Saturday, May 30, 2009 12:46pm CDT


64 degrees Sunny Wind 17mph NW


The sky is a deep blue with not a cloud in sight. Only the wide white contrail of an airplane that went over unnoticed some time ago stands out against the blue.

A fairly stiff northwest wind has whipped the lake into modest whitecaps.

And somewhere out there among the whitecaps are our loons.

It is hard if not impossible to see them right now with the waves. It seems like the stark black-and-white plumage of a loon would stand out and draw attention to it, no matter where it is. But such is not true.

With the whitecaps on the lake, they just blend into the waves and the color. Even on a day with just ripples on the surface of the water, from above they blend into the sparkle of light off the ripples. And it makes it difficult for even the "eagle-eyed" eagle to see them on the lake.

So what at first seems like an obvious mistake of coloring is exactly the perfect pattern to blend in with its surroundings.

Early this morning I did see them out there in the cool morning air. Peacefully floating along. Just before the winds started to come up. I could not tell for sure if both chicks were there but I think they were. It looked like there were two distinct bumps under the wings of the one loon. Wings that hopefully sheltered two little loons riding on its back.

I can tell you for sure that just before dark last night, both chicks were there. Healthy and active. And cute as ever!

And what other bird gives you a picture so beautiful and heart touching as the two little chicks riding on the back of the parent. If you have never seen it, just google loon pictures and there is almost sure to be a picture of a cute little chick riding on the back of the adult loon. Something that is so special and just one more thing that endears loons to all of us.

Especially during the first two weeks of its life, the baby loon is so vulnerable to so many dangers.

It can not dive well. It can dive almost immediately after getting off the nest but dives only a few inches deep. And then it pops back up to the surface like a cork.

So it is vulnerable to things under the surface of the water, above the surface in the air and on the surface. Under, it is vulnerable to muskies and bass and northerns and turtles. Above, it is vulnerable to eagles and seagulls. And on the surface of the water, it is vulnerable to jet skis and speedboats. They can be right on top of them before the boater even sees them and the little loon is not able to dive deep enough to get away safely.

So if you are out on the lake, watch for loons and especially the little babies. If your friends are boaters, encourage them to do the same.

Let me explain a little bit about the webcam.

It probably will not be live again this season. It was my intent and everyone's intent to keep it live for at least a week after the loons left the nest. To give you a chance to catch the rare glimpse of the loons as they swam by the nest. But probably more importantly to gradually ease you off your addiction to our loons!!!

Here is one more amazing thing that happened! Just an hour and a half or two hours after the second chick left the nest on Thursday morning, the fourth of four channels on the video server burned out! So I guess if it was going to happen, the timing could not have been more perfect because at least it gave you a chance to see the second chick make that giant leap of faith into the water. How bad would it have been if it burned out just as the chick was standing at the edge.

In talking with the people at MN Bound, there was the feeling that by the time they could even get a new video server shipped in and reconnected it would be too late to give you any meaningful viewing. So for now they will be playing videos of some of the previous days to give you something to see our loons.

To put your minds at ease, you are not missing much by not seeing the live cam. Although I realize that even seeing the empty nest brings some closure to the year.

However, even that I find to be bittersweet. How quickly it changes!

One minute there is a loon and chicks on the nest. It is full of life and fascination and wonder.

The next minute, the loons are gone. They have left the nest. They swam out of view. And all that is left is a nondescript, some might even say ugly, mass of dead dry lake weeds and vegetation. So lifeless. So lacking in interest. So different than it had been. So devoid of life and action.

I will periodically continue to give you updates about our loons. Several of you have asked about the nest itself and I will maybe try to answer some of those questions in the next few days. You can get a better view of the whole nest and where it is in the Simply Science segment that Sven Sundgaard did for KARE11 tv.

For today, just know that the loons are doing well.


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