Friday, June 24, 2016 11:49 pm CDT

72 degrees   Partly Cloudy   Wind SE 5 mph

Sunrise   5:26 am CDT     Sunset   9:03 pm CDT

 

We are now officially into summer.

And the last several days have been spectacular.  Temperatures in the 80s, blue skies and light breezes.

These are the days we dream about in the middle of a Minnesota winter.

We still have loons on the lake and still hear some of their beautiful calls.  But the calls get less and less as the summer goes along.  Especially when the loons do not have chicks and are therefore not nearly as territorial.

But one of the things that has surprised me is the number of 'flying tremolos' that we have been hearing.

A couple nights ago the flying tremolos went on for almost 2 hours.  Why they were flying so much or why they were calling so much, I do not know.  It seems to be more than what I remember hearing before.  But it is a beautiful sound.

As many of you will remember the 'flying tremolo' is similar to the tremolo that loons make when they are alarmed or concerned.  But the flying tremolo does not seem to be an alarm call.  And they seem to make the call only when they are flying.

I cannot even adequately describe the call or how it differs from a regular tremolo.

But whenever I hear it, I know to look to the sky to see if I can see the loon that is calling, rather than looking to the lake.  Once again tonight a single loon called with his flying tremolo as he first circled the lake and then flew off, still calling as his call disappeared into the distance.

As he circled the lake, another loon answered with a wail from down on the lake.

A number of you have asked if the other pair of loons on the lake hatched chicks or not.

I am sorry to say that their nest failed for some reason.  Why, I do not know.

The USGS had asked me to check on the nest again to see if the chicks had hatched.  

When I checked, the loons were not on the nest and there were no eggs.  The cattails had grown enough that I could not get near enough to the nest to see if there were egg fragments.  I did not see the loons around nor did I see any chicks.

I asked other people on this part of the lake to watch to see if they spotted any chicks.

No one has.

So I don't know what happened to the nest.  Did a raccoon or mink get the eggs?  Did the chicks hatch and then were lost for some other reason?  Once again a lot of questions and no answers.

So unfortunately without chicks, we will not be able to recapture these loons and retrieve the data recorders that we put on them several years ago.

But most surprising after verifying that they were not on the nest, that pair of loons showed up here checking out the loon nest.  Or at least the area where it had been.  They actually seemed to be taking some ownership of the area even though there was not a nest for them to use. 

Even tonight there was a single loon that came in very close and just sat there and 'we talked' until a couple passing kayaks convinced him to move further away.

A few days ago an eagle dive bombed one of the loons twice.  Obviously the loon was not a happy camper.

On the second dive bomb, the loon 'stood straight up in the water' with his beak pointed directly at the eagle.  Apparently the eagle thought better of it and moved on.

What all of this tells me is that next spring may be a VERY interesting spring to be sure.

We have the female from the last couple years that definitely has an interest in the nest and shows ownership of it.

Then we have the female from a few years ago who has a new mate who also shows some ownership of the nest.

And now with the other pair of loons on the lake showing interest in the nest as well, we could have some pretty intense competition for which loons will use the nest next year.  This could turn out to be a battle royal!

So we enjoy the loons for the next few months while they are here and we look forward to next year.  Not knowing what it will bring.

But we know it will be interesting and educational.

 

Copyright 2016   Larry R Backlund

 

Friday, May 20, 2016 9:24 pm CDT

 

Well, even with the extra week it is obvious that the loons are not going to nest on the LoonCam nest this year.

As disappointing as that is, it is the reality of nature and the unpredictability of nature.

We knew going into this season that it was going to be 'different' because of the death of last year's male.  We just did not know what the difference would be.

Now we know.

This is only the second time in well over 10 years that this nest has not been used.  The first year it was not used was in 2013 when we had a change of mates.

The encouraging part is that we have at least two loons that are interested in the nest.  Probably the female from last year and the female from 4 years ago.

But one does not have a mate and the other one seems to have a mate that is not ready to nest yet.  Or at least to get up on the nest.

But it means that next year we will also probably have a very interesting year.  Which one of the loons who feels some ownership will be the one that will prevail?  We will probably have some very interesting confrontations.

So that is something you can think about over the winter and wonder what next year will bring!

The other good news is that the other pair of loons on the nest is nesting.  Let's hope that they have a successful hatch in the next week or so.

What I found especially encouraging is that they found a new nesting area that is out of the line of boat traffic and the constant disruption.  That should improve their chances of successfully hatching their egg(s).

