12:45am Thursday, March 22, 2012

53 degrees F    Cloudy    Cloudy
Tonight shortly before dark, I spotted a single loon swimming out in front.
Not swimming around where the nest is but further straight out in the lake.  All alone.  No other loon in sight.  No calls.  But in the general area of the lake where the nesting platform has always been.
He was still swimming back and forth out there until it got dark.  For all I know, he is still swimming out there now.  I would assume that he is.
The ice went out of the lake here on Sunday morning.  I have been gone for the last week so I did not see it.  But the neighbors told me about it.  They said it did not even move even though there had been wind during the day before.  It simply melted and disappeared early on Sunday morning.
The temperatures had been 80 degrees for several days.
This is one of the earliest days that the ice has gone out of the lake here in many, many decades.
I had wondered if the loons would be back early or not.  And then tonight's sighting proved that yes at least that one loon knew exactly when to come back.
How do they do it?!
Whether it is 'our loon' or not remains to be seen.  The mate does not seem to be here yet.  But now the waiting and watching begin.  It may be a loon that is just passing through and is on its way to lakes even further north.  Or it may be our male scouting out the territory.
The conventional wisdom has been that the male arrives first and scouts out the territory before the female arrives.  But my experience has been that the male and female arrive here together more often than not.  We will have to wait and see what this spring holds for us.
But as of this evening, we had a loon on the lake!
We also have other visitors.
Before I left last week, there were some seagulls flying over the ice on the lake and a few of them landing on the ice.
But tonight there is a 'racket' out on the lake as thousands of seagulls are here.
They will stay for a couple weeks before they continue their journey north.  But some of them will stay on the lake for the summer.  And then things will be a little quieter.
Only one of the 20 loons that the USGS implanted with satellite transmitters has started to move north as of Tuesday.  So that is one of the reasons that I was surprised to see a loon on the lake here tonight.  One of the faithful LoonCam watchers saw a pair of loons on the St Croix River just east of St Paul, MN.
I got an email from Kevin Kenow from the USGS.  He said that the loon that we implanted the satellite transmitter into on the St John's University campus in the summer of 2010 is STILL transmitting data.  That is MUCH longer than any of us anticipated.  But wonderful news.  Here is Kevin's email from last Friday....
"The radiotransmitters we implanted in loons during summer 2010 have lasted much longer than I anticipated.  I've been receiving regular location estimates for Big John throughout the winter.  Earlier this week he reported in from Ohio and represents the first of the radiomarked loons to move off the wintering grounds!  He's a bit ahead of last year's schedule.  Also,  we saw a few common loons on southern Lake Michigan while flying waterbird surveys this week."
So we continue to gather data from all sources and learn more and more about our beloved loons.
I have been working on getting the nesting platform ready today.  But now that the ice is out and there is one loon on the lake, the urgency grows.  Normally it would still be buried under snow and ice.
I will keep you up-to-date as things progress.
It will be very interesting to see if the loons nest earlier because of the unusually mild and early spring.  Or whether they will wait until their normal nesting time near the end of April.
Questions and drama already!
And we haven't even started yet.
But now is the time to start letting your friends and family know.  And the teachers in your local school.  And your newspaper and local radio stations.  And your Facebook friends.  And to Tweet that the loons are on the move and now is the time to get ready for another season of watching them together.
What a special and exciting time of year this is!
Comments or Questions?  LoonCam@yahoo.com
Because of the number of emails, I am not able to answer emails personally.  But I do read all of them and I will try to answer some of the more common questions in this blog.  I will update things every week or so to start.  But then when the loons get serious, I will try to do a daily update of what they are doing and what I can see that cannot be seen on the webcam.