Thursday, May 28, 2015 5:21 am CDT

53 degrees F     Partly Cloudy  Wind Calm

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


After a long night on the nest, the male loon sits looking around his kingdom.

The lake is like a sheet of glass on a cool morning.

The sun will be up in a few minutes.  But the loon is already up and watching.

One has to wonder if he can sense what is going on inside the eggs.  Is there any sound?  Is there any movement?

We are now within a few days of probable hatching of the eggs.

Here are a few things to watch for.  Signs that hatching may be imminent.

The loon may look like it is 'sitting lighter' on the eggs.  It is hard to explain what that means.  But you will probably recognize it if you see it.

But the surest sign is "twitching".

The loon will literally jump or make a quick movement as the chick tries to make its way out of the egg.

The chick has a sharp protrusion on the end of its beak that is called an "egg tooth".  The entire purpose of the egg tooth is to give the chick a tooth to break out of the egg.  It will go around the inside of the egg and cut through the egg shell.

It is this action by the chick that the loon on the nest is feeling as it 'jumps' or twitches.

When you see that, you can be quit sure that there is a newborn chick hatching under our loon.

This can go on for quite some time.  It is a lot of work for a chick to break through that thick shell.  He will work on it for awhile.  And then take a rest as he is completely exhausted.  And then start working again on breaking through that shell.  All during this time you may see the adult loon 'twitching'.  And then relaxing.  And then 'twitching' again.

They are all hopeful signs that we may see a chick soon.

Even after the chick has broken free from the egg, there may be a period of quiet as the chick lays under the adult recovering.  Totally worn out from the effort.

But then as he recovers from that effort, the non-stop action begins.

You will see the loon move.  Lifting a wing.  Looking around as if to say 'what is under there'?

And then you will get your first glimpse.

A glimpse of a new black downy loon chick that makes you give a reflexive,"AWWWWWWW!"

The cutest little chick imaginable.  Full of life.  Full of energy.  A perpetual energy machine.

The chick will by now be completely dry and downy.

It will peek out from under a wing.  Looking around at the new big world that it has never seen before.

And then it will finally crawl out from under that wing.  And all bets are off.

It will climb up and over and on the parent.  It will peck at the adult and 'peep'.  It will go non-stop.  Until it has worn itself out and just has to stop and rest for a few minutes.  But then it is up and going again.

Waiting for the other egg to hatch.

The second egg will usually hatch within a day of the first egg hatching.

Sometimes the first chick stays on the nest until the second egg hatches.

Other times he will jump into the water even before the second egg hatches.  He is ready to swim from the very first few hours of life.

But for our own peace of mind, we like to see the chick stay on the nest as long as possible.

The lake is a big and scary place for a tiny little loon chick.  There are big fish and turtles that like little loon chicks.  But they like them in the wrong way.  There are birds in the sky on the watch for little loon chicks.

But however long it is before that chick jumps in the lake, it is never long enough for our way of thinking.  We want to hang onto them.  We want to watch them.  We want to go "Awwwwww"!

But loon chicks are meant for the water, not the nest.

And so normally they will leave the nest within 24 hours.

From that time on to be birds of the water.

So prepare yourself for one of the best shows possible as our chicks hatch.  And watch every minute closely.  And enjoy every minute.  Be prepared to have your heart stolen.  To say "Awwwww" over and over and over.

Because all too soon they are gone.

But that is the way nature intended it .

That is what it means to be a loon.


Copyright 2015   Larry R Backlund


Wednesday, May 27, 2015 6:53 am CDT

53 degrees F     Clear and Sunny     Wind Calm

Sunrise   5:31 am  CDT     Sunset  8:49 pm CDT


Already this morning there has been action on the lake.

The sky is clear and blue, the sun is shining and the lake is like a sheet of glass.

But that does not mean it has been "quiet".

Our male left the nest to swim out and with the female confront another single loon, who went half flying, half paddling to get away.  There was also another pair of loons a little further out who were on high alert.  I am not sure if that is the other nesting pair on the lake or yet another pair of loons.

Within 5 minutes of our male leaving the nest, the female came flying/paddling back to the nest.  She got up on the nest, turned the eggs and settled in.  

The eggs were only uncovered for 5 minutes even with all that going on.  They are too precious to lose them now.

There was not a 'violent' confrontation of any of the loons.  Just an 'ushering away' and then a return to the nest.

Even while all of that was going on, there was both a mature eagle and an immature eagle that were fishing on the lake at the same time.

Plus there were five swans that flew over.  I am not sure where they went but they did not seem to land on the lake.

So in addition to all the songbirds, ducks, Canada geese and wading birds, it has already been a busy morning here at "Loon Lake".

