Friday, February 17, 2012 10:50pm


28 degrees  Overcast  Wind NW 2mph


Here in the 'great north' of Minnesota, this has been a "winter that wasn't".

We have had very little snow, mild temperatures (mild for Minnesota anyway in the middle of winter, freezing for most of the rest of you in other parts of the country!) and very little of what we can truly call a Minnesota winter.

For most of the winter, the ground has been mostly brown and bare.  With only spots of white where the sun has not been able to melt what little snow has accumulated.  The lake is frozen but it is one of those rare winters where you can skate on a lot of the lake and skate around the snow drifts that are few and far between and small.

There are numerous fish houses out on the lake.  But people have been careful about driving out there with their cars and trucks.  They do it but are more aware than usual that the ice may not be as thick as what they are used to.  We have approximately 12 to 16 inches of ice on the lake.

For those of you from other parts of the country or especially other parts of the world, YES we actually drive our cars on the ice during the winter!

And "fish houses" are small buildings that are put out on the lake so that fishermen can fish in comfort.  Most are small - like 8 feet by 8 feet - and are nothing fancy or much more than 4 walls and a roof to stay out of the weather.  But almost all of them have some kind of a heater so that you can literally fish in comfort in your shirtsleeves in middle of winter.  Let the cold and wind and snow rage outside.  Inside the fish house it is cozy and comfortable!

Others are bigger and have all the comforts of 'home'.  Beds.  Kitchen.  Television.  Furniture.  And some of them are finished very nicely with paneling and even carpeted floors and electric or gas lights.  Some people actually move out on the lake in the winter for anything from a few days to even weeks or MONTHS!

There have been no vehicles that have fallen through the ice here.  But there have been some instances of cars falling through the ice in the more southern parts of the state.

Up along the Canadian border they are reveling in the fact that they have plenty of snow for skiing and cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.  But even up there, they have less than normal.

"Our loons" are most likely somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico along the Florida Coast.

There far there does not seem to be any confirmed dramatic or drastic effects of the Gulf Oil Spill that have been documented ... although I am sure there probably are some loons that have been affected.

I have mentioned to you (and I know some of you have been tracking the loons) that Kevin Kenow and his staff surgically implanted satellite transmitters in 20 loons this last summer.  You can track where they are right now by going to the USGS website.

Of the twenty loons with satellite tranmitters this year, unfortunately 3 have died.  That is something that we seldom stop to think about.  That every year numerous loons, and actually any birds or animals, die.  What is out of sight is often out of mind and something that we really do not think about or consider.

Three other loons have lost contact, probably because of technical problems with the transmitters.

But you can follow the progress of the other 14 loons on the website.  (If you want, drop a thank you note to Kevin Kenow and Bob Kratt who put so much time and effort into this wonderful project.  I am sure it would be an encouragement to them.  There is an email address on the website.)

Right now the loons are probably beginning their spring molt.

For the last several months they have been the non-descript gray brown plumage that those of us in the north never see.  Nor can we believe that our beautiful common loons are so "common".

Their beautiful black and white plumage is starting to return in preparation for their migration north for the summer.

But it will still be at least two months before we see them back up north on their home lakes.

So we wait and continue to hope that we will see them and hear them soon.

And to know that all is well in the north woods!

Next month I will be back up along the beautiful North Shore of Lake Superior for a conference at the beautiful Naniboujou Lodge with dear friends who own the Lodge.

Those of us in the Upper Midwest tend to take the Great Lakes for granted and never stop to think how unique and special they are.  Especially Lake Superior.

Did you know that Lake Superior is, by surface area, the world's largest freshwater lake?

Or that it is over 1300 feet deep?

Or that Lake Superior contains 10% of all the earth's fresh surface water.

Or that there is enough water in Lake Superior (3,000,000,000,000,000--or 3 quadrillion-- gallons) to flood all of North and South America to a depth of one foot!!

What a treasure Lake Superior is!

I would like to invite all of you, but especially those of you in the Upper Midwest, to a couple of presentations that I will be doing this spring.

The National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota has been kind enough to ask me to return to do a couple presentations on Amazing Loons.  I was with them last year for their special spring festival called "Soar With The Eagles" 

I will do two sessions on Sunday, April 1st.  One at 1 pm and one session at 3 pm.

I was privileged to meet a number of you who have been faithful LoonCam viewers and hope to meet more of you this year.

The National Eagle Center does a great job with eagles and other wildlife.  It is located in Wabasha, Minnesota, right on the banks of the Mississippi River.  You are guaranteed to see live eagles up close and personal in the Center.  And it is very likely that you will see eagles in the wild flying over the Mississippi River as they search and dive for fish.

You will enjoy the drive along the beautiful Mississippi River valley on a wonderful spring day.

Consider making it a family outing and bring your kids and grandkids with you and spend the day at the National Eagle Center.

On Tuesday, April 17th I will be doing a presentation of Amazing Loons at the Sandhill Center for the Arts (call 763-213-1641) in Bethel, Minnesota.  This presentation includes lunch and is called Lunch and Learn.  The lunch starts at 11 am.

The Director of the Chik Wauk Museum at the end of the Gunflint Trail in northeastern Minnesota has asked if I would be willing to come up there and do a presentation this summer.  I am not sure the schedule is going to work but I wanted to let you know about the museum and I will let you know if I do a session up there.

Last year they did a floating loon nest for the first time.  But the first attempt at nesting was unsuccessful because black flies drove the loons from the nest and an eagle took the eggs.  You have seen these flies up close on the LoonCam.  Fortunately we have never had a nest abondonment because of black flies.  Nor have we ever lost eggs or chicks to eagles, although there have been some close calls.

It is wonderful to see the interest in loons that seems to grow with every passing day.  And it is so encouraging to see the number of school kids who have taken an interest in loons in particular and nature in general.

Begin now to let your family know that the LoonCam should be back somewhere around the middle to end of April.  And get set for a new year of suspense and wondering what will happen this year that we are not able to predict.  There never seems to be a lack of drama when it comes to watching our loons so closely on the LoonCam!

Encourage your kids and grandkids teachers to use the LoonCam as a wonderful tool to teach kids both young and old.

I remember a letter from a teacher in California a couple years ago.  They don't even have loons in most of California.  But she said the LoonCam was the best motivational tool she had ever had in all her years of teaching.

The first thing in the morning when the kids arrived for class, they always wanted to watch the LoonCam.

She saw a perfect teaching opportunity.

So she told them as soon as EVERYONE had completed their assignment, she would turn the LoonCam on so they could watch it.  

She said it would get very quiet and everyone would work so hard on their assignment.

Some of the 'smarter kids' would finish early.  But they knew no one could watch the LoonCam until ALL of the kids were finished with their work.  So they would help some of the other kids and would 'tutor' them until they finished their work, too.

And then they all could watch the LoonCam.

She said it had been the best 'motivational tool' that she had ever had in all her years of teaching!  So we can never fully understand how far reaching something this simple is.  And you all have been so faithful in making it happen.  

So start to prepare your family and friends and teachers that the LoonCam will return very soon.

As will our beloved loons!


Comments or Questions?   

Because of the number of emails, I will not be able to answer then individually.  But I do read all of them.  And try to address some of the questions here in the blog.