Wednesday, May 11, 2011 4:57am CDT

59 degrees    Cloudy   Calm
The loons (and all of us) dodged a bullet last night.
With the arrival of the first warm temperatures of the season, it was also the arrival of severe weather here on the lake for the loons.
Severe thunderstorms, large hail, lightning and tornadoes were all around.
Tornado sirens sounded several times.
But fortunately for the loons, nothing happened here.  Just a little bit of rain and fortunately no wind and no hail.  And especially no tornadoes although they were reported not too many miles away.
There were many reports of golf-ball sized hail and even one report of baseball-sized hail.  Now that could have done some serious damage not only to the eggs but to the loons as well!
There were numerous reports of tornadoes and funnel clouds all along a line that stretched across a good part of the state.  There were a couple reports of damage to homes but fortunately the damage was not widespread.
But it was a perfect illustration of how our loons must be ready at a moments notice to deal with danger that can come from so many directions.  These severe storms really were not expected but they suddenly popped up out of no where.  Today and tomorrow there are increased chances for thunderstorms and severe weather.
So our loons remain on guard and ever vigilant.
Right now the black of night is just barely beginning to give way to the first light of day.
The dark ring of the trees across the lake are only slightly visible and reflected in the mirror-like surface of the lake.
There is only the slightest hint of a sliver of light in the eastern sky.  You can't even call it light yet, only a hint of light!
Several yodel calls pierce the darkeness as the male broadcasts to anyone who will listen "This is MY territory!"
And from somewhere else out on the lake, another male answers with a yodel of his own.  This is apparently the male from the other pair that have been reported to have also built a nest in a back channel off the lake.
But for now it is dark enough that they cannot see each other.  They can only hear each other.
Many times when a male gives his yodel territorial call, he will stretch out his neck almost parallel to the water and blast out his yodel call to anyone or anything within earshot.  I have watched male loons give their yodel call and then turn 90 degrees to give it in another direction.  And then turn another 90 degrees.  And then another.  Broadcasting to all point of the compass to let everyone know that they are claiming this territory.
Yesterday I mentioned the black flies that often plague loons.
With warmer weather, the flies will increasingly become a problem.  They are especially noticeable as the fly around and land on the loon's head.  Unfortunately for the loons, they are flies that bite and feed on blood.
The scientific name of these  black flies is "simulium euryadminiculum".
But one of the most amazing things about these particular black flies is that they feed exclusively on loon blood.  Yes, you read that right.  They feed exclusively on loon blood!
Experiments have been done where researchers have placed loon skins from a museum and duck skins on the ground.  This black fly ONLY gathered around the loon skin.  Even skins that had been in museum collections for years attracted this black fly while they were not attracted at all to other birds or animals.
It is hard to believe that there is a black fly that is so highly specialized that it only feeds on loon blood.  But that is what this particular black fly does.
And it can be a great annoyance to our loons.  When the flies get really bad, the loon may actually leave the nest and dive underwater to get away from the black flies.
Just one more of the challenges facing our loons!
So today between black flies and thunderstorms and eagles and other loons, our loons remain ever alert to everything going on around them.  Always ready to react to any danger.
Comments or Questions?