Wednesday, May 6, 2009 6:16am CDT

48 degrees    Clear    Calm

Somewhere on a northern lake in Minnesota, two loons await what has driven them all spring - the hatching of their two eggs.

This is why they have flown a thousand miles north from the Gulf of Mexico. This is why they have returned to the same lake they have occupied for so many years. This is why they have staked out their territory. And made it plain to all others that this belongs to THEM! This is why they have built their nest.

Now they have two eggs in their care and it is what their whole year revolves around.

The first rays of the sun once again turn the cattails and weeds of their nest to shades of gold. Golden highlights reflect off the loon. And once in a while as the loon turns its head, when the light is just right, you can see its blood-red eyes.

One sits faithfully on the nest while its mate is not far away, just a little farther out in the lake diving in the never-ending quest for fish. Wisps of fog and a slight haze hover over a lake that is absolutely still this morning and reflects everything like a mirror.

It is one of those mornings where you wish you could bottle it and savor it over and over and over.

Right now, all is well with the world. No wind to contend with. No predators. No rain or snow or hail. Just a relaxing morning on the nest.

Not that the loon ever feels like it can relax, for its head is constantly turning and looking and observing. Always aware of what is around it. Always watching for danger. Always concerned about the eggs.

They have laid two relatively large eggs. The eggs are a greenish brown with dark spots. Since they usually build their nest out of whatever is available to them on shore, often just weeds and other material that has washed up or even dirt, this coloring blends in with the nest and helps to disguise the eggs. Usually their nest is open to the view from the sky and this also helps protect the eggs from marauding gulls or eagles who might otherwise spot them from above.

Each egg is about 3 to 3.5 inches long and about 2 to 2.5 inches in diameter and weighs about 5 or 6 ounces. They are about half again as big as a tennis ball. The norm is for them to lay two eggs. But once in a while they may lay only one or rarely three.

And now everything they do is focused on hatching those two eggs.

Some of you have seen and commented on the "white spots/rings" on the eggs and wondered if the eggs were cracked or what that was. It now appears that it was simply nesting materials stuck to the eggs. But let's continue to watch andobserve duringthose brief glimpses that we get of the eggs.

As we have already talked about, the average incubation period for a loon egg is 28 days. Most researchers will place it at anywhere from 26 to 30 days. However, from the use of this LoonCam in past years, we have documented hatching in as little as 25.1 days. So this year, be a loon researcher and see how many days it takes the eggs to hatch. From your wonderful observations of the cam, we know exactly when they were laid, down to the minute. When will they hatch?

If you missed seeing the eggs laid, someone by the name of EmtyBelfry captured it on video and has been kind enough to give me permission to give you the video of the actually laying of the first egg. What a miraculous thing to watch! Now YOU are one of the few people in the world who has ever seen a wild loon actually laying its egg! Thank you EmtyBelfry!


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