Friday, May 6, 2011 7:36am CDT

49 degrees   Partly Cloudy   Calm
Several tremolos and a couple yodels ring out across a lake that is like a sheet of glass.
There is not a ripple.
The trees from the far shore are reflected perfectly in the calm surface.
If one wanted, you could stand on your head and see no difference between the views.  Other than the blood rushing to your head!
Whatever it is the loons see that are causing the tremolos and yodels are unseen to me.  Although I do hear the answer of a yodel from far across the lake, I cannot spot where he is.
But it is enough for the loon on the nest to leave.
It does not seem like a matter of great concern though.  Maybe just the need for a break from the nest, because both loons are swimming near the nest, seemingly unconcerned about anything now.  They are rolling on their sides, preening and looking underwater for a possible meal.
There are sometimes one just cannot see or explain what they see or are feeling.  Mysteries that are known only to them.
I was in the Twin Cities for an event last night and did not get home until late.
I got home just in time to hear a couple tremolos from the nest about 12:30am.  A couple tremolos that were caused by Mr Muskrat once again being up on the nest and being very inquisitive!  And the loon was not liking it at all.'
For those of you not familiar with muskrats, they are a water dwelling rodent that is mainly a vegetarian although some say they will feed on shellfish as well.
Muskrats used to be trapped for their lush fur in the early to mid 1900s.
In fact, I remember as a little kid that my dad and my uncle trapped hundreds of them each season.  The pelts were valuable for their fur.
Our muskrat has seemed to like to gnaw on the willow branches that are placed on the nest to help keep eagles from swooping down directly on the nest.
Although I do not like him gnawing off those willow branches, for the most part I do not think he is a danger to the loon or to the egg.
But he spent some amount of time gnawing loudly on something just below the camera.  That I did not like.  The gnawing was very obvious as the microphone picked up the sounds very well.  He can have the willows.  But my concern is if he would gnaw through one of the video cables or the audio cable!  We would lose picture and/or sound and there probably is not much that could be done to replace them for this season!  So for that reason alone, I would not be unhappy if he just decided to leave completely.
One of our faithful viewers GG captured some of the action with the muskrat last night that you can watch here.
After watching him for about 20 minutes, I needed to go check on something else.  So let me digress with a little story but one which very much affects our loons.  It involves beavers!
I mentioned a few days ago watching a beaver swim back and forth near the nest several times.
We have a number of beavers on this lake and they are starting to become a nuisance.  They have started damming up a creek that empties out of the lake.  We are working with the DNR as to how to control the beavers.  If they keep damming this creek, the lake level will rise to unnatural and unacceptable levels. 
Yesterday afternoon we had removed part of the end of the dam to see how actively they were building it.
So after watching the muskrat on the nest for a while and seeing that there was no immediate danger to the loon, I walked down the creek to check on the beaver.
While I was walking over to the creek, I heard tremolos from the lake.  And then yodels.  And more tremolos.  And answers to the tremolos and yodels.
In the dark and far from the camera, I could only wonder what was happening.
It was obvious that the male must have come up to the nest in response to the females tremolos. 
My mind could only conjure up images of what was happening out on the lake.  Was there a battle between the loons and the muskrat?  I was torn.  Do I continue on my expedition to check on the beavers or do I go back and check on the loons.  The tremolos and the yodels continued for sometime but finally died down.
When I reached the creek, sure enough.  There was a huge beaver busily repairing the end of the dam that we had removed earlier in the day.  Water was rushing through the opening and beavers seem to be drawn like a magnet to any moving water.  It seems to be in their DNA that if the water is moving, they want to dam it up.
With a loud slap of his tail and a huge wake, he swam back up the creek toward the lake.
He swam back and forth.  Wanting to come back to finish his work on the dam.  But he would only come so close with me standing there.  I am sure he was frustrated with me.  All of that rushing water getting away from him and me standing there preventing him from doing his 'beaver work' to plug the leak!
There were numerous big splashes further up the creek in the lake where obviously another beaver was working feverishly on something.  Although it was far enough away that I could not see around the bend in the creek to see what he was doing.  I could only hear the big KERPLUNK every so often as he slapped his tail on the surface of the water.
I removed a few of the new branches the beaver had place in the opening in the dam and then walked back home.  I have not been down to the dam this morning to see if they have repaired the opening or not.  But I assume they have.
When I did get back home, the loon was off the nest.  And according to notes in the chatroom of when she left the nest, she was off the nest for 24 minutes until she got back on at 1:27am.
There have been a number of questions about how long the loon can be off the nest before it endangers the eggs.  That varies depending on which stage of incubation they are in.  In the early days like we are at now, they can be off for extended periods with no apparent damage.  As long as the temperatures are not freezing.
Many birds and even chickens will lay large numbers of eggs over a period of days.  And those eggs can be uncovered during that time with no ill effects.  Only when they have laid all their eggs do they begin their incubation.
Loons are similar but obviously they usually only lay two eggs.
It is after the laying of the second egg that incubation begins in earnest.
So the egg that we have now can stand to be uncovered for some time with no apparent damage.  But we all become concerned any time the loon is off the nest.
We should see the second egg arrive in the next 24 to 48 hours if she follows the accepted timing that "we" set for her.  But ultimately it is up to her.
So if you missed the laying of the first egg, you will probably have a second chance.  Watch carefully and in the next couple days you may see the second egg being laid. 
Questions or comments?