Sunday, June 21, 2015 12:03 am CDT

63 degrees F     Clear     Wind Calm

Sunrise   5:25 am CDT     Sunset   9:04 pm CDT


After some heavy thunderstorms moved through last night, today turned into a beautiful sunny day.  

They were predicting the possibility of damaging winds but fortunately we did not get any of that.  It was very calm.  Just heavy rain.

Now to the thing that you want to really know about.

Our chick is doing well.

I really do not get to see him all that often.  For some reason this year they have spent most of their time about a quarter of the way around the lake.  I am usually able to find them with binoculars but not able to see much.  There have been a number of days where I ahve not even been able to spot them.

On those days I have to admit that my heart skips a beat wondering where they are and if the chick is still ok.

But he is doing well.

They were a little bit closer this way this afternoon so I could see them a little better.  I would guess that the chick is now about 6 to 8 inches long.  It is hard to believe how much he has grown.  But then  we have to remember that he will be three weeks old on Monday.  My how time flies.

I heard the loons calling so I went to check to see what was happening.  They were making the call that usually signals that an eagle is in the area.  And sure enough.  There were TWO eagles fishing in the area.  And the loons did not like it at all.

But fortunately the eagles did not target the loons or the chick.

In fact, when one of the loons swooped down and grabbed a fish out of the water and started to fly away with it, the other eagle went after him and tried to steal the fish.  They disappeared behind a tree so I didn't see who won that contest.

You will also be interested to know that the egg that did not hatch is now on its way out to the University of Connecticut for study.

The U of CT has been doing a study for the last several years trying to determine if there have been effects from the Gulf Oil Spill from a number of years ago.  So they will use 'our egg' to see if there are any petroleum components or dispersant chemicals in the egg.

If I hear any of the results, I will let you know.

When I brought the egg to Carrol Henderson, it was a good chance for us to catch up.  I have mentioned Carrol Henderson before.  He is in charge of all the non-game wildlife programs in Minnesota.

Carrol has been very supportive of the work that I have done with the LoonCam.  I turn to him often for advice and counsel.  There is very little that I do that at some point I have not talked it over with him.

But what most people do not realize is what a treasure Carrol Henderson has been to not only Minnesota but many other states as well.

He was the person responsible for the reintroduction of trumpeter swans to Minnesota.

He was telling me how he flew to Alaska and came back with 50 eggs for each of the next 3 years.

They did not know if they would be successful in establishing a breeding population in Minnesota.

In their dreams they hoped that at some point there might be 300 breeding swans.

The latest estimate is that there are probably 2500 breeding pairs of swans and a total of 10,000 swans in the state!   He said, "We sort of overshot our goal!"

He also told me a story about something that had happened in just the last few days.

There was a bald eagle that was killed in New York state on June 2nd.  It was hit by a car as it fed on a rabbit along the road.

When they recovered the eagle, they saw that it was banded.

By tracking the band, they found out that the eagle was originally from Minnesota.  And it was 38 years old!

And Carrol is the one that captured that eagle chick here in Minnesota and sent it out to New York.

At the time, New York had only one pair of one-producing eagles.

Carrol captured 4 eagle chicks and sent them out to New York to try to re-establish a breeding population there.  New York now has 350 breeding pairs of eagles!

It is the oldest eagle that has ever been documented.  And it started its life here in Minnesota!  Carrol said he was so surprised because an eagle 20 years old is considered a very old eagle.  He said he would never have guessed that it would last for 38 years.

And undoubtedly that Minnesota eagle helped New York to now have a breeding eagle population.

Through a 12 year period, Minnesota sent 55 eagle chicks to 5 different states to help them establish bald eagle populations.

At the time, bald eagles were almost facing extinction in the Lower 48.  Minnesota had 600 to 800 eagles at the time.

Now Minnesota has over 10,000 bald eagles, the most in the Lower 48 states.

I said to Carrol, "You sort of overshot your goal on that one, too!"

You can check out the eagle story in the Thursday, June 18th edition of the Minneapolis StarTribune.

What a privilege we have of being a part of and observing and learning about such wonders of nature.


