There's a sound being heard on the lakes of the Whitefish Chain that is a true herald of summer: the call of the loon. Loons, iconic of not just the Whitefish Chain but all of Minnesota, spend their winters in the Gulf of Mexico. But they're back, along with all their snowbird friends.
If you enjoy birdwatching, now is a great time to get out and see the birds- both the summertime residents and those that are passing through on their way to more northerly destinations.
The ice is going out on the area's smaller lakes, and pockets of open water are popular among the birds of the Whitefish Chain. Migratory waterfowl who only pass through Minnesota before heading farther north can also be seen in these pockets. The Crosslake dam is a great place to spot some migratory waterfowl. The river side of the dam stays open year-round, and the bay near the dam is one of the faster bays to lose ice. A resident pair of loons can often be seen there. The city flag for Crosslake shows a bald eagle soaring in front of the dam, and the truth is that's not an uncommon sight at the dam. Watch the treetops beside the river and near the edge of the bay by the dam for bald eagles.
There are plenty of other great places to see birds around the Whitefish Chain. Chiarella Forest Management Area is a great place to birdwatch, with a variety of landscapes to explore. The area is partially covered in mixed forest, partially covered in pine tree farms, and also has a few meadows outfitted with nest boxes.
Rice Lake is a great spot to see migratory birds. This small, shallow lake is popular with migratory waterfowl, and trumpeter swans have been spotted there in the past. These large, beautiful, loud birds are quite the sight. You might also see nesting Canada geese later in the season, as well as several types of ducks and great blue herons.
Another herald of the warmer seasons is the return of the ospreys that nest along County Road 11, not far from Chiarella Forest Management Area, a few miles west of the intersection with County Road 3. The large nest sits atop a poll erected just for ospreys to nest upon. If the birds aren't in the nest, check the tops of neighboring trees on either side of the road.
The Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway and Birds of the Byway has put together a birding map and checklist for the area surrounding the Whitefish Chain that can be downloaded from their website. You can also see all the most fascinating species by hiring a local guide. Judd Brink, of MN Backyard Birds, really knows his birds and where to find them.