Monday, April 12, 2010 7:58pm

60 degrees   Cloudy  Light Breeze  Sunset


The sun has just set and in half an hour it will be almost dark.

Earlier today the temperature was in the mid-70s.  But now a front has come through and on a cloudy evening there is a definite chill in the air.

Tonight I have spent some time putting some finishing touches and refinements on the nesting platform.  However, several things happened tonight that were intriguing, unusual and unique.

As I was heading down to the lake to add some willow branches to the nesting platform [I will explain more about that some other time], I saw one of the loons sitting a ways out on the lake.  I stopped.  I have not seen much of them for the last week.  So I did not want to go out to the nest if  they were checking it out and if my being there would scare them away.

But then I heard a loon alarm call.  But it wasn't the loon that I was watching.  Where did it come from?

Two loons came around the island, one in hot pursuit of the other!  And there were a couple alarm calls.  I could not tell if it was coming from 'the chaser' or from 'the chasee'!  But they were definitely moving!  It was a half running on the surface and half rowing with its wings type of motion for both of them.  Both of them going as fast as they could.

The other loon just sat and watched the two as they raced around.

This isn't in itself unusual behavior when there is an 'intruder loon'.  The resident loon will chase the other loon until he decides it is not wise to stay and he will fly away or beat a hasty retreat to another part of the lake.

But the two turned the corner around the island and headed in toward shore.  The one in front would halfway dive and the loon chasing him would immediately dive as well [once again I will try to remember to tell you a little bit about this behavior sometime],

But the loon in front was a little devious because he would not dive fully...only half way.  Whereas the loon in back would dive under completely.  By the time the loon in back came to the surface, the loon being chased had gained a few feet of distance on him.  And then he would make a turn and the loon in back would cut him off and gain ground and almost catch him.

They looped back out into the lake...only to turn again and come towards shore.  And then back out in the lake.  And then towards shore.  And then UNDER the neighbors dock!  And back out into the lake.  Over and over and over without stopping or slowing down!  Then back towards me.  Once again, back out into the lake.

I could not believe how long this went on and how tired they must be.  But they kept it up.

For at least TEN MINUTES straight, they chased each other all over the place.  The third loon came in closer and just sat and watched.  And I watched...through binoculars.  Just when you think you have seen everything, these amazing loons do something completely new.  I have never seen a chase go so far or so long.  I think with all of their chasing, they easily covered a mile or maybe even two MILES on the surface of the water.

I started to become concerned that one was going to injure the other or they were going to wear themselves out and maybe even go into shock.

Then near shore, they just stopped!  As I watched through the binoculars, they sat about 20 feet apart and "alarm called" at each other - yodel and tremolo calls.  Had they tired themselves out so much that they couldn't move any more?  Were they just going to sit and 'call each other names'?!

When I took my eyes away from the binoculars, I could see why they stopped.  A neighbor's dog had come down to the shore and was in the water!  It was enough for the loons to be as much concerned about the dog as they had been about each other for a minute!

And then they were off on their chase again!

After a couple more rounds of chasing out into the lake, the 'intruder loon' finally made his way off to another part of the lake and the chasing loon settled down.  And the two loons approached each other and swam peacefully together.

I could not believe what I had just seen.  Like I said, just when you think you have them somewhat figured out and have seen all their behaviors, you see something like this.  So new.  So unusual.  So fascinating.  I cannot even begin to imagine how tired BOTH of them must be.

The pair of loons swam out and across the lake.

The encouraging part of all of this is that apparently this pair has once again staked this out as THEIR territory.  And they are not going to let some interloper move in on their territory!  That is hopeful that they will once again nest this year, hopefully on the platform in front of the camera.

So I decided it was safe for me to do the work on the nesting platform that I had originally come down to do over half an hour ago!  I also put out the raft and the buoys to try to keep boats away from the nest.

I spent some time doing the work and then headed up to the house.  Just as I finished putting the tools away, I looked down to the lake and saw both loons coming from out in the middle of the lake.  It looked like they had been sent for!  They were making a straight line toward the nest and they were not wasting any time.

They swam around the raft and checked it out.

Can they really remember all of this from year to year?  Were they watching me the whole time I was working on things?  After checking the raft out, they swam straight to the nesting platform.

Side by side they swam all the way around it THREE times!

They looked up at it.  They even looked UNDER it.  They swam and they looked.  But they did not try to get up on it.

Apparently they satisfied themselves because they started to swim away.  Did they approve?  Did they recognize this as the place where they had nested so many times before?  Oh, to know what was going on inside that 'loony brain'!

As they swam away, they checked out one of the buoys as well.  And then they were off to another part of the lake.  Who knows....maybe they went to see their 'loon realtor' and started signing papers for this year!

Whatever they did, whatever they thought, the encouraging part with this behavior too is that they are definitely interested in the nest and gave hints of taking ownership of it.

So now we watch and wait and hope and pray.  Maybe again this year 'our loons' will grace us with their presence!!

In the next few days we will do some of the final testing on all of the equipment and making sure everything is connected properly to bring the view (and the SOUNDS) of our loons to you.

Stay tuned.  Tell everyone you can think of to watch a new season with our amazing loons!