Monday, November 22, 2010 6:30pm



22 degrees  Cloudy  Wind E7mph



Definitely the feel of it is here.  In the matter of a few days we went from a very mild fall to something that now feels decidedly like early winter.

Ice has started forming on the lakes along the Canadian border and even here the ice was out 100 feet from shore on Sunday morning.

But it was not only on the lake that there was ice on Sunday morning.

Overnight, freezing rain had coated everything.  Everything was a wonderful skating rink...IF what you were looking to do was to skate!  By noon much of the ice was gone.  But as I was coming home from church, I turned onto a side road and all of a sudden I definitely was not in control of my car.  It was going all over the place and there was nothing I could do.  I was sure I was going to slide in the ditch several times.  But fortunately, my 'Minnesota winter driving skills' came back quickly even if they were very rusty.

Yesterday morning as I was getting ready to leave the house, I looked down to the lake and could not believe what I was seeing.

There were four loons swimming about where the nest normally is anchored.

I was surprised to see them.  I had not seen any loons on the lake for a couple months.  But there they were.  Four adult loons.  Swimming and diving.  Seemingly unconcerned by the ice that had already formed along the edge of the lake.

I could not stay to see how long they stayed or where they went.

But at least four loons were still here.

I have been somewhat surprised to see on the USGS site that tracks the loons with the surgically implanted satellite transmitters, that three of the loons still remain on their summer breeding lakes.  This is later than what I would have expected and it will be so interesting to see how long they stay.

With ice now forming, they cannot stay too long without putting themselves in danger of being trapped by the ice and not being able to take off for their flight south.

The Sagatagan Lake male is still on Lake Michigan off the coast of Milwaukee and Chicago.  One of the Wisconsin males has now moved to Lake Erie.  That may be an encouraging sign that he may continue to head east to the Atlantic coastline and stay away from the Gulf of Mexico and away from the oil.

It has been hard to find any reliable news of what exactly is happening with the oil in the Gulf of Mexico.  Has it dispersed to the point that it is no longer a threat.?  Is it lying in wait in the lower reaches of the Gulf?  Is it lying in wait in the food chain?  Or have oil-eating bacteria been able to actually digest and neutralize most of it?  And what will happen to the loons who do go to the Gulf?

All of these questions must wait until we can get more data and until we can actually track loons that make it to the Gulf and see what happens to them....especially this years young who will spend the next 2-3 years on the Gulf.

So continue to check the status of the loons on the USGS migration tracking page and be part of this great adventure.

This last Saturday also saw a large group of swans stop over on the lake on their migration south.  I estimated that there were at least 150 to 200 swans in what looked to be 4 or 5 distinct groups that spent a good share of the day on the lake.  Then by nightfall they were gone.  Presumably sensing the dropping temperatures and continuing on their way south.

But what a beautiful sight that is to see that many huge, white, beautiful swans gracefully swimming together on the lake.

I expect that this week the lake will freeze over.  That is the normal timetable.  For it to freeze somewhere around Thanksgiving, give or take a week.

And then the use of open water will be done on the lake until next spring.  But there are plenty of rivers for them to find open water for those who really do not want to head south yet.

In fact there is a stretch of the Mississippi River near Monticello, Minnesota where swans spend the entire winter on water that is kept open by a nuclear power plant.  It is striking to see the swans swimming in the rising mist from the warmer water on a cold Minnesota winter morning.

But for now, all animals and birds are in the midst of making that transition from summer to winter and all that means.

Whether finding a place to hibernate, or putting food away for the winter or heading south...or some who seem to revel in the cold and the snow and who now have come into their favorite time of year.

So whether winter is your favorite time of year.  Or summer.  Or fall.  Or spring.

May you revel in the dramatic changes that are now underway and enjoy the wonder of it all.