Monday, June 20, 2011 5:59am CDT

56 degrees   Cloudy  Wind 2mph NNE
Even though I have not seen the loons or the chicks yet this morning, I can tell you that as of yesterday, they were doing well.
They definitely are moving further and further afield and showing the chicks more and more of the lake.  Although they almost always go the opposite direction of the loons with the other set of chicks on the lake.  But there are days now where I do not see them for most of the day.
Yesterday afternoon they were swimming together and feeding straight out over fairly deep water.
It was the usual food conveyor system that they have down so well now.
The parents would dive and come to the surface with a minnow in their bill.  Immediately they and the chicks would swim toward each other and the chick would hungrily gulp it down.  And the other parent would surface with a minnow and one of the chicks would gulp that down.
That procedure would be repeated endlessly, over and over.
It is hard to judge size relative to when they were just hatched.  But I do not think it is any exaggeration to say that they are at least 10 times the size they were when they hatched.  And that was only a short 2 1/2 weeks ago.  Their body is fully one third to one half the length of the adults.  And they are surprisingly wide when you watch them as the swim straight towards you.
Last Friday night, all four loons came swimming in very close to shore.
That is very unusual for them to do.  They spent about 10 minutes swimming right next to the shore.  And then they decided to move on.
This weekend was a heavy day of activity on the lake.  Speedboats and fishermen and jet skis and sailboats and all kinds of water activity.
But the loons seemed to take it in stride.
When they are on the nest, fishermen are always a worry since they like to fish close to shore or to anything floating.  But now fishermen are not a worry at all.  Most of them keep a very respectful distance from the loons.
Of more concern are fast moving speedboats or especially jet skis who can easily run over a loon without even seeing it or knowing what they have done if they are not observant.
The chicks can now dive a little better, but they still are not proficient at it.  They probably cannot get down deep enough or fast enough to avoid a fast approaching boat.  Whereas, the adult loon, although still in danger, can usually dive fast enough and deep enough to avoid a fast boat.  But even there it seems like a loon with chicks will delay diving a little longer than they normally would if they did not have chicks.
So once again the plea for boaters to watch out for loons at this time of year is not a misplaced plea at all.
In the northern reaches of their territory, loons are still on the nest.
So they are still very vulnerable to disturbance or of boats or canoes approaching too closely and scaring them off the nest.  Once or twice is not going to make much difference.  But with more and more boats and canoes on the water this time of year, each disturbance decreases the chances of a successful hatch.  In the worst cases, the loons may actually just abandon the nest if they are disturbed too often during the nesting period.
So once again, just remind your family and friends to be aware of loons while they are out on the water. 
Loons are amazingly adaptive creatures.
We always think of them as the iconic symbol of wilderness.  And they are.
I am sure their preference would be for a totally wild secluded lake with no disturbances or predators of any kind.  But that lake probably does not exist even in the deepest wilderness.  Even there they would have to contend with predators - probably moreso in such a wilderness lake.  So they make do with what they have.
It has been amazing, if not nerve wracking, to watch our loons year after year put up with heavy boat traffic.  They swim and bob on the waves as boaters race back and forth all around them.
Our amazing loons seem to know how to cope with whatever is thrown their way.  If they make it through the nesting period when they can't move away from danger, they seem quite able to cope with just about anything else once they successfully have chicks on the water and get them through the first couple weeks of life.
Questions or Comments?