Wednesday, June 9, 2010 7:24am CDT

58 degrees  Clear  Wind West 9mph
The all-day rain yesterday brought some much needed moisture.  It was a wonderful soaking rain.  The perfect kind.
Now when the loon moves on the nest there is not the crackling sound of material that is tinder dry that you have heard before.  The 'sound of bacon frying' as the rain hits the nesting material has been muted.   And even though the irises are pretty much done blooming, at least they and the daylilies may stay alive.
The wind has picked up as a front sweeps yesterday's rain out of the area and brings the bright blue skies today.  The forecast is for this to be a bright sunshiny day but the wind may pick up even more.  It may be time to turn the volume on your speakers down a little bit.  The wind is never as bad as the sensitive microphone makes it sound.  When there is any wind it sounds like a raging Minnesota blizzard!
This morning, like every other morning for the last month, our loon continues to faithfully sit on the egg.  We cannot know for sure which egg it is that remains on the nest.  Is it egg #1 or egg #2?
Egg #1 was laid Wednesday, May 5th at 9:24am and Egg #2 was laid on Friday, May 7th at 9:12pm.
So if this is still Egg #1 on the nest, today would be 35 days since it was laid.  If it is Egg #2, then it would be 33 days tonight since it was laid.
Normal incubation time for a loon egg is usually given as 28 days and the literature usually lists 26 to 31 days as the incubation period.  On two occasions we have documented chicks on this nest hatching at 25.5 days.  One year the loons continued to sit on the eggs for a full two weeks beyond the expected hatching day until something, probably an eagle, took the eggs.
Another year, one of the eggs hatched and the other one did not.  The loons and the chick continued to return to the nest to sit on the egg until it was removed about 10 days to two weeks later. X-rays of that egg showed that a chick had started to form but had stopped developing at about 2weeks.  That stage of development of the chick fit just about perfectly with the timing of both eggs being immersed in cold water while the adult loon was off the nest - having been chased off the nest and all the way across the lake by an eagle.  One chick made it, the other one did not survive.
So we wish we knew what was going on inside the egg that the loon continues to so faithfully sit on.  But we just have to wait.  There is a possibility that the egg may still hatch.  We still hang on to every little bit of hope.
But with every passing day...yes, even every passing hour...the chances of a successful hatch go down.
But I for one am not completely giving up hope yet.  While I have not given up all hope, I am realistic enough to know that the probability that it will hatch is going down.  But then when the eggs were both submerged in the cold water a couple years ago, I thought we had lost both of them.  I was surprised when one of the eggs successfully hatched.
Did something happen to the eggs?  Were they infertile from the start?  Did something else happen?  We may never know the answer definitively.  
I cannot help but think back to that cold morning only a few days after the eggs had been laid when they were left uncovered for 31 minutes with frost all over the nest around them while the loons went out to confront an "intruder loon".  It was early enough after being laid that I do not think there was damage to the eggs, but that has always been in the back of my mind.
The there have been the other  times when they have been left exposed for longer than normal times on several occasions.  That has been out of the ordinary from what has usually been observed.
So the questions continue.  If only there were as many answers as there are questions!
But once again this morning, the loon continues to sit patiently.
Yesterday some of you saw another behavior that was unusual.
For about an hour or two in the afternoon, the loon began nest-building activity.  It was as if s/he was driven and possessed.  I have not seen such behavior before.
She frantically pulled material around her on the nest.  Over and over and over.  She would even get partway out of the nest to reach more material to pull into the nest.  And during this time she would leave the egg exposed in the rain as she was on the edge of the nest pulling material.
She pulled at the cattails which form the base of the nest.  Even successfully pulling some long sections loose.  She pulled at other material and placed it around the nest bowl.  She even pulled at the roots of the iris nearest the camera and pulled hard enough that the plant just shook and waved back and forth.  She did not get it loose but for a minute I thought that she was going to pull the whole plant up and place it on the nest.
It is normal for a loon to pick up pieces of material and place it around the nest throughout the incubation period.  But this activity went far beyond that.  There was some deep urge that drove her.  It was an urge that put her into overdrive.
And then as suddenly as it had started, an hour or so later it stopped.
It was amusing and puzzling to watch.  You could not help but wonder what was going through her mind.  Was there any kind of "conscious thought"?  Or was it strictly 'mindless'  instinct of some kind that was driving her?  Or something in between those two extremes.   Yet one more thing of so many that we do not know.
So once again today, we watch and wait and hope.  And the loon sits.
We hope for a chick.  But it is not looking promising.  But hope is still there.  It is too early to contemplate other things yet.  It will be a number of days before we do that.