Rocking Robins

I didn’t see a robin but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible according to the Minnesota DNR.

Only 32 days till Spring . . .
The recent brief spells of warm weather have many people looking forward to spring here in the North Star State. While the season officially arrives on March 20, for many Minnesotans, the real arrival of spring is marked by the season’s first sighting of an American robin. But a February robin in Minnesota is not necessarily a sign of spring at all. Often it’s just a testament to a hearty and rugged bird that, like most of us in this state, possess the fortitude to stand up to Old Man Winter. Bold North indeed!

Like many other birds, some robins will stick around all winter, as long as there’s food and adequate shelter. For the robins that do fly south to places such as Mexico and the Caribbean, it has more to do with easy availability of food than with cold temperatures.

Winter robins here usually hang out in sheltered areas. Unlike in spring and summer, when their mating needs make them more territorial, they gather in large flocks. They move around from one area to another, wherever they can find trees and shrubs still bearing the berries and fruit that make up their winter diet. Sometimes these berries can begin to ferment and produce alcohol that actually causes the birds to get a little tipsy!

For the robins that migrate, the journey back to Minnesota will soon begin. Robins have several triggers that tell them to head north. The increasing daylight triggers hormones that urge the robin to establish a territory, mate and raise young. Waiting on the spring thaw and favorable south winds, the robins develop a restlessness that ornithologists call zugunruhe, a German word that comes from zug (migration) and unruhe (anxiety).

When you first hear a robin singing, that’s a real indicator that spring is just around the corner. Male robins sing to establish territory and lure females for mating. Their songs, coupled with increasing numbers of robins in the area, tell you that warmer weather is coming soon.

March is the robin’s peak migration month, so be on the lookout for the signs of spring. And if, in the meantime, you start to feel a little bit of your own zugunruhe, consider getting outside and visiting one of Minnesota’s state parks to see what else is stirring.

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Minnesota Moose Population Stable

From the Minnesota DNR

Moose population remains low but stable for a seventh year
Population estimate statistically unchanged from last year’s estimate

Results of the 2018 moose survey indicate the moose population in northeastern Minnesota remains stable but relatively low for the seventh year in a row, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“While the population appears stable, low numbers of moose are still a major concern for the DNR,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “We continue to pursue the best science, research and management tools available to us to help Minnesota’s moose.”

The 2018 aerial moose survey estimated 3,030 moose in northeastern Minnesota, statistically unchanged from last year’s estimate of 3,710. The survey is statistically sound, but there is inherent uncertainty associated with such surveys, because researchers will never see and count all of the animals across the 6,000 square mile survey area. Statistically, the DNR is 90 percent certain that the population is between 4,140 and 2,320 moose.

“The stability of moose numbers in recent years provides a reason for some optimism – after all, we’re not facing a significant decline,” said Glenn DelGiudice, DNR moose and deer project leader. “But this year’s results would be more palatable had they reflected the beginning of a turnaround in the population trend.”

Each year the population estimate is compared to 2006, because the state’s highest moose population estimate of 8,840 occurred that year. Currently, northeastern Minnesota’s moose population is estimated to be 65 percent lower than the peak estimate of 2006.

“While the trend of stability is encouraging, it does not allow us to forecast the future trajectory of the population,” DelGiudice said.

Reproductive success and adult survival have the greatest impact on the annual performance and dynamics of the moose population over time.

“Our field research has shown that annual pregnancy rates of adult females in this population have been robust,” DelGiudice said. “But it is a challenge to maintain a high number of adult females that can become pregnant, produce calves and rear them to 1 year of age.”

Survey results also indicate that calf survival to January has been relatively stable, but consistently low. Field studies have indicated that it is even lower by spring, translating to low numbers of moose calves living through their first year. Importantly, the DNR’s detailed investigations have shown that wolf predation has consistently accounted for about two-thirds of the calf mortality compared to one-third of the adult mortality.

Annual aerial moose surveys have been conducted each year since 1960 in the northeast.  Adjustments were made in 2005 to make the survey more accurate and annual results more comparable.

This year’s survey involved flying in 52 survey plots distributed across northeastern Minnesota’s moose range from Jan. 3 to Jan. 13. The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and 1854 Treaty Authority contributed funding and provided personnel for the annual moose survey.

