Thursday, May 27, 2010 6:25am CDT

52 degrees  Clear  Calm
In the depths of winter, these are the mornings that every Minnesotan dreams about!
A northern lake.  The sun coming up over the trees, reflecting off the biggest mirror that we also call a lake.  Every detail of the shoreline perfectly duplicated upside down in the surface of the water.  Fish jumping.  Birds singing.  And a loon on its nest.
What more could one ask for?
This is the kind of morning you just wish you could bottle it and keep it forever.
We are getting ever so close to the day when we see that chick take its first peek out from under the wing of the adult loon.  As many times as we have seen it, it never grows old.  It never fails to make the heart skip a beat.
It is almost impossible for a reflexive "Awwwww" to come from deep within.
There are no words to describe the feeling one gets when you see the little black ball of down that is a loon chick.
But for now, along with the loons, we wait.
But the wait is getting shorter.  By this time next week we should have two new baby loons.  But my feeling is that it will be sooner than that.  If I had to guess, it could be as early as Sunday or Monday.  But there is nothing we can do to speed it up.  Or slow it down.  It will happen at just the right time.  Not before.  Not after.
Inside the egg the chick will decide when it is the right time to begin pecking at the egg shell which has been its home.  But then begins its prison that it will do anything to escape.
Let me give you a few hints of what to watch for that will be signs of the egg hatching if I can.
You will see the adult loon sitting quietly on the nest like you have any other day.  But then all of a sudden there will be a twitch.  Barely noticeable unless you are looking for it.  But it is there.
Then another twitch.  And maybe a wing lifted slightly.  Or the body lift or move ever so slightly.
Once in a while a movement like it had been poked from beneath...because it just was.  It was poked by the beak of the hatching chick.
A little more movement.  Now something definitely moving under the wing.  Can it be?
Then the moment when words fail you.  When you get that first glimpse of the miracle that has been happening beneath the loon for the last several weeks.  The creation of life!  When you see our new loon chick for the first time.  Peering out at a world it has never seen before.  A world big and beautiful.  A world to be explored!
Those are moments that can never be fully described.  And they will not be forgotten.
As so many Americans head to the lake for the Memorial Day weekend, this is a good time for you to give some reminders to your family and friends to help our loons.  And a chance for you to share some of the new knowledge about loons that you have learned here from talking to each other.
With all the increased boat traffic and jet skis and fishermen, it is a critical time for loons.
If loons are just beginning to nest, they are very vulnerable to disturbances caused by people approaching too closely.  If it happens too often, they may just abandon the nest.
A good rule of thumb for you if you are out on the water and spot a nesting loon is to stay at least 200 to 300 feet away.  If you stay this far away, you will cause very little stress or disturbance to most loons.  By now you already know what signs to watch for having watched the reaction of our loons on the LoonCam.
If you see the loon lower its head or especially if it goes into the "hangover" position, you are too close.  Quietly back away and the loon will quickly relax.  But don't forget to bring your binoculars with you so that you can get a good view of them.
If you are fishing, be on the lookout for loons.  They love to nest in the same shoreline areas that we love to fish.  If you see a loon nest in that area, just decide that you will fish someplace else for now and return to that area after the loons have left.  It is a small price to pay to be able to see loons with chicks in a few weeks.
The other BIG thing as a fisherman that you can do  is to begin to switch to non-lead tackle.  And here I am speaking to myself as well.  We have all lost sinkers or jigs or other lead lures.  All it takes is for a loon to pick up ONE sinker off the bottom of the lake, thinking it is a stone that it needs to grind its food.  That ONE lead sinker is enough to kill a loon by lead poisoning!
Non-lead sinkers and jigs are becoming more readily available.  But we have a long way to go to educate people of the devastating effect of lead on our loons.
Above all else, enjoy your time on the lake.  But just keep in the back of your mind what you have learned about loons and about what you have seen by watching the loons 'up close and personal' on the LoonCam.  And share that knowledge with the people you with whom you are enjoying the lake.  
A little of your knowledge will go a long way to ensure that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the magic of loons for years to come!
So enjoy the magic today.  Wherever you are.  Whatever you are doing.  Take the time to stop and marvel at the beauty in the world that has been given to you.  And to say "Thanks!"