Tuesday, April 10, 2012 4:20pm CDT

42 degrees F   Sunny   Wind 5mph NNW
WE ARE LIVE!  [Almost]
I just came home from being away most of the day and heard a sound coming out of my computer.
When I looked I have a picture and sound coming from a loon nest somewhere in Minnesota!
The good people from BroadbandMN were here this morning with the new special order equipment and everything went smoothly with the installation.  So I knew that we were "partially live".
By that I mean there is still some tweaking to be done on the MN Bound site and the KARE 11 site but they should be up very soon as well.  Thank you to BroadbandMN and MN Bound for all they do to make this possible.
But you should be able to see it live on UStream right now.  http://www.ustream.tv/channel/mnbound-com-loon-cam
As you will see when the sun casts a shadow on the nest, this is a much larger camera than we have had in the past with some special features which I will try to explain as we go along.  We may have to do some tweaking on the position of the cam when we see where the loons decide to actually build their nest this year.  Now it is all up to them.
We were almost live last week but one of the pieces of equipment decided that it was a 'convenient time' to fail.  We were live for about 5 minutes before it went down.
But that meant that I could put the finishing touches on the nest .... new and more nesting material, planting plants and putting up willow branches to keep eagles from swooping directly down on the nest.
It rained most of the day on Saturday which prevented much of the final work.
And our weather changed.
Where we have had unusually mild weather all spring, now it has gotten colder and we are actually a little below normal.
Friday evening the loons came in and swam near the nest but did not come up to it.  But it prevented me from doing any of the work.  This was the first time I had seen both loons together, although the neighbors had seen them together a few days before.  
Then with a cold rain on Saturday, I was once again stymied in getting it done.
But by Saturday night, the rain had stopped.  It was still cold and windy but I needed to do what I needed to do.  I looked and did not see either of the loons anywhere so it was the perfect time to try to finish everything.
So into the painfully cold water I went to pull the nest back in where I could work on it.
I had not been working on it for very long when I looked out and saw one of the loons.  He was definitely headed my direction.  I kept working but at a little faster pace to try to get it done and back out into the lake.
Then the second loon appeared.  Both of them seemingly out of nowhere.
Wherever they had been, they were out of my sight but obviously they were watching.  And so they decided that they needed to come on check on me to see what I was doing to "their" nest.
They swam in fairly close, to the spot where the nest is normally anchored, and there they sat and just watched me.  Not upset.  Not concerned.  Just curious.  Oh, to know what is going through their minds.  So I talked to them (loon talk) while I continued to put the finishing touches on things.  And they sat and watched.
Then I started to walk out towing the nest to the spot where it would be anchored for the season.
The loons swam ahead of me, keeping just the proper and respectable distance.  Close enough to keep an eye on things.  But just far enough away that they would not hinder me bringing the nest out.
I anchored it and headed back up to shore.  They sat and watched for the next 5 or 10 minutes.  And then apparently convinced that everything was going to be ok, they calmly swam away back out into the lake.
Early Easter Sunday morning, both loons swam right up to the nest and sat right by it.
Then they started some excited splashing and diving and scooting along the surface of the water and bill dipping.  Back and forth they went.  I have not seen this behavior before by the nest.  A couple other researchers have reported "mating behavior" that I have largely discounted because I have never see what they have described of elaborate mating rituals.
This came the closest to what some have described.  I am not sure if it was actually a mating ritual (I still tended to think not) or if they were just excited about having a nice nesting site.  Or some other reason totally - which is more likely the case.
This went on for almost half an hour.
Then one of the loons got up on the nest and calmly sat there.  Just look around.  Checking the paint and the carpet and the lighting and trying to decide if they wanted to buy this house in this neighborhood.  And was the neighborhood safe and did it have good schools!  She didn't do any housework or nest building.  She just sat there.  The other loon swam calmly nearby.
After about 5 minutes on the nest, the loon decided she had seen enough.  She got off the nest and they swam off together.
Some of you may remember from previous years how I just become this paranoid person for about two weeks until the loons actually start to build their nest and until the first egg is laid.
What if we do all this and have all these people watching and getting all excited and then the loons don't use the nest this year?  Then what?!
Well, the fact that one of the loons has already been on the nest indicates that they know the nest is there and that they are interested in at least renting if not buying!
That is the only time I have seen them that near the nest and the only time that one of them has gotten on the nest.
Yesterday and today have been cold and windy and I have not seen either of the loons around.  At this stage you will probably not see much of them at all until they get serious about nest building.  That could easily be another week or two.  Early morning or early evening are probably the best times where you might catch a glimpse of them.
But now comes the time for patience (and paranoia!) as we wait for them to decide what they are going to do.
At this point it is out of our hands.
We have provided them with everything they need.  Now it is up to them to decide if they are going to grace us with their presence.  And with their beauty.
Let your family and friends and schools know.
The drama and excitement for 2012 has only just begun!  
Comments or Questions?   LoonCam(at)yahoo(dot)com     [I think most of you know how to read that.  It helps minimize the sometimes overwhelming amount of spam that is generated.  If you don't know how to read it, ask your 10 year old son or grandson and they will quickly explain it to you!]