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5:11 p.m. - 2007-06-07
The Minnesota State Bird!
Hello everybody! Happy June!

I hope all has been well with you so far this month. As usual when I'm not teaching, sorting too much paper at my temp job has filled me with despair. Soon I will be leaving my animal temp position, though! :( I will fill you in on wherever the temp agency sends me, of course! (Will there be llamas?)

In more Wendell news, I simultaneously found out Ryan Adams was coming to Minneapolis, AND that the concert had sold out in 10 minutes. And I couldn't phone into the radio station to win the tickets because I was at work! Curses! Then R informed me scalpers were charging $350 per ticket. If anyone wants to give me a Ryan Adams concert ticket, I will make them a homemade pie of their choosing....

Critter Headlines:

More information about our favorite ancient pachyderm, the woolly mammoth!

A new frog! Could this be the original Vikings fan?

Has the real Loch Ness Monster finally appeared? Wouldn't that be great? From a myth-busting television program I learned that Nessie has a northern neighbor: Ogopongo, a serpent-like creature that supposedly lives in Lake Okanagan in British Columbia, Canada. Both Loch Ness and Lake Okanagan are similar in that they are very deep and very narrow. These features seem to cause strange, serpentine waves that travel perpendicular to the shore.

I wish there really was a giant sea serpent or plesiosaur still living, but you know we'd end up killing it anyway!

Over Memorial Day weekend, R and I were fortunate enough to be invited to our friends ancestral cabin near Annandale, one hour west of Minneapolis. It was cool and windy, but fabulous!

As is required when one is on vacation, we consumed large quantities of potato chips and bratwurst. Several adorable babies were in attendance, and I helpfully offered them some chips, too.

The cool weather thwarted some creature sightings. R and I did spot a turtle and what we thought to be a jumping frog. It was while we were relaxing on the P family pontoon that we encountered today's Creature Feature: The Loon!

Here we are on the luxurious yacht:

The common loon, Garia immer, is a really large water bird; the size of a small goose or a big duck, about 23 to 26 inches long.

The haunting call, striking plumage and wonderful diving ability of the loon make it unique in the northerly countries of the world. These red eyed birds can dive up to 90 feet deep! While underwater, loons use their sharp beaks to stab and bite fish, amphibians and crustaceans. (Watch out, froggies!)

Because loons find their prey with their sharp eyesight, the birds prefer clear lakes, like Twin Lake, where we were staying. It's a big ol' lake, so there were many loons there. Apparently smaller lakes will host maybe only one pair of birds, as they are highly territorial.

Loons can live up to 30 years! During this time loons are mostly monogamous, although they will find a new partner if the first nesting fails. It is thought males might be more attached to their particular territory than to one particular mate.

After the mating dance, the loon couple will build a nest together. Usually the crib is built close to the water, as loons are clumsy on land. Both parents incubate the nest during the 26 to 31 days it takes for the eggs to hatch.

The one or two chicks are "precocial", or able to swim shortly after birth. Even so, Mom and Dad prefer that the chicks ride on their backs:
loonbaby 20 cutes!

To facilitate the baby's piggy-back ride, the adult loons will release air from their lungs and feathers, sinking down in the water so the babies can climb on! This high and dry location keeps the chicks warm and helps them avoid predators like fish and birds.

Loon Fun Facts:

* The common loon is the state bird of Minnesota!
* The province of Ontario claims the loon as its own and Canada features the bird on its one dollar coin, called the "loonie".
* Loons claim their own Genus, Family and Order.
* Mercer, WI calls itself the "Loon Capital of the World"!
* In the UK, loons are known as "divers"!

All right! I hope you feel better now that you're more familiar with our state bird!

Two more photos from our trip!




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