Wednesday, June 2, 2010 6:30am CDT


50 degrees  Light Rain  Wind North 5mph


The mate of the loon on the nest swims very nearby.

Can it sense something about to happen?

Several crows call and the loon on the nest sits up and becomes more attentive.  And then starts looking around.  Looking up at the sky.

There is a wail from the loon nearby.

And then a tremolo call.  And then more tremolos.  The loon on the nest looks up at the sky again.

Sure enough, there is an eagle!  But fortunately for this morning, the eagle is only interested in searching the lake for a meal of fish and continues flying.  Both of the loons relax.

This contest between loon and eagle is one that is rooted in the shadows of history that goes back to ages unknown.  But it is deep.  It is indelible.  It is one the loon cannot and does not ignore.

But for now, the danger has passed and the loon settles back to concentrate on the job at hand.  Eggs and chicks.

Today is the 28 day mark for the first egg that was laid.

Can it already be four weeks ago?

But on the other hand, can it be only four weeks ago?!

So much has happened in those four weeks.  Snow and heat and wind and rain and drought.  The loon has seen it all.  And stayed with it all.

So today, the vigil continues.

The vigil to watch for those little tell tale hints that something may be happening beneath the loon.  That an egg might be hatching.

I saw one a few minutes ago.  That slight twitch of a wing!

But was it my imagination?  Or did the loon simply need to move its wing a little bit after holding it in place for so long?  How much was actually there and how much was my desire to see some sign?!

So we wait.  And watch.  And hope.

Another bit of loon lore for you this morning.

As you watch a loon in person on your favorite lake, or maybe if one of the loons is very close to the nest but in the water, watch to see how high or low in the water it sits.  It can control how high it sits in the water!

There are times when a loon feels threatened or when they are concerned about something that they will sit with not much more than their head out of the water.  Their whole body is underwater.  And if you were not watching for it, you would never know there was a loon in the water - maybe even very close to you!

A loon can literally sink out of sight.  Not by swimming or diving.  But just by literally sinking.

There are 3 or 4 things involved in its ability to do this magical disappearing act.

Unlike most birds whose bones are hollow, loon bones are almost solid and therefore much heavier than other birds.  It is part of the reason that a loon needs such a long 'runway' to take off from the water.  And because the bones are almost solid, they are less buoyant than a duck or a swan.

But there are a couple other unique things about loons that help them to sink out of sight when danger approaches.

They are able to squeeze the air out from between their feathers and this gives them less buoyancy.  But they also have 'air bladders' in some of the muscles of their body.  And by contracting the muscles around those pockets of air, they are able to reduce their buoyancy and literally sink out of sight with hardly any other movement.

Watch for it the next time you see a loon.

But today, there are more important things to watch for!

We have CHICKS to watch for!!  Is today the day?