Our male loon once again took the long overnight shift of 13 hours and 23 minutes.  But the female has settled into a routine of also taking long shifts of up to 10 hours.  Our loons seem to have developed their own routine and are following it very well.

I was pleased again this morning, as I was down by the lake with binoculars watching to see what the eagles and other loons were doing, that the female seems to finally be comfortable with my presence and has apparently accepted me as not being a threat.

Where in the past she would have been in deep hangover or even left the nest if I had come down anywhere near the lake, this morning she never went into hangover once and sat with her head held high.

That is a very good sign.

Today may be an uncomfortable day for our loon on the nest.  It is supposed to possibly get to 85 degrees with bright sunshine.  So it is going to be hot for our loon having to stay on the nest.

You will probably see the loon take more short breaks today to cool off in the water.

But with the bright sun, they cannot be off the nest for too long.

The hot sun beating down on the dark-shelled egg can pose even more danger to the chicks inside from overheating than being exposed to cool air.  It is always such a balancing act for our loons.

We are  on the final countdown to the hoped for hatch of our little loons.

It could be as early as this weekend, but for sure within the next week.

The big even that we, and the loons, have all been waiting for!

Now it gets good!


Copyright, 2015     Larry R Backlund


Tuesday, May 26, 2015 5:44 pm CDT

56 degrees F   Rain   Wind 5mph NW

Sunrise   5:32 am CDT     Sunset   8:48 pm CDT 


The entire day today has been foggy, rainy and moody.

The perfect kind of day for a waterbird like our loons.

No hot beating sun.  No blackflies.  And few boaters to disturb them.  Although a couple kayakers were very curious.

The forecast for today had been for the rain of the last few days to end and the sun to come out this afternoon.  Instead it seemed the rain intensified.  All due, forecasters tell us, of a low pressure system that refused to move east as forecast and instead went 'retrograde' and backed up right over us.

This has not been a problem at all for our loons.  And this has been a perfect soaking rain that really helps to put a dent in our drought, which might now officially be over.

While we finally look forward to sunshine tomorrow, I am sure the loons would much prefer the weather today and the last few days.  Tomorrow the forecast is for temperatures to reach 85 degrees F.  We will see if it makes it or not.  

If it is sunny and 85 degrees, expect to see a lot of panting by the loon on the nest.  And also possibly more water breaks by the loon to cool off.

It is hard to believe that it is already 3 weeks since the first egg was laid.

We are definitely in the home stretch of the countdown to hatching of our loon chicks.

If we are going to have a successful hatch, I definitely expect the eggs to hatch within the next week.  Or less.

If we go much beyond a week from today, then there would be reason to be concerned about a successful hatch.

The wonders going on inside the egg are truly that - wonders!  By today downy feathers have almost completely covered the little chick's body.

Legs and feet and wings and beak and eyes formed sometime ago.  And the chick's heart has been beating since just after the first few days.

One of many miracles of development is something called 'catchup'.  Even though the eggs were laid over 2 days apart, the chicks will probably hatch within a day of each other.  It has been well documented among many birds, and presumably with our loon chicks as well, the chicks actually 'talk' to each other through the egg shells over the last few days of development before hatching.

So we await that miracle of life happening.

Unlike eagles where we can watch the young eaglets grow for weeks or even months, our loon chicks will normally leave the nest within a day or two.  And from that time on they are what they were created to be - waterbirds.

But for those magical few hours we have the chance to see these wonderful, cute little chicks up close and personal.

An experience that we are so fortunate to have through the magic of the LoonCam


Copyright 2015      Larry R Backlund


Sunday, May 24, 2015 5:34 am CDT

58 degrees F     Cloudy     Wind Calm

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


On a calm and mostly cloudy morning, the loons have already made their nest exchange.

It actually surprises me how much of a consistent routine they have developed for themselves.  The female taking over in the early morning, staying until mid-afternoon.

And then the male taking over mid-afternoon and staying the rest of the day and all night.  He has just completed 14 hours and 51 minutes again.  

It has pretty much been conventional wisdom that loons shared nesting duty about equally.  With the female taking maybe 60% and the male 40%.   And that is what I think I have seen with previous pairs.

But this couple has turned that on its head with the male easily taking 60 to 70% of the nest time and the female 30 to 40%.

Is that due to her apparent youth and inexperience?  Or to other factors unknown?

In the past I have also seen the loons usually change every few hours.  

This particular pair seems to prefer longer times on the nest and less changes.

Oh, we continue to learn so much about these marvelous birds by being able to observe them in ways we never have before.

I am especially pleased with how much this female seems to have matured and settled into her routine of nesting duties.

