Sunday, April 19, 2015 5:24 am CDT

47 degrees   Raining   Wind Calm

Sunrise   6:21 am CDT   Sunset   8:04 pm CDT

 

It is a moody rainy morning for our loons on "Loon Lake".

The sounds of the raindrops hitting the camera housing brings back so many good memories of trips to the Boundary Waters.

The sound of raindrops hitting the roof of the tent.  Tucked in a warm sleeping bag on a cool wilderness morning.   Loons calling out on the lake.  The smell of a campfire. The smell of pine trees.  Fish jumping.  

Heaven on earth!

This is the perfect kind of rain that has been going all night.  A slow steady soaking rain.

It will really help to green things up and is a classic "April showers bring May flowers" rain.

The crocuses are almost past their peak and the daffodils started blooming yesterday.  The tulips will no doubt be close behind.

It is a beautiful time of year.

With the rain, there is not even a hint of morning light in the east yet.  But it will be here in a matter of minutes, rain or no rain.

Several of the last few days have made it to 80 degrees. 

But that is about to change.  For the next week highs are predicted to be only in the 50s.  So a dramatic change in our weather pattern.

There is even a slight chance that there may be snow flurries tomorrow night.

But the loons will take it all in stride.

Last night was a much quieter night on the lake.  I think most of the seagulls must have left.  Although I hear a few of them still waiting for dawn.  But you can hear individual gulls rather than the cacophony of thousands.

It is interesting to realize that one year ago today we still had lots of snow on the ground from the over 18 inches we got a few days before.  But there was a little bit of open water around the edge of the lake and the first loon last year came back on this date.

But two years ago today, we had over 10 inches of snow that fell.  And  we were over a week away from the lake opening and the loons returning.

With lakes having now opened all the way to the Canadian border, apparently most of the gulls have felt it is safe to move to territories further north.

Our loons have not visited the nest yet this morning.  Nor did I expect them to do so in the dark.  But they may very well do so after the first light of day.

Yesterday they visited the nest twice including a mating on the nest in the morning.  Both of which are very good signs.

Watch for the visits to the nest to become more frequent.

There has not been much of any nest building activity yet.  But that will come as we near the laying of the first egg.  All in due time.

Both the male and the female  loons share in nest building.

You will see them rearrange material on the nesting platform.  They will use their legs and feet to 'dig a bowl'.  They will pull nesting material around them to make everything just right.

This nest building behavior will get more urgent and more pronounced as they sense being near to the time of the first egg.

And when that first egg is laid, you will have the opportunity and privilege to see what almost no one had ever actually seen happen until the advent of the LoonCam.  Certainly no one was ever able to watch it as 'close up and personal' without disturbing the loons as you are able to do.

What a privilege we have in being a part of something so magnificent.

Something researchers a generation ago could never have even imagined!

What will today bring?

The only way to know is to watch and observe.

Enjoy every minute of this special time with our loons.

 

Copyright 2015    Larry R Backlund

Saturday, April 18, 2015 5:38 am CDT

 

47 degrees F     Clear     WInd 3 mph NE

Sunrise   6:23 am CDT     Sunset   8:03 pm CDT

 

The sun will be coming up in about 40 minutes, but already the camera has switched to day vision with the increasing light from the east.

The seagulls are stirring and will soon be leaving for the day.

I don't know where they go but most of them are gone until evening comes again.

Yesterday there were no more than a few dozen on the lake during the day rather than the thousands that are here at night.  And those that remain are much quieter during the day than the raucous racket they make all night long.

Lakes are now opening all the way to the Canadian border and soon the Canadian lakes will open as well.

I would expect that as the ice goes out further north, the seagulls will leave us and head north.  Only a very few will stay here for the summer.

So I think that over the next few days most of the seagulls will leave us and you will not hear all the seagull background sound all night long.

Last night the loons appeared about 6:30 pm and swam around the nest several times.

One of them got up on the nest and sat there for about 5 or 10 minutes.  The mate did not get up on the nest but stayed in the water swimming around.  There was no real nest building activity by the loon on the nest.  Just sitting there looking around.  Maybe trying to decide what color to paint the nursery.

The encouraging part is that they still are visiting the nest and taking an interest in it.

The confrontations with other loons apparently continued last night with numerous yodels and tremolos echoing across the lake.  Although it seems to be slightly less than the previous nights.  So maybe they are getting things sorted out and can get down to nesting.

I had hoped that this year they would nest early enough that the chicks would hatch before Memorial Day so that for once the kids could use the lake and go swimming on Memorial Day.  That is still a possibility but we are getting close.

Whatever the case, the loons own the area around the nest from man or beast.

One of the interesting things that I have never been able to fully understand nor have I found anyone who can explain it, is that the loons here on the LoonCam nest about a month earlier than loons in extreme northern Minnesota or Canada. 

