Spotting a robin is no April fool’s joke

Published 12:11 pm Sunday, April 7, 2013

I’d have to say that spring officially arrived when I spotted my first robin on April Fool’s Day, and since then I’ve seen many more — I’ll take that as a good sign. When I was a kid, my mother would always try to fool me with an April fool joke of some sort. One year, she called me to the kitchen window to see the first robin of the spring, but of course there was no robin in sight, and the joke was on me. Each year she would try to fool me and my sister with an April fool joke, and after falling for it a couple of times, I’d become wary; but because I knew how much she enjoyed it, I would play along. I don’t think that I ever told her any different. It didn’t take much to amuse us back then, but I guess that those were just simpler, less complicated times.

Although we have been having sunny days, and the snow is slowly disappearing, the temperature doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to take it to the next level. The good news is that there is water running over the dam on Bridge Street, and if the temperatures continue to escalate, we may actually embrace some normal spring-like temperatures.

Trevor, my oldest grandson, said that Upper Twin Lake is loaded with waterfowl. Last weekend, Trevor did manage to bag a couple of snow geese on an early morning hunt. There also seems to be more and more eagle sightings in our area, more than I can ever remember. This is a good thing for anyone who enjoys wildlife and the outdoors.

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Albert Lea Lake has been host to waterfowl of many different kinds over the past years, and this year is no exception. I spoke to a person who, while walking his dog by the old disposal plant last week, spotted hundreds of ducks and geese on the open water by the aerators. Sitting on the ice nearby were four young eagles checking out the situation and watching from afar was an adult eagle. I know it wasn’t a social event for those eagles, and I assume they probably had lunch on their minds.

It’s amazing how much wildlife you can see within just a few miles of home. If you were to take a drive out past the Jugland dam, there’s a chance that you could be treated to wildlife sighting of some sort. If you are a little more adventuresome — and aren’t afraid to get your car dirty — a drive past the Twin Lakes might be rewarding.

A couple of weeks ago, while my wife and I were driving home from Bricelyn after visiting our new granddaughter Ava, her brother Dylan and her sister Emma, we were treated to some deer sightings. By the time we had reached the Kiester turnoff, we estimated seeing over 50 deer in about four different locations along the way. This is why I like to travel “old 16,” or as it is officially called Freeborn County Road 46. Spotting deer alive in the wild is much better than seeing them lying on the shoulder of an interstate highway.

I have written many times about the need to make sure that future generations are introduced to their outdoors heritage in one form or another. The state of Minnesota also has recognized that there has been a declining interest in outdoor recreation, and in 2010, a program started within many state parks designed to introduce families to the Minnesota outdoors and all that it has to offer.

Minnesota state parks and trails offer a new season of outdoor “I Can!” programs for families.

Families will learn how to pitch a tent, hook a fish, paddle a kayak or canoe, scale a cliff and shoot a bow at nearly 200 “I Can!” programs offered this summer at Minnesota state parks and on state water trails. The newly expanded “I Can!” series of outdoor programs are designed to introduce kids to camping, fishing, paddling, climbing and archery.

“We created the ‘I Can!’ series in response to research that showed declining participation in outdoor recreation by young families,” said Courtland Nelson, DNR Parks and Trails Division director. “These popular programs are designed to introduce the next generation to the outdoors.”

Since the series launched in 2010, thousands of people have been introduced to outdoor recreation and Minnesota state parks and trails. Participation in “I Can Camp!” totaled 877 in 2012, up 51 percent from the 582 who participated the first year.

“I had to drag my kids there, and now they won’t stop exploring,” reported one father who participated in an “I Can Camp!” program. “We consider ourselves on our way to becoming veteran campers,” said a mother who attended the hands-on, learn-to-camp workshop.

All equipment is provided for the programs, along with mentoring from experienced instructors. Some programs require advance registration and a fee; others are free and allow visitors to drop-in anytime. A vehicle permit ($5 per one-day or $25 per year-round) is required to enter Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. A one-day permit is included with registration for an “I Can Camp!” program.

For more information about any of the programs in the “I Can!” series, including program dates, times, locations and other information, visit or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

As a fishing note, the April meeting of Southern Crossroads Chapter 54 of Muskies Inc. will be at Eagles Club in Owatonna at 7 p.m. Wednesday. A speaker will be present along with updates, door prizes, raffle and musky talk. Remember, the Minnesota Muskie Expo April 5, 6 and 7 at Concordia University’s Gangelhoff Center, at 235 Hamline Ave. N, St. Paul. Bring a friend. Non-members are welcome. Help improve Musky fishing In Southern Minnesota.

Until next time, let’s get out and enjoy the spring like weather and explore the beauty of the outdoors.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers, because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s column appears in the Tribune each Sunday.