Saturday, April 14, 2018 6:55 pm CDT

20 degrees F  BLIZZARD

Sunrise  6:30 am CDT    Sunset  7:56 pm CDT

 

Ahhhhhh!

Spring in Minnesota.  What can be better?

Warm temperatures.  Grass growing.  Flowers and trees blooming.  Gentle breezes.  Blue skies.  Even bluer lakes.

And loons calling.

Does it get any better than this?

The short answer is no it doesn't get any better.  The longer answer is that this year we don't have a clue about what spring is!

This is the winter that just won't quit.

We have had several snowstorms in the last few weeks.

But right now we are in the midst of a good old fashioned blizzard.  The wind is howling. And heavy snow is blowing horizontally in front of the windows.

This is a huge snow storm that reaches all the way from Michigan through Wisconsin and Minnesota and South Dakota and Iowa and Nebraska and Colorado down to Kansas.

The Twin Cities is supposed to possibly get 12 to 18 inches of snow and high winds and areas of SW Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska are to get even up to 24 inches of snow.

Being north of the Twin Cities here at 'Loon Lake', we were not in the blizzard warning area and were not supposed to get more than a few inches of snow.  But the snow storm has moved north and we are getting hit and are in the Blizzard Warning area now.  So far I would guess that we have gotten 6 to 8 inches of snow out of the storm already and it is supposed to continue snowing until tomorrow morning.

Needless to say the lake is still firmly frozen.  The ice has not started melting at all yet and with the insulation of this new snow it will be delayed even more.  We have had over 2 feet of ice on the lake this year.  That is a lot of ice to melt.

Once it starts to melt it will probably go fast.  But I think we are in for a very late ice out date this year.

Last year the ice went out on March 8th.  But then the lake refroze and the final ice out date was March 25th.  The year before ice out was march 15th.  But in 2013 the ice did not go out until April 30th.  Will we match that record this year?

Time will tell.

But it certainly is no place for our loons to be here right now! 

I had hoped that most of them were still down on the Gulf or had stopped somewhere well south of here.  But then this afternoon one of the neighbors said they had heard a loon here yesterday.  I hope it wasn't a loon but it very well could be a one that had stopped on open water of the Mississippi River or some other river and was making reconnaissance flights out over the lake looking for open water.

By now for sure our loons have shed their drab gray plumage and are wearing their 'Minnesota finest' - that dramatic black and white plumage that we know and love.

However, for now we will have to wait as a blizzard roars through the area.

But soon it will once again be LOON SEASON!

And we will hear and see our beloved loons.

And all will be right with the world once again.

 

Copyright 2018  Larry R Backlund

 

March 21, 2018 10:50pm CDT

32 degrees F  Calm   Cloudy

Sunrise  7:16 am CDT   Sunset  7:27 am CDT

 

Today is the first full day of spring.

But the loons will not be back anytime soon.

Snow still covers most of the ground.  And the lake is still solidly frozen.  I saw a vehicle driving out there a couple days ago.

It sure is a lot different than it has been the last two years.

Last year, the ice went out on March 9th and in 2016 it went out on March 15th.  Both years there were already plants coming up.  But this year the ground is still frozen.

We are supposed to get 6 to 8 inches of snow tomorrow night.

So if the loons know what is good for them, they will wait for a few weeks before the begin their northward trek.

But before we know it, our beautiful loons will be back again and it will be another season of the LoonCam.

So get some extra rest now so that you won't miss one minute of the excitement with our loons.

 

Copyright 2018   Larry R Backlund

 

Thursday, December 7, 2017 2:27 pm CST

 

19 degrees F   Partly Sunny   Wind 5 mph SW

Sunrise  7:40 am CST    Sunset  4:32 pm CST

 

I guess we can say that winter is officially here!

Overnight the lake froze over.

This is the 4th time it has frozen over during the last several weeks but each time wind would come up and break up the ice and open the lake again.

But I think this time the ice is here to stay.

Yesterday the lake was almost completely open with some strong winds that blew in a cold front and brought snow and cold.

We had a high temperature of 52 degrees just 3 days ago.  This morning it was down to 3 degrees.  So things have changed.

