Thursday, April 7, 2011 11:33pm CDT

47 degrees   High Haze    Wind  Calm
Spring is on its way here in the far north!
Today it got to 72 degrees here at the lake.  I was surprised.  It did not get that warm in the Twin Cities.
However, had the wind been coming off the lake, it would have been a different story.  It could have easily been 20 degrees cooler if the breeze had been moving across all that ice on the lake.
So far that ice on the lake is solid up to shore in most places.
It is trying to melt.  But it has been a long winter and the ice does not seem to want to let go easily.
For those of you who may not have lived on a lake, you may not be familiar with a term "black ice".
However, this is different than the other kind of black ice that you can encounter on a road.  Cases where the road is icy but you can't see it.  Until you are in a full-blown skid.
The kind of black ice that I am talking about is part of the process of the melting of lake ice.  And it is a very hopeful signal that we may be getting close to the ice going out of the lake.
The whole sequence of ice changes is fascinating.
Once the snow has melted, the ice tends to be gray.  But then one day it becomes very white.  This is a sure sign that the ice is starting to change.
Usually after the ice turns very white, it is only a matter of days before it turns black.  And black is a very descriptive term because the whole lake becomes very dark and close to black.  All of the changes in color signal that the ice itself is starting to 'rot' or disintegrate and turn into long shards of ice called 'candles'.
Yesterday we had a combination of white ice in the morning and black ice in the afternoon.  Depending on the temperature, it goes back and forth between these phases as the air temperature goes below freezing and above freezing.
But the appearance of black ice is a sure sign that spring is here and the ice will break up very soon.  It could be days to a week or two.
There are so many other sure signs of spring in the last few days as well.
The crocuses are now in full bloom!  It is the first of any flowers to bloom.  Daffodils and tulips are coming up but it will be a couple weeks at least before they bloom.
Seagulls came back a few days ago, even though the lake is completely frozen.  But today the large flocks of seagulls arrived.  By the thousands they come.  And today thousands of them were here.  When they are on the lake, the sound is almost deafening.
But tonight there is no sound of them so they have moved someplace else for the night.  I am not sure where they go but they must go to a river or a lake closeby where there is open water.
They will usually stay for a couple weeks until they finally move on north.
But tonight what is making a sound that is very loud are the spring peeper frogs.  They started singing last week from the little pond in the woods.  What a wonderful serenade they sing to you when you are outside after dark!
Another of the signs of spring is that the sandhill cranes are back.  I have not seen them yet but I have heard them in the neighborhood and have heard a number of them flying over today.
But that surest sign of spring that I watched and listened for from the time I was a little kid is the first robin.
And yesterday I saw and heard the first robins of this spring!
Can the loons be far behind?
If you have been following the migration page of our "satellite loons", two more loons have started to move.  Loon #55488 has begun to move up the Atlantic Coast and now is off the coast fo Virginia.  And Loon #55489 today was 'seen' in flight over southern Alabama. 
These satellite loons are only a sampling of what are sure to be thousands and thousands of loons now on their way north.  Winging their way along unseen highways in the sky.  Unerringly making their way to their lakes from previous years.  All of it guided by a 'miraculous' GPS that puts the GPS in our cars to shame.  GPS that they have had for thousands of years!   We can only stand back in wonder and amazement.
We have already been working on things to get them ready for you to once again watch our beautiful loons as they once again nest this year.  In the next few days I will be rebuilding the nesting platform and try to have it ready to put out into the lake soon after ice out.  Shortly after that we hope to go 'live' so that you can once again join us in watching the loons...and losing sleep and not getting any work done around home for the next month or two!
Stay tuned.  Every day ..... especially the warm sunny days .... brings our loons closer and closer and closer.
And the excitement begins to build!