Saturday, May 27, 2017 5:35 am CDT

49 degrees F   Clear Wind Calm

Sunrise  5:31 am CDT   Sunset  8:50 pm CDT

 

The first rays of the sun have painted the morning sky with hues of pink and gold.

Soon they will also gild the plants and the loon on the nest.

It is once again a spectacular morning on loon lake.

The lake is like a sheet of glass.  There is not a hint of a breeze and the trees around the lake are mirrored perfectly in its surface.

And our loons have just made a picture perfect changing of the guard 5 minutes ago.  The female left the nest to swim out to the male who was swimming in towards the nest.  After they compared notes in preparation for the hand-off of duties, the male loon swam into the nest, got up on the nest, turned the eggs and carefully settled down on them.

Geese are honking in the distance over something that has their attention.  You can hear a belted kingfisher call as he flies by.  Crows caw.

But for the male loon on the nest, all is well.  He is ever alert and watching for any danger.

The female has gone out further into the lake for a well-deserved break, a chance to stretch and a chance to catch her breakfast.  She has put in some unusually long times on the nest in the last couple days.  She deserves a break.

It is hard to imagine or even comprehend what is going on inside those eggs!

The miracle of LIFE itself. 

Something from nothing.  Something so wondrous it is beyond belief.

Even if I could create the life that is developing inside those eggs, I wouldn't know where to start.  I don't have the 'recipe' or the ability or expertise.

But thankfully Someone does!

For now we can only watch and wonder.

I would expect the eggs to hatch somewhere between Thursday, June 1st and Monday, June 5th.

But then what do I know?!  Like you, I am only an observer and a watcher.  I am in control of nothing.

The LoonCam has added to our knowledge of incubation times of loon eggs.

Historically it was always thought that it took 28 days to hatch a loon egg.  Some sources from years ago even said 30 or 32 days.

But then they never had the opportunity to watch loons as closely as you are able to with the LoonCam.  With the live camera, you have observed the laying of an egg down to the MINUTE.  And also with the live camera, we can 'see' the hatching of the egg to within a couple hours or less.

The miracle of hatching usually takes place out of sight UNDER the loon.  But by the loon's twitches as movements we can be pretty sure of when it is happening.  No one has ever had that kind of precise up-close information available to them before the LoonCam.

In over 10 years of the LoonCam being online, we have lowered the hatching of loon eggs to as low as 25 1/2 days!  And we continue to learn new things with every 'loon season'.  And you are a big part of that learning.

With the long-anticipated return of some sunshine today, temperatures will probably return to a more seasonable temperature of the low 70s.  This afternoon watch for the shadow of the camera to pass over the nest.  Some of you have asked what the different parts of the shadow are.

Through the years, many viewers have had different names for the shadow - ET, the Alien, etc.

When you see the shadow, the lower half is the supporting beam or tube that supports the camera.  The camera is surprisingly large and heavy so it needs very substantial support to support it safely during storms  As then nest bounces on the waves, the camera is whipped back and forth.  And that bottom column of the shadow is the support for the camera.

Then the center part of the shadow, the big rectangular part, is the camera itself (and its housing).  The housing protects the camera, the microphone and other electronics from the elements.  It is essentially a 'sealed' system to protect it from rain and snow and hail and wind.

Then the part that some people have wondered about especially is another part of the shadow that is smaller and sticks up on top of the camera.

That is the infrared light and its stand.

The infrared light is invisible to the loons, so it does not disturb them at all, but it allows us to see them clearly in even the darkest night.

So now you know a little bit more about the camera and what that "ET shadow" is!

Yesterday we started to see an increase in activity on the lake as people began their Memorial Day weekend activities.

Today there will probably be even more activity on the lake with the forecast of nice weather for today.  Rain is predicted to move in for Sunday and Monday but right now it looks like it will be only scattered showers with some chance of thunderstorms.

