Wednesday, May 25, 2011 10:02pm CDT

[For some reason this did not post correctly last night so here it is again.  Sorry.]

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 10:02pm CDT 

55 degrees  Clear  Wind 5mph NE
Today the loons have dealt with wind and waves.  Even whitecaps.
They have dealt with worse but today the cold wind just did not let up all day long.
Unbelievably tonight there is a frost and freeze warning for far northern Minnesota!  We may get down into the mid-30s tonight but hopefully no frost here.
However we can be thankful that we have not been having the tornados that have been in OK, MO, AR, IN and other states in the last couple days and the high death toll.  Our hearts go out to those people who are so devastated.
Other than the wind, the worst that the loons have had to deal with today has been an eagle that has been fishing on the lake several times today.  It has not come near the loon but it has been enough for it to be very concerned and to go into hangover position without leaving the nest.
The eagles are definitely a threat to baby loons.  In fact, they can be a threat to loons that are many weeks old.  There have been reports of loons preying on adult loons but confirmed cases of them actually taking an adult loon are rare.
The eagles would not be a primary predator of the eggs but potentially could take or damage them if they are left unguarded.  Gulls, crows, ravens, raccoon [especially raccoon], skunks and mink would be more likely to eat an egg if it is left exposed.  So if people or eagles or anything scare a loon off the nest, the eggs do become vulnerable to predators.
And right now with what is hopefully going on inside that egg with a new little chick growing, it would be a tragedy to lose the egg.
Yesterday I promised that I would explain why loons are so clumsy on land.  Whereas they are so graceful in the water, they are almost helpless on land.  You have seen some of that clumsiness as they get up on the platform and 'walk' to the nest.
I am going to ask you to do something and follow along as you read this. 
Hold your arm out in in front of you.
Spread your fingers.  Think of your arm in terms of a chicken leg.  [I know it sounds silly but I think it will really help you understand and remember why loons are clumsy on land.]
Your spread fingers and your hand are the foot of the chicken.  Your forearm is the lower bony part of the chicken's leg.  And your biceps are the drumstick of the chicken.
Now move your arm all around.  You can move it very freely can't you.  Pretend you are a chicken walking and you can see how their leg moves and how they can walk easily.
Now hold your "drumstick" tight up against your body.  Do not let it move away from your body.
Do the same thing you did with the "chicken walk".  Keep your upper arm tight against your body.  You can only move the lower part of your arm and your hand and fingers.  It is a whole different feeling, isn't it?
You don't have nearly the mobility nor can you 'walk like a chicken' any more.
This is what makes a loon so clumsy on land.  For you see, the whole drumstick portion of the loon's leg i is totally encased within the body skin.  They cannot move it away from their body.  Now you can see and feel how hard it is for a loon to walk on land.
Because the upper part of their leg is encased within body skin, their leg actually is positioned at the extreme back end of their body.  While it makes them clumsy on land, it makes them very powerful swimmers.  They are able to swim very fast and they are very maneuverable underwater, which is important for them to be able catch fast, darting fish that can change directions on a dime.
Also helping them to swim are their large feet.  No, HUGE feet.
Someone has figured out that in comparison to body size, a loon's foot is comparable to you wearing a 46 Triple R shoe!
That is the disadvantage of them trying to walk on land.  But it is a great advantage to make them powerful swimmers.
Inside those eggs are hopefully two little chicks developing with impossibly big feet.
Now is the time to encourage your family and friends to join you in watching.  We are getting close to the hatch date.
The "normal" hatch date for the first egg should be Wednesday night of next week from right now.  But I would guess that the first egg will hatch maybe a day or two before that.  This is not a time to miss any of the action.
There is nothing as special as getting that first glimpse of an impossibly cute loon chick peeking out from under its parent's wing and looking around at a big new world for the first time.
Don't miss it.
Questions or Comments?