Part of that obviously has to do with the difference in ice out dates.

But they also tend to nest earlier here than in New England which also normally has earlier ice out dates.  Although this year New England has been socked in because of their heavy snow this winter and their lakes are still frozen.

So we wait for our loons to decide what they want to do.

We must constantly remind ourselves that it is still early in the year and there is plenty of time.

I remember the first year I did the loon nest.

I had decided the previous summer that I wanted to experiment with building a nesting platform to see if they would use it.  I had completed most of it the by the fall but it needed some finishing touches in the spring.

The loons came back and I.thought "I have to get that nest finished and put out for them."

So I finally finished and put the nest out.

And the loons just plain disappeared from the lake for almost two weeks!

I thought to myself, "WOW!  Not only did I not help them.  I scared them off the lake completely!"

But they did return and use the nest that first year and every year since except for one.

So today may be the day that the loons get more serious about nest building.

Do I know that?  Nope.

Do I hope that, along with you?  Yup!

We can only watch and wait.

 

Copyright 2015     Larry R Backlund

 

Friday, April 17, 2015 7:24 am CDT

44 degrees F    Clear     Wind   Calm

Sunrise   6:25 am CDT     Sunset   8:01 pm CDT

 

Well, it looks as if we have had our morning 'swim by' and inspection tour by the loons.

A couple minutes after 7 am the loons came by the nest.

They swam around the nest several times and did some 'splash diving'.  But they did not get up on the nest.

"All in good time", I keep telling myself.  "All in good time."

But some days it is easier to believe that than others.

We want things on OUR schedule.

Nature does things on her schedule.  And no matter how much we want or wish, we cannot speed things up.  We are not the ones in control.  Someone Else is.

I also have to keep bringing myself back to reality and remind myself that one year ago we were still under a heavy blanket of snow.  One year ago yesterday we got over 18 inches of snow.  And the ice would not go out for another week.  And the year before, ice out would not be for TWO more weeks.

But I guess I will allow myself to be impatient.  After all, I am a human.  Not a loon.  And humans are known for being impatient.  Where nature and all God's wild creatures just roll with the punches.

So I have to look at the positive side of things.

Our loons DID come by the nest.  They DID spend a few minutes swimming around the nest.  They DID still show interest in the nest.

Those are all good signs.

I also have to remind myself that it has only been 10 days since they came back.  Barely enough time to get over jet-lag!

I also have to admit that with as little as they have been around the nest the last few days, I had started to wonder and get a little concerned.  What effect were all the fights with other loons having on their nesting behavior and ability?  Is that part of the reason for the delay in nesting?

I was very encouraged a few days ago when they had been on the nest and mated twice.  And then things really slowed down and we hardly saw them.  Although we could still hear the fights at night.

Once again it just illustrates how little we truly know about these beautiful and wonderful birds.

Just when we think we have them figured out, they do something for which we have no explanation or understanding.

So, once again today, we simply sit back and watch and learn.  Learn in wonderment at all that is happening.

And realize how little control we really have.

So why not just relax a little and enjoy the Wonders that have been given to us?

 

Copyright 2015     Larry R Backlund

Thursday, April, 16, 2015 5:01 am CDT

48 degrees F   Cloudy  Light rain    WInd Calm

Sunrise  6:26 am CDT    Sunset   8:00 pm CDT

 

A few drops of light rain are falling right now in the pre-dawn darkness.

Wails and a few tremolos from our loons echo across the lake.

It is magic!

'These are the times that stir men's souls.'

Something so primeval.  Something that connects deep within us.  Something that speaks so marvelously of the great north woods and wilderness.  Of wildness.

Our lives are richer for having the beauty of loons in our lives.

Yesterday was a much quieter day for our loons.  I am not sure if the 'intruder loons' have moved on to another lake.  Or if they have just found a grudging peace with our loons and have drawn some territorial boundaries.

But I did not see the multiple confrontations and chases of the day before.

There were a number of calls - tremolos and yodels - late last night.  But not to the same extent of the day before.

In the next few days, I will go through the 4 major calls that loons make.  Many of you already know them.  But for some of the  rest of us, It will be a good reminder of what they are saying when we hear them calling.

One of the loons visited the nest for about 5 minutes last night at about 6:30 pm CDT.  I am not sure if it was the male or the female.  But I think it was the female.  S/he sat there and quietly 'clucked'

I still have not been able to see the bands clearly to know who is who or if this is our pair from last year.  Since both of them are banded, I think it is.  But I cannot be sure until I get a good look at the bands.

There was no nest building activity and the mate did not attempt to get up on the nest.  After about 5 minutes on the nest, the loon left and swam away.

We are still early in the process so there is no need for worry or concern.