But with today being predicted for the sunniest day of the long Memorial Day weekend, many people will try to go 'up to the lake' today.

And that means that our loons will be alert and well aware of the increased activity.  By far most boaters are very respectful of not getting too close to the nest.  But many of them also understandably want to see 'our' loons.  They will slow down and look and point and watch through binoculars.

The male loon is much more at ease and tolerant of them.  The female will often go into hangover position as they approach.  But hopefully boats and people will keep enough distance so that the loons do not leave the nest.

If you or your family or friends will be out on a lake this weekend, encourage them to be aware of the possibility of nesting loons.  If they see a nest, the natural reaction of everyone is to get up close to it so they can see it better.

One or two people doing that won't have too much of an impact, even if the loon leaves the nest.

But if one person does it and then another and another and another, too much time off the nest by the loons can cause the nest to fail.  No one person is responsible for that failure.  But the combination of many people disturbing the loons can cause a nest to fail.

So as a faithful LoonCam watcher and loon lover, you can help to educate your family and friends about loons and 'loon etiquette'.  I usually say if you stay 300 feet away from a loon nest and watch them through binoculars, you will probably have little effect or impact on them.  If you get much closer than that, that is when the trouble starts.

So enjoy watching our loon family today.  And start to anticipate the MIRACLE of the hatching in the next week!  Share that miracle with your kids and grandkids and neighbors.

May you have a wonderful and blessed Memorial Day weekend.

And remember the reason for  Memorial Day as we honor  our service men and women who have given so much to keep us free.

And some who have given ALL!

God Bless You!

 

Copyright 2017    Larry R Backlund

Thursday, May 25, 2017 5:18 pm CDT

73 degrees F   Clear and Sunny  Wind 7 mph SE

Sunrise  5:33 am CDT   Sunset  8:44 pm CDT

 

What a beautiful day!

Sunshiine and calm winds have returned.  Our loons have needed the break.

There have been two minor eagle incidents today but neither one caused much disruption.

Early this morning while the female loon was on the nest, an eagle decided to perch close by in the neighbor's tree.  She did not like it.  Nor did the male who was further out in the lake and came in to call and scold the eagle.  As did the female on the nest.

I did not want to go down to the lake to look to see what was going on because the female loon is still very hesitant with anyone being visible to her.

But when she did not go into hangover when I came out of the house, I decided to see if she would tolerate me going down to the lake shore to see if I could see the eagle.  I was ready to go back in the house immediately if she showed any concern.

To my amazement, she looked at me but never lowered her head the whole time.

When I got down to the lake I could see the eagle sitting in the neighbor's tree.

I have been trying to get her used to me being around in very small doses.  Maybe it is finally beginning to work.  Or maybe the male told her that I am ok!  The male never seems concerned when I am around, even when I went IN the lake once to rake weeds that have washed up on shore.

I remember a number of years ago when I first started the LoonCam, I was amazed when it seemed that the loons actually knew who I was.  Back then I could be down in the front lawn when the loons were on the nest and they didn't care.  But if a visitor was with me, they would immediately go down into hangover.  I was beginning to question my sanity.

But when I spoke to an expert in waterfowl at a large university, he said that it could very well be possible.  He said that although he did not work with loons, he was convinced that some of the birds he was studying really did know who he was and tolerated him being around them.

The next few days look like there will be warmer temperatures and quite a bit of blue sky.  But there will be scattered showers for most days of the Memorial Day weekend here in the US.

There are a couple things you may want to watch for.

Especially if it is sunny, you will see the loon on the nest with its mouth open, like it is panting.

That is because it IS panting.  

Much like a dog, it is a way of getting rid of excess body heat.  Loons are much more comfortable and at home in cool or even cold water.  So to sit on the nest in the hot sun is a real sacrifice for them.

The other thing to watch for is black flies.

