Tuesday, May 4, 2010 6:38pm


59 degrees   Mostly Cloudy   Wind W15mph


The sky has clouded over.  The wind has picked up.  And there are small scattered showers roaming about.  But there is not supposed to be anything severe.

There are big whitecaps out on the main part of the lake but the nest is a little bit sheltered so there are no whitecaps around the nest.  But from what you are hearing of the wind on the microphone, I am sure that some of you think that this is a old fashioned Nor'Easter!!

But it is not near as bad as it sounds on the microphone.  It just depends how the wind hits it.  Sometimes I have to turn the speaker off in the house...the sound of it makes me cold.  Even though it isn't really cold.  In fact it got up to 84 degrees here today.  But over the next several days it is supposed to be much cooler.

I know that all of us have our hopes up each time the loon is up on the nest.  Me too!  Every time it is  "Will THIS be the time she lays an egg?!!"  But once again she has gotten off the nest  This is the fourth time she has been on the nest in the last hour or so.  One of these times!

Some of you have been asking some questions.  Let me try to briefly answer a few of them.

Mate for life?  The accepted wisdom for year has been that loons mate for life.  And for the most part that is true.  However recent research indicates that they will sometimes switch mates.  If they lose a mate or the mate dies, then almost for sure they will find a new mate.  Some of the other possibilities are that if a nest is not successful, there is some thought that they might switch mates.  Or is a stronger male comes along they might switch mates.  And there is some evidence to say that a male may be strongly attached to territory as well as to a mate.  But it general, it is still felt that most loons mate for life unless something else happens.

Life Span?  Loons are very long-lived birds..especially compared to other birds.  No one knows for sure how long they can live but at least 25 to 30 years seems to be the norm.

Eggs?  Loons normally lay 2 eggs.  Sometimes one.  And rarely three.  There is one report in research of a loon that had 4 eggs but that is VERY rare!  The eggs are very large and make up 3 to 4% of body weight so it takes a lot of energy to produce them.  The eggs weigh about 5 ounces!

The second egg is usually laid within 1 to 3 days of the first egg.

Head Motion?  Someone mentioned see them tossing their head back like they were swallowing a fish.  It could be a fish.  But the times I have seen them do it they have been brushing off black flies!  That is an AMAZING story and fact that we will talk about sometime, too!

What does all the mating mean?   I honestly do not know.  This is more mating than I have seen in any of the years of doing this.  And there is not a lot of research available because most people never get this view let alone this view for such an extended period of time!  You are seeing things that most researchers even a few years ago would have given anything to be able to see!

What is the nest made of?  The nest is made of plant materials that a loon would find washed up on shore and also cattails which would grow in many of the places where they would make their nest.  Someone wondered if there was enough material for her since she kept pulling at one piece.  There is MORE than enough material for them!!  Like orders of magnitude MORE material than they would ever have available in a 'natural' nest.  So there is no shortage.  At some point, I will try to go into more detail about the nest, the materials and the nesting platform.

Are these the same loons as previous years?  There is no way to know for sure since these loons are not banded.  [That is one of the many projects that I would like to do but amazingly Minnesota does not have anyone who is qualified to band loons.]  But without the proof of banding, I am still 98% sure it is the same pair.  How can I be so certain?  For the last 4 years the loons have come in and swam around the EXACT place where the nest has been each year.  There is NO reason for them to come to that spot unless they remembered the nest from previous years!

You will however remember that one of the first blog entries that I made this year, I talked about one of the most extended chases that I had ever seen in a battle for territory.  I keep wondering who won that fight and whether or not this actually IS the same pair.  I have also mentioned that there has been another pair on the lake and that there has been extensive yodeling [a territorial call that we will talk about when we talk about calls] in the middle of the night.  That indicates a battle for territory.

Why hasn't she laid an egg yet?  I don't know.  lol  While I keep wishing and hoping every time she is on the nest that she will lay an egg, it certainly is NOT time to despair yet.  Several years in the past she has laid eggs later than this.  But we all get impatient for her to get on with it.  Including me!  But she will decide when the egg is ready, not us.  Is it possible that she will not lay eggs this year?  Yes, anything is possible.  But if she does not, it will be the first time in 8 years that the loons using this nest have not successfully laid eggs.  That is an amazing track record!

Won't the 'bright lights' on the nest for the night vision scare her?  No, they are not bright lights.  In fact you can hardly see them at all.  They are infrared lights.  I will also talk more about that when I go into more detail about the nest.  And also about an experience I had the first year we did the webcam!  My only question is if loons can see infrared light and I have not been able to find any research to confirm that either way.  I do not think it is going to be a problem or we would not have done the night vision.  There is another loon nest out east that used infrared with seemingly no reaction from the loons.

Well, there are so many MORE questions to be answered and I will try to do so as we go along.  You can post them here or you can also send them to LoonCam@yahoo.com and I will try to answer the questions here in this blog.  Unfortunately when we are in the midst of them nesting, there get to be too many emails for me to answer personally.  But I WILL read all of them and answer as many questions as I can.

But so many of you who have been viewing have become 'loon experts' in your own right so you can help each other out!