Thursday, May 19, 2011 5:37am CDT

50 degrees  Clear  Calm
On a Minnesota spring morning, one loon sits on the nest while the other one floats nearby.
The sun is just ready to peak over the eastern horizon.
The avian choir has begun its concert to salute the dawn.
What a beautiful Minnesota morning it is.
There are times when I allow things to crowd in around me.  To become too busy.  To let pressures get to me.  To have to do this.  To have to do that.  To not have enough time to get done what I want to do and what needs to be done.   To forget the gift of what has been given to me.  To stop and look and listen.
A morning like this is the perfect reminder to do just that.
To slow down.  To savor the moment.
To look at the small things that go unnoticed in the normal busyness of life.
Things that are there all the time.  But that we never stop to see.
The pink of the morning sky.  The lazy movement  across the surface of the water.... not a ripple, not a wave, just smooth movement of water on water.  The clear song of a Baltimore oriole.  The hoarse crackling sound of a sandhill crane.  The coarse caw of a black crow.  The trilling of purple martins on the wing.
May your day be filled with the wonder of life and the miracles that have been placed all around you for you to enjoy.
On this beautiful morning, however, there is one thing that is on the loon's mind.
A dedication to two eggs that keeps them on the nest 24 hours a day.  A bird that is normally wild and free is now 'tamed'.  Inexorably drawn to sit on a nest.  Ever alert.  Ever watchful.  Always looking for potential danger.
We are now halfway through the normal incubation for the first egg.  Fourteen days and fourteen days to go.  Although I would expect that we do not have 14 days left and that the egg may very well hatch a day or two earlier than that.  But the 'normal' due date for our expectant parents is June 1st.
I have often described watching the loons on the nest as watching grass grow or paint dry.  But there is something that is so mesmerizing about it that we can't take our eyes off them.  And then something happens that makes all the watching worthwhile!
But now that we are in the 'boring' part of the nesting cycle, let me mention a couple other things that make loons such amazing birds.
Most birds have bones that are almost hollow, interlaced with a 'swiss cheese' of open areas.  This makes the bone very light but strong.  It allows most birds to fly by not having so much weight to get into the air.
But a Common Loon has bones that are nearly solid.
This works well for them being birds of prey that spend most of their time in the water.  The solid bones allow them to easily make deep dives whereas another waterbird would tend to pop back up to the surface because of its hollow bones.
Loons have been verified to dive to depths of 250 feet and more!
But these almost solid bones also mean that there is extra weight to have to lift into the air to become airborne.  That is why a loon requires a long expanse of open water in order to get into the air and fly.  They may require up to a quarter of a mile in order to take off from the surface of the water.
These solid bones allow a loon to do something else that almost no other water birds can do.
Loons normally dive when they want to go underwater.
But they can almost literally 'sink out of sight'.
Loons can compress the feathers on their body to squeeze out any air.  And they can also compress small air sacs or bladders within the muscles of their body to decrease their buoyancy.  Most of the time a loon rides pretty high in the water.  But there are times that a loon will swim with its body almost completely submerged, just by adjusting how buoyant it is.
You will most often see this behavior if the loon feels threatened or if it does not want to be seen.  Then it will just sink lower and lower in the water until sometimes only its head is exposed.  I have seen times when a loon has disappeared under water and I have watched to see where it came back up to the surface.  Only to realize that the loon had surfaced with only the top of his head and his eyes and his bill above water.
Just enough of him exposed to be able to breath and to see what is going on around him.
Had I not been watching very closely, I would have never even seen him nor have been aware that he was even around.
Yet one more of the many things that makes our loons so amazing.
So today as you watch the loons, also watch for the many other wonderful little miracles that Someone has placed into your life to make it richer and even more beautiful.
Questions or Comments?