Around Cook County

News and other information from Cook County

Ravens are starting to build their nests

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 9:19am

Chel Anderson is a North Shore naturalist. She lives here in Cook County and joins us periodically to talk about phenology or what’s going on in the woods right now. Welcome, Chel.

Anderson: Hi!

Well, Chel, I saw one fly overhead about two weeks ago: a raven with a stick in its mouth. It must be courting and nesting time.

Anderson: Indeed it is. Ravens, too, are getting in the act. Another one of those birds that gets an early start on the mating and nesting season. Gosh, who doesn’t love ravens?

They are an amazing, amazing bird.

Anderson: They really are, and, you know, throughout the course of the year I’m always marveling at their various antics, their incredible abilities, though, as fliers is one of the things that’s easiest to admire and be amazed by. But, it seems like during the courting and mating time is when their exuberance as fliers and their skills as fliers are really being shown off to the max. So, it’s a great time of year to really be paying close attention to opportunities to watch that, where the pairs will fly wing-on-wing in tandem and they’re doing barrel rolls and they’re doing flips and they’re flying upside down and just, incredible, incredible acrobatics in the air. Ravens mate for life; for as long as they live, I guess. If a pair has both partners still on the scene in a given winter, then their territories kind of become a little bit looser. They’re not doing as much enforcing of boundaries of territories during the winter, but starting in late winter they’re going to start enforcing the territories around their nests, which often are sites that they use repeatedly. They may have more than one. It could be in a big tree, could be on a cliff ledge, multiple sites and they’re going to be doing a lot of pair bonding around those nest sites, bringing sticks, bringing material of different kinds. Not just sticks, bones, you know, have been found in raven nests, soft materials, even, scraps of wool, plastic, colorful things.

These are pretty big nests.

Anderson: Yes, they are, even when they’re built from scratch. The initial nest is big, and then if they’re used year after year they become quite massive as, you know, each succeeding year the adults are adding a little bit of material to the nest. So, yes, they can become quite large, and that’s where the pair will be focusing their attention in terms of courtship and eventually the eggs will be laid in late winter. Two to four eggs isn’t uncommon, large eggs, and their seems to be quite a bit of variability in terms of how adults act around the nests. Some nests are really in secluded places and the adults seem very secretive and it’s really kind of amazing to discover them. But, others seem to build their nests in really obvious places and are real carefree around their nests in terms of people observing them. So, there’s really a wide range it seems of approaches to where to nest in terms of people’s habitations and how to act around the nest. But, if you happen to have one nest in your neighborhood or come upon one and have a chance to observe the birds around their nests it’s really interesting, of course, to watch how they incubate the eggs and feed their nestlings. It’s very interesting and fun.

Do crows act a lot like ravens?

Anderson: Yeah, although crows are much more social in flocks. They spend a lot more time in flocks. Ravens definitely gather up together and do things together, but not with the same kind of enthusiasm on an ongoing basis as crows do. They gather together when it’s useful to be together and for the sake of sharing and taking advantage of other food that other ravens have found to scavenge. But, generally, they’re more likely to spend time just as a pair or as single birds, versus crows which seem to be much happier mingling as groups more often than not.

There’s a lot of native spirituality around ravens, and I can imagine why. But, I think that this is one amazing bird that’s always fascinated me. I’m glad I live in an area that has so many of them.

Anderson: Yes, I know. We’re really fortunate to have them close by and not something that it takes a lot of effort to go and just observe, to be able to enjoy them regularly pretty much wherever we are in the county.

So, this time of year, it seems to be as long as there is snow on the ground and while they’re doing their mating and this sort of thing, that’s when we get to see the air shows. This is the time to look up.

Anderson: This is really the time to look up and pay attention, because you’re more than likely to see some pretty amazing acrobatics up there.

It’s amazing to see with those flips.

Anderson: Yeah!

I don’t know, why do they do that?

Anderson: Well, I don’t know, but I can’t help but anthropomorphize about it. They just seem to really enjoy flying. As do others, you know, they’re not the only birds that I sometimes interpret that kind of activity that way. But, they really just do seem to love to fly. You seem them out in the most horrific weather just playing in the wind and just seemingly enjoying their capacity to use their abilities to carve out space in the air and go places.

Besides being extremely bright.

Anderson: Oh my gosh, yes. Maybe that goes with intelligence, that playfulness. They are among the most intelligent.

Chel Anderson, botanist and plant ecologist. Thanks for helping us understand ravens in love.

Anderson: You’re welcome.

Photo courtesy of Sergey Yeliseev via Flickr.

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Midwest Extreme Snowmobile Challenge at Lutsen Mountains this weekend

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 2:42pm

Course conditions for the first-ever Midwest Extreme Snowmobile Challenge on April 18-19 are good, and all events, including the cross-country race, are expected to proceed as planned, according to race director Todd Meyers of Cor PowerSports, which is presenting Midwest Extreme Snowmobile Challenge at Lutsen Mountains.

Jim Vick of Lutsen Mountains says the spring event will benefit from the fact that temperatures at Lutsen have been trending below normal, and they have experienced only a few days with highs in the 50s. “The last day for skiing on Moose Mountain was Sunday, April 12,” said Vick. “After that, we will be sculpting Moose Mountain for Midwest Extreme.

“We stockpile snow every year for spring skiing, and there will be skiing throughout the rest of the resort during Midwest Extreme.”