The weather this fall has been all over the place here at "Loon Lake".  The first half of November was unusually cold and even had some snow.  The lake froze over for the "first time" on November 12th.

Then the second half of the month was warmer than normal.

Even as I write this now there are 20 swans sitting on the ice out in the middle of the lake.  I think they are confused too about how quickly things have changed. 

Yesterday they had almost an entire lake of open water.  Today it is all ice.

About half of them are walking around and the other half are sitting on the ice.  Some of them even have their heads tucked under their wings.  I am not sure if it is to keep warm or if they are sleeping.

But they all seem to be ok.

We have not seen our beloved loons for sometime.

The last time I saw our loons here was on Thursday, October 19th.

There were THREE juvenile loons swimming together.  I assume 2 of them were our LoonCam chicks and the other was probably a juvenile from another lake that was starting to think about migrating south.

The second week in October we spent a few days at the Gunflint Lodge up along the Canadian border.

When we arrived, their on staff naturalist John was just returning from taking a group on a pontoon tour of the lake.  He saw me and came over to tell me that he had seen one adult loon while they were out.  And that loon was starting to molt and was changing its color.  He said you could see the gray along the cheeks and neck of the loon.

As you already know from what we have talked about in the past, loons completely molt their feathers twice a year.  Right now they have already changed or are changing their striking black and white plumage into drab gray plumage for the winter months that they are down south.

And then next spring before they come back north to their home territories they will return to their beautiful black and white plumage.  One of the many miracles of loons.

Another miracle is the three juveniles that I talked about.

The adults leave about a month BEFORE the juveniles on their migration down to the Gulf of Mexico.

Then when the juveniles fly south, somehow miraculously they are able to find their way on their own, having NEVER been down to the Gulf of Mexico before.

It is one of many things that I say "God I don't know how you did it.  But You DONE GOOD!"

I have some other things to share with you.  But I will save them for another time.

On this anniversary of Pearl Harbor, we give thanks for all those who have given so much to keep us free.  Some of whom have given the ultimate sacrifice.

At this very special time of year, I hope that you have a wonderful time with family and friends.  Cherish each day and each minute.  We are never guaranteed more.

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to you and yours!

 

Copyright 2017  Larry R Backlund

Sunday, September 24, 2017 11:25pm CDT

68 degrees F   Cloudy   Wind Calm

Sunrise  7:04 am CDT   Sunset  7:08 pm CDT

 

When I look back, I can't believe that it has been over 2 months since I last updated you on our loons.

There has been a lot that has happened on all fronts during that time.

The most important things first - our two loon 'chicks' are doing well.  Active and thriving.

I thought that the adults had left back in August because I had not seen them for several weeks.

But then a couple weeks ago, I saw one of the adults with both of the chicks.  So at least one of the adults was still here, although I am sure they will be starting their long migration any day now.  What we have learned over the last few years through the satellite tracking, all of our Minnesota and Wisconsin adult loons headed over to Lake Michigan where they spent a couple weeks feeding before they went down to the Gulf of Mexico.

And then in one of the many miracles of loons, the young do not leave until about a month after the adults.  Never having been down to the Gulf of Mexico and no apparent way of even knowing about it, the young find their way on their own down to the Gulf!

We have had some very unusual weather for late September.  For the last 3 days, including today, our temperatures have been over 90 degrees with high humidity!  This is more like the 'dog days' of August than late September.

We are now at the Fall Equinox where the length of daylight and night is almost exactly equal.

I saw both of the chicks again last night and they were both doing well.  I did not see either of the adults.

And then again this afternoon we were out on the lake and saw one of the chicks.  And we got DUMPED on with one of the heaviest rainstorms that we have had all summer.  And we were not even supposed to get any rain until late tonight.

That rainstorm finally started to lower our temperatures.  So right now it is a more normal temperature in the 60s.

That change in temperature may remind our loons that it is that time of year for them to head south.  Those of you who live in the South or on the Gulf should see our loons beginning to arrive for the winter very soon.  Our loss is your gain.

So we enter what I call the "silent season", that time of year when we don't hear our beloved loons until next spring.