She has apparently gotten over much of her previous skittishness when she would go into hangover or even leave the nest at the slightest little thing.  Or nothing at all.

She would even go into hangover if she would see me up by the house, let alone down by the lake.  Whereas the male could care less if I was even along the lakeshore.

In just the last few days, the female has finally seemed to know who I am.  And she no longer goes into that deep hangover, even when I am down by the lake.  It has taken a long time with a lot of gradual conditioning, but she seems to have learned quite well finally, who I am and that I am not a threat.

That bodes well for the future. 

But the calm morning will probably not hold.

Predictions for today and tomorrow are for possibly heavy rains and even some strong storms developing

The forecast is for upwards of 2 inches of rain but that has been changing somewhat in the last 12 hours with the heaviest rains now looking like they will occur over Wisconsin.

But we will still take whatever rain we can get.  It is just too bad that it happens on Memorial Day weekend when everyone wants to picnic and go to the lake.

But that also means less boat traffic and less disturbance for our loons.

We are now down to our last week or so before hatch!

If we are to have a successful hatch, the chicks are now developing rapidly inside the eggs.

The heart has been beating now for 2 1/2 weeks.  Tail feathers have formed.  Eyelids have formed.  The beak opens and closes.  The foot has claws or toenails and scales have formed on the legs.  And the head of the chick is now turning toward the large end of the egg.  The final position for hatching.

All things that are too wonderful to behold.

And all of it in just the space of a few weeks!


Copyright 2015   Larry R Backlund


Friday, May 22, 2015 8:15 pm CDT

66 degrees F     Clear     Wind Calm

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


Today has been a beautiful, quiet, sunshine-filled day here in Minnesota at "Loon Lake".

In fact maybe a little too nice.

Our loons can definitely cope with cool to even cold weather better than they can with hot weather.

When they are in the water, the water keeps them cool.

But when they have to sit up on the nest, the sun beating down on their dark plumage tends to warm them up.

That is why you see them often sit on the nest with their beaks open.  They are doing exactly what dogs do.  They are panting to help remove excess heat from their bodies.  Or they may go into the water more often  to help cool off.

This is Memorial Day weekend here in the US.  A day to remember all those who have lost their lives in service to their country.  Or just a general time to remember those who are no longer with us.

It is the first of the big weekend holidays of the summer.

That means that there will be a lot of people on lakes all across the state.

That also means possibly increased  disturbances for our loons.  From people who just want to get a closer look at our beloved loons.  Or people getting too close just because they are not paying attention.

It is a good time to remind your friends and family to be on the lookout for loons when they are out on the lakes.  And to stay well away from the nests.  Too many disturbances could cause loons to abandon their nests.

One time probably won't affect them  Nor will two times.  And so most people think they have not had an effect on the loons because they disturbed them for only a couple minutes.

But when you add this boat to that canoe to that fisherman to that waterskiier, each one takes an increasing toll.

So if you stay well back from the nest, you will not disturb them   Bring a pair of binoculars with you and you can observe them without disturbing them.

Or better yet, get the BEST view right here on the LoonCam!

We are expected to get rain on both Sunday and Monday so that will cut down on the boat traffic on the lake.  And cause less stress on our loons.

One of the things that I neglected to mention yesterday when I was talking about the setup of the nesting platform was the "chick ramp".  It is a small floating extension that is located right below the camera.  While chicks normally do not return to the nest after they have left, sometimes the first chick may try to get back up on the nest before the second chick hatches.

This small floating extension is intended to make it easier for him to get back up on the nest.

Yesterday while I was mowing the lawn, I had a very small mayfly land on my arm.  So the mayfly hatch has apparently just started.  I have not seen many of them around yet.  But when the hatch is in full swing, there can be a lot of them.

Here at Loon Lake we do not have excessively large hatches of mayflies.  There are some places that have such large hatches that they have to actually scoop up large piles of mayflies.  And sometimes highways can actually become slippery and hazardous due to large numbers of mayflies on the highway.

But we normally do not have those kinds of problems with mayflies here.

Most of the insects that I am seeing on the LoonCam today are not mayflies.

I do not know my insects well enough to tell you for sure what they are.  But I think they may be a hatch of caddisflies.  Someone here will probably know their insects much better than I do and can identify them.

Neither mayflies nor caddisflies are of any concern to the loons.

It is the blackflies that bother loons more than any other insects.  So far I have not seen large numbers of blackflies on the loons this year.  Which is a good thing.

We are now less than two weeks away from the probable hatching of our expected chicks.

Enjoy the wait.  And the stress.  And the wonderful expectation of watching this true miracle of nature!


Copyright   2015    Larry R Backlund