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

Thursday, April 3, 2014 7:48 pm CDT

29 degrees F     Snowing     Wind N4mph Sunrise  6:49am CDT     Sunset   7:43pm CDT

Once again, the snow is coming down heavily.

Looking out towards the lake, it is just a sheet of white.  Nothing can be seen beyond the edge of the shore.

This is a wet heavy spring snow.  Perfect for making snowmen.

But the snow is coming down much too heavily for there to be any enjoyment in being out there making snowmen.

It is beautiful to watch it from the warmth inside.  A little while ago, I looked out at the beautiful scene of snow accumulating on every branch and needle of the deep green pine trees.  And there was the brilliant red of a cardinal against the stark white and the deep green.  He was watching to see if it was safe to fly to the feeder filled with plump sunflower seeds.

He quickly made the short flight and is now sitting gorging himself on sunflower seeds as the snow falls on him.

Beautiful!

The forecast has been all over the place the last couple days.  The weathermen - and the weather - can't seem to make up their minds.

The forecast was for 8 to 14 inches of snow for here.  Then they decreased it to 6 to 9 inches.  But today the forecast is back up there.  Possibly 6 to 14 inches of snow.

With this kind of storm, so much depends on timing.  When does the moisture arrive and when does it turn over to actual snow.  Plus a few miles either direction can make a big difference in the total accumulation.

There is nothing right now that is at all inviting to our loons.  It will still be sometime before the ice on the lake will be gone and there is any of the open water that they need - other than on some rivers that are starting to open.  The ice on the lake is still several feet thick and frozen right up against the shore.

So we can only hope that the loons, in spite of their biological urges to head north, do not try to push their limits.  But they seem to be able to sense and cope with those things much better than we humans do.

Snow still lies deep on the ground.  There has been some melting the last couple weeks but there is a lot to go.  In some ways it has been a perfect, slow melt.  This is good news as far as spring flooding is concerned.

What had been piles of snow over 8 feet high on either side of my driveway are now piles that are "only" 4 feet high.

One year ago today, crocuses were almost blooming, rhubarb nubs were poking their plump heads above the ground and green daffodil shoots were a couple inches high.

Not this year.  

The ground is still solidly frozen.

So it will still be sometime before we see flowers blooming.

Farmers always used to talk about a spring snow like this being "white fertilizer".  Apparently they felt that spring snow carried some of the nitrogen out of the air as it fell and acted like the best fertilizer around.

So this snow holds the promise of even better growth of all plants.

The storm is supposed to be done and out of here by tomorrow afternoon.  And this weekend the temperatures are supposed to be in the 60s!  Something we have not seen since way back in mid-October.

So much of the snow will melt fast.

Every year about this time of year, I have had it with shoveling snow!  I think I am at that point with this storm coming in.  I usually say, "OK, God.  YOU put it here.  You take care of it!  I refuse to shovel any more."  And I think He will take care of this snowfall in fairly short order.

No doubt many schools will be closed in some parts of the state tomorrow.  So the kids are going to enjoy a day off school with fresh white snow and mild temperatures.

The loon nest needs a lot of the usual spring work done on it.  But that will also have to wait.  It is still buried under a couple feet of snow and ice.

So we wait.  While our loons, already  back in their beautiful black and white plumage anxiously get ready to come north for another season!

Email and tweet and text and Facebook your friends and tell them to get ready for another season of the LoonCam.

If you give me your email address, I will try to send you and update as we get closer to the camera going live.  Just send it to LoonCam@yahoo.com.

Copyright 2014  Larry R. Backlund

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 8:32am CDT

22 degrees F     Heavy Snow    Wind  3mph NE Sunrise   7:19am CDT     Sunset   7:22pm CDT

It is a picture postcard outside right now!

Snow is coming down heavily.  Coating everything in sight.

The pine trees are highlighted with white against the dark green of the branches.

Other trees have a couple inches of new, fresh white snow piled up on each branch.

Every sound is muffled and there is a hush across the land.  Even the spring songs of the cardinals and the chickadees is muted.

The extreme temperatures and the 20 degrees below zero are but a distant memory (of a week or two at least).  The temperature is in the 20s ABOVE zero right now and headed for the 30s today, in spite of the new snow.

However, this 'winter of all winters' does not seem to be ready to loosen its grip just yet.

There are winter storm warnings out for the next couple days.  Some areas could get more than a foot of snow!  And with spring storms of this kind, the heaviest snow falls in a relatively narrow band.  A few miles either direction can make a big difference in the amount of snow.

Here are a couple pictures of what it looks like around here.  They are pictures I took last Sunday afternoon.  [Let's try this.  I am not sure how it will work with the new system of posting the blog.  Hopefully you will be able to see them.]

The first one is looking out across the lake - somewhere out there is where the loon nest normally is floating.  Even this view looks different right now during this snowstorm because you cannot see across the lake at all.  All you can see is 'a wall of white'.

The second picture is part of the loon nest trying to peek through the snow.  What you see is the top of the 'post' on which the camera gets mounted.  Somewhere under there is a loon nest buried in snow and ice!

The picture reminds me of the periscope of a submarine looking up to see if there is any 'life' up there.  Looking for open water for our loons to return!

That "periscope" is once again being buried under the new snow falling right now.

Hopefully our loons are staying far to the south where they are safe and have open water to swim and dive and fish.

But with each passing day, the urge to migrate north and to raise a new generation of loons becomes stronger and stronger.

For now, that urge must wait.

Copyright 2014  Larry R. Backlund