Ice is out early on HJ lake
This beautiful loon photo was taken last summer by our good friend and longtime guest Eric Baker. He has many great phots on his website. You can reach him at:
There are waves lapping against the shore, the loons are calling in the morning and the evening sun sparkles on the open lake. We’re a little behind in reporting this as the ice actually went out last Monday April 19. Nancy won out HJ lake ice-out pool! Over the weekend we had a cold snap and several inches of snow. The previous two weeks had been unusually warm and sunny so the lake ice was very mushy and pulling away from shore in places. The wind was enough to break up the ice and then it just sank. Normal ice out is around May 1-6 so this about two weeks early.
We had been away over the weekend for a socially distanced family gathering and came home to an unusual and unexpected sight. It is always a bit of a surprise when the ice goes out and there is so much motion all around us. After months of an immobile lake all around us it’s hard not to notice.
All the lakes around the Gunflint Trail are open now. If you want to see the BWCA and not many people this is a great time to visit. WE ARE NOT OPEN YET but you can visit the woods and lakes. We’ll be open after May 10.
Right on schedule the loons found the open water and were calling out their looney wail the same day the lake opened up. Loons are very attached to a successful nesting site. Apparently, according to some research, more attached to the site than the partner! Whoever shows up may be the chosen one. There has long been a belief that loons mate for life. Which may be true. But there is precious little difference between loons to the human eye so it’s kinda hard to tell. There has been some research which points to the nesting site preference theory too. I’m sure the loons know one from another and make their own choices however they want.
What we do know is we have a loon on HJ Lake who has an unusual call. When making the typical long, two note call, our loon actually has a crack in it’s voice making it a three note call. It jumps an octave like a teenage boy. When this loon was in it’s first year we heard it right near our house and learned to recognize the call. It had a hard time making any kind of call but finally managed it’s unique version by fall. As the years have gone by it has learned to call in a way which is more normal most of the time but still has the teenager-like “crack” sometimes. I wish we had documented the first year we heard that loon but it has been many years we’ve had the pleasure hearing it return.
To be honest, when we first heard this forlorn, teenager crack in the voice we thought to ourselves this loon would have a hard time finding a mate unless it grew out of it’s voice issue. Not to worry, it appears this loon has been a successful breeder as there have been other first year loons with a similar crack in their voice.
When the loons come back each year, there is a moment when the loons will swim close to the dock. Is it curiosity? Is it saying hello? Are they saying, “Hey! wat are you doing on my lake?” We don’t know but it sure feels good to know that they are not threatened by us humans. This is their home, they’ve been using these lakes as breeding grounds as long as they have been lakes. We’re just here taking care of the land as best we can for a few years.