Tuesday, April 25, 2017 8:00 pm CDT

54 degrees F   Rain   Wind Calm

Sunrise   6:11 am CDT   Sunset  8:12 pm CDT

 

Today has been a very quiet day on Loon Lake.

Our pair of loons has only been to the nest twice today and only up on the nest once.

This is quite a contrast to the SEVEN times on the nest yesterday and the two matings.

But all is still good and no cause for concern.

For a good share of the day (from mid-morning to mid-afternoon) there was a single loon that stayed in the area.

At least I think it was a single loon because I never saw a second loon in all that time.  I know from a number of reports that there is a single loon on the lake.  I keep wondering if it is our female from a couple years ago whose mate was killed.  But there is no way of knowing at this point.

Now it is raining a soft gentle rain.  And is supposed to continue raining for the next couple days.

In fact, it is supposed to get much colder and there is supposed to be snow and freezing rain in some parts of the state.  But I think most of that will stay farther north.

It will not bother the loons.  They will take it all in stride.

Since this is a very quiet day, maybe we can take a little time to give you a 'tour' of the nesting platform and explain what is what.  That may help you understand more about how it all works together for our loons.

Many of you already know a lot about the nest.  But for some of our newer loon addicts, this may be especially helpful.

The nesting platform is a floating 'raft'.  It is anchored out in the lake some distance from shore.  One anchor rope is attached to an anchor that is screwed into the bottom of the lake.  It has been there for 15 years and has not moved during that time.

A second anchor rope is attached to a cement block.  The cement block and the long ropes attached to the anchors allows the nesting platform to rise and fall with the water level in the lake and with the waves.  Some of you may remember a few years ago when we had a lot of rain and the lake level rose 17 inches in just 24 hours.  I had to go out to lengthen the anchor rope because it was actually pulling the nest underwater.

I normally never go anywhere near the nest when the loons are there.  But this was an emergency.  Either lengthen the rope  or lose the nest.  Fortunately we were able to save the nest.

My descriptions will be in relation to your view from the camera.

If you look really closely, One anchor rope comes off the corner of the raft on the left hand side of the picture.  It is very hard to see.  It is a dark green rope that goes down into the water almost immediately and about all your can see is the knot that fastens the rope to the raft.  Don't worry if you can't see it.  The important thing is that it is there.

The other anchor rope goes off the corner of the raft that is almost directly across the nest from your vantage point of the camera.

Depending on the light, you may be able to see the rope underwater going toward the far left corner of the picture.  There are actually two ropes, both of them yellow.  But in some light they look like they might be white.

The use of two anchor points keeps the nest from twisting in the wind - which we cannot have because of the camera cables.

The material on the nest is all natural stuff that loons might find washed up on the shore of a lake - although many times loons will also use a muskrat house and build their nest on top of it.  A muskrat house would also have much of the same material that you see on this nest.  It is cattails and weeds and leaves that have washed up on shore.

I place all the material on the nesting platform and then it is up to the loons to rearrange it to their liking when they are ready to nest.

At the corner to the left and the corner across from the camera, there are clumps of plants.  They are there mainly to protect the nest from washing away in high waves.  But they also give natural green growth and some shelter and cover for the loons.

The plants are mainly irises and daylilies.  But there may be other plants mixed in as well.

I chose irises because the voyageurs who first came through this part of the world planted some of them at many of the portages in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, one of my favorite places on the face of the earth.

The voyageurs were French-Canadians and the irises were actually used as a representation of the Fleur-de-Lis of France.  So I felt that the iris was appropriate for the loon nest since so many loons are native to the Boundary Waters and the lakes of the great north woods.

You will really see the plants grow over the next few weeks.

On the far right corner you sometimes can catch sight of something vertical.  They are willow branches that extend for about 6 feet above the level of the nest.  They are inserted in that piece of white pvc pipe that you may be able to see.  That helps hold them vertical (that pvc is new this year and so far seems to be working quite well.  But the season is young!).

The willow branches extend down into the water and actually for roots and grow in the water.  they have already leafed out quite nicely.

The purpose of the willow branches is to be an obstacle so that eagles cannot swoop down directly onto the nest.  So far it has worked well for many years.

The camera that brings the pictures to you is mounted on a column attached to the raft at the bottom of your picture.

On the far left of the picture is a dark 'line' that goes from the bottom of the picture to the top left corner of the raft.  That is a rope that is attached to the top of the camera mounting pole.  Some of you may remember a few years ago in a high wind storm with large waves, the camera mounting loosened and the camera was slipping and was in danger of going in the lake.  That was one of the other times that I had to go out to the nest - to save the camera.  I quickly attached the rope and left.  It worked well enough that I have just left the rope there for safety.

