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

 

Friday, May 19, 2017 11:56 pm CDT

46 degrees F   Cloudy   Wind 9 mph NE

Sunrise  5:38 am CDT    Sunset  8:42 pm CDT

 

The unusually cold, rainy, windy weather continues.

This feels more like early April than late May.  It was only 39 degrees here this morning!

But the loons are fine with the cold rainy weather.  EXCEPT when they are pulled off the nest by threats.  Threats of bald eagles, intruder loons or even geese.

Geese are usually no big deal to our loons.  But eagles and other loons intruding on their territory are great threats that they will go all out to fight

And today they they have faced both eagles and another loon.

There seems to be another loon that has appeared within the last week.  And every time he appears, both of our loons go out to confront him.

That is stressful enough for them.  But the danger is when it pulls them off the nest and exposes the eggs to the rain and cold weather.

And today the loons have been pulled off the nest at least three times (maybe more) by eagles.

The first one I did not actually see happen but my neighbor told me about it.  He said that two eagles were actually dive bombing the loon and drove him half way across the lake.

Then shortly afterwards there was a single eagle that kept soaring right over the nest and the loon left in a panic.  The loon returned to the nest but then left once again as the eagle came back.

I think we have had more problem with eagles this year than any other year that I can remember.  I am thankful that eagles are on the rebound.  But when they harass and attack loons, not so much.

I am also ready to be done with the rain and the wind!

The wind and waves have washed away a fair amount of the nesting material along the front of the nest.  I don't think the nest is in any danger yet.  I think the perspective of the picture makes it look worse than it is.  But I would much rather that all the material that I had placed there was still there.  

I will continue to watch it and if it seems like the nest is in danger, I may look for an opportunity, if the loons are off the nest and well away from the area, to bring more nesting material out there to replace what has been washed away.

But I think the chances of that are pretty slim.  Plus I do not want the loons to be off the nest nor far from the nest.

I took a look at dates that the eggs might hatch.  This is dangerous territory to make a guess and wander into!

I would say the eggs should hatch sometime between June 1st and June 8th.  My best guess would be June 3rd, 4th or 5th.

Loon eggs, and eggs in general I think, do any amazing thing called "catch up".  That is where the second egg hatches faster than the first egg - hence the name catch up.

Two eggs may be laid 3 days apart (or in the case of our eggs this year, 2.5 days apart) but yet they hatch LESS than 3 days apart.  The second egg 'catches up' with the first egg.

Let's see what happens with our eggs this year.

 

Copyright 2017    Larry R Backlund