We were sad to learn yesterday that one of our long-term resident birds has died. We are not sure what the cause of death is, but the DNR will do a necropsy at some point and share the results. When a vigorous and healthy adult suddenly succumbs to an unknown cause, as happened here, I always fear that a boat-strike or angling casualty might have occurred, but it is too early to know. All we know, thanks to the sleuthing of Georgia Eusebio, is that the male dragged himself onto shore, moribund, on August 23rd and died shortly afterwards at the Northwoods Wildlife Center. This male was a favorite of ours on the study, as he was  tame and relaxed during our behavioral observations, yet fiercely protective of his territory. He was also a long-distance disperser, having hatched in 1994 on Snipe Lake in Vilas County, which is about 5 miles WNW of Eagle River. His passing leaves his mate, who was banded on South Two in 1997, to care for the two strapping chicks, which are just learning to fly. We think they are old enough to survive losing their father. Gabby and Kristin will continue to follow them this fall, so we shall see.

I return to the study area from California. I am excited to see all of my friends — loon and human! It will be an eventful first few weeks for the project. Joel Flory has been working steadily to ID mated pairs and keep me apprized of ice conditions, especially in the southern part of the study area. Kristin and Gabby came down from Northland for a weekend to help ID returning loons and covered a lot of ground. But they are both graduating this year (well….fingers crossed :-) ), leaving Joel and me alone to cover over 100 lakes until the end of the month. My back hurts already!

We are waiting impatiently for ice-out, which, it seems, will not occur until May this year. That would be the latest since 1996. Gabby, Kristin and Joel Flory will be covering study lakes early in the year — once they finally open up. Give them a wave if you see them out in their canoes, braving early spring conditions. I will be up myself in early May to help learn which of our loons have returned from the winter and to train the new crew members. Maybe I will see you!

Gabby Jukkula wrote up a behavioral study she and Kristin Brunk did last summer and won an award for best undergraduate paper at the Wisconsin Chapter of the Wildlife Society! Congrats to Gabby for this awesome accomplishment — and to Gabby and Kristin both for the work they put in last summer to complete the work.

We mailed out our annual loon letter to friends and lake-dwellers who help us get access to study lakes and support our work. If you are in this category but have not received our letter, please e-mail or call me, and I will get you a copy. Make sure, too, that I get your mailing address for future years.