Wednesday, April 23, 2014 11:35pm CDT

40 degrees F    Cloudy     Wind  2 mph E Sunrise   6:12 am CDT     Sunset   8:10 pm CDT

The ice went out of the lake overnight!

It is always amazing to see the difference in the lake that only  a few hours can make.

What had been a sheet of black ice covering the lake is now a sea of liquid.  A beautiful northern Minnesota lake.  A liquid lake instead of a sheet of ice.  A lake always changing and always in motion.

There are swans and eagles and seagulls and mergansers and geese and ducks of every description.

This morning I saw a pair of loons swimming nearby so I think they are already looking for the nest.  They are the ones we have been waiting for.  They are the ones that really make this complete and make it a northern lake.

Last night there was a lot of calling back and forth across the lake even though it was mostly covered with ice.

The wails and the tremolos echoed through the night air.

Then there was three loud yodels.

I had thought that the single loon I had seen before was maybe a female.  But the yodels told me that there was a male on the lake and he was on this side of the sheet of ice!

With his yodels, he was telling everyone who could hear (which was the entire lake) that he was staking out the territory on this side.

That is encouraging to see and hear.

Now we can do some of the final work on the camera and the nest and get it ready to put in the lake.

We are getting close!

And it is getting exciting.

Hopefully the last preparations will come together without any major problems and you will be able to see the LoonCam soon!

Tell your family and friends and everyone else to get ready.

If you have any comments or questions or would like to leave your email address for possibly updates or notifications, send them to LoonCam@yahoo.com.

Copyright 2014     Larry R. Backlund

Saturday, April 19, 2014 4:07 pm CDT

63 degrees F     Cloudy with rain approaching     Wind Calm

Sunrise   6:20 am CDT     Sunset  8:04 pm CDT

WE HAVE A LOON!

The lake is still more than 80% ice covered.  But there is some open water around the edges.

Overnight and today a very gentle breeze has moved the ice sheet and now there is more open water on this side of the lake.

Early this morning my neighbors said that they had heard a loon on the lake!

I did not see or hear anything until about 3 pm today.

I had looked earlier with the binoculars but I did not see anything.  Nor hear anything.

Then I saw a dark shape dive in the distance.

I could not be sure what it was.  It surfaced and dove several times more.  But even with the binoculars I could not get a good view of it.  Good enough that I could say for sure it was a loon.

Then it surfaced once more and turned sideways.

There was no mistaking that unique profile of a loon.

THERE WAS ONE LOON BACK ON THE LAKE!

I called to it.

And it answered.  Several times.

So now the season starts!

The nest is still under some of the new snow so it is impossible to do more work on it and to get the camera and other equipment working.  Which we will do hopefully in the next few days.

Easter Sunday is forecast to be sunny with a high of 70 degrees.

Sheer heaven for Minnesotans who have endured this seemingly endless winter!

But even if we have everything working, we cannot put the nest out in the lake until all the ice goes out.  Even though there is some open water here, if the wind should push the ice sheet this way, it would destroy everything in its path.

Especially a nest and a camera.

So once again we wait.

But at least we know that ONE loon has returned!

Comments or questions or just to have your email put on the notification list, send them to LoonCam@yahoo.com

Copyright  2014     Larry R. Backlund

Thursday, April 17, 2014 11:37 pm CDT

24 degrees F    Clear    Wind Calm Sunrise  6:24 am CDT     Sunset 8:01 pm CDT

We set some unbelievable records yesterday!

We ended up with somewhere between 15 and 18 inches of snow here!  There were numerous other reports in the area of high snow totals with up to 20 inches in a couple of places and in the teens in numerous areas.

But the amazing thing is the large disparity in snowfall throughout the area.

The Twin Cities airport, where official records are kept, showed that they got only 0.3 inches!  And areas further south of the Twin Cities got NO snow, only rain.  So when the official records for this day are written for the Twin Cities, it will show that we only got 0.3 inches of snow!

This snowstorm definitely has slowed down the melting of the ice on the lake.

We were scheduled today to work on the camera and all that is necessary to bring images of the LoonCam to you.  But obviously that also came to a screeching halt.

The nest is once again under a foot-and-a-half of snow!

Actually there is a drift at least 3 feet deep over the nest and all of the television cables.

So we will have to wait a few days to be able to do any work on it.

The loons are also getting anxious.

I got reports that a couple days ago there were 15 loons on one lake south of The Cities and 11 loons on another lake down there.  The ice has already gone out on those lakes but not here.

So the loons are stacked up waiting to fly north.

Today a neighbor told me that he heard and saw a loon flying over the lake here, calling with his 'flying tremolo' call as he went.

So apparently "our loons" are in the area and are flying over to scout whether the lake is ice free yet!  Along with us, they will have to wait a few more days.

But it is SO good to know that the loons definitely are in the area and are anxious to come 'home'.

If you have any reports of loon sightings, from anywhere in the country, it would help all of us if you would give us a report.  You can send a report of your observations to LoonCam@yahoo.com.  I won't totally promise but I will also try to send out an email notice when the camera is live or when we are getting close.

Because of the volume of emails, I cannot answer them personally.  But I DO read each and every one of them.

Copyright 2014    Larry R. Backlund

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 1:06pm CDT

29 degrees F     Heavy Snow     Wind   1mph N

Welcome to Minnesota, The Theater of Seasons!

We are now in Act 2 Scene 3.

Or take your pick of where we are.

Words do not do justice to the scene outside the windows right now.  It would make the perfect picture postcard for Christmas.  IF it was Christmas.

Snow is coming down heavily.

Every branch of the pine trees are frosted with snow.  Brilliant sparkling white of the snow against the deep green of the pine boughs.