With the warmer temperatures, I would expect that the black flies will be more of a problem for our loons.  I have talked about them before so I won't go into all the details again other than to say it is a species of blood-sucking black flies (Simulium annulus) that targets loons and loon blood almost exclusively.

There have been numerous cases where the black flies have become so bad that the loons have actually abandoned their nests.

Hopefully it will not reach that stage with our loons.  But watch for very small gnat-like flies flying around the loon's head and landing on the loon's head.

There will be yet one more challenge for our loons this weekend - boats and people.

With this being Memorial Day weekend, it is the first big holiday of the summer.

So you can expect the lake to be very busy with skiers and jet skis and fishermen and boaters and swimmers.  

When you add all of that to the eagles and other challenges, let's hope that our loons also have a 'holiday' weekend!

 

Copyright 2017  Larry R Backlund

 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 6:00 am CDT

46 degrees F   Partly Cloudy   Wind NE 5 mph

Sunrise  5:34 am CDT   Sunset  8:46 pm CDT

 

The pattern of constant rain and wind seems to have broken for the next few days and we should  should return to more normal temperatures for this time of year ... into the 70s.

The loons could use a break.

The pair has already faithfully made their nest exchange early this morning and the female is on the nest right now.

It is interesting to watch the difference between the two loons.  The male does not let much of anything concern him.  He sits with his head held high most of the time.  I can be mowing or working down in the front yard and he could care less.  I have at times even raked weeds along the shore and he never lowers his head.

One of the few things he reacts to is an eagle.  And if the eagle flies close overheard, he will cry and leave the nest.

The female on the other hand is much more cautious.

If she even sees me way up by the house, she will lower her head.  So I do not go anywhere that she can see me most of the time.  She is not used to me (or anyone) yet. I will periodically  purposely walk to the front of the house or even down in the front yard to try to get her more used to me and more relaxed where she knows she can trust me.

But it is a long process.

She is much more cautious about everything she sees and will go into hangover for the slightest reason.

And if there is an eagle overhead, she will almost surely leave the nest.

I think there is an eagle in the area now because she has been wailing repeatedly and looking around.  And the crows have been cawing repeatedly.  But so far she has stayed on the nest.  At least the eagle must not be flying.

With the return of warmer weather and the hopefully less wind, the bad part of that is probably the return of the black flies which can be so bothersome to loons.

But the black flies are an amazing story in and of themselves.

In what is believed to be one of the most host specific and dependent in nature, this particular species of black flies (Simulium annulus)  feeds almost EXCLUSIVELY on loon blood!  How is that for specialization?  

And dependence!

There was an unusually bad outbreak of these flies in 2014 that caused many loons to abandon their nests.

When the black flies are around, you will see them especially landing on the loon's head.  The loon can only shake its head to try to get rid of them.  Or rub its head on its back to try to dislodge them.

If  that fails, the loon may be forced to leave the nest and dive underwater to try to get rid of them.  Too many times of leaving the nest and the nest fails.

So let's hope that today, there is just enough wind to keep some of the black flies away from our loons.

And that the eagles find other places to hunt.

And that they only hunt fish!

 

Copyright 2017   Larry R Backlund

 

 

 

 

Monday, May , 2017 8:47 pm CDT

56 degrees F   Partly Cloudy   Wind Calm

Sunrise   5:36 am CDT    Sunset   8:44 pm CDT

 

All of us are VERY puzzled.

The sky has turned a strange color today - BLUE!

And there is some kind of a big bright yellow light in the sky.  Like a big hot torch.

I don't think we have ever seen anything like it before.  Or if we have, we have long since forgotten what it is!

It is wonderful.  

Today the clouds have started to break up.  The sky is blue in between broken clouds.  And we have had almost no rain today.  

It seems like forever since we have had a day like this.

And it has also been a good respite for our loons as they have had a mostly quiet and uneventful day.  Apart from one apparent eagle flyover tonight.

The male on the nest let out a frightening couple of calls.  And he was on VERY high alert.  But he didn't leave the nest.

