you who love the wonders of nature.

I don't know what it is like where you are but I have seen more monarch butterflies this year than I have in several years.  Which is good news after they have had a couple hard years, especially on their trip north from their wintering grounds in Mexico.

Back in June I saw 3 monarch caterpillars but then lost track of them after a few days.  I was concerned that they may have been taken by birds.

So right after the 4th of July I decided to take a couple caterpillars in to protect them and hopefully have them become adult butterflies.  I have done this before but I have not done it the last couple years.

A few years ago when I was working with the technical people from BroadBand Minnesota, the president of the company saw what I was doing with monarchs and said to me "Maybe you should start a monarch butterfly cam!"

I told him that as interesting as it would be, that is the last thing I need is responsibility for another live webcam.

Now here is where the story builds.  I was planning to only take in only those couple caterpillars.

But then as I was gathering food to feed them, I would see another one.  And another.  And another.

So far i have about THIRTY caterpillars that I have brought in to raise!  And with each one I say 'that is the last one'!  But it is hard to see another one and not bring it in where it is safe and can become another monarch butterfly.

Two have "hatched" (I am not sure what the right term is for a butterfly emerging from a coccoon or chrysalis) in just the last couple days.  A third one will probably emerge tomorrow.

One went into chrysalis just a few minutes ago and another one is getting ready.  There are 13 others that are already in chrysalis.  And other 10 or 15 that are hungrily feeding on milkweed.  It is amazing how much milkweed this 'herd' of monarch caterpillars can eat every day.  I have to go out at least three times a day to gather milkweed for them to eat.

There will be at least one or two butterflies that will emerge every day for the next couple weeks.  And add to our population of beautiful monarch butterflies.

Let me leave you with this miracle or wonder of nature.  And I would like you to explain it to me.

I am doing this from memory so give me a little latitude if I don't have the times exactly right.

Monarch butterflies go through about 4 or 5 generations every year.  Each generation through the summer lives for just 2 to 5 weeks.  That is until the last generation of the summer, the one that will migrate down to Mexico.

THAT generation lives for 6 to 8 MONTHS.  Yes.  Not weeks but MONTHS!

The exact same butterfly.  The same species.  And most of them live for only a few weeks.

Until the 'magic' generation that lives for 6-8 months.

Explain that to me.

It is one of those things that to my finite mind defies explanation other than to call it a MIRACLE.  It is one of many things about which I simply shake my head and say "I don't know how you done it God, but God you done GOOD!"

So I wish you "loon lullabies" and "monarch memories"!

 

Copyright 2018  Larry R Backlund

 

 

 

Sunday, May 20, 2018 11:45 pm CDT

51 degrees F  Partly Cloudy   Wind 2 mph NE

Sunrise   5:40 am CDT    Sunset   8:43 pm CDT

 

We wait patiently but there is not much indication that the loons are going to use the nest this year.

It was very encouraging when they got up on the nest the first morning after I had put it out and they mated that morning.  That was less than 24 hours after the ice had gone out of the lake.

With the record late ice out date this year, it was always a question of what impact that would have on our loons.  But they are very adaptive and it was good to see them on the littlest bit of open water even before the ice completely went out of the lake.

There have been numerous matings on the nest - all of which were also encouraging.  Some people counted at least 11 matings.

But in spite of those matings, they have spent very little time in the area of the nest.

There are other loons on the lake this year and there have been many, many territorial battles going on as evidenced by the calls back and forth in the middle of the night.

One of the most concerning things this year is that apparently we have also had a change of mate.  The female from the nest last year that we banded is the female that has been on the nest.  But the male is unbanded.  So we cannot be sure who he is.

Nor can we be sure of what happened to last year's male.  Was it simply a mate change for some reason?  Or did something happen to him over the winter or in either of the long migration flights that all loons must make?

All questions that we have no way of answering.  We can only speculate.

In all the years of doing this, we have had only two years when the loons did not nest.  Both of those occasions were when something had happened to one of the mates.  The last time was when the male was sadly killed the summer before.

There have been reports from a couple people that they think there is a pair of loons possibly nesting very nearby.  IF that is the case, then it is best that another pair does NOT nest on the LoonCam platform.  With two pair of loons within sight of each other, there would be constant territorial battles and the probability that both nests would fail because of that.

So I think it is time to make the difficult decision.

In the next day or two I will pull the nest in for this year.

And this will be only the third time in the last 15 years that loons have not used the nest, laid eggs and had little loon chicks.

Even through this we learn the challenges that loons face day after day, year after year.

The good thing is that loons seem to be doing well and increasing.  The sad part is that, for at least this year, we will not be able to watch them on the LoonCam.

But there is always NEXT YEAR!

 

Copyright 2018   Larry R Backlund

Thursday, May 17, 2018 11:32 pm CDT

63 degrees F   Clear  Wind Calm

Sunrise  5:43 am CDT   Sunset  8:39 pm CDT

We continue to wait to see what the loons will do this year.

There are several loons on the lake this year.  But I have still not figured out who is who or who is doing what.  Although I have been away from home a lot for the last couple weeks so I have not had a lot of time to try to figure it all out.

So I thank you all for being eyes and ears for all of us.  Like many of you I also wish that we had chat that does not disappear so that we could share information more easily.  But thank you.

There continue to be numerous territorial calls including yodels.  So we know that there are at least two males on the lake.

From what I have seen and what others have confirmed it seems that the female that has mated on the nest is the same female as last year.  I saw her right leg green band when they mated the first morning after I had put the nesting platform out (before the cam wen t live).  But I did not see her left leg.  So I appreciate the confirmation of the left leg band being red which confirms she is last year's female.

However, that first morning I did not see bands on the male.  He moved and left the nest so fast I could not be sure that he did not have bands.  But I did not see any bands and so immediately I was concerned that this was a different male from last year.

Someone asked if we had removed his bands when we retrieved the data recorder from him last year.  The answer is no.  Those bands are permanent and are not removed.  Last year's male had green/green bands.  He is the male that I had the very special encounter with a couple years ago.

So if it was not our male from last year (which seems to have been confirmed by several of you) it made me sadly contemplate that something may have happened to him and that is why there is a new male with last year's female.

But what has also concerned me is that this pair has not been spending any time in the area of the nest.  It is encouraging that they have mated a number of times.  But by now they should be getting serious about nesting.

What is also concerning is that there may - I repeat MAY - be a pair that is defending territory very nearby.  Is it the same pair that has been visiting the nest.  Or another pair?

I have not been able to confirm which it is.

But if there is another pair with a natural nest nearby, then I will pull the nesting platform in.  Because to leave it out and possibly attract another pair this close would mean that there would be constant fights and territorial battles.  And even if both nested and laid eggs, we would very possibly lose BOTH nests because of the fights.

Difficult questions for which I at this point do not have any answers.

This morning my neighbors told me that they watched an eagle repeatedly target and dive bomb one of the loons.  Over and over.  For several minutes.  The mate finally showed up and also engaged in the panicked calls.

After a number of minutes the eagle gave up and flew away without having done any apparent damage to the loons.

There always seems to be drama with our loons, doesn't there?

So we continue to watch and wait.  I will try to keep you updated if I learn anything new.

 

Copyright 2018   Larry R Backlund