Friday, May 21, 2010 6:43am CDT

56 degrees   Cloudy   Calm
A few drops of rain have just started falling.
Even the daylilies on the floating loon nest are beginning to show their need for water.  They have begun to droop and turn noticeably yellow.  Even though there is water all around, the whole nest remains safely above the water.  And the lilies especially could use some rain.
This fact alone illustrates one of the strengths of a nesting platform like this.
A loon nest is sort of on that 'knife edge' of what it needs and what it can tolerate.  There needs to be enough water....but not too much.  It needs to be very near the water....but being very near the water also means that it can be washed away.
Many natural loon nests are lost when waves wash over them and may actually wash the eggs right out of the nest.  They can be natural waves from the wind.  Or they might be waves from boats passing by.  And the boater would have absolutely no idea of the damage that his boat wake had done to the hidden loon nest as he passed by.  But an artificial nesting platform like this allows the nest to ride "on" the waves rather than being washed away by them.
The other danger to a loon nest is too little water or rain. 
If the lake or body of water that the nest is on experiences significant changes in the level of the lake, it can affect the loons.  If the lake rises significantly, the nest may be submerged under water and the eggs lost.  Or if the lake drops too much, the nest may become inaccessible to the loons since they have such great difficulty getting around on land and they may just abandon the nest.  In that case, predators would quickly move in and eat the eggs.
And that brings up yet another advantage of a floating nest like from predators.
Loons tend to prefer islands to nest on when they have a choice of a lake with islands.  The isolation from the mainland means that there is some protection from predators who would normally roam the shores of the lake.  Predators like raccoon and skunks and mink and others.  Not to speak of domestic dogs and cats who would frighten the loons off a nest on shore or even attack it.
So the price of a few wilting daylilies is a price that the loons will happily pay and scarcely notice!
Today is the two week anniversary for the laying of the second night.
Two weeks ago tonight the loons laid their second egg in the midst of a SNOW and rain.  What a difference a couple weeks can make.  Yesterday temperatures were in the 80's and today there is a chance of scattered showers throughout the day with high temperatures in the 70's.  That should make for an ideal day for the loons.
Many have commented and asked about the loon having its beak open while on the nest.  In years past when we did not have sound on the webcam, some were even convinced that they were missing the loons calling every time they had their beaks open.  As you can see and hear, they are not calling.  They are simply panting [like a dog does] to get rid of excess body heat.  A loons normal environment is in the water or even cold water.  
They are not built to sit in the hot sun out of the water.  But sit they must.  And so the way for them to get rid of excess body heat is to pant.
But today should be an ideal day for them with cloudy skies, a little bit of rain and just enough of a breeze to help keep some of the black flies away from their head.
We are now halfway through the incubation period for the eggs.  Twenty eight days will be up for the first egg on June 2nd and for the second egg on June 4th.
If I had to guess when they will hatch, and please understand that this is only a guess, I would guess that the eggs will hatch BEFORE June 2nd.  I will maybe talk a little more about that sometime and why I think they may hatch before their 'due date'.  If they go significantly beyond June 2nd, then there may be cause for concern.
But for today, we look forward with great anticipation to the next two weeks.  
There will be many challenges to the loons during that time.  Challenges that we cannot even begin to predict now.
But if all goes well, we should see two new baby chicks in a couple weeks!!!
How much better does it get than that?!?!
[Just a quick reminder, I will be on the KARE Saturday show with Belinda Jensen on KARE11 TV tomorrow [Saturday] morning here in the Twin Cities to talk about the LoonCam.  It is scheduled for 9:44am CDT.  But if you know television, that can change at a moment's notice.  I hope that you can tune in.]