Tuesday, May 24, 2011 10:45pm CDT


62 degrees  Partly Cloudy  Wind 4mph NNE


The loons have had a fairly quiet and uneventful day.

After all the rain of the weekend, it was nice to have some sunshine.

In fact this afternoon while I was doing some planting, I just stopped, looked around and drank it in.  I said to myself 'Does it get much better than this?

There were some of the white puffy clouds against a blue sky.  The kind of clouds that I can remember as a kid wishing that I could go up there and just bounce around on them.  I knew that they would be soft and bouncy just like a marshmallow or a big cotton ball!  Ahhh the things a kid's dreams are made of!

There was a little breeze.  Not too much.  Not too little.  Just the right  amount.  And comfortable temperature.  Not too hot.  Not too cold.  Just right.

Apple trees in bloom.  And pears.  And plums.  And rhododendrons.

The silhouette of a loon sitting on its nest.  How could it get any better?

For many years, that silhouette of the loon on the nest has become almost a touchstone.  The first thing I check in the morning.  The last thing I check at dusk.  The first place I look whenever I come home.

But the days they are there are all too fleeting.  We barely have a week left before the expected hatching dates of the chicks.  And then within a day or two they are gone.  Off to explore their new wide world of water.

The two chicks will usually hatch within a day or so of each other.  They will stay on the nest for a day or so and then they follow their parents into the lake and swim away.

They generally stay in the same area of the lake where the nest is for the first week or two.  But seldom do they come back to the nest.  I will leave the cam on for a little while after they have left for you to hopefully catch a glimpse of them.  But I do not want to hold out unrealistic hope that you will see them up close.  That will also give some of you a chance to 'break the bond with the nest'!  Which is hard to do at times.  Only after that will I shut the cam down for the year.

But I will try to periodically update the blog to let you know what is happening with them.

Young loons will be fed exclusively by the parents for the first several weeks of their life.  Gradually they will learn how to fish and try it once in a while.  But they will still accept food from the parents as long as the parents will give them food.  It is not until they are about 11 to 13 weeks old that they really start to become independent of the parents.  This is also about the time that they try to take their first flights.

They still do not have the black and white plumage of an adult loon at this point.  They are a drab borwnish gray which they will keep for the next several years before they get their first spectacular black and white plumage.

But the first couple weeks is the time when they are so cute.  The "awwwwwww" moments!  The times when they climb up and ride on the back of the adult.

This riding on the back of the adult is believed to have a couple of advantages.

First it helps protect them from predators both from above and below.

From below it helps protect the chick from northerns and muskies and bass and snapping turtles.

From above, from eagles and gulls and other birds of prey.

But who has not been stopped and captivated by a picture of a little black loon riding on the back of a parent and been filled with warm fuzzies?

I mentioned that we had torrential rains over the weekend.  The lake level has come up significantly.  This is a perfect illustration of the advantage of a floating nesting platform like the one you are watching.

Loons normally build their nests very close to the edge of the water.  The reason for that is that they are almost completely helpless on land [I will maybe explain why in the next day or two].

When the level of the water rises like this, many loon nests are lost because of the rising water.

Or loon nests can also be lost because of large wakes from speedboats that can just wash right over the nest and destroy it or wash the eggs out of the nest.

But with a floating nesting platform like this, the nest can rise or lower with the level of the water.  And the loon is completely safe.

Loons do not seem to mind the rocking motion of a floating nest like this at all.  After all, they are normally bobbing up and down on the waves out on the lake all the time.  Plus being a floating nest away from shore it gives added protection from land based predators.

Yesterday afternoon some of you were watching when the loon let out a cry and literally bolted off the nest and halfway walked across the water as it frantically beat its wings.

What scared the loon was an eagle that was looking for a meal of fish.  But the loon did not know that the eagle had spotted a fish.  All it knew was that there was an eagle flying high overhead, which caused it concern, that all of a sudden was diving directly down on the nest.

I watched as the eagle slightly folded back its wings and started plunging toward the lake.  Its legs and talons were fully extended in attack mode.  As it plunged downward it moved its wings to 'rock back and forth' to rapidly lose altitude.  It looked like it was heading straight for the loon.

And the loon apparently thought the same thing because it went off the nest in a panic.

But the eagle swooped down on the surface of the water not very far from the nest.  As it started to rise again, it held a fish in its talons.  This had been a successful fishing trip!

If we can make it safely through the next few days, hopefully we will see two new loon chicks.

The first egg is due to hatch on Wednesday night, June 1st.  But if I had to guess, I think it might hatch a day or two earlier than that.  But then I have never been very good at being able to predict what they are going to do.

So the only way to know for sure is to watch along with all the rest of us.

Encourage your  kid's or grandkid's teachers to use this as a wonderful teaching tool for their students.

Because these special moments never last long enough!


Questions or Comments?  LoonCam@yahoo.com