Saturday, June 4, 2011 5:46am CDT


57 degrees  Partly Cloudy  Wind  Calm


A lone loon floats on a sea of quicksilver by a loon nest.

Not a breath of wind disturbs the mirrorlike surface of the lake.

If one did not know that our loon was carrying a cargo of little loons, it would be hard to overlook them completely.

I think there are two little loons under there.  But I have seen only one head peek out occasionally.  But there seems to be a lump under the other wing so I think the second loonling is under there.

I remember so vividly a few years ago when we lost one of the chicks to a fish or some other predator.

I looked.  And I looked.  And I looked some more.  Trying to see if there were two chicks on the adult's back.  I tried to convince my self that yes, there was a second bump under the loon's wing.

But no matter how much I tried to convince my self that the second loonling was there, it did not make it so.

This morning is different.  I have no reason to suspect that there is not a second chick there.  But I have not see it with my own eyes yet.  I think it is just so comfortable under that wing that one of the chicks rubs its eyes and says 'Do I have to get up?  Why?  Let me sleep just a little bit longer.'

The mate is nowhere in sight.  There is a single half-hearted wail from our loon.  And out of nowhere, the other loon appears.

The loons greet each other and then one swims some distance away while the loon with the chicks stays near the nest.  It is just an absolutely peaceful and perfect morning for our loons.

But then it happens!

There are several yodels from the male.  It is now obvious that the female has the chicks on her back.

When I go to look, the male is no where to be seen.  And the female is swimming out away from the nest.  The male surfaces and once again yodels.  He is definitely on his way 'somewhere'.  Then I see why he is yodeling and swimming so fast.

There is another pair of loons not too far away.

The female dives.

And there are no chicks!

My heart is in my throat.  Where are the chicks?!  I know I saw one head peeking out only minutes ago.

Then like a cork, one pops up!  And then the other.  Both chicks swim by themselves on this big scary lake while both momma and daddy go out to confront the other pair of loons.  Even though they surface maybe 20 feet from each other after their unceremonious dunking, the two chicks immediately swim toward each other and huddle together.

But my level of concern rises instead of going down.  Oh please Lord, let all the northerns and bass be in some other part of the lake.  They don't need to be here with two defenseless little chicks swimming all alone.

The adults start to slowly escort the other loons out of the area.  There is no fight.  There is no undue excitement.  I am surprised how calm they are.  But they definitely are steering the other loons away.

But everything in me screams, 'One of you get back here and protect these little chicks!  They need you more than these other loons need to see you.  There are monsters under the bed!'

The chicks continue to swim right next to each other and circle each other.  Looking around.  Trying to see what is going on.

I keep saying to myself, 'Please please please, don't let there be a big swirl of water under them!'

Then I can't believe or explain what I am seeing.

All four loons are swimming together out in the middle of the lake.  Seemingly peacefully.  Seemingly no conflict

But don't you know there are still two little loon chicks swimming all alone!  Forget about visiting with the neighbors over the back fence!

Then one of the loons begins running on the surface of the water and takes flight.  Half a minute and the other one follows.

After another minute or so, 'our' loons head back towards the chicks.  Or ARE they our loons.  It is impossible to tell just by sight.

However, when they reach the little lonely loons who swim all alone, there is a greeting.  And the little loons immediately get up on the back of one of the big loons.

All is well in loonland once again.

But it is once again an example of how things can in a split second go from something so peaceful and relaxing to all out activity at 60 miles and hour!  And then back again.

The loons seem to deal with it better than I do.

Day before yesterday, I was looking at the loons and could only see one little chick and immediately my level of concern rose.  Where was the other chick?  Then he popped to the surface like a cork!  In fact, he came up so fast I swear he actually cleared the surface of the water when he popped up.

But here was a case of watching the chick dive for several (long!) seconds when it was only a two days old.  That is the earliest that I have actually documented diving behavior.

But it was not easy for him to dive as evidenced by how he just popped up out of the water.

Now there are yodels once again!

What now?!

And then some mournful wails as the loons both look all around.  

There is only ONE chick!

One swimming by himself next to the adults as they both call that haunting mournful call!

I look and look and I do not see the other chick.  The calls continue.

This is too hard to watch.  Please tell me that after all that has just happened we have not lost a chick!  Please.

After a full five seconds of watching, a little loon pops to the surface!  One little loon.  Two little loons.  Yup, my count is correct.

Not only is this plucky little loon able to dive, he is able to dive for at least five seconds!  Five LONG seconds!

Zero to 60 and back to zero again!

Right now two loons float peacefully near the swimming raft.  And one of them has the all important cargo back on board...two little loons.

It looks like it may be time for breakfast.

A 'grand slam' breakfast.

An order of 2 fish, over easy.  A side of minnows.  And three minnow pancakes!

Life is good!


Questions or Comments?