So ...... it is time to face reality and shut down the camera for this year.

And let the humans have use of their property on the lake.

I will plan on letting you still view the LoonCam tomorrow and then maybe plan on shutting it off as we hit nightfall tomorrow night.

THANK YOU ALL for your interest and kind words of support and encouragement.  You are the BEST!  And this has become an amazing community of "loonatics"!

I will update you once in a while over the next year.

And then we will plan on meeting up again next spring and all becoming very sleep deprived!!

God Bless!

 

Questions or comments?  Email us at LoonCam at yahoo dot com.  Because of the volume of email I will not be able to respond personally to each email.  But I will eventually read every one and for recurring questions I will try to answer them here in this blog.

Copyright 2016    Larry R Backlund

 

Thursday, May 19, 2016 6:16 am CDT

48 degrees F   Clear   Wind Calm

Sunrise   5:38 am CDT     Sunset 8:40 pm CDT

 

Today promises to be another wonderful Minnesota spring day.

The sun just came up half an hour ago.  There is not a cloud in the sky.  One might say it is 'severe clear'.

The lake once again is like a sheet of glass.

And we have just had a a visit by a loon.   And a sandpiper.

A single loon swam in from the lake just a few minutes after sunrise.  She headed straight for the nest.  Made one loop around the nest.  And then swam straight back out into the lake.

Wailing the entire time.

I assume it was either our female from last year.  Or possibly the female that we banded in 2012.  I was hoping she would get on the nest so that we could see her bands and know for sure who it was.

But she did not even try to get on the nest.

Unfortunately I think it confirms what we have all felt and dreaded.

There is not going to be a pair of loons on the LoonCam nest this year.

Even if they started nesting right now - which I don't think they will do - it would mean that they would be on the nest most of the month of June.  And that is not something that would be fair to any of the neighbors who so graciously give up their use of the lake while the loons are on the nest.

That is the bad news.

The good news is that I was able to go searching for the other pair of loons on the lake.  I had gotten a report from someone who said they had seen them nesting.  This was almost 3 weeks ago.

And I found them.

And confirmed that they are on the nest.

So it is very good news that we do have at least one nesting pair.  And that they have been nesting for sometime and should be nearing hatching soon!

I paddled the canoe back through a cattail marsh.  They were not on the channel where they have nested for several years.

I paddled through an open area and then into some very narrow areas.

No loons.  Only blackbirds and geese loudly scolding me for being in their area.

Then, there it was!

A loon on a nest.  Head down in full hangover position.  Just feet away from me.

I couldn't back up.  So I continued to very slowly and quietly paddle the canoe past the nest.  I was at a dead end in the cattails but I could at least get a little  ways away from him.

He stayed in hangover position.  Almost motionless but with a slight movement of his head watching everything going on.

There was just enough room to turn the canoe around but I did not want to disturb him.  So I sat motionless.

I was so surprised that he had not left the nest as soon as I went by him.  But he stayed.  Watching me.  As I watched him.

After probably 15 minutes, I slowly and quietly turned the canoe around.  Or as quiet as I could.  Some cattails rubbed and squeaked against the side of the canoe.

But yet he stayed put on the nest.  Still in hangover but not alarmed.

The only way out was right past the nest again.  And I did not want to do that.  So I sat and waited and watched.

Gradually he started to relax and raise his head as he realized that I was no threat.

After almost an hour of sitting quietly watching him, he silently slipped off the nest and headed out the way I had come in.  This was my chance to leave quietly and maybe to even see if there were eggs in the nest as I had to pass right by it.

But I had no sooner taken one dip with my paddle than he came back around the corner.

I froze almost in mid-stroke of the paddle and just sat quietly.  

He was not alarmed.  He did not 'turn tail and run'.  He did not get back on the nest.  He simply sat, occasionally peering underwater and made small paddling strokes with his feet.

Then he completely surprised me.

He slowly and calmly swam towards me.  He stopped when he was about 15 feet away.  And then just sat and floated there for maybe 5 minutes.  What a special privilege to be this close to this beautiful white and black bird.  His breast was a brilliant pure white.

Then he swam back toward the nest which was not that far away. 

But he still did not get on the nest.  

He simply floated and preened and once in a while looked underwater.  He was in no hurry to do anything.  Obviously he was very calm and unconcerned.

What a privilege for him to welcome me into his world.  And allow me to be so close.

Then he dove.  But he did not swim away.

