Monday, May 24, 2010 5:46am CDT

71 degrees  Clear  Wind SSE 2mph
There is a haze in the air this morning.  It is a steamy, sticky tropical feel in the air this morning.
The loons have just had their morning shift change.  They are now in the midst of the long, interminable hours of sitting on the nest.  Hour after hour.  Day after day.  Boredom.  But at the same time needing to stay alert for danger and disaster that could strike at any moment.
Now is not the time to let down their guard.
They already have so much time and energy invested in this nest and these eggs.
Other birds begin their songs in the early morning light.  A goose honks its greeting and warning.
The loon on the nest has its head slightly lowered even though there is no apparent danger.  I am sure by now you have noticed that one loon seems to be much more wary and skittish than the other.  Where one sits with its head held high most of the time, the other loon is much more ready to lower its head into a defensive posture whether there is any obvious danger or not.
I have yet to figure out if it is the male or the female.  Most of the time I think it is the male that is more wary.  But just when I think I have it figured out which one it is, there is something that makes me think otherwise.
So whichever one is on the nest now, it sits with its head slightly lowered even though there is no threat that I can see.  But it obviously senses something that I can't see.
Already this early in the morning it is sitting with its beak slightly open.  Panting.  Trying to get rid of some of the excess body heat even this early in the morning.
Today and the next several days you can expect to see a lot more of this behaviour.  Each day the high temperature is forecast to be in the upper 80s to lower 90s Fahrenheit.  The high temperatures, combined with sitting in the sun, will take its toll on the loon.  They very much prefer cooler temperatures and the relief of swimming in cool to cold waters.
You will probably see the loon leave the nest more often today to just take a quick dip in the water to cool off.  It is a very thin line that the loon walks.  During cool weather being off the eggs too long can cause damage from the cold air.  During weather like this, if they are off the eggs too long the hot sun can literally bake the chick inside the egg.  So they have to be careful either way.
If I have one area of concern about the eggs this year it is from several weeks ago when the eggs were only a couple days old.
You will remember that it was an unusually cold morning.  Frost covered the whole nest around the loon.  The temperature was only 27 degrees.
And then the loon did an unusual and worrying thing ... it left the nest for over half and hour.  The eggs sat exposed to the cold morning air with frost all around them.  Both of our loons were off confronting a pair of intruder loons all the way on the other side of the lake!
Was there any damage done at that time?  Who knows?  We can only hope not.  But the possibility remains.
I personally hope that it was early enough after the eggs had been laid that there had been no damage even if the eggs chilled significantly.  I have checked with several wildlife experts and they feel the same way....or are at least hopeful that no damage was done on that frosty morning.
But now the eggs are very vulnerable to too much heat or too much cold.  Hopefully there is a chick developing inside each egg.  And the loon is very careful to provide it with just the right environment for it to continue to live and develop inside the egg.  Not too hot.  Not too cold.  Like Goldilocks, "just right"!
In a few days, the chick will probably be producing enough of its own body heat that it could ward off a chill.
But the next few days heat is going to be the greater problem.  So the loon will bring some cooling water on its feathers each time it gets back on the nest.  The water helps to keep the egg from drying out.  And the loon will roll the eggs often.  This keeps the chick from sticking to one side of the egg and being deformed.
Such profound simplicity in all that is necessary to produce the next generation of loons.
And today you have the privilege to have a front row seat as you watch this miracle of life!
Share the miracle with the kids in your life.  Give them a sense of the wonder of what they are observing.  The greatness of the miracles that are happening all around them.
It is so good to have so many schools using the LoonCam as a teaching tool!  Good morning, kids!  Don't take today for granted.  Look around you and see the all the wonderful things that have been put in this world for you to enjoy.  And take good care of them so that we can all enjoy them for many many years to come.  The loons are doing their part.  And hopefully in about a week, you will see two little baby loon chicks hatch from the eggs!!
My hope and prayer is that each of you will have a wonderful day filled with the wonder of life itself.