Monday, May 21, 2012 6:51am CDT


46 degrees     Clear     Calm

Sunrise  5:36am     Sunset  8:43pm


Today promises to be a much quieter day for the loons than they have had the last couple days with the wind and rain and even hail.

Little wisps of fog rise off the water in the cool morning air and quickly scurry away in the bright morning sun.

Tonight marks the two-week milestone since the first egg was laid.

Two weeks down, two weeks to go.

Or maybe a little less.  One can only imagine what is going on inside that egg.  The very miracle of life itself.  So much out of nothing.  When you really stop and think about it, the wonder of what happens inside that egg is almost overwhelming.  Beyond explanation.  So far beyond what we are ourselves are able to do.

The normal expected date for hatching of the first egg would be about June 4th.  But I would expect that it may be a day or two earlier than that if they are going to hatch.  And I would not start worrying about hatching unless they still have not hatched by June 10th.  The only reason that would give me much concern about hatching is the amount of time the loons have been off the nest in their territorial battles.

But that is too much to think about and worry about on a beautiful day like today.

Today we look forward to the hatching of two eggs in a couple eggs.

The contrast in the weather between today and the last couple days is spectacular.

Gone are the wind and rain and hail and thunderstorms.  Replaced by bright sunshine and blue skies and a lake like a mirror.  The high temperature today is forecast to be a perfect 76 degrees with clear skies and little wind all day long.  The loons deserve the break after getting pounded with hail.

Yesterday afternoon about 4:30pm, an eagle drew the loon off the nest and then dove directly on both loons as they swam just beyond the buoys.  Both loons dove and the eagle flew off to continue looking for fish.  After several swoops into the water, it looked like the eagle was able to grab a fish and flew off to wherever it has its nest.

It only took the loon a couple minutes to come back to the nest and cover the eggs.

Loons will often leave the nest if an eagle is near.  I don't think it is so much that they fear for their own safety as that they are trying to draw attention away from the eggs.  They will quickly leave the nest, swim some distance away and then start to call calls of alarm.  It is as if they are purposely trying to draw the eagles attention to themselves and away from the nest and the eggs.  Putting themselves at risk in order  to remove some of the risk and danger from the eggs.

A few minutes later the loon left the nest again as an eagle was back in the area fishing but this time it did not seem to be interested in our loons.  Only fish.  And the loon was back on the nest in a few minutes.

Then last night shortly after 8pm we had another incident of territorial conflict.

I heard what I thought were flying tremolos.

When I went to look, I did not see a flying loon but a loon rapidly rowing and flapping across the surface of the lake and calling.  It was the first time I realized how the call of a loon that is flapping across the water is so similar to the tremolo of a flying loon.  But then I don't think I have ever had the opportunity to hear as many 'chase' tremolos as I have heard this year in the battles for territory.

The loon would quickly row across the surface of the water.  When it would stop, another loon would surface right next to it and it would rapidly take off once again.  Calling all the time.  All of this to be repeated several times.  At least until it was far enough away for the chasing loon to decide that it was far enough.

The commotion was enough for the loon on the nest to leave and swim out to the chasing loon.

The two of them swam and watched to make sure the other loon did not return.  Both of them with heads held high and looking in the direction of the loon who was now well away from the area.

But after a few minutes, I heard a loud splash and looked in time to see both loons that I thought were 'our loons' in full confrontation.  Complete with penguin dance and yodels from one of the loons..

And then one of the loons took off rowing rapidly across the surface with the other loon in pursuit under water.

I once again stood amazed.  

It looked as if this was a confrontation between our own pair!

I still do not want to believe it and I continue to look for any other explanation.  But I do not have any easy alternative explanation.

After a total of 11 minutes off the nest, the loon returns, turns the eggs and settles down on the nest.

Such unusual behavior this year continues to raise all kinds of questions in my mind.  

I have even been thinking crazy thoughts!  Since I have trouble distinguishing one loon from another, what if a loon had some kind of 'dyslexia' where IT could not tell one loon from another?  What if it could not recognize its own mate?  But such thoughts are crazy thoughts.  Or are they?

I have no logical explanation for some of the behavior we have seen this year.  Nor have I read descriptions of it in some of the scientific literature and studies.

I do know that I have gotten reports from a number of places this year that have seen increased territorial conflicts with loons on their lakes.

So once again today, we can only watch.  And observe.  And learn.

Learn about these beautiful and mystical birds that stir something so very deep within us.

And marvel at the beauty that we have in our lives.


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Copyright  2012    Larry Backlund