Monday, May 25, 2009 5:53am CDT


52 degrees    Partly Cloudy   Wind E 5 mph


The loon is off the nest!

Where is she?  Doesn't she know that she has eggs that need taking care of?!  There she is!  Swimming farther out in the lake.  Why isn't she on the nest?  Those eggs are going to cool off in the chill morning air.  What is she thinking!  There are little chicks in those eggs.  They are about ready to hatch.  What if she is off the nest too long?  What if the chicks don't make it!  Get back on the nest!  You can't be out there just swimming around when there are eggs back on the nest.  What if an eagle or a seagull or a crow comes.  They would love to eat the eggs.  And if there is a chick inside, all the better.  Get back here now.  We have watched this too long for us to lose the eggs now.  YOU have put in too much time on the nest for you just to let it go.  Don't you know that you have chicks inside those eggs?  Don't you know that they are close to hatching?  Don't fail me now!

Those are some of the normal reactions and questions of all of us when we see the loon off the nest.  Especially if it seems they are off too long.  The 'mother hen' syndrome of knowing better than the loon what she should be doing.  Of wondering if everything is going to be ok.  Be honest.  You have felt some of those same feelings when you have watched and it just seemed like the loon was off the nest too long.  And you have wondered if everything was going to be ok.

Well, once again after about 5 or 10 minutes off the nest, the loon gets back up on the nest, readjusts the eggs a couple times and settles down.  I guess I didn't need to worry....again!!!  Maybe they did know what they were doing after all. 

That is just part of the roller-coaster of feelings that I am sure many of you have experienced as you have watched this saga unfold before your very eyes.

Let's face it.  Without this webcam, we would be totally oblivious to what this pair of loons goes through minute by minute.  Hour by hour.  Day after long day.  Week by week.  But now through the wonder of technology, we can sit and watch them closer and better than we could if we were right there.  No matter if we are half way around the world!  How cool is that?

And so we worry about "our" loons.  We have gotten to know them intimately.  We have come to know some of their habits and idiosyncrasies.  We have come to care for them.  And, yes, we have come to even worry about them.

But there are thousands of others just like these two that are facing the same challenges.  But because we cannot see them, we do not think of them.

Several years ago when I first started the webcam on the nest, one of the people at LoonWatch said, "These are going to be the most famous loons in the world."  And they have become just that.  But is doesn't seem to faze them.   They haven't developed a prima donna star complex.  They just go about their ordinary lives.  But we have the privilege of watching.  What someone called "the best reality show around".

There is a slight possibility of some rain today with some scattered thunderstorms.  But most of the day should be pretty calm for the loons.  There is more chance of thunderstorms tomorrow.  But all of it something that the loons are used to and have seen many times before.  Rain they can handle.  After all, it is their natural element.  Violent wind, heavy hail or extreme heat are things that pose more of a threat to them.  But nothing like that is expected today.

Yesterday was the loons first "summer weekend" day of traffic on the lake.  While there was an increased number of boats and waterskiiers and canoes and jet skis, it was not an unusually heavy day.

But you saw it in the increased amount of time that the loon was in a defensive posture.

Some of it was from boats or people going by on the lake.  But none of them came too close to the loons.  They maintained a very respectful distance.

Some of it was from family and friends that were here for a picnic.  And I have to say that all the kids were great in their understanding of the situation.  I know they were disappointed that they could nto go swimming or just splash around in the lake.  Or even be down by the shore.  Some of them went to the park on the other side of the lake so they could swim.  And they took the canoes over to the neighbors to launch them just so they wouldn't disturb the loons.  But just the fact there there were new and strange people around was enough for the loons to go into defensive postures.

It is amazing but it seems that they really can recognize people.

Several years ago when I realized that they seemed to know and tolerate me but would lower their head when someone else was in sight, I questioned how much was just in my imagination.  But it was such a relief when the neighbors said that it seemed like the loons knew who they were.   And they did.  I have since talked to a couple of wildlife professors and they said that they think that is very well possible.

So you wonder what goes on inside that brain.  What do they see?  What do they know?  What do they "understand"?

Then there are other times when they lower their head and adopt the defensive posture when there seems to be absolutely no reason to do so.  But I have to just remind myself, that I understand so little about these great birds.  And the more I know, the more I know how little I know!

So today, we are one day closer to the hatching of the eggs.  When will it be?  I don't know.  It could be today!

But my best guess is that it will be sometime between tomorrow and Thursday.

And if anything, I would guess that it would be earlier rather than later in that time frame.

When the loon was off the nest this morning, there was no sign of any hole in the eggs or any sign that a chick was trying to make its way out.

So we can just watch and wait.  And hope!

Now the real excitement begins.  Now the suspense builds.  Now the vigil comes close to bearing results.

We can only wonder what is going on inside those two eggs.  Are there chicks?  Are they healthy?  Are they peeping inside the egg and communicating with each other and with the adult as well?  Questions, questions, questions!

And to all of you in the United States, may you have a wonderful and meaningful Memorial Day as we remember all those who have given so much!  Some who have made the ultimate sacrifice.


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