Monday, May 4, 2009 8:07am CDT


48 degrees   High Clouds   Calm


On this calm cool spring morning, everything seems to be well with the loons.

But while we have been sleeping last night, they have been awake and ever vigilant in watching over the nest and their precious cargo of two eggs.

They have invested a great deal of time and energy in these eggs. The eggs are large and it takes a lot of food and energy just to produce them. Unlike many birds whose chicks are naked and helpless when they are born, a loon chick is able to get in the water and swim within a few hours after it is born. To produce a chick that is that far developed takes a lot of energy that is put into the egg.

So if the egg is lost, it can be a devastating blow to the loons. They can potentially lay another pair of eggs if they lose the first nest, but then it becomes a question if there is enough time for the chick to mature and fledge and be ready to fly south before winter weather sets in this fall.

So the loons will do everything they can to protect these eggs and to make sure the chicks hatch.

While you were sleeping, they were vigilant. While you are at work, they are vigilant. When they are out of your sight and mind, they still have to be vigilant.

This is a never ending quest for them. For the next 4 weeks, they will take care of the eggs. But it doesn't stop there.

For the next 3 months after the eggs hatch, they will still need to be vigilant to protect the chicks from harm.

And through the loon cam, you become an 'up close and personal' observer of all they have to contend with.

Whether it be heat or cold. Or black flies which are tormenting the loon this morning. Or eagles and seagulls from above. Wind and waves pose their own threat. Boats and people going by can scare the loon off the nest and expose the eggs. Expose them to too much cold which can kill the developing chick inside. Or expose them to  too much heat from a bright sun which can do the same damage as cold does. Or boats can cause big waves which can literally destroy a nest and wash the eggs out of the nest.  Or people or animals or birds can scare them off the nest just one too many times, until they abandon the nest.

I don't mean to sound too negative....but I just want to remind us that the loons face many challenges minute by minute, day by day. Whether we are watching or not, THEY have to remain faithful and vigilant.

Yesterday I mentioned the black flies which feed exclusively on loon blood.  That is something that after all these years still amazes me - that there are flies that are that specialized!   Diana posted an interesting article from research that had been done way back in the '60s about these black flies which you may find very interesting. You can find it at,M1   Thank you, Diana.  Research since this has confirmed and expanded upon this early research.  So this is just one of the many challenges that the loons face.

And so for the next 4 weeks, the loons will be faithful in trying to make sure they raise a new generation of little loons.  And we have the privilege to be a part of it.

A privilege that includes the wonder hope and joys.  But be prepared.  It can become addictive!   It also includes the concern and worry and even panic and sadness if something happens.  Some of you have already experienced some of those feelings, either this year or in previous years.  But the joy of seeing that little black ball of down that is a loon chick on the nest makes up for everything that has preceded it.  The view of that chick riding on it parent's back makes it all worthwhile.

So sit back.  Relax.  Get another cup of coffee or tea.  Or a cup of hot chocolate.  And enjoy the ride over the next few weeks as you watch our beautiful loons.  A ride that promises ups and downs.  And thrills and spills.  But hopefully at the end of the ride, there are two little healthy loon chicks!


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