Loons seize the chance to nest

Northwoods Notebook

After a late arrival to the Northwoods, a loon swims at Six Mile Lake. (Betsy Bloom/Daily News photos)

The spring bird migration finally is winding down, transitioning into the nesting season.

Although delayed by the late April snow and ice in the region that lingered into May, the recent stretch of warm and dry weather has helped most of the migrants move in and onward.

Much of the warblers have arrived and the latest one to show up each season — flycatchers, cuckoos and nighthawks — should show up any day now, said Ryan Brady, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist based in Ashland who does the weekly bird report for that state.

The cuckoos, which have a fondness for caterpillars, should find easy pickings in this area considering the number of tents already visible on the bushes and trees.

An area resident already has sent a photo of robins hatched at his home. The next week could see the first reports of ducklings or goslings.

A Cooper’s hawk takes up position for possible hunting.


A pair of loons appeared to be courting on Six Mile Lake last weekend, raising hopes they will nest out there, something I haven’t been privileged to see since I moved to Dickinson County in late 2015.

Like other birds, the loons got back late to northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s U.P. this year because ice still covered most of the lakes until late April.

Yet they still have to nest early enough to have their chicks reach maturity in time to fly out in fall. A loon already has been photographed sitting on eggs in the Ashland area, Brady said.

“They didn’t waste much time,” he noted.

It provides the chance to remind boaters on area lakes to perhaps power down over the next few weeks, especially in areas known to have harbored nesting loons in the past.

Last year, heavy rains made for poor nesting conditions for the loons, which because they can’t walk on land must have nests close enough to the water to be able to push themselves up on their bellies. Many nests likely were flooded by the rising waters.

While water levels this year are much lower, wakes from passing boats still can swamp a nest, chilling the eggs or even sweeping them into the water.

So be kind to your resident loons and keep away from the edges with power watercrafts.


Local wildlife rehabilitator Phyllis Carlson said other than a couple squirrels, she’s had few babies to tend so far this spring. She has been called about rabbits, but advises that while they might look small and helpless, baby bunnies can pretty much fend for themselves at a very young age.

She also has a merlin, a small raptor from the falcon family, that she suspects hit a window, as for awhile it would end up on its back while trying to move to a perch. It now can remain upright and should recover in time enough to be released.


Carlson will lead a wildflower walk at 8 a.m. June 2 at the Fumee Lake Natural Area. Those who want to participate should meet at the east parking lot. Orchids are now beginning to bloom, Carlson said.

Anyone who takes a glance into the area woodlands these days knows the trillium, chokecherries and other flowering spring plants are spectacular this year, unlike last year, when the sodden conditions and a late frost made for a poor bloom.

Betsy Bloom can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 40, or bbloom@ironmountaindailynews.com.