The event will include three types of races: hillclimb, hillcross, and short course-cross country.  There will be more than a dozen classes in each, and a cap of 20 riders per class. 

“We are expecting over 500 riders and have a projected purse of $40,000.  The King Class divisions of Hillclimb will qualify for the 2016 World Championships in Jackson Hole, Wyoming,” added Meyers.   

Spectator tickets are available for $18/day or $28/two-day pass and include gondola access to Moose Mountain and chairlift access on Moose Mountain.  In the event of weather closure on the gondola, a footpath to Moose Mountain will also be established where spectators can access a chairlift to the mountain summit.  No outside food or beverage is allowed within the spectator arena. For tickets, visit:

County, School and YMCA working out details on facility management

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 2:38pm

When the Cook County Community YMCA pool heater went down two months ago and the pool couldn’t be properly heated for about a month, there were questions about who was responsible for the situation. With three entities—Cook County, School District 166 and the YMCA—involved it hasn’t always been clear who is responsible for the Y’s maintenance, especially when something breaks. That is why the parties met on March 24 to review three documents, the County/YMCA Management Agreement, the Shared Facilities Agreement signed in 2012 and the 2015 revised YMCA/School Joint Facility Use Agreement.

The Y building is owned by the county and is attached to the school. The school and the Y share facilities, especially the pool and gym, and agreed to a cost neutral agreement to maintain the facilities and grounds. Meanwhile the county has a separate agreement with the Duluth Area YMCA to manage the facility.

After a little more than a year in operation there have been some surprises for the Y, the biggest perhaps how many people have joined. It was projected that 300-500 people would become members but instead three times as many people—1,500—signed up.

School District 166 Superintendent Beth Schwarz said, “That’s a lot more cleanup than anyone planned for.”

County Maintenance Director Brian Silence said his department has been getting busier and busier with maintenance issues at the Y. And none of it was planned for in his 2014-2015 budget.

Superintendent Schwarz said, “The school’s maintenance staff likewise has run into a lot of extra work.”

There was discussion of who was responsible for grounds work, the HVAC system and more.

"James and the Giant Peach" debuts April 17

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 12:56pm

“James and the Giant Peach” opens at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts Friday, April 17. WTIP volunteer Yvonne Mills spoke with Sue Hennessey of the Grand Marais Playhouse on North Shore Morning. 


James and the Giant Peach performances at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts:
April 17 & 18 at 7 pm
April 19 at 2 pm
April 24 & 25 at 7 pm
April 26 at 2 pm



Register now for 26th annual Cook County Emergency Services Conference

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 3:32pm

The 26th annual Cook County Emergency Services Conference will be held April 24-25 at various locations throughout Grand Marais, and now is the time to sign up.

Sessions include:

• U.S. National Grid update and Emergency Trail Marker Program Implementation

by B.J. Kohlstedt, Lake County Emergency Management director. A snowmobiler gets injured on the trail and his friends call 911. “Where are you?” the dispatcher asks. The answer? “Somewhere on the North Shore Trail between Lutsen and Grand Marais.”

So begins the search to find the patient. A group of partners including Cook and Lake counties, DNR, USFS, SharedGeo, and local trail clubs are changing that with a consistent, nationally recognized emergency location marker system.

 • ARMER update and hands-on radio training by Rowan Watkins, Cook County MIS, radio technician. Designed especially for those who do not use their radios every day. Great practical experience.

 • 3ECHO Hostile Event Training (classroom) by Ron Robinson and Jonathan Bundt. The purpose of this course is to teach a new integrated practice to first responders in a hostile event situation.

 • Compassion Fatigue and Building Resilience Workshop by Greg Nelson, licensed psychologist. Compassion Fatigue symptoms are normal displays of stress resulting from the care giving work emergency responders perform on a regular basis. While the symptoms are often disruptive, depressive and irritating, an awareness of the symptoms and their negative effect can lead to positive change and a new resiliency.

DNR accepting comments on deer population goals for our area until April 15

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 3:31pm

In January and February 2015, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources accepted comments from citizens on deer population goals across the northern part of the state. In Cook County, a public meeting was held on February 19 and comments were recorded on what should be done in the “Superior Uplands Arrowhead” region, block 1 of the proposal. Citizen Advisory Teams were established and surveys were conducted. The DNR now has advisory team recommendations and would like the public to once again weigh in on the final goals for deer populations in northeastern Minnesota.

Dave Ingebrigtsen, assistant wildlife manager, who works in the Grand Marais DNR office, encourages North Shore residents to give input to help the DNR make its decision for deer populations in this area. “Now is the time for people to get involved,” said Ingebrigtsen.

Cook County has two deer permit areas, No. 117 and No. 126. For deer permit area 117, which is primarily in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), the consensus of the advisory team was to leave things be, with no change in population.

Some of the reasons given were that deer were not historically found in this area, it is one area of the state not impacted by deer; this is primarily moose area; few people hunt in this area and those that do care more about a wilderness deer experience than higher deer density.

In deer permit area 126, the advisory team could not reach agreement. Ten team members preferred no change in population. Two team members wanted a population increase of 25 percent. One team member preferred a population increase of 50 percent and two team members abstained.

Seven team members expressed concern about vegetation, one stating, “Fencing trees is expensive” and another stating that deer population will come back up after a few mild winters, but vegetation recovery takes much longer.