Wednesday, June 1, 2011 12:28pm CDT

69 degrees   Sunny   Wind  15mph W
Today is a good day.
No, today is a VERY good day!
I was gone for a little while so I missed the actual hatching.  But according to people in the Chat Room, the second chick hatched a little after 11am.  Here is a video that one of the people posted in the chatroom that shows both adult loons, the first chick and it shows the second chick struggling to get out of its egg shell.
In the video, the adult gets off the nest at about the 1 minute mark and you can clearly see the second chick hatching.
So it is a very good day!
Two eggs.  Two little loons that have hatched and seem to be healthy and in good shape.
Some of you will remember last year when we waited for the two eggs to hatch.
And we waited.  And we waited.
The expected hatch date came and went.  After waiting for some time, the decision was made to take the eggs since it was obvious that they were not going to hatch.  The parents faithfully kept coming back to the nest to sit on eggs that were not going to hatch.  The bond with the nest was strong.
In a normal nest on land, a predator like a raccoon or a skunk would have eaten the eggs and broken that bond with the nest and let the loons get on with their lives.  And so we became the ultimate predator and took the eggs to break the bond with the nest and the loons could get on with their lives.
But that was last year.  
What a difference a year makes.  Now we have two new 'impossibly cute' little loon chicks to carry on the next generation.  And to make sure that we have loons for years to come.
Loons are long-lived birds.  No one knows for sure how long they live but it is felt that they live for 25 to 30 years.  Very long lives compared to most birds.
But for our two new little loons, they still face many challenges to grow up to be full-fledged big loons.
The next two weeks are especially critical.
Danger awaits them at every turn.
My concern about the first one jumping in the water last night was that he would get separated from mom or dad in the darkness and the wind and big waves.  Separation from mom or dad could spell doom.
There are big things under the surface of the water and other things that 'go bump in the night'.
Northerns and muskies and bass and snapping turtles love to make a snack of little loons.  Several years ago we lost a loon chick shortly after he got in the water.  I cannot say for sure what happened because I did not see it happen but I think maybe a northern or bass got him.
So my fear last night was that our brave little loon might not be here when the sun came up this morning.
But he was!
Alive and doing well and frisky as could be.
But northerns and muskies and bass and snapping turtles continue to be a danger to our two little loons.  And now during the daytime, they also face danger from the air.  Eagles or seagulls or other predatory birds can scoop them up all too quickly.
It isn't an easy life for our little loons. 
They will need to stay close to mom and dad for protection.  And  for food.
During these first two weeks, the little loon chicks will often ride on the backs of mom or dad.
This does several things.  It keeps them protected from predators from above and below.  And it helps to keep them warm.
The adult will almost exclusively feed the chicks a diet of very small minnows and bugs for the first several weeks.  Gradually the chicks will be able to catch some of their own food but it will not be for a number of weeks yet.  So if a chick gets separated from its parents, not only is it vulnerable to predators but it may starve to death because it is unable to catch its own food.
Another threat that young loon chicks face is from boats and jet skis.
While little loons can swim very well almost from the minute they are born, they are not good at diving.
Those little balls of fluff are just like a cork.  They pop right back up to the surface.
So if a fast boat comes along, the adults may be able to dive to get out of harm's way, but the little chick cannot get far enough under water and may be hit by the boat.  So if you or your friends are out in a boat, be aware of loons and this time of year and be especially aware of little baby loons that are at your mercy.
It is not until the loons are several weeks old that they are able to dive to get out of danger.
But for now, our babies are safe with mom and dad.
And today is a very good day!
[Let me say something once again today because most people will leave here once the loons leave.  You are such a wonderful and special bunch of people.  Your love and caring for these loons AND each other is a wonder to behold.  You are all so kind and so supportive and so appreciative.  It gives hope not only for loons but for all of us.  And for that I say a big THANK YOU!!]