Minnesota lakes are shedding their ice, but slowly because of recent cold weather. Most lakes south of Interstate 94 are ice-free, according to the state Climatology Office.

Ice left Lake Emily and Lake Minnewaska last week in west-central Minnesota. But Lake Mille Lacs remained ice-covered, as were Gull, Pelican and North Long in central Minnesota. All major lakes in northern Minnesota remained ice-covered. To see the latest, see the Climatology Office's website at www.startribune.com/a335.

Gulf oil spill and ducks

The Gulf oil spill wasn't the duck calamity that some predicted, according to Delta Waterfowl's scientific director. But Frank Rohwer says the federal assessment to measure the oil spill's impact on waterfowl lacked leadership, urgency and coherent planning.

"As a scientist, one of my great frustrations is that we have failed to use this disaster to learn how to better deal with any future oil spills," said Rohwer of Louisiana State University, who was assigned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct the waterfowl assessment.

Rohwer said in a news release that we don't know any more today than we did before the spill happened.

"Judging from the inefficiency I saw in the waterfowl arena," he says, "I'd bet that assessment applies across the board."

He called the spill "the duck catastrophe that didn't happen. but next time we might not be so lucky."

Rohwer was assigned to conduct the assessment as part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Program. The results will be used to determine BP's liability for losses of migratory birds and other water birds.

Beginning in late January, Rohwer led a team of student-researchers who followed "transects" in five designated sites along the Gulf Coast, a major wintering area for millions of ducks, geese and other migratory birds.

"We only recovered a handful of confirmed oiled birds," says Rohwer. "The upshot is that we got lucky."

Pheasant Fest, 2012

For the first time, Pheasants Forever will hold its National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic in Kansas City, Mo. The show will be next Feb. 17-19 at the Kansas City Convention Center. The annual convention, outdoor trade show and dog showcase has topped the 20,000 attendance mark each of the last six events. Holding the event in Missouri will allow Pheasants Forever-Quail Forever organizations to hold a Quail Classic for the first time. Quail are found in both Kansas and Missouri.