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Northland Nature Journal: It may be late, but spring is worth celebrating

The common loon returned to northern Minnesota on April 25 this spring. According to Dallas Hudon's nature journals, on average, they arrive April 10. He's been charting phenological events like these for over 20 years. (Photos by Dallas Hudson/For the Enterprise)1 / 2
Among the first wildflowers to bloom and herald the beginning of spring are hepatica. Petal color ranges from violet to white, sometimes pinkish. 2 / 2

Amazing what a difference a week makes — from near knee-deep snow to fire danger, from driving on the lakes to not being able to walk out, from shoveling snow to turning the soil over in the garden.

Another year where we go from winter to summer in a blink of an eye!

Waterfowl are moving through in big numbers, as are robins, juncos and a few sparrows. The phoebe is now calling by the garden.

Quite a few overwintering butterflies are still looking for first spring azure.

I saw my first hepaticas blooming — my favorite and so nice to see after so much white. Normally, they bloom on April 17. This year, it was April 25.

The chorus and wood frogs are calling, with the peepers starting to join in. On average, they begin calling on April 12, but I first heard them April 25 this year.

Spring is here, and as I wrote in my first phenology journal on May 1, this is my "happy new year!" I can now say I finally made it through another winter and the time of new birth.

But with the good comes the bad, so be careful for deer and wood ticks — both are now out. Just remember this: When you hear the ruffed grouse drumming the deer ticks are out.

I recorded the first mosquito on April 28 of this year, one week later than average.

The loons are back. Interestingly, they grab fish; they don't spear it like heron. I learned that hand-feeding them for a few years on Shingobee Lake. Loons are very territorial around their nest. I have even found dead ducks stabbed in the breast. I'm assuming the loon attacked from underneath. Loons are very social while out in middle of lake and will congregate in numbers. They feed and splash and carry on. Did you know they only wail while on the northern lakes and only have the summer plumage while in Minnesota? While on their winter grounds in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, loons are gray in color. In fact, they molt before leaving, so you will never see the loon that's on our license plates with fall colors in trees and summer colors of a loon. The Minnesota license plate is phenologically wrong. The artist messed it up all for color.

Other first sightings this year are one week to 10 days later than average, such as a fresh pocket gopher mound, active chipmunk, blue heron, mourning dove, mourning cloak, phoebe, broadwing hawk, yellow-rumped warbler and a painted turtle sunning itself.