Wednesday, September 22, 2010 4:15pm CDT


61 degrees   Cloudy   Wind E 6mph


The yellows of ash trees and the reds and oranges and golds of maple trees are now starting to come out of hiding.

It definitely is a sign that fall is on its way.  In fact it will be here officially in a few hours.  At 11:13pm tonight fall officially begins.

This beginning of fall is unusual in that tonight there is also a full moon....the Harvest Moon.  This is the first time since 1991 that a full moon has fallen on the autumnal equinox.  So if you are in an area with a clear sky tonight, you should see a spectacular sight.  It is also a perfect time for you to find out what is exact east and exact west.  For this day and the beginning of spring (vernal equinox) are the only two times of the year that the sun rises in the exact east and sets in the exact west.

Here in Minnesota we will probably not see the sunset tonight nor the Harvest Moon rising.  It is cloudy and heavy rain and thunderstorms are forecast for tonight and tomorrow.  Some of the forecasts are saying that we may get 3 to 4 inches of rain tonight.  So it will be a wet one.

There is not much more to tell you about our loons here.  I have not seen nor heard them for over a month so I think they have moved on.  I have been traveling a lot so they may have been around some but most of the other people on the lake tell me that they have not seen them either.

It does not surprise me that they left early since neither of the eggs hatched this year.  That freed them up from all the responsibility of feeding and raising chicks.  So our loss was probably their gain.

Now we are at the time of year when fall migration is in full swing for so many birds, including our loons.

I expect that many of the loons are already on larger lakes in the area, gathering with other loons on these "staging lakes" before beginning their migration.

If you have not already seen it, the map is now "live" on the USGS website to track the loons with the satellite transmitters.  The address is

For those of you who may not have been following the story, let me recap.  Last summer I had the privilege of being part of a project to catch and band some Minnesota loons.

In addition to banding, we surgically implanted satellite transmitters in two loons (we had hoped to do three but we "ran out of night").  We also placed data recorders on the legs of some other loons.

These satellite transmitters and data recorders will track the loons on their migration this fall and hopefully their migration north next spring.  There is a chance that they may actually still be operating to track their migration in the Fall of 2011.

The website above will let you track them as they migrate and to know where they go during the winter.  Locations will be updated a couple times a week.

In addition to the 2 loons in Minnesota with satellite transmitters, there are another 8 loons in Wisconsin that had transmitters implanted.

Already three of the loons have moved to Green Bay on Lake Michigan within the last few days.  So the migration has begun.

In addition to the 3 loons currently migrating, there is a fourth loon where tragedy struck.  I mentioned it in my last entry.  On Thursday, August 26th the Minnesota loon from Stumpf Lake was found dead on Lake Michigan in Green Bay.  He probably died on the day that I was writing my August 25th update.  So we never know what the loons are going through at any given moment.

The necropsy that was done on the loon has pretty definitively determined that it was due to aspergillosis, a fungal infection of the lungs that loons are especially susceptible to.  There did not seem to be any problems with tissue around the surgery site where the transmitter was implanted.  There is a slight possibility that the stress of the surgery had an impact but I personally do not believe that it did.  The death was well over a month later so I think that possibility is very slim.

Now we will watch the other loons to see what happens.  Remember, you can check out the latest location of the 5 loons as they migrate on the USGS website.  It is already very interesting that all four loons have gone to Green Bay on Lake Michigan.

Now we have confirmation that the loons are on the move.  This is a typical time for adult loons to start their migration....mid-September to mid-October.  Then the chicks will follow about a month later.

It has been several weeks since I have seen any Baltimore orioles at the jelly feeders and fewer and fewer hummingbirds.  Monarch butterflies are well underway with their migration as also.

We spent last week along the North Shore (of Lake Superior).  It is a beautiful part of the state and we had spectacular weather.  Check out the Naniboujou Lodge for a beautiful and unique place to stay.

We also were able to go to Hawk Ridge in Duluth.   Every fall hundreds of thousands of hawks fly over Hawk Ridge.  The terrain, with Lake Superior on one side and the hills along the shore on the other, forms a natural 'funnel' that brings hawks through this area on their way south.  The record is over 100,000 hawks recorded on one day!  And we are at just about the peak of hawk migration through this ares.

Enjoy these beautiful fall days and wonderful color.  And treasure each and every moment with all the wonders of nature around us.  Let it fill and revitalize your soul and your spirit.

And keep track of the loons as they migrate south.