The camera is capable of some very good resolution.  And hopefully your picture is quite clear and sharp.  However, the camera is actually capable of a picture that is of MUCH higher resolution than you are seeing.

So why don't we give you a higher resolution picture?.

Because your computer would not be able to handle all the data of such a high resolution  picture and your video would be constantly buffering.

Out of view at the bottom of your picture is a "chick ramp" for very young chicks to get back up on the nest in emergencies.  Normally it is never used because the chicks leave the nest within about 24 hours, never to come back.

Some of you yesterday also noticed something at the bottom of your picture that was flapping in the wind.  That was part of the extension that I added to the chick ramp this year which made it bigger and more accessible to chicks.

You may have seen me last night do some repairs to reattach the flap to the nest.

Yesterday someone also asked what the "shadow" was in the upper right had corner of the picture.  When I looked at it I didn't know what it was either.

But last night as I looked closer, I realized it was the rounded corner similar to the rounded corner of the picture that you see on the upper left side.  But with the difference in lighting and with the leaves of the willow branches, it was deceptive as to what it was.

Those rounded corners are part of a plastic shield that covers the entire camera to protect it from rain and snow and ice and sun.  It is that plastic cover that produces the distinctive "ping" sound when it rains.  Or the very LOUD sound if we get hail.

Someone also asked why it was so light on the nest when it was dark at their house - no matter if they were well south of the nest or well north of it.  I think it made some wonder if the picture was actually "live".

I have also marveled about the difference in lighting many times.  I look out my door and it is dark outside.  But then I look at the LoonCam and the nest appears to be in broad daylight.

The reason is that the camera is so good at picking up light that it can stills 'see' after our own eyes think it is dark.

But eventually it gets dark enough and the camera switches to infrared mode which allows you to to see the nest clearly all night long.  I use an infrared light to light up the nest so that you can see it.  The loons cannot see the infrared light so it does not bother them or cause them any concern at all.

So now you know a little bit more about the LoonCam nest and nesting platform.  And how it all works together to provide a home for our beloved loons to use during these few short weeks every year.

Enjoy it!

Hopefully there will be eggs coming very soon.

 

Copyright 2017  Larry R Backlund

 

 

Monday, April 24, 2017 5:58 pm CDT

62 degrees F    Light Rain    Wind 6mph S

Sunrise   6:12 am CDT    Sunset   8:11 pm CDT

 

Well, it has been quite the day.  On several levels.

I did a blog post earlier this morning.  But the internet ATE it.  Who knows where it went!

But if you see it floating in the ether somewhere, would you send it back to me?  ;-)

So let me try to reconstruct some of what has happened today.

Just before 7 o'clock this morning, both loons were up on the nest!

But better yet, they mated.

That shows real interest in the nest and that they are taking ownership of it.

As they left the nest and swam away, the male yodeled FIVE times.  Just in case anyone had a question, he was saying "This is now MY territory.  Stay away."

But also and just as important, we now know who the male is.

He is a male that we banded several years ago.  He has green bands on both legs.  And he has successfully nested on the lake for the last several years.

This is also the male that I had a very special encounter with last summer.  If you want to read about that, you can find it in my blog at http://mnbound.com/larrys-loon-blog/2016/5/19/thursday-may-19-2016-616-am-cdt

So now we know who the male of this pair is.

I could not see the female's legs for sure when she left the nest but I do not think that she had any bands.  This fits with what I thought was the case about this pair - that something had happened to the female we banded along with him and that he had a new mate.

So now we will probably have a chance to get to know them much better over the next month.

Then shortly after 8 am the pair of loons was back and swam around the nest but did not get back up on it that I saw.

And then to make this day even more special, the loons were back again, for a third time about 11:30 am.  They swam around the nest for about 10 minutes and the male with the green bands got up on the nest for a couple minutes.

But it didn't stop there!

Shortly before 4 pm, they were back again!  This made FOUR visits today.  There were a couple soft hoots from one of them but as far as I saw, they did not get up on the nest.

And THEN!

According to chat, they were back around the nest shortly before 5 pm.  The FIFTH visit of the day!  I missed seeing that one.  

Can it be that we have more blessings than we know how to deal with?

But it wasn't done yet!

About 5:30 pm, they were back for the SIXTH visit to the nest.

AND the second MATING.

I think it is fairly obvious that they have claimed this nest as home!

Now we will wait for nest building behavior.  And hopefully the first egg to be laid!

