Thursday, June 17, 2010 5:57am CDT


56 degrees   High Scattered Clouds   Wind S  2mph


The 'flying tremolo' of one of the loons echoes through the still, crisp morning air.

It is always so good to hear 'our' loons!

The 'flying tremolo' is the only call that a loon makes while in flight.  And even though the tremolo call is normally an alarm call, when made while flying it is not an alarm.  I am not sure I can even explain the differences between a normal tremolo call and a flying tremolo call.  But there they are.

Yesterday I spent  a good share of the day at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and also at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota.  [For those of you who thought you heard me finally getting a chance to mow the lawn down by the lake yesterday afternoon, nope, that must have been some of the neighbors.  But I did get a chance to mow it last night and yes, it was VERY long!]

Now the DNR has both of the eggs in their hands.  Hopefully, we will hear the results of the x-rays in a few days.  

We are also discussing several other intriguing possibilities.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota (WRCM) is the organization actually doing the x-rays.  They are a great group.  They were the group who tried to save a loon last fall that had frozen into the ice in northern Minnesota.  Unfortunately, they were not able to save that loon.  

And about a month ago, two loons were flown to the  WRCM from the Gulf of Mexico.  They were able to help that pair and release them into the wild.

Speaking of the Gulf of Mexico, let's talk about that subject.  It is a heavy subject for a beautiful summer morning like this, but one that needs to be talked about.

Even as our loons enjoy this beautiful, sunny Minnesota summer morning, the oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico from the oil spill.  It is more than an oil 'spill'.  Someone has called it the "Gusher in the Gulf" and that is more accurate.  The amount of oil that has already come out of the well is hard to fathom.  And there seems to be no end in sight.  Blame can be placed later and finding out what happened can wait for another day.  The urgency now is to stop the flow.

Many of you have wondered about its effect on loons.

Obviously for 'our' loons and tens of thousands of other adult loons, there is absolutely no effect.  Yet!

All of the adult loons were off the Gulf and on their way north long before the tragic accident destroyed the oil drilling rig and so many lives along with it.

So they are fine and out of harm's way.

But what concerns me the most right now is what is happening to thousands of immature loons who are on the Gulf right now.  Including the chicks that were hatched on this very nest in the last three years!

As you will remember, the young loons fly south about a month after the adults in the fall.  And then amazingly, they do not fly north with the adults the next spring!  In this case, if only they had!!

The young stay on the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Coast for the first two to three years before they ever fly back north again!

So it is those young loons who are potentially in danger right now on the Gulf of Mexico.

I have not heard any definitive reports of any loons being injured by the oil spill so far.  But I cannot believe that there have not been some.  Possibly even some of the chicks that we watched so lovingly in the last couple years!  The sense of helplessness is profound.  All we can do is watch and wait.

And hope!

But I am also concerned about the adults that are here now, including the pair that we have so lovingly watched for the last month.  Because in October or November, they will make there way to either the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Coast.  [Loons from New England and eastern Canada tend to go to the Atlantic Coast off New England and loons from west of the Rockies in both the US and Canada tend to go to the California Coast.]

And they do not have a clue what awaits them there.  Nor do we at this point.  We can only hope that the Gusher in the Gulf has been stopped by then and that much of the cleanup has been done.

If there is still a lot of oil in the water in November, many of the loons that are here now are in danger.  Both adults and chicks.  So we can only watch and wait and pray.

If a loon's feathers become oil soaked, they loose there ability to repel water and keep the loon warm.  So the loon either drowns or potentially dies from hypothermia.

Yesterday I heard one of the nation's most respected meteorologists talking about the threat of hurricanes this year.  That has been one of the big questions about what happens with the oil spill if there is a hurricane.  Most of what I have heard everyone talk about so far is that hurricanes will increase the damage from the oil spill.

This particular meteorologist felt that the opposite may be true.  He said that you can think of a hurricane as a huge blender.  He felt that a hurricane might actually help to alleviate some of the effects of the oil spill by 'blending' it and diffusing it.  It still would not be good but his feeling was that it would make the concentrations low enough that nature could more readily 'eat it' and that animals could more easily tolerate the lower levels of concentration.

I 'want' to believe him.  Oh, how I want to believe him.  But we will not know until it happens.  He is predicting 3 or 4 hurricanes to hit this area this summer and fall.  How good would that be if nature dilutes some of the oil before all the loons and other migratory birds get down there later this fall!

But on this beautiful day, we know that thousands of loons in Minnesota and the 'north country' are well.  And are enjoying this beautiful morning.  Thunderstorms could develop later today here, but for now it is like a picture postcard.

A lake.  Sunshine.  Calling birds.  And Loons!!

Almost heaven!