These articles explain lake concepts in layman's terms. Lake Associations are welcome to publish these articles in their newsletters and websites as long as they give RMBEL credit.

Signs of Fall – Falling Leaves and American Coots

It’s hard to ignore that summer is over and the signs of fall are here.  It has been a beautiful week though; the leaves have turned and fallen, and it’s time to rake our yards.  Also, on most of the area lakes there are tight clusters of small black duck-like birds with white beaks.  These birds are the American Coot (Fulica americana) and are not actually ducks but are a type of marsh birds from the rail family.

leavesToday I will talk about the proper way to dispose of leaves and yard waste to keep them out of the lakes and give a description of the American Coot. First of all, leaves contain nutrients that fertilize lake plants and algae. When you rake your yard this fall, avoid raking the leaves straight into the lake or onto the street.  When leaf piles sit in the street or shoreline, wind and rain carry them into the lake and storm sewers, adding nutrients.  In addition, rain seeping through leaf piles makes a rich “nutrient tea” that flows into the storm drains even if the leaves themselves don’t move.  The best thing to do is to bag your leaves and take them to a compost site or dumping station or compost them yourself.

You can turn leaves into an asset by using them right in your yard.  You can recycle your leaves for mulch, fertilizer, organic matter, soil improvement and weed defense.  To mulch leaves, you’ll need to shred them by taking a couple passes over them with the lawnmower.  For more information on composting fall leaves visit:

cootNow onto the American Coot, which is also sometimes called a “mud hen” in the Midwest.  The coot is a migratory bird and a good swimmer.  During the summer, coots are found in freshwater lakes and ponds of the northern United States and southern Canada. During winter, they head to the southern portion of the United States and are found from California to Florida.  The ones in the Detroit Lakes area currently are probably on their way south for the winter from Canada.  Coots assemble in large flocks in winter on open water and have been observed in Minnesota in flocks of 50,000 or more.  They are unique as well because they form such tight clusters.  They dive for their food like ducks, and their omnivorous diet includes marsh plants, algae, seeds, roots, snails, worms, aquatic insects and small fish.  For more information on the American Coot, you can visit:

Enjoy the lakes!  This article was written and shared by Moriya Rufer at RMB Environmental Laboratories as part of continuing education for their Lakes Monitoring Program (218-846-1465,

Swimmer’s Itch

Lake3-SwimmersItchIt finally felt like summer this week! It’s that time of year again when swimmer’s itch can be a problem. Today I will talk about what swimmers itch is, and how to avoid it. [Read more…]

What good are leeches and snails?

snailshellsI’ve noticed that there are a lot of those little white spiral shells along the beach this spring, which inspired me to talk about the creepy crawlies in the lake that we often overlook. Leeches and aquatic snails are commonly ignored and considered a nuisance, but they are actually very important in our lakes. Leeches and snails play a large roll in the lake ecosystem. They are an important food source for aquatic animals including fish, ducks, crayfish, and turtles. [Read more…]

The Loons are back

Will this winter ever end? Even though the ice is reluctant to leave the lakes and we have been getting weekly snow storms, there are still some undeniable signs of spring. Last week I heard my first loon call, and it gave me goose bumps. Summer will arrive eventually! There’s something about hearing loons echoing over the water that is so Minnesotan. On March 13, 1961, Governor Elmer L. Andersen signed the legislation that adopted the common loon (Gavia immer) the official state bird of the State of Minnesota. [Read more…]

How Frogs, Turtles and Insects survive winter

This week the temperature plunged and our lakes froze over pretty quickly. We humans retreated into the shelter of our heated homes and warm coats. The only animals you see outside now are warm-blooded animals such as rabbits, deer and squirrels. So what happens to the cold-blooded animals like aquatic insects, frogs and turtles when the lakes freeze? [Read more…]

The Aquatic Food Web: Who’s eating whom?

Those of you who fish, probably already know a lot about the aquatic food web without realizing it. The aquatic food web is a conceptual way to look at who is eating who and what in a lake.The reason biologists use the term “food web” now instead of “food chain” is because it is a better way to visualize that everything is interrelated in a lake. [Read more…]

The bug of the week

Have you noticed that each week it seems like there’s a different large swarm of bugs by the lake? One week it’s dragonflies, one week it’s mayflies, one week it’s midges, and so on. The swarms are massive, and then a few days later they’re all dead on the ground. These are aquatic insects that actually emerge out of the lake. Aquatic insects are insects that live in a lake or stream for some part of their life. [Read more…]

Minnesota fish, good for you in moderation

There’s nothing quite like a sunny day on the lake when the fish are biting. When you add in an evening fish fry of the catch of the day, it’s a perfect Minnesota summer night.

fishermenFish are an excellent source of low fat protein and the omega-3 fatty acids that we hear so much about these days. The MN Food & Drug Administration says that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for human health, but are not manufactured by our bodies so we need to get them from food. [Read more…]

Flies, the good and the bad

Spring is here and the insects are back. I bet when you hear the word “flies” it triggers negative feelings. Today, I’m going to explain the difference between two types of flies that look very similar to each other but are actually very different: midges (Chironomidae) and mosquitoes (Culicidae). [Read more…]