Copyright 2015   Larry R Backlund



Saturday, June 13, 2015 6:40 am CDT

60 degrees F     Mostly Cloudy     Wind Calm

Sunrise   5:24 am CDT     Sunset   9:02 pm CDT


We are rapidly approaching our longest days of the year.

When the sun does not go down until after 9 pm.  And the time when that wonderful, peaceful, calming twilight lasts until after 10 pm.  

Ahhh the long hazy days of summer.

Yesterday was a spectacular summer day, even though summer has not officially started yet and won't for another week.

But there was lots of sunshine, gentle breezes, temperature about 80 degrees and no humidity.  Nor have we had many mosquitoes yet this year.  That bane of any summer day.  They seem to just be beginning.

So yesterday could not have been much better for man nor loon.

Speaking of which,  our little loon chick seems to be healthy and doing well!

Last night we went around the lake on a neighbor's pontoon.

I saw a pair of loons on the other side of the lake.  I could not see if they had bands but they had no chick.  Is this the other pair that has nested on the lake before?

I had gotten conflicting reports about whether they had nested or not.  A couple days ago another neighbor and I went to check to see if they were nesting.  I had been told that they had nested a couple weeks ago.  And then I had been told that they had either lost the nest or had abandoned it.

Only one way to find out.  To go and look.

We did find a nest.  But there were no loons around even though I had been told someone had seen a loon on that nest last week.

But now there were no loons in sight.  And no sign of any eggshells on the nest.  Either from a chick hatching or from a predator eating the egg.

So if this is the pair of loons from that nest, they do not have a chick with them.

I could not see if they had bands or not.  We have been hoping to recapture that pair to retrieve the data recorders that we put on them 3 years ago in order to download the data.

But we will have to see if they will nest yet or have chicks this year.

About a quarter of the way around the lake, we spotted "our" LoonCam loons.

I am happy to tell you that all three of them were swimming together and that they chick seems to be healthy and active.

Surprisingly this year, they have not spent much time in the vicinity of the nest at all.  They have wandered far and wide.

Only ONE time have I seen they even come near the nest since they left it a week and a half ago.  And then all three of them swam within feet of the nest but showed no undue interest in it any more.  And neither of the adults nor the chick made any attempt to get back up on the nest.

That is as it should be.  They, including the chick, are now once again waterbirds.

Yesterday I was also able to take the unhatched egg from the LoonCam nest into the good folks at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

They kindly x-rayed it to see what was inside.

I held my breath a little  bit waiting for the results.

My hope was that it was infertile and had not even started to develop.

My fear was that it had developed and had a nearly mature chick inside that had died on that difficult night when we watched Dad all alone with the chick and the egg, trying to decide which one he took care of.

I am happy to tell you that Dad made exactly the right decision.

The egg showed NO signs of ever starting the development of a chick inside.  It apparently was infertile.

So no amount of additional sitting on the egg would have yielded any different results.

It probably was the best news that we could have gotten all the way around.  One healthy chick.  One egg that was not fertile but that the loons did not sit on in vain.

I was down by the lake a little while ago looking for 'our loons'.

There is one loon with a chick on its back not too far away.  I assume it is the male.

He is just calmly sitting floating.  A bump on his back that must be the chick tucked safely and warmly under a wing.

Then I see movement and through the binoculars I see a chick poke his head out as he wakes up and looks around at his beautiful world.

While I am watching, another loon comes flying in.  I assume it is the female.  She lands.  And since there is  no alarm for the loon with the chick this has to be the mate.

All is well in the world of our loons!

[If you want to be kept up-to-date with a periodic (if rare) email later in the season, send an email to LoonCamATyahooDOTcom asking to be added to the email list.]


Copyright 2015  Larry R Backlund

Sunday, June 7, 2015 4:25 pm CDT

84 degrees F     Sunny     Wind 7 mph W

Sunrise   5:25 am CDT     Sunset   8:59 pm CDT


It is a beautiful summer day.

Sunshine.  Cooling breeze coming off the lake.

And loons on the lake.

I just came from down by the lake.

You will be pleased to hear that our loons are doing well.  All three of them are sitting just outside the buoys.  And they are feeding the chick.

