Thursday, June 3, 2010 5:56am CDT

48 degrees  Clear   Calm
Morning dawns and our loon still sits faithfully on the nest.  Hour after hour.  Day after day.
I often wonder what goes through their mind during this time.  I wonder if I would have the patience and perseverance that they do.  I am not sure I would.
Once in a while the loon will move and it makes me think that something is happening under her.  But it is not often enough nor consistent enough to be sure of anything yet.  There was not any sign of an egg that had hatched when she turned the eggs about an hour ago.
So we continue to wait for the eggs to hatch.
Today is forecast to be a gorgeous sunny day with temperatures in the mid-70s.
Yesterday morning was the 28 day mark for the first egg and tomorrow night will be 28 days for the second egg.  28 days is the 'normally accepted time' for incubation of a loon egg.  But that can vary all over the place.  Some experts say 30 or 31 days.  Some say 26 days.  So we wait.
I want you to notice something that I have been watching the last couple days....and maybe you have been watching, too.  Look carefully at the nesting material right next to the loon.  Do you see the ring of green plant material starting to grow?
With the lack of rain and as dry as it has been, apparently each time the loon got onto the nest it brought just enough water with it to wet the area right around the nest.  And that water has been enough to let small plants start to grow right next to the loon while there is very little plant growth on the rest of the nesting material.
The rain that we got night before last may be enough to start other plants growing as well.
I thought it was interesting  that the ring of plants around the loon gave us a visual proof that the loon also brings moisture to the eggs as well.  For anyone who has ever used an incubator, one of the things you do is to periodically mist the eggs to give them some moisture - especially duck eggs.  And the loon 'mists' its eggs with not only its own body moisture but with water brought in on its feathers each time it gets onto the nest.
Someone asked if I would retell the story of the 'loon rescue' that I did a couple years ago, while we wait for the eggs to hatch.
When I came to church on Sunday morning, a friend of mine told me that he had a loon in a very small pond (not much more than a big mud puddle) in his buffalo pasture (he raises American bison).
My first thought was that it was not a loon and that he had seen something else.  But as he described it, it sure sounded like a loon.  And if it was in that small pond, it would die for sure since it could not take off.  I asked if I could come over and take a look that afternoon.
When I got there about 2pm, we walked out into the pasture to this little pond where he had seen the loon.  It wasn't more than maybe a couple hundred feet in diameter, if even that.  It could not have been more than a couple feet deep.  No place for a loon to be!
And when we got to the pond, it WAS no place for a loon to be.  For there was no loon around!  I was disappointed because I knew that the loon could not have taken to the air from such a small bit of water.
We started looking around to see if we could find it.  We followed a small dry ditch that led off from that little pond.  And sure enough, about 300 feet up the ditch we found the loon!  It was trying to hide from us among some brush as we approached.  But its wings were spread out on the ground and it looked totally exhausted.  As helpless as they are on land, I am sure that it had exhausted itself as it dragged itself that far away from the pond looking for a larger body of water...or just a place to hide.
I knew that I did not want to touch the loon without first checking with the Department of Natural  Resources.  But how would I get them on a Sunday afternoon?!  I drove home and tried to find the home number of one of the key people I had worked with on this whole loon nesting project in a DNR office several hours away.  I found her home number and called.  Her husband answered and said that she was not home.  I asked him to have her call me when she got home because we needed to do a loon rescue.
A couple hours later she returned my call and we talked about the situation.  I asked for the DNR's permission to do a loon rescue.  She was far enough away that she could not do it and she asked me if I was comfortable trying it.  Even though I had never done one, I said that I was comfortable trying.  I just did not want to get stabbed by that big sharp beak!
She said, "Well, you of all people know what is involved so go ahead and try it."
So I headed back over to my friend's place.  It was now about 6pm.
As I was driving over there, about a mile from his house I saw an eagle circling over a farm.  I remember thinking to myself that I was glad it was not by the loon. 
When I got there, we walked back out in the pasture.  There was no loon in the pond.  So we once again walked up the little dry ditch to where we had seen it before.  There was NO loon to be found anywhere!!!
We looked and looked!  No loon.
I mentioned that I may have seen some feathers a little ways back toward where we had seen the loon before.  So we walked back there.
Sure enough, on the ground was a small clump of feathers!
As I picked them up, my heart sank.
Small white fluffy feathers.  A few of them with black spots on them!!
Undoubtedly loon feathers.
What had happened to the loon?!?!  Could it be that a predator had gotten it?  A fox?  A coyote?  A dog?  The EAGLE that I had seen flying a mile away as I drove over?  My heart was beating fast.  I almost felt sick.
Why had I taken the time to call the DNR?!  Why didn't I just take the loon when I originally saw it and then deal with any legal consequences later?  Why?  Why.  Why!
I drove home with a heavy heart and a sick stomach.  Had we been that close to saving the loon and then lost it to a predator?  I started second guessing myself and beating myself up!
[to be continued tomorrow]