Thursday, May 12, 2011 6:14am CDT


57 degrees  Cloudy  Wind 6mph N


On a cloudy, overcast morning, our loons wait for rain that is predicted today.

There are thunderstorms moving in but at this point nothing is predicted to be severe.  Yesterday's expected severe weather did not develop and the loons were able to spend a quiet day on the nest.

It is hard to believe that we are already one quarter of the way through the incubation period for the first egg, which was laid one week ago last night.  How fast the time goes.  One can only wonder and imagine what is going on inside that egg right now.  In only 3 short weeks, there should be a new little loon chick ready to enter the world!

Right now the nest bounces on small waves, what fishermen in Minnesota would call "a nice walleye chop".

This weekend brings one of the biggest days of the year in Minnesota - Fishing Opener.

In an annual right of spring, upwards of three quarters of a million people head to their favorite lake to go fishing.  Any kind of fish will do but they especially are after the walleye, the Minnesota State Fish.

The increased boat traffic also means that our loons are under increased pressure.

Fishermen who approach too close to a loon nest may scare the loon off the nest and leave the eggs exposed to the weather or predators.  One time off the nest may not have much impact.  But if it happens over and over, the effect can be cumulative and harmful to the developing eggs.

If you are a fisherman, or anyone who spends time on a lake anywhere in the country, there is a good rule of thumb for you when it comes to loons.

If you stay 300 feet away from the nest or loons with chicks, you will have very little adverse effect on them.

The loons will give you clues to let you know if you are too close to them.  Those of you who have watched the LoonCam for even a short time are very familiar with some of those clues.

The first thing a loon will do if a boat or canoe approaches is to slightly lower its head.  It is as if it is saying, if I lower my head they won't see me.

If the boat continues to come closer, the loon will go into what is called "hangover posture".  "Hangover posture involves the loon laying its head and neck right down along the side of the nest.   The loon is telling you that you are much too close and it is very concerned.

The next step beyond the "hangover position" is that the loon will actually leave the nest.  This is when the eggs become vulnerable to weather and predation.  If a loon is scared off the nest too many times, they may actually abandon the nest.

The wonderful thing is that it is VERY rare that someone purposely does something to harm loons.  It seems almost everyone loves this wonderful and unique bird.

But sometimes we can "love them too much".  By wanting to be close to them and see them up close, we may in fact put too much stress on them and inadvertently cause them harm without even knowing it.

That is where the LoonCam is so ideal.  We are able to watch the loon VERY closely and never put them under any stress.   We are able to see and hear things that not even the most accomplished researcher has ever seen or heard in the wild.  And never once causing stress on the loon.

So if you are a fisherman or if you know a fisherman, remind them to be aware of loons that are nesting at this time of year and to keep a respectful distance (300 feet) from them.  The loons will be much more relaxed and able to raise a new generation of loon chicks.  And everyone else will be able to enjoy the call of the loon for many years to come.

One of the other things that we fishermen can do to help our loons involves the fishing tackle that we use.

Most fishermen, including me, use lead weights and jigs.  There is no problem with that....UNTIL we lose them.

Loons pick small stones off the bottom of the lake which then act as 'grinders' of their food in their gizzards.  Loons do not know the difference between stone and lead.  And so if there is a lead sinker laying on the bottom of the lake, the loon may very well pick that lead sinker up thinking it is a stone.

All it takes is one small lead weight to give the loon lead poisoning and to kill it.

Just one more of the many challenges and dangers that loons face.  So more and more fishermen are replacing their lead tackle with lead-free tackle.  It is a good start but we have a long way to go.

So once again today enjoy this great view that the LoonCam gives you of this magnificent bird.  And remind your fishing friends to watch for loons and to keep a respectful distance away from them.



Questions or Comments?