Thursday, May 13, 2010 8:38am CDT

46 degrees   Rainy   Wind  NE 5mph
Rainy chilly weather continues to be the norm as our loons continue to faithfully sit on and protect their eggs.
After an unusually mild March and April, May has proven to be unusually chilly.  Temperatures have been 10 to 20 degrees lower than normal.  But this weekend promises a return to sunshine and 70 degrees.
In some ways, the cooler temperatures are easier for the loons to deal with than warmer temperatures.  They are well insulated against the cold and, of course, being water birds the rain is no problem for them.  The real impact of the cold and the rain is if they are drawn off the nest for some reason.  In that case, the eggs would cool off quicker than they would in warmer or drier weather.  However, during very hot weather, if a loon is off the nest for a long period of time the eggs can overheat in the sun and that can be just as dangerous.
It is always a wonder to realize how narrow that band of 'perfect conditions' for life is.  We so take for granted life itself.  But when we see something like this we once again realize that life and all of creation is an amazing gift to be cherished.
Last night our friend Mr Muskrat made a couple visits to the nest again.  The loon seems to be less and less tolerant of him, especially when he comes so near her at times.  There have been a couple well places pokes but no big time confrontation yet.  We can only hope and pray that he stays away from the cables for the video and sound.
This coming Saturday in Minnesota is something known as "the fishing opener".
It is a big deal when hundreds of thousands of people hitch up their boats and "go up north" to their favorite lake.  It is the beginning of the fishing season when you are first able to take some of the popular gamefish like walleye.  And Minnesotans, with over 10,000 lakes love their fishing.
But as everyone heads to the lakes, this is a good time to talk about a couple things that people need to be aware of.  If you are going fishing, these are good reminders to all of us.  If you are not going fishing, you can share them with your family and friends who are going fishing.
You have watched on the LoonCam the reaction of the loons to disturbances around them.  So you have a whole new understanding of how things look from their viewpoint.  If something concerns the loon, you have seen it lower its head in a defensive position.  And if the threat continues or gets worse, the loon may leave the nest and leave the eggs exposed and vulnerable.
The same thing happens with a boat or a fisherman or a jet ski or any human contact.
If a person gets too close to the nest, the loon may leave.  One time is probably not going to hurt.  But one time with this fisherman, one time with that canoeist, one time with a jet skier....all of them add up.  And so it is important that all of us are conscious of the effect that we have and that we try to minimize the stress we cause.
A good rule of thumb for you is to try to stay at least 200 to 300 feet away from a loon nest if you know one is around. Very seldom will you unduly disturb a loon if you stay that far away from them.  But you will still be able to see them very well if you bring a pair of binoculars with you.
Here it is sort of like preaching to the choir because you already know so much about loons and what signs to look for.  But share the signs and signals with your friends.  If a loon lowers its head in a defensive position, it is time to just quietly back away.  
As you already aware, around the area of the nest is a swimming dock and several buoys that are intended to help keep boats and people away from the nest.  Unfortunately, something like the swimming platform can also be a draw for fishermen who like to cast nearby it to try to draw fish out that may be hiding under it.
Another thing that most fishermen are not aware of is the danger of lead tackle to loons and other waterfowl.
Like all birds, a loon will pick up stones and gravel that are stored and used in its gizzard to grind its food since it obviously has no teeth  to chew the food.  A lead sinker that has been lost and is laying on the bottom of the lake looks like any other stone to a loon.  And they may pick it up thinking it is a stone.
The bad part is that ONE lead sinker can be enough to give a loon lead poisoning and kill it!
So there is a movement starting among sports groups to replace lead sinkers and lures with ones not made out of lead.  But there is a long way to go to educate people about the impact of lead on loons.  You can help by sharing this information with your friends who fish.
The non-lead tackle is slightly more expensive than lead tackle but not unreasonably so.  So fishermen can begin to replace some of their lead tackle with some of the alternatives.  I have done some of that but unfortunately I also still have a lot of the lead tackle in my tackle box.  
The campaign started by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and other DNR's is "Get The Lead Out!"
So we add lead to one of the many challenges that our loon family faces on a day to day. minute by minute basis.
But right now, things are good.  In between rain showers, our loons faithfully sit on those eggs.  Hour after hour.  Day after day.  Week after week.
But the faithfulness is worth it.  For in a few weeks we hopefully will have little adorable loon chicks!!