Our little loon chick has already grown so much in the last few days.  

It is hard to believe that he was hatched almost a week ago.  It will be one week  about noon tomorrow.

They still have spent more time away from the nesting area than I have been used to seeing in previous years.  But yesterday I saw them just outside the buoys on three different occasions.

As far as I have seen, they have not come back to the nest at all.  No attempts to get back up on the nest or to even check it out.

No bringing the chick back to say to him, "See, this is the place you were born."

Which that has been encouraging to see - that the loons have moved on with their lives.  That the bond with the nest has already seemingly been broken.

I was concerned that with an egg left unhatched that they may continue coming back to the nest.  And that the little chick would get too used to being on the nest.  Just like the chick a few years ago who loved the nest too much and kept returning to it.

While it was wonderful to see him grow, it was not natural.  It was not what should happen.  And he spent too much time by himself rather than learning from his parents what it meant to be a loon.

And I think that probably played into his eventual demise.  I don't know what happened to him but my guess would be that by being alone and too trusting, he was too easy a prey for eagles.

But this little chick seems to be learning very well what it means to be a loon.  He loves sitting on a back, especially dad's back.  He loves having little minnows brought to him to eat.

And he is growing.  Healthy.  And active.

With the loons not returning to the nest at all, last night I decided it was time to look for the right opportunity to remove the egg from the nest.

Just before dark last night, all three loons were sitting just out beyond the buoys.

I went down to the lake and did some things along the shore.  The loons saw me and watched me.  But they did not seem concerned, let alone upset.

So I went out a little further and continued to pick up weeds.

Again, no concern from the loons.  They continued to just float together outside the buoys.

So I finally just went out to the nest and picked up the egg and walked back to shore.

I looked and listened and smelled the egg.

I do not see any pips or cracks.  I heard no sounds.  And there was little if any smell to the egg.

There was absolutely no sign that a chick was close enough to hatching that it had tried to make its way out of the egg.

My fear has been that the egg had developed almost to the point of hatching and my hope has been that it might have been infertile.

We will try to do some research on the egg to find out everything we can about it.

When I got up to the house with the egg, I did notice a 'scratch' in the middle of the shell.  Certainly not a place where a chick would have been trying to make its way out of the egg.  And it was not from the inside.  It was a scratch into the shell from the outside.

I don't know that it has any significance.  Just a curiosity of an observation.

But the key thing is that I wanted you to know that the chick is alive and thriving.

I will try to keep you updated periodically right here on the blog.

If you also want updates in the months ahead, send you email address to LoonCamATyahooDOTcom.  There won't be many updates and they will probably be months between.  But I I will try to keep you updated.


Copyright 2015     Larry R Backlund


Saturday, June 6, 2015 10:00 am CDT

65 degrees F     Cloudy   Wind 2 mph SW

Sunrise   5:26 am CDT     Sunset   8:28 pm CDT


Our chick still seems to be doing well.

He was riding on the adult's back a few minutes ago.  I assume it is the male with him.

Right now he is swimming and the adult appears to be feeding him.

I was surprised to see how far away from the nest they had moved when I came home last night.  Normally they stay closer to the nest at first and then gradually expand the circle of how far they go.

But I may have found out why they have been so far from the nest.

Talking with the neighbor this morning, she said that the eagles have been harassing the loons quite a bit the last few days.

So that could very well explain why they have moved so far away from the  nest.

She said she heard the loon calling loudly at one point and went to see what was happening.

The eagle was swooping right down at the loon.  It was one of the mature eagles, not the immature eagle who has more often seemed to harass the loons.

She said the loon stood straight up in the water, the chick came off its back, the loon called as he "stood" straight up and pointed his beak up at the eagle that was swooping down on him.

I wish I could have seen it.  I have never seen anything quite as dramatic as that.

But apparently our male was going to protect the chick at any cost.

Even at the cost of injury to himself.

So now it makes a little more sense why the loons have moved further from the nest than they normally would have at this point after the hatch.

But we seem to have one very active and healthy chick.

I have seen no sign of them returning to the nest or trying to get up on the nest.  Nor had the neighbor.

So I think it is quite obvious that they have abandoned the nest and the second egg.