The leafless branches of every other tree and bush are piled high with snow.  With the lack of wind, the snow lazily drifts almost straight down and collects on every horizontal surface, even the smallest of twigs.

There is a veritable traffic jam at the bird feeders.

A brilliant red male cardinal and his olive mate stand out against the dazzling white of the snow.

The black and white chickadees flit furiously back and forth from the feeders.  Taking one sunflower seed at a time, they fly to the nearest bush to peck it open.  And then they return for another seed.  Over and over.  One after the other.

The slate-colored juncos sit while they eat.  They sit either on the feeder or on the ground.

White breasted nuthatches take a seed and then fly to the nearest tree trunk.  There they sit upside down while they hammer open the seed with their beak.

A red-bellied woodpecker eats from the cake of suet and seeds.

Finches eagerly feed on thistle seeds.

A brilliant blue jay, the pig of the group - a beautiful bird but a greedy one, flies in and chases all the other birds away while he scatters seed all over.

When he leaves, the other birds return and the traffic jam resume.

Robins are singing as if trying to figure out what is going on.

So in spite of the disappointment of more snow so late in the spring, it brings scenes of such beauty and wonderment. 

The snow is expected to continue through tonight or early tomorrow morning.  Last night one of the television stations in the Twin Cities was forecasting an expected 14 inches of snow at two cities less than 20 miles from here.  I think they subsequently lowered the forecast because of the uncertainty of where the snow/rain line would fall.

It is hard to tell how much snow we have gotten so far because it is wet and settles.  But there are over 4 inches of  "settled snow" and it is still coming down heavily.

Just a few days ago, the snow and ice had finally melted off the loon nest.

We were planning on working today and tomorrow to do all the technical work necessary to get the camera and the microphone and the computers all working together so that we were ready whenever the lake allowed us to put the nest out.

With all this snow, that may also have to wait for a few more days.

There had been about 30 feet of open water around the edge of the lake.  But then yesterday morning that had frozen over again as the temperature fell to 16 degrees and tied an all-time modern record that went back to 1875.

The cold and the snow has definitely slowed down the ice going out of the lake.

But temperatures are expected to hit the 60s on Easter Sunday and next week.

So things will change quickly in the next few days.

I have received numerous reports of loons on the move all across the country and some reports of loons here in Minnesota where they are able to find open water.

If you see or hear loons, I would appreciate your reports.  You can send them to LoonCam@yahoo.com.  Because of the volume of emails, I cannot respond personally to you.  But I promise that I do eventually read all of them.

Any observations you have are so helpful to know what is going on.  I will try to post some of the information on the blog here or answer some of your questions.

You have all been SO kind and gracious in your expressions of appreciation for the LoonCam and how much it has meant to you and your loved ones and your friends.  Thank you for your kindness.

Encourage your kid's teachers to use the LoonCam in the classroom as a wonderful teaching tool about science and nature and the wonders of Creation!

In the Twin Cities some of the lakes are already ice free and there have been some loons spotted on those lakes as well as some of the rivers which are ice free before the lakes are.  So they are trying to get here.  And your reports help to know where they are.

For now, we can only wait.

And hope.

Spring WILL come ... someday.

A VERY Happy Easter to all of you.  And for those who just celebrated Passover, Chag Pesach Sameach.

Saturday, April 12, 2014 11:40 pm CDT

38 degrees     Cloudy     Calm     Sunrise   6:33am CDT     Sunset   7:55pm CDT

What a difference a week makes!

A week ago Friday, we had just had a major spring snowfall of almost a foot.

But this week, on Wednesday, we hit 70 degrees for the first time.

Snow is losing its battle.

It is trying to hang on, but it is fading fast.  This week was the first time this year that I have been able to walk down to the lake without slogging through snow 2 and 3 feet deep.  And now the only snow left is the remains from the largest drifts and in shaded areas.

Yesterday was the first time that I could get to the loon nest.

There is a lot of work to be done on the nest and it must all happen fast.

A little over a week ago there was a pickup truck driving on the ice.  Today the ice is starting to turn black and there is actually a couple feet of open water around the edge of the lake in some places.

It is interesting to watch the behavior of lake ice in the spring.

One day it is solid and white and covered with snow.

Then after some warm weather or rain, all of a sudden it seems to turn a very dark gray or almost black.

This happens as the ice starts to become very weak and internal areas of it melt and you are left with a sheet of vertical icicles with water in between the "icicles'.  Ice turning black is a sure sign that we are getting close to the ice going out of the lake as it "rots".

You may remember that last year the ice did not go out of the lake until April 30th, the latest that I have ever seen.  The year before it went out on March 18th, one of the earliest ice out dates I have ever seen.

Two extremes of dates in two consecutive years.

So now we can only wait to see when it goes out this year.

Tonight I got an email from Jim Gilbert, a well-known naturalist and phenologist, who told me that he has gotten three reports of loons, one flying as far north as Wadena, Minnesota.  But there have not been any seen or heard around here yet.

But at least we know that some of them are on their way and are trying to come home!

They are probably using open water on rivers to land and feed and then taking 'reconnaissance flights' out to check for more open water or for their home lakes to be ice free.

The forecast for this next week is for colder temperatures and maybe even some more snow.  No big storms are predicted at this point, however.  But high temperatures are only forecast to be in the 40s for all of next week.  That alone will slow down the ice-out date.

But we are getting close.

Close to our beautiful and beloved loons once again gracing us with their presence!

Tell your kids, their teachers and your friends and neighbors to get ready for another season of the LoonCam.  Now is a good time to use Facebook and Twitter.

The loons will be here before we know it.

The LoonCams presence is so fleeting you don't want to miss a day of it.

If you give me your email address at LoonCam@yahoo.com, I will try to let you know when we are about ready to go live.

Copyright 2014   Larry R. Backlund