Does it get any better than this?!

 

Copyright  2017   Larry R Backlund

 

 

 

Sunday, April 23, 2017 9:42 am CDT

48 degrees F   Sunny   Wind NE 6mph

Sunrise  6:14 am CDT    Sunset 8:09 pm CDT

 

If it is spring in Minnesota, that means LOONS.

If there are loons, that means the LoonCam!

The LoonCam is LIVE once again.

With all the suspense.  With all the drama.  With all the unknowns of what is going to happen this year.

Will we have loons use the nest?

Will they lay eggs?  Will the eggs hatch?  Will we see those beautiful, cute little chicks?  Even for an instant before they leave?  Will the chicks survive to adulthood?

What drama will we witness this year?  It always seems like there is something that no one ever anticipates.

So many questions.  And so few answers.

We only find the answers as the drama unfolds while we watch.  And learn.  And there is SO much to learn.

So now is the time to prepare yourself for this year's soap opera "Days of Our Loons"!

Let your friends and family know about the LoonCam so that they can join you in the joy and wonder of loons that you have found.  

What a wonderful way to spend time with your kids and grandkids.  And maybe even your great-grandkids.  Making memories that they will never forget for the rest of their lives.

The signs that the nest may get used this year are very encouraging.

As many of you will remember, the male from the LoonCam was killed in August of 2015.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources was initially very encouraged that we would be able to find out what happened to him and what caused his death.

Unfortunately they were not able to determine the cause of death.  So we will probably never know what killed him.

As you know, because of his death, the nest was not used last year.  The female came back.  But she did not have a mate so she did not nest.  She still showed some ownership of the nest, but she could not nest.

A couple other pairs of loons also showed some interest in the nest last year but they did not nest on it either.

So now the question is WILL some loons use the nest?  And 'who are they'?

We will only know by watching.

There is one pair of loons that has already shown a lot of interest in the nest.  Some of you saw them yesterday.

Even before I put the nest in the lake several days ago, they were showing interest.

I was working on the nest down by the lake.  I turned around and saw them very close in "spying".

What do I mean by "spying"?

Loons will do something that I call "submarining".  They will swim completely submerged with only the top of their head out of the water.  By doing this, they can see what is going on without being seen.

So as I turned and looked, both loons were close by, "submarining" as they watched me work.  That alone told me that one or both of them were somewhat familiar with the area and with me.  There is no other logical explanation of why they would come in so close to observe what was going on.

Then yesterday I saw three instances of a pair of loons - I assume the same pair - coming in and swimming around the nest.  There may have been more times but I saw three times.

They swam right by the nest.  So they obviously were very interested in it although they did not get up on the nest, as far as I saw.

But what was even more encouraging than them swimming by the nest, each time one of the loons did some excited "splash diving".  So it was more than just a casual observation of the nest.  There seemed to be some real interest in and excitement about the nest.

So I think that was a very hopeful sign that they may use the nest.

They swam and dove around the nest once in the morning, once in the late afternoon and one more time early evening.

So it is a consistent interest that kept them coming back throughout the day.

I have not seen them yet today but that does not mean they have not been in to the nest and I just missed them.

With all of our eyes watching, we can better keep track of what is happening.  And your eyes are crucial.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy LOONCAM SEASON 2017!

 

Copyright 2017   Larry R Backlund

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017 12:13 pm CDT

41 degrees F  Spotty Rain  Gusty Wind

Sunrise  6:19 am CDT   Sunset  8:06 pm CDT

 

Hang in there!

We are oh so close.  

But that counts only in horseshoes.

We were ready to put the nest out earlier this week.  Everything seemed to be working   And everything was ready.

And then on Monday the camera went down!

With the help of the good wizards (Anthony) from Broadband Minnesota, we got the camera up and running again.

Then Tuesday the infrared light (which allows you to see the nest at night) quit working.

Now we were ready to go.  Right?  

Nope.

Then the sound quit working!

As I write this, the good Broadband Minnesota folks are on their way out to Loon Lake to try to fix the sound.  I figured that you would not be happy if the sound was not there.

I tell you this not to make you feel sorry for us.

But just to give you a little glimpse of all the myriad of things that have to work just exactly right in order to bring the LoonCam to you.

And once the nest is in the water, it is 100 times as difficult to troubleshoot and try to make fixes.

Once the loons are on the nest, then there is no opportunity to fix much of anything.

So hang in there.

We are working on it.

And hopefully VERY soon you will have your beloved LoonCam LIVE once again.

 

Copyright 2017  Larry R Backlund