11:54pm Sunday, November 6, 2011


39 degrees   Clear  Wind SE 4mph


The weather here in Minnesota remains relatively mild for this time of year.  Today our temperature reached a high of 53 degrees F and yesterday was 60 degrees F.

It can be much colder the first part of November.  But these temperatures are not real unusual either.

But it looks like we will be in for a change over the next few days this week.

By Tuesday night, there are predictions for snow flurries across the state but I do not think there are any forecasts of any accumulation.  Just enough to remind us that we live in the north and that winter is on its way.  Between the snow and the rain predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday, hopefully we will get some much needed moisture.  It has been very dry all fall and everything needs more moisture as we go into freeze up for the winter.

I am still amazed that so many of the loons on the USGS website with satellite transmitters are still hanging on in their summer grounds.


A few of them have begun to move but about half of them or more are still near or on their home territories.

Maybe they do not want to think of leaving their beautiful lakes for the winter either.

With some cooler weather and some snow moving in over the next few days, that may be the motivation that some of them need to start moving.  It will be interesting to see what they do this week.

This is in such sharp contrast to "our loons" who have not been around here since August.  I keep hoping that they will come back but so far I have not seen them.  That is not to say they have not been here.  Just that I have not seen them.  And of course I have been gone so much as well.

This afternoon there was a very interesting drama that played out on the lake.

For the last week or more we have had huge groups of coots on the lake.  Obviously they too are on their migration.  But it seems as if they think this lake is a very nice place to rest and relax on their journey south  There have to be at least a couple thousand coots in a couple groups.

As I was doing some yard work this afternoon trying to get things ready for winter, there was a loud sound of water.  It was like someone had turned on a waterfall right near me it was so loud.  That is the best explanation of the sound that I can think of.  A large waterfall.

I looked to see what was causing the sound and saw all the coots scampering across the surface of the water as fast as they could go.  All of them.

Then I saw the reason for their alarm.

One of the bald eagles was hovering right over where they were.

He dove!

And then he dove again.  And again.

Today he was not after fish.  It was unmistakable that he was after a coot for dinner.

But I could not see that he came up with a coot.

They high tailed it to the rushes and once in the rushes they seemed to feel they were safe from the eagle.

But the eagle kept diving.  Trying to pick off an unlucky coot that had lagged behind the larger group.

I couldn't tell if all the movement of the large group and the splashing worked as a distraction or confused the eagle.  Because a few times he dove right into the middle of the flock of coots.  But he did not catch one.  You would have thought that it would have been very easy pickings for him and that he could have closed his eyes and gotten a coot by just running into it.  But he didn't get a coot out of the large group.

So as the main body of coots split up into several smaller groups in the rushes, the eagle kept diving trying to catch a straggler.  A couple times  he actually landed in the water for a few seconds.  I fully expected that he had caught one of the birds and would soon fly away with it.

But when he made his way up out of the water, he had nothing in his talons.

After numerous attempts, the eagle tired of the chase and flew off.

The coots were fully visible to him in the rushes.  But he did not try to get them there.  Apparently the rushes were enough of a deterence to keep him from swooping down on them.

As I watched the drama, it confirmed in my mind the effectiveness of what I have been doing putting willow branches on the loon nest.  The fact that they stick up above the nest by three feet or more seems to deter the eagles from swooping directly down on the nest.

Watching the response of the coots to head directly into the rushes confirmed that they knew something I was only discovering.  And the fact that the eagle did not try to snatch them out from the rushes confirmed that it may indeed be an effective deterrent to eagles swooping down on our loons.

All this racket and commotion roused some others.  There had been a couple swans swimming further out in the lake.  They took flight loudly complaining.

Then another.  And another.

I had not initially seen the other swans out there.  But there were a total of sixteen huge beautiful white swans with black beaks and black feet that took to the air.  I had never thought about describing their call before although I have heard it many times.

It is somewhat similar to the honk of a goose but much less annoying.  Softer and more musical.  A very pleasant sound.

They rose off the lake, gained altitude and flew away, although I could still hear them.  Then they apparently made a u-turn and soon were flying over the lake and they landed again on another part of the lake.  They seemingly knew they were safe from the eagle.

A couple hours later, just as it was getting dark, I once again heard the loud 'waterfall'.  When I went to look, sure enough there was the eagle once again trying to get a coot for his evening meal.  Whether he had gotten one before I cannot say.  He did not get one while I was watching.

But the coots made a mad dash from the open water to get to the rushes as fast as they could.  They moved as a single group.  More like a swarm of bees or a large flock of starlings.  The eagle swooped again and again.  A couple times I thought he had caught one.  But when he rose up higher, there was no coot in his talons which were held low and ready for action.

After numerous attempts at catching a coot, the eagle flew up to a large tree where he could watch the flock of coots.

After maybe half an hour, the coots apparently had lost track of where the eagle was sitting and they became more confident that they were safe.

Gradually the made their way out of the reeds.  Now in three large groups.  Separate.  Instead of the one huge group that had made their way into the weeds.

I saw the eagle take off from his perch.

NOW the coots saw him and there was the loud waterfall sound again as all three groups of birds tried to get into the safety of the weeds as fast as they could.

But it was almost dark by now and the eagle must have felt that he had tried enough for one day.  For he flew off in a direction away from the lake.

It did not take the coots long to come out from the rushes in the deepening dark.  As darkness fell, they apparently felt much safer.  The last I could see of them, they were swimming in open water heading out to the middle of the lake where I assume they are right now, spending the night safe from the eagle.

So much goes on right in front of us that we never see.  Unless we take the time to stop and be quiet.  And look.  And observe.

I do not know what the proper term is for a large group of coots.  Whether it is a flock or some other name.  Like a group of larks is I think called an "exaltation of larks".

But after today and watching their reaction to the eagle, I have decided that a proper term for a large group of coots is a "waterfall of coots"!