Friday, May 22, 2009 5:38am CDT


46 degrees   Partly Cloudy   Wind NE 3mph


The golden red of the morning dawn paints the edges of each of the ripples on the water as our loon looks around, ever vigilant for any sign of danger.

Now we are down to our last few days before the eggs should hatch.  Is the loon aware of what is going on inside the egg?

Can it sense when hatching is getting close?

Does it know?

At what point is there movement in the egg?  When does the developing chick inside start to peep?   Can the chick's eye already see?  Can it make out the difference in light level when the adult is off the egg?  Are the chicks already covered in their black down?  Almost certainly the chick's heart is beating now.   How on earth does this whole miracle of life work? 

A thousand and one questions for which we have no answers.  Questions that remind us once again of how little we really know.  Questions that remind us once again that, as smart as we think we are, we are incapable of creating life!  We can't even fully understand it let alone create it.

All we can do is stand back and observe.  And marvel at the wonder of this gift of life that has been given to us!  Some say it is just "nature".  I choose to believe that it is so much more than that!

Since many of you in the United States may very well be traveling and away from home for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, let's talk a little bit about the hatching.

As you know, the first egg was laid on April 30th and the second egg on May 2nd.  Normally accepted times of incubation for a loon would put the hatching date of that first egg on May 28th and the second egg on May 30th.

The first egg was laid at 6:21am and the second egg was laid at 5:39pm.  So given an exact 28 days, one would expect the eggs to hatch at those times of day as well.

But several things may alter those dates for both eggs.

Based on what we have seen in past years, I would expect that the eggs may very well hatch a day or two earlier than those dates.  Since we have been able to tell exactly to the minute when the eggs were laid, we can also be much more precise in the actual length of incubation.  In previous years we have consistently seen it to be less than 28 days.  In fact, it has been as short as 25.1 days.  To a certain extent this camera has helped to add new knowledge about loons.  And this year will once again add new knowledge about these wonderful birds.

So I will be so bold as to go out on a limb and say that we might see the eggs hatch as early as Wednesday or even Tuesday of next week.

Who knows what will actually happen, but I do not want you to miss the wonderful climax of this whole adventure.  There is nothing like seeing the chick peek out from under the adult loon for the first time.  To see the little black ball of down with the big eyes looking around at a whole wide world that it has never seen before.  Of being ready to explore from the very moment it observes its new domain.

There is something so special about that moment it is hard to even explain or to put into words.

That first observation of new life.  Of independent life.  Of life that was created out of 'nothingness'.  Of life that is able to move and function on its own.  The thousands of questions that we have and do not understand all wrapped up in that little downy package!

So let me give you a few signs to watch for that will tell you if we are near that magic moment of seeing a new little loon chick.

The first thing to watch for is the movement of the adult loon on the nest.

You will see her/him 'twitching' every once in a while.  The wing will jerk.  Or lift up slightly.  Or the whole body of the loon will jump ever so slightly.  It will look like the loon is sitting 'lighter' on the nest.  Slightly raised up.

This will go on for some time.  I assume it is in reaction to the little baby look pecking its way out of the egg.  In fact, did you know that loons (and birds in general) have a bump on their beak called an "egg tooth" for that very purpose?   At least I think loons have it as well.  Once again it reminds me of how little I actually know for sure.  But this egg tooth is there specifically to help the chick peck its way out of the egg shell!  And then it disappears!

But I assume that the motions of the adult loon are in response to the chick pecking its way out of the shell.  Or in response to the first peeps of the chick

In fact did you also know that chicks will actually 'peep' while they are still inside the shell?!  Scientists tell us that they think the two chicks in two separate eggs actually communicate with each other while they are still inside the shell.  Is it true?  Who knows for sure.  Yet one more question to add to our list!

I had one expert on wildlife tell me a few years ago that he thinks that the communication between the chicks in the eggs actually speeds up the development of the second chick!  How much more wonderful and marvelous does this whole miracle become the more we learn and the more we realize how little we really know?  But he felt that it actually helps to speed up the development of the second chick.

Because you see, even though the second egg was laid 2 1/2 days later than the first egg, it will probably hatch within 24 hours of the first egg hatching.

Some of that may be due to the loons delaying the start of "real" serious incubation until the second egg is laid.  But this expert felt that there is also some mechanism that actually speeds up the development of the second chick.  And he felt that the communication between the two chicks while still in the egg may play a part in it.  So one of you may want to do the research that answers that question for all of us!!!

So what does it all mean to us?  To summarize, I would expect that the eggs will actually hatch a day or two before the actual due date.  I would expect that the second egg will hatch within about 24 hours of the first egg hatching.  And I would also expect that the chicks will be off the nest and in the water within about 24 hours of hatching.  And from that point on, they will be totally water birds.

Well, how is that for putting myself FAR out on a limb with all these predictions!  Please do not saw it off!!!  lol

But I just wanted to give you a little hint of what to expect as we near this most magical time!  And what to watch for.

Once again, the first thing to watch for is the "twitching" of the adult loon on the nest. 

And shortly afterwards, watch for that first glimpse of a little baby loon peeking out from under the wing of its mother or father!

How much more wonderful does it get than that?!!?!?


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