If you spend time on lakes in the northern part of our state, you're almost certain to encounter the common loon, our state bird. It seems almost an insult to call it "common," but that's the price some creatures pay for being abundant, and having their kind spread over a wide geographic area. It's also due to having similar relatives, and the need for multiple names so people can tell them apart. There are five species of loon, and the one most familiar to us was the one to draw the short straw and be called "common."
I'm hearing "Where has the summer gone!" a lot these days. It's being spoken more as a statement than a question. On paper, it would merit an exclamation mark, rather than a question-mark.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently announced the results of its 2018 spring breeding duck survey. It found that overall duck numbers were up 9 percent from 2017, 14 percent above the average over the last 10 years, and 12 percent above the long-term average over the last 50 years.
Most of us would understand the term "amphibious" to mean by-water or over-water. The invasion of Nazi-held Europe and the South Pacific islands occupied by the Japanese during World War II exemplifies this meaning of the term. Barge-like boats optimistically called "landing craft" carried soldiers from ships to shore in carrying out these amphibious invasions.
Spring-to-early summer is time of critical importance to the successful reproduction of most wildlife in our northern world. From birds to bugs, fish to fowl, now is when it must happen for most species. Several of these are of more than casual interest to those of us who hunt. These species, like nongame wildlife, are at a seasonal crossroads that will determine whether their numbers will be up or down as the time of rearing ends and young should be maturing into adults.
On election night in November of 2008, those who fish, hunt and value the out-of-doors had reason to rejoice. The long-sought goal of a constitutional amendment to fund conservation efforts had been approved by Minnesota voters. This constitutional amendment — officially called the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment — had to be approved by voters because it added 3/8 of one percent to the Minnesota state sales tax.
In late March, a Ramsey County, Minnesota judge made headlines with a ruling that should prompt us to ask a deceptively simple question: "Who owns our water?" The pronoun "our," in this case, means the planet's water; on the surface in a lake or pond, a creek or a river, or underground in the aquifers we tap for irrigation and for use in our homes.
I'm as ardent a believer in the democratic system of government as anyone. But sometimes you have to admit it has its weak points. Winston Churchill, one of the most important world leaders of my parents' generation, put it well when he said that "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." Meaning, of course, that while democracy has its failings, other forms of government are worse.
The human olfactory sense — our sense of smell — is not always fully appreciated for its power. Some say it's the most powerful of our senses when it comes to generating emotions and memories. The scent of marsh muck, wet dog hair or Hoppe's No. 9 gun cleaning solvent can unleash a tide of memories, and transport us momentarily back to a duck blind or a deer stand. Or, when our nose catches the aroma trail from a restaurant kitchen, we hunger for a ribeye steak or a juicy 'burger. Scent carries an undeniable emotional punch.
It's been little more than two months since the end of the regular Minnesota deer hunting season, with archery hunting ending on the last day of December. Interest in whitetails at this time of year is most often focused on their surviving the winter. The major worry is deep snow that can restrict access to food when they are at their most stressed and vulnerable. Late winter snows duel with thawing temperatures in a contest to determine when the threats winter poses to our deer will be past.