Tuesday, May 18, 2010 6:04am

50 degrees  Partly Cloudy  Calm
Three yodels break the morning air!!
And our loon on the nest leaves the nest and slides into the water.  It swims out to where the other loon is swimming.  It looks like they are having a conversation as they swim together.  But what were the yodels about?  The yodel is a strong territorial call given only by the male.  But these two loons seem to be just swimming together.
Then out of the west comes a third loon on a glide path.  Incoming!
With wings outstretched, he gracefully glides in and skids to a landing not too far from the two loons.
Heads held high, they swim toward each other.
Three loons circling each other in the early morning light on a still lake.
Circling and diving.
There is no more calling.  But who is who.  It is hard to keep track of which loon is which as they circle and dive.  Each one looks identical.  Is that the one that just dove over here?  Or is he the one that just surfaced over there?  Another dive and both of the other loons dive.
It is too confusing to keep track of which loon is which.
Obviously they knew but I find it impossible to keep track.  I also find it impossible to completely understand this kabuki dance.  Oh there is so much that we don't know about what goes on.  What is happening in their minds and in their interaction.  But for now, two eggs sit exposed on the nest because of this dance.
After 11 minutes, the loon returns to the nest, rolls the eggs and settles down.  But almost immediately there are more calls from out on the lake.  It looks like s/he is going to leave the nest again.  But he doesn't.  He halfway turns and settles on the eggs again.  And does it again until it has done a 360 degree turn on the nest.
The third loon has gone somewhere else by now.  And the mate is preening and rolling on its side as it is swimming out toward the middle of the lake.
To understand what just went on is almost too complicated and hard to piece together.  But right now, our loon is back in charge on the nest keeping the eggs protected and warm.  In the end, that is all that matters.
To most people still soundly asleep in their beds around the lake, nothing has happened.  They are totally unaware that the loons have already written a couple chapters in their book this morning.  Written chapters that we can see and read but that we are incapable of fully understanding.
And when the humans wake up and look out at a peaceful, quiet lake with hardly a ripple on it and see the loons swimming, they have no clue of what the loons have already been through.  The human's exclamation, with a cup of coffee in hand, of "Oh come and look!  The lake is so quiet and the loons are swimming so peacefully out there.  I wish I had it as easy as them.  I wish I didn't have a care in the world like the loons!" statements betray that most of the time we do not have any understanding of what is happening around us every minute of the day.  The drama that is being played out.
The tiny snapshot in time of our observation when we see them usually comes with no context of what happened just before or what will happen in the next few minutes.  For the loons, every minute brings new challenges.  In a split second they can go from the boredom of sitting on the nest hour after hour, to being locked in a serious battle over territory.  Whether the challenge comes from another loon or from an eagle.
And then just as quickly, things can return to 'normal'.
For now, it is 'normal'.  One loon on the nest.  The other swimming and preening on a peaceful, quiet northern lake in Minnesota.  "Without a care in the world."  Other than the "cares" all around it every minute of the day.
But in a way, this time off the nest is time to be enjoyed.  To relax.  To preen.  To dive.  To fish.
Because in another couple weeks, the chicks will hatch and then it becomes a 24-hour job to keep track of them, to protect them and to feed them non-stop.  Then the hard work really begins.  A task which will last for two or three months until the chicks are old enough to catch their own breakfast.  Until they are adept enough to dive from danger.  And until they are old enough to take their first flights.  The first time in their lives that they will ever leave the water and try something new.
But right now there are more important things.
Things like keeping the eggs warm so that there can even be chicks.  Things like keeping the eggs protected, safe from intruders and predators that would sweep down from above.  "Things" that are all around.  Things that we never see nor understand.
But for right now, it is a "peaceful" morning on the lake.
"Oh look at the loons out there.  Isn't that a beautiful sight?   I wish I had it as easy as they do!"