Friday, April 30, 2010 7:26am

57 degrees   Cloudy   Wind  S9mph
On a cloudy, overcast morning, the birds are in full song.  So many different kinds.  So many different songs.  All of them different and unique.
Our loons have just come in, swam around the nest once, made their 'new' mewing sounds and then swam back out into the lake.  Not a lot of time spent swimming around the nest.  No attempt to get up on the nest.  But still an obvious interest in the nest and ownership of it.  And then they swim back out into the lake.
Someone else on the lake reported that they had seen a confrontation between 'our' loons and another pair of loons on the lake.  I have not seen the other pair myself but it would explain something else.  For the last couple nights, there has been a lot of calling in the middle of the night.  While it is so beautiful to hear, it consisted of a lot alarm calls including the male's yodel [I will talk more about the different calls of the loon sometime soon].  The yodel is probably the most extreme of the loon calls and is made only by the male.  It is very much a territorial call.
So if there is another pair of loons on the lake, that could explain all of the calling in the middle of the night.  It is yet another sign that this loon pair definitely feels that this is their lake.  You will remember that I told you a couple weeks ago about an extended chase between two loons.  The chase easily went on non-stop for 10 minutes or more....longer than I had ever personally observed.
While such scenes are spectacular to watch, they can also use a lot of energy from the loons.
So if there is another pair of loons on the lake that is trying to establish their territory, it could mean conflict with 'our' loons.  If it is just another pair of loons passing through, there will be periodic conflict until they move on but no long term impact.
The loons seem to have formed a very nice nest 'bowl' on the platform.  All that is necessary now is for the loon to decide it is time to lay an egg.  Last year, this is the day that the first egg was laid.  In some other years, eggs have not been laid until well into May.
It is interesting to note that loons in far northern Minnesota, Canada and New England often do not lay eggs until much later....many times even into June.  
This particular pair of loons has a history of laying eggs in early May or even late April.  Why the difference?  That is just one more question in a long list of questions for which I am not sure anyone has a definitive answer.
So we continue to learn.
There has been a visitor to the nest several times.  A visitor that I can do without!
A muskrat once again last night decided to visit the nest.  It is not his first time and it probably will not be his last.
But what concerned me last night is that he seemed to be very interested in something in the lower right part of your picture....that is the corner of the nesting platform where the camera mount is.  It is also where all the video cables and the sound cable come down and go into the water!
I happened to be watching when he got up on the nest so I went down there with a very bright light and a convenient stone!  Between shining the bright light on the nest and throwing the stone out toward the nest, the muskrat decided that it was time to leave for greener pastures.
I saw that some of you were watching at the time and were very insightful about what was going on!
Loons are quite familiar with muskrats.  They will often use an old muskrat house to build their nest on.  So they know all about muskrats.
While there is not too much danger to the loons from the muskrat, my greatest concern is the damage that they can do to the platform itself or worse yet that they might gnaw through the video or sound cables!  If they would do that while the loons are on the nest, the 'show' would be over for the year.  I would still try to keep you up-to-date here in the blog about what is going on.  But if the loons are already on the nest, there is probably no way to repair such damage.
Muskrats are like a "small beaver".  They have a formidable set of incisor teeth and like a beaver, are great at gnawing.  One bite could be enough to sever the cable.  I know it all too well.  A few years ago muskrats did over a thousand dollars damage to my pontoon when they gnawed through the wiring on it.  And they did the same to a number of other boats and pontoons around the lake.  So we definitely do not need this muskrat feeling comfortable around or on the nest.  [Several of you are convinced that it was a rat that you have seen.  But it is a muskrat.  I sure hope that we don't have rats like that around here!]
Speaking of beavers, we do have beavers in this lake and this area.
A few years ago I think a beaver had actually been up on the nesting platform!  I did not see it happen so I cannot say for sure.  But a number of the willow branches on the nest had been gnawed off at a height that was too high for it to be a muskrat.  You could see the teeth marks on the stubs of the willow that were remaining.  But it was the perfect height for it to have been a beaver sitting there having a meal!
So the challenges that the loons face are almost endless and of an amazing variety.
Today there might be the chance of a challenge of weather.
We had some wonderful rain overnight but no storms here, although there were severe thunderstorms around.  Today there is a possibility of severe thunderstorms most of the day.  But at this point, I do not think [and I hope not] that we will be getting anything severe.  
But stay tuned.  You never know what the next few minutes will bring!