Their focus now is on the chick!

Last night, when I saw the loons were staying quite far away, I knew I could check to see if the egg was still there without disturbing them.

So I did go out to the nest.

The egg was still there.  No predators have gotten it yet.

I picked it up and examined it very carefully.  It was intact.

There were no signs of a pip or of the start of a hatch.

I listened to it and there were no sounds.  Although I did not expect any after it having sat open to the elements this long.  The 28th day for the second egg was on Thursday morning.

I even smelled of it but could not really detect any odor of it being rotten.

I put it back on the nest and maybe will leave it for another day or two to see what the loons do or how they react.

But fairly soon I will probably remove the egg from the nest.  It is pretty obvious that it is not going to hatch at this point.  And the loons themselves seem to have abandoned it.

In consultation with the DNR, we will see if we can get someone to xray the egg to glean whatever knowledge we can.

The news I would "like" to hear is that it did not develop at all.

The news I fear is that the chick had started to develop and maybe was even near hatching but then died when the male had to make the very difficult decision of did he stay on the egg or stay with the chick and protect it.

No matter which scenario plays out, we will learn more about loons.

If and when I retrieve the egg, I will let you know.  And I will let you know any results from any tests that may be done on the egg.  That will take some time.

I have been talking to Broadband this morning.  They have been so faithful in trying to restore things.  But something has changed that they have not even been able to log into the system here or the cam.

But with the loons gone, the nest abandoned and now no hope that the egg will hatch, we have decided that the LoonCam season has come to an end for this year.

We have MUCH to be thankful for.

Once again we have been able to watch our beautiful loons in a way that no one has ever been able to do before.

We have seen two eggs laid.

We have seen the one loon mature a lot this year.

We have seen flowers bloom.  And loons do their own gardening and transplanting.

But best of all -



Copyright   2015   Larry R Backlund


Friday, June 5, 2015 3:45 pm CDT

75 degrees F     Sunny    Wind 3 mph NE

Sunrise   5:26 am CDT     Sunset   8:57 pm CDT


I have been away for a couple days.

I have been at the Forest History Center and the Judy Garland Home and Museum in Grand Rapids, MN.

I just got home a little while ago.

The first thing I did was to look at the nest.  And there is no loon on the nest.

I do not see any of the loons anywhere in the immediate area.  Which caused me some measure of concern.

However, as I scanned the lake with binoculars I spotted one loon far away.  Even with the binoculars I had a hard time discerning any detail since they were so far away.

But I kept telling myself that there was a bump on the loon's back that could be a chick.  I hoped.  But I could not tell for sure.

Then I saw another loon surface and swim toward the first loon.

Then I could see a more pronounced "bump" and movement on the back.

It HAS to be our loon with OUR little loon chick on its back!!

I breathed a sigh of relief.

The second loon swam over and apparently fed the "bump", our chick,  a minnow or something.

So that all is VERY good news this afternoon.

The bad news is that the LoonCam is still not live.

I don't have any messages from Broadband Minnesota.  But the fact that it is not live is not encouraging.

Until I talk to them, I have to assume that the problems are serious enough that they cannot be fixed remotely.  I know that they have been working hard to restore the cam.  And the fact that it is still not up does not bode well that we will be able to view it again this year.

I don't want to go out to the nest to check on the egg until I am more sure of how the loons are reacting.

But the fact that the loons are now so far away from the nest tells me that they may have also given up on the remaining egg - which I cannot say with certainty that it is still there until I am able to actually go out to the nest.

Without the cam, I cannot see into the nest itself even with binoculars or telescope.

So I am with you as far as not knowing.

The only advantage I have over you is that I can look and see that the nesting platform is still there and apparently intact.  And that there is no loon on the nest or around the nest right now.

I know that you are wanting to see our loons and to know what is going on with them.  I am, too!  I apologize that the LoonCam has gone down.  If any of you have any magic way to prevent lightning from damaging delicate electronics, I am all ears!

At this point it is just one more reminder of the myriad of things that must work together perfectly in order to bring you the magic of the LoonCam.

As I learn more, I will be sure to update you.


Copyright   2015     Larry R Backlund