More information about moose is available on the DNR website at

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Cross-country skiing isn’t for everyone

Did you happen to read the article about cross-country skiing in the New York Times Magazine? Sam Anderson’s article titled, “What Cross-Country Skiing Reveals About the Human Condition,” paints a picture of people who participate in cross-country skiing.

The picture I created in my mind after reading his article was of a crazy-eyed, helmet wearing, tight encased, stiff body with a frozen expression of boredom on the face of a dead body.

What does a cross-country skiier really look like? It looks like an old bearded man happily enjoying a ski on a frozen lake or a thirty-year-old woman pulling her kids behind her on a snowy path through the woods. It looks like two old women wearing Columbia jackets and ski pants as they shuffle side by side on a groomed trail or a young man skate skiing his way from point A to point B.

Are there heroes wearing helmets, tights and goggles gritting their teeth in a form of self-torture looking for glory of some sort? I suppose there may be but during my twenty plus years of cross-country skiing I have yet to see one. I do see people enjoying the thrill of a steep downhill, smiling with happiness as they spot wildlife in the woods and enjoying being out in the quiet, white wilderness.

Is cross-country skiing a great spectator sport? Not according to Anderson who describes it as “the least glamorous, least pyrotechnic, least watchable of the major Olympic sports.” But then again, life is not a spectator sport and I’d rather be out cross-country skiing than watching any of the competitions of the Olympics. I haven’t watched any of the Olympics yet but if I do it will certainly be cross-country skiing.

Annie Porkane wrote a rebuttal to Anderson’s article and she describes the sport as, “Arguably the toughest outdoor sport in the world, it requires a unique combination of  strength, speed, and endurance. The lateral movements of skate skiing are at once unnatural and exhausting, while the technique for proper classic skiing leaves most untrained participants feeling like they’re just shuffling around. To succeed at racing uphill, athletes have to have ridiculous VO2 maxes, and put in 800 to 1000-plus hours a year of endurance and strength training.”
In spite of how difficult the sport of cross-country skiing is, almost anyone can cross-country ski and most people who try it enjoy it. You don’t have to push yourself to the limits or find the steepest hills to climb. You can travel at your own pace or the pace of a friend. I’ll take a ski on a zero degree day any day over trodding along on a treadmill staring at the world outside. And don’t worry, you won’t ever find me wearing tights, a helmet or goggles while I’m skiing and if you happen to come across my dead body in the woods it’s a smile I was wearing on my face when I died.


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Happiness is skiing with your son

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Frozen Superior in Grand Marais

Josh has been using his drone lately and shared some photos of the Grand Marais harbor.  It’s pretty neat to see the contrast from liquid, to partially solid to solid ice all from above.

Grand Marais Harbor[/caption]

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Enjoying the great outdoors when it’s below zero

Some people refuse to go outside to recreate when the temperature dips below freezing. That happens way too often in our neck of the woods so people learn how to dress to stay warm. When you’re exercising outdoors whether it’s skiing, snowshoeing or walking to a fishing hole your body creates heat. The last thing you want to do is work up a sweat if you’re going to remain outside for long.

You need to dress in layers that will wick away moisture, insulate from the cold, and keep out the wind and rain. The layer closest to your body needs to wick sweat away from your body so your skin stays dry. A good set of long underwear made from breathable material does the trick.

The next layer you put on over your long underwear should keep you warm. A polar fleece if it’s really cold outside or something lighter if you know you’re going to be working really hard. It’s nice to wear a garment that has a zipper on it so you can let out heat as needed. If I start to sweat I either remove this layer or the layer I have on over it.

The outer layer acts more like a shield to protect you from wind or precipitation in the form of rain or snow. This doesn’t have to be a thick bulky piece of outerwear and it should be worn loosely. A full zipper and vents in the jacket are great for letting out extra heat.

Most of the time a hat is too much for me when I’m cross-country skiing. I usually wear a polar fleece headband and neck gator both of which can be removed if I get too warm. If your going to stop for a picnic or to fish then it’s a good idea to bring along an extra pair of socks and a dry layer in case you do work up a sweat.

