Sunday, May 20, 2012 5:30am CDT

57 degrees F     Cloudy     Wind 3mph NNE
Sunrise  5:37    Sunset  8:42pm
Cooler temperatures have returned with the movement of thunderstorms through the area.
Today's forecast is only for high temperatures in the upper 60s with thunderstorms still moving through the state and then partly cloudy later today.
Last night you saw what a loon must endure as it faithfully sits on its nest and protects its precious eggs.
Torrential downpours of rain.  Wind.  Lightning.  Thunder.
But above all, hail!
Hail pummeled the loon as it spread its body over the eggs.  But it never moved.  It never flinched.  It would have been so much easier for the loon to leave the nest and be in the water where it could dive to get away from the hail.  But something deep within told it that it must not let the eggs be exposed to the hail and the elements.
And so it stayed on the nest!
Tomorrow night will be the two-week mark since the first egg was laid.  Two down and two to go.  One can only imagine the miracle that is happening right now inside those eggs.  The miracle of new life itself.
But we can't rush it.
We must wait.  And hopefully in a couple more weeks we will see two new little loon chicks.
But for now the loons have day to day things to worry about.
In the early morning light, the mate swims around the nest.  But the loon on the nest appears in no hurry to leave.  There have been so many unusual things happening this year on the nest, one can only wonder what today will bring.  We can only hope for a quiet day.  If not for the loons, just for ourselves.  I am not sure if it is harder for the loons or for those of us who watch.
They seem to take it in stride.  It is those of us watching that have a hard time trying to understand all that we are seeing.
So we just have to take it for what it is.  Understand what we can.  Simply watch the rest.  And marvel at it all.
Let me diverge to something more mundane.  But something which will help you understand loons better.
Several have mentioned about how the loon seems to have difficulty getting up on the nest and moving over onto the eggs.
Some have even wondered if the loon is injured because of the way it moves.
No, this is normal loon movement.
Loons are very powerful swimmers and are so graceful in the water.  Loons are also powerful flyers.
But on land they are almost helpless.
In fact many believe that may be the origins of the name "loon".  There is a word in Swedish that means clumsy.  That word is "lom".  And some researchers think this may be the origin of the name 'loon' for this bird that we hold in such awe.
And when you see a loon move on land, you see how truly the description 'clumsy' fits.  It may come from a Swedish description.  The two pansies that used to be on the nest before they were so unceremoniously uprooted by the loons were meant to be related to that as well.  One was a bright yellow.  And the other was a blue/purple.  The colors of the Swedish flag are yellow and a bright clear blue.
But these loons apparently are not Swedish.  Or at least they did not want the pansies where they had been planted.
But back to the clumsiness of loons on land.
I want you to do something with me that will help you understand why loons are so clumsy on land.  Stretch out your arm in front of you.  Go ahead.  No one is looking!
Now stretch out your fingers and move them around.
Pretend that your hand and fingers are the foot of a chicken.  And that your arm is the chicken's leg.  Your forearm is the lower part of the chickens leg.  Your upper arm and biceps are the drumstick of the chicken.  Your elbow is the chickens knee.
Go ahead.  Move your 'leg' and your 'foot' as if you were a chicken walking.  It is easy to do, isn't it?  You can move your arms and you can see how a chicken is able to easily walk around.
But now hold your upper arm and biceps closely against your body.  Don't let it move.  Pretend you have a towel tied around your upper arm that binds it to your body.
Now try to 'walk' like you did before.
It is a totally different feeling, isn't it?  It isn't nearly as easy to move, is it?  It isn't nearly as easy to 'walk'.
For you see, a loon cannot move its whole leg like a chicken can.  The loon's 'drumstick' is totally encased within the skin of its body.  And its leg exits the body at the knee joint.  The movable part of a loon's leg exits the body at the very back of a loon.
And that is why a loon has such difficulty moving on land.
It is why a loon rarely leaves the water except to build a nest and lay eggs.  And it is why the nest is always within just a few feet of the water's edge.
If a loon lands on dry land, he is helpless.  He cannot walk.  He cannot take off.  He will die unless he is helped or rescued.  Maybe in one of the upcoming blogs I will share a couple stories about loons being rescued.
But for today, watch to see how a loon moves as it is on the nest.  Look to see how a loon's legs are placed so far back on its body.  You can especially see it on a clear day when one of the loons swims next to the nest.  You can see where the legs are at the very back of the loon's body.
But the same thing that makes loons so clumsy on land, also makes them very powerful swimmers.  Swimmers that can outmaneuver even the fastest fish.
This is just one more of the many amazing things about loons that makes them so special.
And now you know why they are so clumsy on land.  And you know where they may have gotten the name 'loon'.
Comments or Questions?   LoonCam(at)yahoo(at)com
Copyright  2012     Larry Backlund