Right now there are an amazing number of night hawks flying over and around the nest.

I don't think I have ever seen that many at one time before.

It is amazing to watch them as they swoop and turn and dive and glide.  All of it so effortlessly.

I assume that they are after mayflies that have been hatching for the last several days.

Normally they appear just as it is getting dark and they fly all night long.  But they have already been out and about for an hour or more.

Some of them were even flying this afternoon which I had never seen.  I guess those must be a "different species" - "afternoon hawks"!!

I watched the loon as they swooped close to him on the nest.  But it did not seem to bother him at all.  But then he never lets much of anything bother him.  Except eagles!

Let us hope for an uneventful and restful night for our loons with no incidents or excitement.

We are now at roughly the midway point of the development of the eggs.  A very crucial time.

I would expect them to hatch in 2 weeks.  Or maybe even a couple days less than 2 weeks.

And while we waited with anticipation for the first egg.  And then held our breath as the loons sat on the eggs and were sometimes pulled off the nest by one threat or another.

But nothing compares to seeing the first telltale signs that one of the eggs may be hatching.

And then the sheer "AWWWHHHHH" moment when we catch our first glimpse of that active little black ball of down that is so unbelievably cute and beautiful.

There are no words to adequately describe that moment.

So join in the vigil.

And invite everyone you know to join you in this wonderful experience.

 

Copyright  2017   Larry R Backlund

 

 

Sunday, May 21, 2017 9:41 am CDT

46 degrees F   Cloudy   Wind  Calm

Sunrise  5:37 am CDT   Sunset 8:43 pm CDT

 

We have had more rain overnight.

But right now it is a wonderfully calm and peaceful scene on the lake.

The lake is like a sheet of glass.  The loon is on the nest and relaxed.  Swallows are flitting around catching bugs.

And there are no eagles flying overhead or especially targeting our loons.

It would be nice if it would stay this way all day and give our loons a rest.  But they are always alert for any changes or any danger to them or their eggs.

It is good to have some relief from what has seemed like non-stop wind and non-stop rain over the last number of days.  We probably are still not done with the rain because the weather pattern all across the country  is very unsettled.  But today there should not be the constant rain that we have seen.

The level of the lake has risen some from all the rain.  We have had over 4 inches of rain over the last few days.

But there should be no danger of the nesting raft going under water.  A couple years ago I lengthened the anchor ropes when due to heavy rains the lake rose 17 inches in 24 hours!  And there was danger then that the nesting platform was being pulled underwater by the anchor ropes.

But the ropes should be long enough to handle this amount of rain with no trouble.

The major impact of all the rain and wind and waves is that the waves have eaten away some of the nesting material.  But so far things seem to be holding up quite well under the circumstances.

Last night we passed the two week mark on when the first egg was laid.  We are already halfway to the much anticipated and hoped for hatching of the first egg.  But the second halfway is a still a long road.

There has been some question about how old this male loon is and that he is very young and inexperienced.

That is not the case at all.

We banded this loon in 2012 after he had produced chicks that year.  That was 5 years ago.  Since loons usually do not start breeding until they are about 5 or 6 years old, that would probably make this male at least 10 years old.  And I have some reason to believe that he is older than that.

Loons have surprisingly long life spans.  It is commonly accepted fact that loons live to be 25 to 30 years old.  But there is so much that we do not know about them.  And we are learning every day.  So if anything, that expected age span will probably only go up slightly as we learn more about loons.

But suffice it to say that this male has a fair amount of experience and has successfully raised chicks before.

I cannot give you the same information on the female, since I do not know for sure who she is or what her age or history are.  If they have chicks this year, we may be able to catch her and band her later this summer.  And then we can learn more about her as well.

But continue to watch the fascinating story and saga of what happens with our loons and their eggs this year.

And let's all learn together.

 

Copyright 2017   Larry R Backlund