Winter outside

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Posted in BWCA

#GLOAT Lake Superior Tweets

Have you heard about the Greatest Lake tweeting? I’ve been following for awhile now and it’s some of the best tweeting I have read. I usually mention the tweets to Mike and he always asks, “Who is it?” To which I reply, “I have no clue, but it’s super entertaining.”  A month or so ago Mt. St. Helen’s decided to tweet and the banter between the lake and mountain were hilarious.

MT. St. Helens…  I’m back bitches.

Lake Superior… Maybe, but you’re only half of what you used to be. And not as pretty.

Lake Superior… I’m not saying size is everything, but… would fit entirely on my third biggest island.

GLOAT stands for Greatest Lake of All Time!

Lake Superior… Sorry, couldn’t hear you, I’m busy making snow so kids can make snow angels and go sledding. What’s going to do, blow her top so people can make ash angels?

Here are a few other random tweets from Lake Superior.
  • I am unthawing.
  • I put the ‘lake’ in lake effect snow.
  • There are 117 million lakes in the world. Only 5 of them are great. And only 1 is superior.
  • Listening to “Oh! You Pretty Things” by David Bowie when I hear the lyrics: “You gotta make waves for the home of Superior” But when I looked it up, the lyrics actually read: “You gotta make way for the Homo Superior” And now I am really confused about my identity.

Kim Ode from the  Star Tribune just published a little interview she had with the tweeter so I thought I’d share.

He preferred to keep his answers fluid, so to speak, and his identity private. We agreed to play along, especially after hearing why Lake Superior seeks this thing called social media.

“Mom just left us here after the Wisconsin Glaciation,” responded @LakeSuperior. “She never came back.”

Also, the account, with more than 18,000 followers, appears to be more popular with Minnesotans than Wisconsinites or Michiganders.

Q: What prompted you to open a Twitter account?

A: It’s actually a funny story. You see, someone actually dropped their phone in me while fishing.

Of all the phones I collect, this one didn’t have a pass code and I was feeling especially curious that day. I was going through their personal information and apps when I came across Twitter. It looked fun, so I created my own account.

Q: Why did you engage with @MtStHelensWA?

A: Ah, yes, Helen was the first tweeting mountain that I had come across. I respect her for coming up with a viral tweet, but I was agitated by the profanity.

I found it to be a good opportunity to poke fun at the idea of how on Earth could a mountain tweet? I didn’t know all of her little mountain buddies would start to gang up on me.

[The profanity refers to the volcano’s profile — “Join me as I become the world’s biggest ash hole!” — and the bullying to other peaks such as @MtBakerWA, @MtRainierWA, @3SistersVolcano, and @GlacierPeak.]

Q: How would you describe your personality?

A: Some folks complain that I have a dry sense of humor. But I am a lake. How could I possibly be dry?


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There are no breeding pairs of lynx in Minnesota

I’m not sure why I’ve just spent the past couple of hours digging into information about the lynx population in Minnesota over the years. It really doesn’t matter in the long run what people have said about the population over the years but it’s making me question some things.

One question is what was the reason for denying the existence of breeding lynx in Minnesota? Was it a conspiracy to get lynx placed on a threatened list so logging or other trapping couldn’t be done in that area? Was there funding available for state organizations if it was placed on a list? Or was the Minnesota DNR not spending time or resources to determine there were indeed breeding lynx in northern Minnesota? Why not believe locals or the scientists studying the lynx? It doesn’t make sense to me.

The other thing I question is, is 25 years a long time? I’ve lived in Northern Minnesota since 1993 so it will be 25 years this May. I guess things change over the years but going from threatened to unlisted in 17 years seems strange. It makes me wonder if there is an ulterior motive for delisting lynx right now. Maybe someone wants to do some logging or perhaps mining where a number of lynx live?

In our early days on the Gunflint Trail we were told, “There are no breeding pairs of lynx in Minnesota, they just come here during the winter from Canada.”  In spite of the fact lynx sightings occurred relatively frequently in our minds we didn’t really argue.

Just to prove this was actually said here’s something from a January 2018 article in the Duluth News Tribune.  “State officials at one time said the cat wasn’t really native to the state but only moved from Canada during some winters.”

