Saturday, August 8, 2009 8:42am CDT

 

66 degrees  Cloudy and Thunderstorms   Wind Calm

 

It is a cool, rainy, moody Saturday morning for our loons here in Minnesota.

It has been raining most of the night and it is still raining this morning with scattered thunderstorms.  The forecast is for rain to continue this morning and then for more storms to develop this afternoon.  Everything is fine here but there are a number of areas that have already received 2 to 5 inches of rain! 

There are even flash flood watches out for a large area.

And there, amid claps of thunder, are our loons sitting right out in front.  All four of them together.  Relaxed, swimming, diving, fishing.  The chicks (it is hard to even call them chicks anymore) seem to be doing very well.  They dive along with the adults and one can only assume that they are now catching some of their own food.

The chicks turned 10 weeks old this week.  It is hard to believe that the time has gone so fast!

I have on a couple occasions seen one of the chicks swimming completely by themselves, far removed from the adults, for short periods of time.

They are becoming more and more independent and within the next week or two they should take their first flights.  That is the time that they truly start to become independent.  But for now, they are a family.  Close together.  All four of them.  But as the days of summer wind down, like any family, there will be less and less of them being together all the time.  Just like kids getting ready to go off into the world on their own.

It is almost a bittersweet time.  Where are those cute little chicks that we saw on the nest.  The beautiful little black ball of down.  So small.  So vulnerable.  So lovable.  The ones that made everyone instinctively say "Awwwww!!"

But now, they definitely are 'teenagers'.  Almost grown up.  Almost but not completely.  They still will take any meal of fish offered to them by their parents.  But they can also catch much of their own food as well.  It is hard to judge size from a distance.  But they must be at least 80% the size of the adult.  When they are not swimming next to each other, it is hard to distinguish one from the other.  Except by coloring.  The chicks still have their brownish-gray plumage while the adults have their striking black and white plumage.

But when they are close to each other, you can definitely tell the slightly smaller chick from the adult without seeing the coloring.

But there is another mystery this morning.  Just when you think you have everything figured out, there is something new.

I am perplexed and again reminded of how little we truly know.

The loons have been peacefully swimming.  No calling that I have heard.  Or at least no unusual amount of calling.

And yet sitting in the dead tree down in front is an eagle!!

It isn't as if the loons can't see him!

His big bulky body stands out so starkly against the dead limbs of the tree in which he is perched.

He is a young eagle.  But a huge one.  He still doesn't have the characteristic white head and tail of an adult eagle.  But their are some streak of white starting to show.

He has been sitting there for at least an hour now, sitting in the pouring rain.  Drenched.  Dripping.  Sitting through a downpour.  Then the rain letting up, only to be followed by another downpour.

The loons could care less about the rain.  What is a little water to them?  They LIVE in the water.  It doesn't make much difference if it is water above them or water below them.

But the eagle looks miserable and forlorn with its feathers soaked.

He just sits there.

And therein is the 'mystery'.  Why are the loons not concerned at all?  They don't call.  They don't seem alarmed.  All four of them just swim and fish.  They have to be able to see him.  This big dark hulking mass sitting in a barren tree not far from them at all.

Normally if there is an eagle anywhere within sight, they are calling and very upset.  the animosity between eagles and loons is something that goes way back.

But for some reason this morning, there seems to be a 'peace truce'.

The loons swim and fish.  And the eagle sits quietly in the dead tree in the rain.  Each unconcerned about the other.