Tuesday, May 5, 2009 6:42am CDT


52 degrees   Cloudy, Mist off and on       Wind  S6mph


On a quiet, misty morning, one loon is settled on the eggs while the other loon swims out in the lake and fishes.  They are now in a routine of sitting day after day for the next several weeks.  Rain is predicted off and on throughout the morning.  This doesn't affect the loons.  They are used to water.  That is where they live.  What would affect them is severe weather or high winds.  And none of that is predicted for today.

But this time of year, severe weather can develop unexpectedly.  So the loons are ever vigilant for any kind of danger.  I have seen them on the nest in other years in high winds and waves and even being pelted by hail.  They remained tightly 'glued' to the nest.  Had they not, the eggs would have been destroyed or washed away. 

As we have talked about, the male and the female share nesting duties almost equally.  You have watched as one will get off the nest and the mate will then get on the nest.  (S)he will then carefully turn the eggs with its bill before it settles down on them.  It will rock back and forth to get them just right.  Usually it takes one or two tries before it is fully satisfied that it has the eggs in exactly the right place.  Then it can settle down for the 'long haul'.

Next time you see this ritual, watch how they rock to get the eggs in just the right place to transfer warmth from its body to the egg.  And then as the last step of the routine, it tucks its wingtips tightly around its body.  And on a cold or windy day, it actually locks the wingtips in place with its tail.  Now it has a perfect tightly-sealed warm cocoon around the precious eggs.

Some of you have asked how you tell the male apart from the female.

It is almost impossible to do.  Male and female loons outwardly are almost identical.  The male is usually just a little larger.  But unless they are actually side by side, it is hard to see that difference.  Even loon biologists have trouble telling the male from the female unless the loons are right next to each other.  The male has a slightly bulkier build which you may be able to notice especially in the neck.  But it is hard to tell one from the other.

A number of you have also commented or wondered if the eggs are damaged or broken because you have seen white spots on them or even a white ring around the end of one of the eggs.

Here is a case where living near the nest is of no help.  Through binoculars or even a telescope, I cannot see the eggs at all.  The best view of the eggs is the one that you are seeing on the camera.  I have looked closely on several nest changes and I have seen what you have seen.  In fact, early on I saw a white spot on both eggs and wondered if it was a difference in coloring or if it was simply something white which was stuck to the egg.  But there is not much of anything that is white on the nest so that made it strange.

Then yesterday, there was a very distinct 'ring' of white around one of the eggs.  I tried to look closely and it looked like the structure of the shell was intact.  The egg did not appear to be broken in any way.  So it had to be something ON the egg....either in the coloring of the shell or something stuck to the egg.  I do not know what it is.  Today the pattern seems to be different which would argue that it is just something stuck to the egg.

Some have wondered if it is "loon poop".  It may be but I don't think so.  Loons keep the nest very clean and I have never seen signs where they have defecated in the nest.

So we keep up the "what's that white on the eggs" watch!

Yesterday, some of you may have watched as a Canada goose flew in and landed literally inches away from the nest in a big splash of water!  I have never seen that happen before where a goose has landed so close to the nest that it actually splashed water on the platform.  A second goose was swimming nearby and they seemed to be showing interest in the platform.  But the loon never moved and the geese finally left.  This morning a single goose swam around the nest and seemed to be interested in it.  The loon went into its defensive posture of having its head low.  And soon the goose went swimming off and the loon once again relaxed and raised its head.  We have had very little competition through the years between geese and the loons and for the most part they seem to tolerate each other.

Today, may I suggest that if you know servicemen and women overseas, think about sending them the link to the LoonCam as a 'touch of home'?

Last summer I spent a good share of the summer in England directing a CS Lewis Conference at Oxford and Cambridge.  When I would get back to the room late at night, I would log on and briefly look at a couple webcams looking out over a couple lakes in northern Minnnesota  (it was after the chicks had left our loon nest and the LoonCam was shut down for the year).  I remember how comforting and important that was to me to "reconnect" to home by seeing those lakes.

So brighten the day of one of our wonderful servicemen by giving them the link to the LoonCam.  Help them 'reconnect to home'.


Questions, Comments or Observations?  Share them here or in the chat room with each other.  Or send them to LoonCam@yahoo.com