December 6, 2010 4:19pm


14 degrees  Cloudy   Calm


Minnesota is now socked in with snow that will almost undoubtedly stay through the rest of the winter.

Various parts of the state got upwards of a foot of snow this last weekend.  It was the real dry, light fluffy kind of snow that is so easy to shovel and sparkles like a field of diamonds in the sunshine.

The previous snow earlier last week was the wet heavy snow that came as rain turned to snow.

But the nice thing about that snow is that it was wet enough to stick to the trees and bushes and branches.  And it is still there.  A number of my pine trees are 'decorated' with that snow in the most perfect way.  It truly is a winter picture postcard.  And now with Christmas lights being turned on at home after home, 'it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, here and everywhere!'  

What a beautiful time of year.  And what a beautiful feeling it is as our attention turns to family and friends and neighbors.  Caring about them and showing that love and concern that sometimes gets lost the rest of the year.

I received two emails from Kevin Kenow from the US Geological Service about tracking the loons.

I had asked some questions about the data and he replied in an email yesterday morning.

Then just an hour ago, I got another email from Kevin telling us that the Sagatagan Lake male from Minnesota has finally left Lake Michigan and is on his way south.  The website tracking the loons has been updated as of today.

Kevin has said that they are going to try to update the site a little more often now that everyone is moving.

The Sagatagan loon left Lake Michigan and made it all the way to southern Kentucky yesterday [probably still in flight].  That leaves only one loon 'still on Lake Michigan' (#55485) who has not been heard from since October 22.  At first Kevin told me that it could be either transmitter failiure or death...but now it seems as if they have determined that it is transmitter failure.  So if that is the case, all loons are now on their way.

So here are the two emails from Kevin Kenow that I think you will find very interesting....

"Sunday, December 5, 2010 8:54 AM

Hi Larry, 

There are a few loon transmitters that report infrequently.  Often I only get data from a single transmission...enough to know the loon is warm and alive, but these do not come with a location estimate.   Infrequent transmissions are likely the result of a bent antenna with the end dipping into the water.  The signal is attenuated and the antenna is not often in position to transmit a signal to the satellite receivers passing overhead at an altitude of 528 miles.  55487 was the first loon with this issue and we confirmed that a bent antenna was the problem.  Twice we tried to recapture the bird while it was still on its breeding territory on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage in northern Wisconsin; we got close a couple of times but were unable to capture him.   

I was receiving consistent data on 55485 and then observed a similar pattern of infrequent transmissions...and then nothing.  I never received any low temperature values for this loon.  However, 55485 last reported in just west of Beaver Island on Lake Michigan, an area that has seen quite a bit of botulism-related mortality this fall.  It is possible for a loon to die and not receive a mortality signal if the carcass is floating upside down.  I'm still hoping to get a reassuring 'blip' from this loon before concluding mortality.   

55489 is another loon with a transmitter that is received infrequently.  The last location for 55489 was on 26 November, but a single transmission indicates the loon is still alive as of yesterday. 

No news on the geolocator-tagged loons.  We will have to wait until next spring to learn of their adventures. 

Hope you are enjoying the winter weather! 

Best regards, 

Kevin "




"Monday, December 6, 2010 3:24 PM

If you have checked the loon migration web page this afternoon, you will see that the Sagatagan male (55480) reported in at noon yesterday from southern Kentucky.  The transmitter was transmitting while he was still on Lake Michigan at 4:50 a.m., and at 8:19 a.m. he was in flight about 109 miles SSE of the earlier location.  A couple of the intervals between locations indicated an average ground speed of about 75 mph.  The last location was received at noon, about 360 miles from the 4:50 a.m. location.  I suspect he was still in flight, but his location was only about 5 miles east of Barren River Lake (loon 55479 stopped there while migrating to the Gulf Coast). 

Bob Kratt is trying to update the web page as often as possible while the loons are on the move.  Within a week the transmitters will be changing over to their winter duty cycle and will transmit for 6 hrs on:96 hrs off instead of the current 8 hrs on:24 hrs off cycle.  Consequently, location information will be less frequent and we will update the web page less frequently.  The duty cycle is scheduled to change back to 8 hrs on:24 hrs off on about March 1st. 

Please let me know if you have any questions. 



So there you have the very latest information as of only an hour ago.

We now have three loons on the Gulf of Mexico, two on the Atlantic and three in migration.  Of the three in migration, I think that their route would indicate that they will also probably end up on the Gulf of Mexico.  We will have to wait  and see what happens.  Loon #55490 is the one that is farthest west in the GUlf and it would be the one most likely to come in contact with and be impacted by the oil spill if there still is residue of it.

Let us hope the best for all of them.

I hope that you are watching and learning with the same sense of wonder that I am!

Can you imagine that even not very many years ago this would have been something that we could not even begin to comprehend ... being able to follow the loon's migration like this.  How wonderful is this?!  And our thanks go out to Kevin Kenow and his staff for all their countless hours of hard work to make this a reality.

Stay tuned for the next chapter.  We can hardly begin to guess what will happen next.

With any luck, we are hoping that the transmitters will still be working next spring when the loons begin their migration north.  And we can only hope beyond hope that they will still be working next fall for the 2011 fall migration!