From the gentle wake on the surface of the water, I could tell he was headed towards the canoe.  When he was once again maybe 15 feet away, I could clearly see him underwater.  Maybe only a foot beneath the surface.

When he got to within maybe 3 feet of the canoe, I could see him look up at me as he turned and calmly swam away - still underwater, never breaking the surface.

As he made the turn underwater, I could very clearly see the bands on both legs.

It was the male of this pair that we have banded back in 2012!

Now I  knew who he was and could confirm to Kevin Kenow that it was our pair and they had indeed nested.

He surfaced back toward the nest.  But he was still in no hurry to get on the nest.  He simply sat and preened  and occasionally looked underwater and a couple times dove to catch a minnow or a bug.

I still sat motionless and quiet.

I was hoping he would leave so that I could leave.  But he didn't.

After some time, he finally got back up on the nest.  I could not actually see the eggs but he obviously did an 'egg roll' of a couple eggs.

He settle down on the eggs.  Sat for a few minutes. Then up and rolled them again.  Sat.  Then up and rolled them again.

He was no longer in hangover mode of any kind.  

He was relaxed.  Looking around.  Aware of everything going on.  A large eagle flew overhead and that concerned him.  But the eagle didn't stay and he didn't go back into hangover.

I had lost all track of time and I didn't have my watch with me.  But I knew I had been there a long time.

As I said, the only way out was right back by the nest.  Only a couple feet from it.  I didn't want to but I knew I had to do it.  And I knew that he would leave the nest as I came close.

But to my shock, he didn't.  He sat with his head up, not even going into hangover.  He maybe lowered his head a little bit.  But it was almost imperceptible.

I was close enough as I passed by that I could literally easily have reached out and touched him.

And he didn't flinch.  Or show any concern of me being that close.

I slowly and quietly kept moving past him.  But as I was right next to him I quietly said, "Thank you!"

What an unbelievable experience to be that close.  And to be accepted.

It turns out that I had been there with this loon  for over an hour and a half!  But it had gone so quickly.

Those are the special memories that last a lifetime!

So even though we do not have loons nesting on the LoonCam, it is good to know that they are successfully nesting elsewhere.

With the death of the male last summer, we knew that this year was going to be different and interesting.  And that it has been.

Life goes on.

And it is beautiful and wondrous.

 

Questions or comments?  Email us at LoonCam at yahoo dot com.  Because of the volume of email I will not be able to respond personally to each email.  But I will eventually read every one and for recurring questions I will try to answer them here in this blog.

Copyright 2016    Larry R Backlund

 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 7:21 am CDT

38 degrees F   Clear and Sunny  Wind  Calm

Sunrise  5:39 am CDT    Sunset   8:40 pm CDT

 

WOW!

What a spectacular spring morning in Minnesota.

And what an interesting morning already.

There is not a cloud in the sky.

The sky is a deep blue as is talked about in the advertising jingle "From The Land Of Sky Blue Waters"!

In fact, one of the interpretations of the Indian word for Minnesota is "sky tinted waters" or "clear blue water".  And that is certainly true this morning.

There is no wind.  The lake is like a sheet of glass reflecting the sky and the newly greening trees around its edge.  And unbroken mirror.

Except for the fish jumping.  And the loons swimming on its surface.  And the ducks.  And mergansers.

The sun is chasing wisps and banks of fog off the lake into the shadows of the trees and cattails along the shaded edge of the lake.  A losing battle for the fog on a morning like this.

The low here at the lake was a chilly 36 degrees and it has warmed only a couple degrees from that.  But what a glorious morning.  New life all around.

One morning like this makes all the Minnesota blizzards worth it!

But also what makes the morning worthwhile is to see that the loons have not totally given up on the nest.

Around 6 this morning, both loons were around and on the nest for a few minutes.  No mating that I saw but this is the first time that the male was also on the nest!

That is a major step that he was willing to get up on the nest.  I will be very interested to watch the video of anyone caught it on video.  I want to see the bands on the female to see if it is our female from 2012 and before.  And also to see if the male is banded.  And to try to figure out who he is.

Or if our female from last year has now found a mate.

From watching through binoculars I could not tell and I missed some of the live video as she got on and off the nest.  So I want to see the video.  Once again THANK YOU to all who do the hard work of providing video for all of us!  I hope someone was able to catch it.

They were on the nest for about 5 minutes and then left.  I did not want to go outside to disturb them at all.  So I watched through the window.

After they had left, I went down to the lake to get a better view.

