Saturday, June 11, 2011 3:07pm CDT


64 degrees   Mostly Cloudy    Wind  4mph  N


Today is a calm, cool June day on our northern lakes in Minnesota.

And our loons are enjoying it.

The chicks continue to grow at an amazing rate.  Even though they are only  a week and a half old, they are beginning to look more and more like little loons each day.

They will keep their down for several weeks yet.

And they will not get their characteristic full adult black and white coloring for another three years!

The loon chicks will not be able to fly until they are about 11 to 13 weeks old.  So they will be here on the lake until they attempt their first airborne takeoff.  But even after they are able to fly, they will stay here on the lake most of the time.

Then in September and October, the adults will gather together in large groups called 'rafts' and they will begin their migration south.  But they will leave the chicks behind.

The chicks will stay another month before they then also make their first migratory flight down south.  Having never been there before, they will find their way to the Gulf of Mexico or to the Atlantic Coast.  One of the many miracles of loons that makes you ask 'how do they do that?  how do they know?'

While the adults will come back north next spring, the 'chicks' will stay down on the Gulf for the next two to three years before they make their first migratory flight north.  Once again we can only shake our head in amazement and wonder.

When they are on their northern lake homes, they obviously are in fresh water and eating fresh water fish.  However, when they are on the Gulf or the Atlantic, they are on salt water and eating saltwater fish.  Most species are one or the other.  Either fresh water or saltwater.  But not both.  Loons are one of the few that can exist in both environments.

As humans, we cannot drink the saltwater of the ocean or we will die.

What makes it possible for the loons to survive?

Ready for another amazing fact and 'miracle'?

The loons have a special gland at the base of their beak just up between their eyes.

The purpose of this gland is to filter excess salt out of their bodies.  Researchers have found that when they are on salt water, this gland produces an almost continuous flow of extra salty water that escapes through their 'nostrils' as it filters the salt out of their bodies.

Yet one more thing that makes our loons so amazing!

Earlier today, I heard the loons making some excited calls from the lake.  Right away I recognized it as a sound that they make when they are disturbed by something or someone.

I went to look and immediately began looking for eagles, since the sound they were making is the one I usually associate with their call when they see an eagle.

At first I did not see anything.

Then a big adult eagle came soaring overhead.  What a beautiful sight it was as it soared and scanned the lake for fish.  But the loons did not see the beauty of the eagle.  They only saw a very dangerous predator that posed a very real danger to their chicks.

Their calls increased. 

It was then that I saw a second eagle.  And a third!

All three of them soaring over the lake looking for food.

And the eagles did NOT want to be their food for today!

Two of the eagles looked like they may be juveniles so I am wondering if they are from a successful hatch this year and are out on one of their first hunting expeditions.  It seems a little early for that.  But who knows.

After the adult caught at least one fish, the eagles disappeared over the horizon and the loons settled down to swim and fish and rest.

They are venturing further and further from the nest for longer periods of time.  That is why you have not seen them as much.  This is normal for them.  It still amazes me that they have spent as much time around the nest this year as they have.

With them being gone from the area for long periods of time, we will probably shut down the cam for the year on Sunday night.  And then begins the anticipation of next year!

I will still try to periodically keep you up to date on how the eagles are doing and what I can see.  But my blog entries will also become less and less often as there is less to say other than 'the loons are doing well'.

Let me once again say how wonderful all of you have been.  Your profound and heartfelt thanks make all the work worthwhile.  I hope that through the Loon Cam we have been able to add a measure of happiness and richness to your life.  You have truly become an outstanding family of 'loonatics' in the fondest sense of the word!

The loons will get on with their lives and you will have a chance to get on with your lives as well!


Questions or Comments?