Saturday, November 5, 2016 5:43 pm CDT

 

68 degrees F  Sunny  Wind Calm

Sunrise  7:58 am CDT     Sunset  5:55 pm CDT

 

It is hard to believe that it is November.

First of all when I look to see how long it has been since I have posted.

But more importantly, we are having an unusually mild fall.

Here it is November 5th and today it was 72 degrees and sunny!  And a  new record temperature of 73 degrees in the Twin Cities.

A beautiful blue sky, a blue lake like a mirror with thousands of seagulls and hundreds of coots.  An occasional eagle flies over and sends the coots into a scurry across the surface of the lake.  What I call a 'waterfall of coots' because it sounds like you are standing next to a waterfall.

Most of the leaves are already off the trees with just the few last stubborn ones hanging on.

We have had only a few light frosts so far only down to 30 degrees.  No killing frost here yet.  Further south in the Twin Cities they have not had a frost at all yet and do not expect one until next Saturday morning.  If that happens it will be the longest growing season in the Twin Cities of recorded history.  Breaking the old record of 207 days.

But quickly this will become a season of changes.

Tomorrow night it will already be dark at this time with turning back our clocks to standard time.

There is nothing that speaks more of Minnesota and the Great North Woods than the call of a loon on a quiet Minnesota lake at sunset.

But now we enter the "silent time" of the year as our beloved loons go South to the Gulf of Mexico.

The adults are already on the move.  Some of them already on the Gulf.

Others have made a rest stop on Lake Michigan before continuing the journey south.

But in one of the great miracles of nature, the young from this year's young loons will not begin their journey until a MONTH AFTER their parent's have left!

Having never been down to the Gulf of Mexico.  Having never seen it.  Having never known about it.  They will find their way down there all buy themselves.

YOU explain it to me!  I can't explain it.  Other than once again saying, "God, I don't know how you done it.  But you done good!"

Two weeks ago today a neighbor across the lake saw one of the juvenile loons.  He said  it was doing well and was flying.

There had been some concern because a week or so before that they said it looked like the young loon may have gotten tangled in a fisherman's line.  But there was no way to catch it to see if that was the case.

So it was good when he saw it flying and that it seemed to be doing well.

It had been a couple months since I had seen them.  For several days one of the adults and both juveniles spent most of the day out in front of my place.  Both of the juveniles seemed to be doing very well at that point.

I still do not have word on the cause of death of our male loon from the LoonCam nest last summer.  I hope that we get an update soon

I have done several loon presentations in the last couple months.  All the way from a school group of kindergartners to 4th graders and week after next to a group of seniors.  

Being with those kids gives one hope for the future.  What a great bunch of kids.  So inquisitive.  So informed.  So well behaved.

And so in love with loons.

As we enter the "silent season" of having no loons for a few months, we already look forward with anticipation to their return next spring.

In the meantime, as we enter this busy holiday season of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and Christmas I wish you , your family, your loved ones and friends the best of everything.

God Bless!

 

Copyright 2016  Larry R Backlund

 

 

Thursday, July 7, 2016 9:35 pm CDT

71 degrees F   Clouds and Rain Moving In  Wind S  3 mph

Sunrise   5:34 am CDT     Sunset   9:03 pm CDT

 

I just came up from an extended swim in the lake at dusk and I have a couple very special things to share with you.

First of all (unrelated to my swim), we have TWO loon chicks on the lake!

You may have read some about it in the comments to the previous post.

Mary on the lake was apparently the first to spot them.  She spotted one on Saturday night.   She said it was riding on the parent's back and she only saw one chick and one adult.

And then she called me on Monday to let me know that she had seen TWO chicks and both the adults.

This is exceedingly good news.  And VERY surprising news.

I have not seen them yet myself but my next door neighbors have confirmed that they saw them and saw both little chicks.

I don't know who these loons are.  But if I had to guess, I would guess that it is the other pair on the lake that I told you about before that had nested but then for some reason they lost their nest.  But that is only a guess until I actually see them and maybe I am able to see the bands.

If I had to guess, from what Mary said I would guess that the first chick hatched sometime on Saturday.  And the second chick hatched either late Saturday or more likely Sunday.

Now they enter their most vulnerable time for the next 2  weeks.

They have trouble diving at this stage so it is very difficult for them to get out of the way of danger.  Whether it be eagles or fish or boats.

The second thing that I wanted to tell you about was what happened while I was swimming just a little bit ago.

It has been a little muggy here tonight,  I had been working on several things and was hot and sweaty.  So I decided to go for a swim to cool off and clean off.

Shortly before dusk I was just sitting quietly in the lake with only my head out of the water.

Then in the shadows I thought I saw something moving near the bulrushes.  As I watched, it became clear that it was a loon.

I remained very quiet and still.  I could not quite believe my eyes as the loon kept swimming straight toward me.  It was very obvious that he saw me.  But he kept coming slowly toward me as I stayed as quiet and still as I could.

He kept coming.

 

To my amazement, he swam within about 10 feet of me.  He swam BETWEEN me and the shore.  He kept looking over at me, fully aware that I was there.

I wanted to 'talk' him but did not want to alarm him so I stayed quiet.

As he slowly swam by me, only then did I 'talk' to him with some quiet hoots.

After he had passed by me a little ways, he turned and started to swim back towards me.  I gave a few more hoots.  He returned 2 quiet hoots of his own.  Two or three times he swam a little ways away and then turned and came back towards me.

Then finally he dove underwater and I lost sight of him.

Encounters like this are ones that forever stay emblazoned in your memory.

What a privilege to have a close encounter of this kind with a beautiful loon.

As I was walking toward the shore, I thought to myself that no one will believe a loon swam within 10 feet of me.  So in my own mind I decided I was going to change it to 15 feet.  lol  Even then I did not know if people would believe such a close encounter.

When I got up to shore the neighbors were sitting on their front lawn.  Their kids and grandkids are here from Denver.  They had had a picnic and were sitting around the campfire.

I didn't know if they had seen what happened so I started to walk over to tell them.  But even before I got over there, they said they had watched the whole thing.  They said 'it looked like he came within 10 feet of you!'

I said THANK YOU for saying that because I had decided that no one would believe it if I said 10 feet.  But we agreed that the loon was only about 10 feet away from me.  So that put my mind at ease that I had not exaggerated how close and special this encounter was.

May you have your own special "loon encounters"!

 

Copyright 2016  Larry R Backlund

 

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