As I came to the edge of the lake, I was startled by a pair of mergansers and at least 9 chicks just a few feet away who were even MORE startled by me!

The adults noisily swam and splashed away as the chicks desperately struggled to keep up, their little wings and feet paddling and splashing as fast and as hard as they could.  Until the reached the cover of some cattails where they felt safer but kept paddling away from me as the male merganser kept swimming back and forth making known his displeasure with me for frightening them.

As they continued swimming away, they startled an American Bittern, or as we used to call the 'slough pumps', who rose up out of the cattails and flew off.

A startled pintail duck also swam out of the cattails.

Tree swallows circled and chirped and dove to get bugs off the surface of the lake.  You have seen them on and around the loon nest at times.  They are nesting in a martin house that I have along the edge of the lake.

Every direction you looked, there was something fascinating going on.

Right now the pair of loons is out past the middle of the lake having a minor confrontation with another loon.

There seemed to be two single loons, one of which took off flying a few minutes ago.  And now the pair and another loon are circling each other and diving.

If indeed this is two single loons and the pair that was just on the nest, that probably makes a total of six loons on the lake.  This pair, possibly two single loons and the other pair on the other side of the lake.

The other pair of loons on the lake apparently nested about 3 weeks ago, although I have yet to personally verify that.  If that is true, their eggs should hatch within the next week.

I have so much more to share with you about all that has happened on the lake.  About a BIG sturgeon in the lake, about treating for invasive species yesterday, about doing water sampling, about eagles and loons .... well, there is just too much to go into right now.

As encouraging as it is that both the male and female of this pair (whoever they are) were on the nest this morning, the reality is that we may be running out of time.

But how wonderful it is to be able to see what we have been able to see!

Stay tuned.

 

Questions or comments?  Email us at LoonCam at yahoo dot com.  Because of the volume of email I will not be able to respond personally to each email.  But I will eventually read every one and for recurring questions I will try to answer them here in this blog.

Copyright 2016    Larry R Backlund

Friday, May 13, 2016 11:14 pm CDT

38 degrees F   Clear   Wind NW 12 mph

Sunrise  5:44 am CDT    Sunset   8:35 pm CDT

 

It seems like winter has returned to Minnesota.

There has been a cold blustery wind blowing all day long under a cloudy and sometimes rainy sky.

And tonight there is a FREEZE warning for a good share of northern Minnesota, including here at Loon Lake.  And there is a frost warning for the rest of the state.

This freeze warning covers most of the Upper Midwest and even reaches all the way out to the East Coast.

So we may very well see frost on the nest in the early hours of tomorrow morning.  Especially if the wind dies down over night.

All day long it has felt like a November day rather than a day in mid-May.  It is hard to believe that just one week ago today we were in the mid-90s!

As I mentioned this morning, we will leave the LoonCam on for a few more days.  Minnesota Bound will be running a segment on the LoonCam this weekend and by leaving it on for a few more days, additional people will be able to see the loon nest even though we don't have any loons nesting.

I missed seeing it live but this morning a loon was up on the nest.

This seems to be the 'single' loon that has been on the lake all spring.

The loon was on the nest for about 4 minutes.

The bands on both legs were fairly visible and from that I am almost sure that this is our female from the last couple years.  

But I will also ask Kevin Kenow of the USGS to look at the video and see if he concurs.

I think that she is probably the loon that chased the goose off the nest a few days ago.

All of that would fit if this is last year's female who still has a sense of ownership of the nest even though the male was killed last year and she does not have a mate.  If he was still alive, I do not have much doubt that they would have nested by now.

When he was killed, we knew there was a very real possibility that the nest may not get used this year.  And that seems to be what has become reality this year.

I also mentioned that I found out last night that the other pair of loons on the lake has apparently nested according to a couple reports.

One of the reports said they saw the loon on the nest at least a week and a half ago.  So they nested at about the time that would be expected.

A loon usually visits a potential nest for a couple weeks before they get serious about settling down and actually nesting.  And since this loon does not even have a mate, for any number of reasons we have to deal with the reality that the LoonCam nest will probably not get used this year.

But let's enjoy the next few days.  And hope for more glimpses of our female loon from the last couple years.

 

Questions or comments?  Email us at LoonCam at yahoo dot com.  Because of the volume of email I will not be able to respond personally to each email.  But I will eventually read every one and for recurring questions I will try to answer them here in this blog.

Copyright 2016    Larry R Backlund