And more proof I’m not crazy here’s what a 2003 article published by MPR said,  “Mike Leahy, counsel for Defenders of Wildlife says, “The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources had for a long time vehemently denied that there could possibly be more than one or two lynx in the entire state,” says Leahy. ”

Fast forward twenty years and the elusive, endangered, non-Minnesota breeding lynx are being spotted what seems like everywhere. Not just one at a time either as Thomas Spence proved the other day by his very popular photograph of a momma lynx with four kittens.

In fact lynx are doing so well the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced in January their plan to remove the lynx from the threatened species list where it’s been since 2000.

I even saw a lynx yesterday on my drive to Giant’s Ridge for a ski meet!

Does this seem strange to you? A remarkable and seemingly quick lynx recovery to those who claimed there were none in the 90’s and early 2000’s. The conflicting information seems weird. In one article it says lynx were gone from Minnesota in the 90’s and the other article says dozens were found in the 90’s and 2000’s. One place it says the DNR said there weren’t breeding lynx in Minnesota but scientists were finding dozens confirming a native population. How can such simple information be so misconstrued?

Maybe it comes down to communication? Is there cash involved? Have I been naive to think it’s really about the wildlife?  I don’t know.



I would like to know what you think. If you have time you can read the full articles in the Duluth News Tribune and MPR. I’ve included a few points from each of their articles as well as my own little timeline. If I’m being dense then please point that out to me so I can quit thinking about this. If you have theories then please share them with me. If you think I’m crazy then keep that to yourself!


  • by mid 1990’s lynx gone from MN- MPR 2003
  • 1990’s and 2000’s found dozens of lynx who stayed and bred here- DNT 2018
  • 2000 lynx spotted again- MPR 2003
  • 2000 placed on threatened species list
  • 2003 No where near getting the lynx de-listed- MPR 2003
  • 2010 stable lynx population- DNT 2018
  • 2018 possible de-listing of lynx- DNT 2018

Here’s a few points from John Meyer’s article in the DNT.

Minnesota has had a wildly fluctuating population of lynx in recent decades...State officials at one time said the cat wasn’t really native to the state but only moved from Canada during some winters.

But scientists who found ways to trap, collar and study the cat in the 1990s and 2000s soon found dozens in northern Minnesota that stayed and bred here, including new kittens, confirming the state’s native population.

A 2017 report from U.S. Forest Service biologists confirmed several lynx families in the region based on DNA evidence from hair and scat samples, most from the Superior National Forest. The report shows relatively stable lynx populations here since 2010.

Here are some points in the MPR article from 2003.

By the mid-1990s, lynx were considered gone from Minnesota. Until now. Three years ago, the cats were spotted again — on the Sawbill Trail up the hill from the North Shore, near Isabella and near Ely.

Burdette has just begun to count and track northeast Minnesota’s lynx. Two cats have been fitted with radio collars. It’s not yet clear how many others are wandering the forest. And Burdette says, lynx do wander.

It’s very likely that the majority of these animals migrated from Canada,” Burdette speculates. “These animals innately want to disperse long distances.”

Mike Leahy, counsel for Defenders of Wildlife, says it’s clear there are lynx in Minnesota.

“The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources had for a long time vehemently denied that there could possibly be more than one or two lynx in the entire state,” says Leahy. “And, they found indeed, there’s a resident population of lynx in Minnesota.”

Chris Burdette’s study will help create a lynx recovery plan. But he says recovery — actually getting the cat off federal protection — isn’t even on the horizon.

“No where near it,” he says. “Very preliminary stages. We’re just in the data collection stages now, so we can put some kind of scientific thoughts into the process of managing this species.”

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FIVE Lynx!

Seeing one lynx is amazing, but seeing five? Unbelievable! How awesome it would be to see this in the wild!

Thomas Spence Photo

Five Canada lynx walk down a road near Tofte on Saturday morning, Feb. 3, 2018. Thomas Spence was looking for moose to photograph when he saw the lynx. (Photo courtesy Thomas Spence via Forum News Service)

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Fantastic Photos

Our local photographer David Johnson took some awesome pictures the other day. Such beautiful creatures!

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  • Have you visited this spot in the Boundary Waters before? It's the bridge for the Kekekabic Hiking Trail...

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