 

Copyright 2017 Larry R Backlund

 

Saturday, July 8, 2017 6:33 am CDT

57 degrees  Clear  Wind Calm

Sunrise  5:34 am CDT  Sunset  9:02 pm CDT

 

In the early morning sunlight, four loons are swimming right out in front of me!

It is OUR loons.  Two adults and two chicks.  Although they can hardly be considered "chicks" anymore.  They are fully three quarters the length of the adults now.

It is hard to believe that they are the same little chicks that left the nest within hours of hatching one month and five days ago.

They seem to be doing very well.  Healthy and active.

The lake is like a sheet of glass.  The sky is blue with just a few scattered clouds.  And the early morning sun's rays are sweeping across the lake.  And they highlight our loons peacefully swimming along and feeding.

The first early morning fishermen have just left the landing and made their way across the lake.  One boat is fishing not too far from our loons.  But they are totally oblivious to the presence of the loons and the loons are not concerned about them either.

The chicks are easily able to dive now.  They may even be able to catch a little bit of their own food.  But for the most part they are still reliant on the parents for their food.

Even though they are approaching the size of an adult loon, they are still wearing their gray down.  It is hard to describe the feel of that down.  It is softer than the softest, most expensive cashmere that you have ever felt.

But very soon the first feathers will begin to appear and they will enter their unkempt 'teenage phase'.

It is interesting to watch the adults as they dive for minnows and fish for the chicks.

It looks simple enough.

The loon dives.  And then a minute or so later he comes up with a fish.

But oh how interesting it would be to see what goes on between the initial dive and the surfacing with a fish.

On a very calm morning like today, one can see hints of what is going on under water as the loon chases VERY fast fish darting around.

Because in between where the loon dove and where he came up, you can see swirls of water on the glass-like surface of the lake.  Swirls that are masked and covered when there are waves or even small ripples on the surface.

Those swirls appear here.  And then there.  And back over here.  And off to that side.  Then this side.  Closer.  Further away.  And all points in between.

The swirls of water on the surface show us that the loon is darting about, making impossible turns and quick movements underwater.  Until he finally nabs the fish he is chasing and comes up with it to give to the chicks.

But then something else catches the loon's attention.

All four loons turn and face the same direction.  Intent on something.  But what is it?

There about a hundred feet away is a dark object swimming straight toward them.  It has their attention.  It leaves a 'v' in the calm surface of the water as it approaches them.

It is a beaver.  With just the top of the head showing above the surface of the water.

As the beaver gets nearer to the loons and the chicks, it does what is probably the wise thing.  It dives.

But one of the adult loons dives as well.

Again how interesting it would be to be able to observe what is going on underwater.

All we can see are numerous swirls on the surface of water.

No doubt there is a new chase going on underwater.

But this time the loon is not trying to catch something.  After all, even if it could catch the beaver, then what would he do with it?

No, the underwater chase right now is a loon trying to drive the beaver away.  Undoubtedly with a few will placed stabs of its beak if the beaver is foolish enough to not beat hasty retreat.

And so that chase and hasty retreat are the story that the swirls on top of the water tell.

Soon the loon surfaces.  Mission complete.  And it returns to its mate and growing chicks.

That is just about a ten minute glimpse into the lives of our beloved loons.

Who knows what all goes on the other 24 hours that we do not see?!

I have some other good news for you.

I have already heard from Kevin Kenow from the USGS.

He has done a preliminary look at the data recorder that we retrieved off our male loon two weeks ago. 

The good news is that the recorder and the data were intact.  And readable.

Kevin said he "obtained a very nice record for 13 July 2012 (date of capture) through 28 October 2013 (when the devices memory was filled)."

With all that data (almost a year and a half of data!), it will take some time to analyze it and make sense out of it.

Kevin has said that he will let me know what he finds out about where our male went and what he did during that time.  It covers two whole migrations south and one migration north in the spring.  So it will be very interesting to learn more about where and when our loon traveled.

Already it sounds like there may be one or two real surprises for us.

But we will just have to be patient and wait for the full results.

I will let you know as soon as I find out more information.

But just know that this morning our loon family is doing well.  Healthy and active and growing.

And they survived a VERY active week on the lake over the 4th of July!

 

Copyright 2017   Larry R Backlund