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This past winter was a mild and relatively short one in the upper Midwest. The ice never became as thick as in most years. So the warming temperatures during the past few weeks succeeded in melting that thin blanket of ice covering our study lakes. I have gotten reports in the past few days that many of our study lakes now are mostly or completely free of ice. And the avian summer residents of those lakes are beginning to return.

LMG_8789 Clune on Territory

The first male reported back was “Clune”, seen here in Linda Grenzer’s photo from Wednesday. Playfully named by Linda after the voice-to-text feature on my iPhone butchered the word “loon” during one of our exchanges, Clune is well known to us. We first observed him as a chick on Manson Lake in 1998, found him when he settled as an adult on Deer Lake in 2003, and tracked him when he shifted to his present territory on Muskellunge Lake five years later. He and his mate have produced a whopping seven chicks since 2011 on Muskellunge — eight if you include the rehabbed chick that we released on the lake in 2014 and that Clune and Honey readily accepted and reared as their own. (Yes…Linda has named the female too!)

I am a scientist. I try to stick to the data and not be influenced by emotions and superstition and unsubstantiated inklings. Nonetheless it cheered me when Linda reported that Clune had returned very early this year and already yodeled to defend his territory from a skittish intruder who dared to enter it. Despite my better judgment, I cannot help but think that this will be a productive year for loons in northern Wisconsin.