Just to refresh all of our memories, one year ago today we got over 18 inches of snow here at loon lake!

And the ice did not go off the lake for another week.

What a difference a year can make.

This year is closer to normal than that.

But the year before , 2013, spring was even later.  The ice did not go out until April 30th!  And there was still a lot of snow on the ground then, too.

As the loons get closer to nesting, I would expect that they will increase the frequency of their visits to the nest.  And that they will do some rearranging of the nesting materials and do some 'nest building'.

As we get closer to the time, I will give you some things to watch for that tell us the laying of the egg is imminent.  But for now, let us watch for and hope for visits to the nest with increasing frequency.

There have been some questions about how long a 'runway' does a loon need to take off?

Estimates vary widely.

Some say as few as 100 feet.  Others say up to 1/4 mile or more.

I usually say that they need to have up to 1/4 mile of open water in order take off.  A lot of it depends if they have some wind that they are taking off into.  With a little bit of wind, they need less 'runway'.

Unlike most birds that can take off almost straight up, loons need this long runway to take off.  Ducks can both take off almost vertically.  But not loons.  Geese need a little bit more space than ducks but they can also take off from a standing start.  Loons need a long runway.

Loons are very powerful fliers once in the air.  But since their body is so heavy compared to their wing size, loons must run across the surface of the water while desperately flapping their wings in order to become airborne.

One other thing I should mention.  Later today there will tornado warning drills.  At 1:45 pm and at 6:55 pm, all tornado sirens will sound.  

You may very well hear them on the LoonCam since all sirens will be sounding.  My understanding is that this is taking place all across the Upper Midwest.  Schools and businesses will practice their procedures of what they will do in the event of a real emergency.

There is no severe weather predicted for today so there should be no cause for alarm.  But I wanted you to be aware of that in case you hear the sirens.

The sun will be up in a little more than an hour.

And hopefully we will see our loons in all their splendor and glory.

This is such a magical time of year.  New life and the promise of new life all around us.

Stop and look and feel the wonder of it all.

Enjoy all that God has given you.

 

Copyright 2015     Larry R Backlund

 

 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 10:26 pm CDT

52 degrees     Clear     Wind  Calm

Sunrise   6:30 am CDT     Sunset   7:58 pm CDT

 

This has been a busy day for our loons!

It has been a beautiful Minnesota spring day with temperatures well above average.  It got up to 76 degrees here at "loon lake" today.

Beautiful blue skies and gentle warm breezes.

Our loons have seemed to take ownership of the nest and have mated on it twice .... one time was a pretty clumsy attempt that I am not sure was an actual mating.

But they seem to consider the nest theirs.  And they are willing to defend it.

They have chased geese off the nest at least once today.  (I chased the geese off tonight when the loons were occupied on another part of the lake!)

They were occupied with an "intruder loon" today.

And then tonight there was yet another loon that showed up.  I don't think that those loons  are a 'pair' but they could be.  My best guess - but it is only a guess - is that it is two single males.

It could very well be young loons that were hatched on this lake 3 years ago.

And our loons do not like that they are around.  Nor do they suffer their presence lightly.

At least three times today, there has been an all out confrontation between our pair and the single loon.  Confrontations that have included tremolos and yodels that you have heard.  Excited diving.  Penguin dances.  And even prolonged chases across the surface of the water.

All behaviors that are very stressed and confrontational.

Our loons do not want these other loons in their territory or around their nest.

If you have not ever seen a "penguin dance", let me try to give you a couple pictures so that you know what it looks like when loons do a penguin dance.  Hopefully you can see these pictures.  It doesn't look like I can post the actual picture for you so here are links.

http://johnmfleming.com/gallery/albums/Amazing%20Moments/Common-Loon-Penguin-Dance-Display-_JMF9430.jpg

http://www.masterimages.org/Birds/Common%20Loon/Misc%20lakes/slides/IMG_2978c.jpg

The penguin dance is a very strong statement by a loon that they do not like what is going on and are willing to fight.

So even as they had to keep on eye on these other two loons, they also had to keep an eye on the Canada geese who were out house shopping and seemed to want to move into the loons house.  But the loons had other ideas.

One of the other things that I have been meaning to mention is that if you listen carefully at night, some of the background noise you hear are thousands of seagulls.  It is very loud in person but I am not sure it comes through over the computer.

Some of the seagulls have already moved on as the ice goes out of more and more lakes.  But there are still a lot of them around.  Listen for them at night.

But even as I type this the confrontations between the loons are still going on.  With tremolos and yodels and wails.

It is that beautiful and haunting sound of the great north as the calls echo back and forth across the lake.

But I must admit I enjoyed the calls much more before I knew what the yodel and tremolo actually meant.

So sit back and just enjoy the beauty of the calls.

 

Copyright  2015    Larry R Backlund