Wednesday, May 23, 2012 5:35am CDT


66 degrees     Cloudy    Wind 4mph S

Sunrise  5:34am     Sunset  8:45pm


It has been a quiet night for the loons.

But today and tomorrow, rain returns with potentially heavy thunderstorms tonight and flash flood watches later today.

Rain is okay.  But hail and wind are not needed.  They already had to sit through repeated  storms of small hail over the weekend.  But the loon never flinched nor moved off the eggs.

Rain doesn't normally bother the loons.  Unless it raises the water level in the lake too high.  On this floating nest that is not an issue [unless the rise in level is so great that we run out of anchor rope length].  If the water rises, the floating nest rises along with it.  That is one of many advantages of this kind of a nest.

The lake has already risen about 8 to 10 inches over the last several weeks.  With the predicted heavy rain it could easily rise another couple inches tonight and tomorrow.

Rising water levels are a concern for 'natural' nests.  There are many, many instances of natural nests just washed completely away when the water rises too high or too fast.  So for many natural nests, heavy rain in addition to what has been a very wet month of May is a concern.

I am anxious to check out the natural nest of another nest that has been reported on this lake to see how it is faring in the higher water.

So today rain is ok.

Too much rain or hail or heavy storms are not welcome.

The last couple days has been a much quieter one in the territorial battles for the loons as well.  And the perceived 'conflict' between our loons had also quieted down.  Until last night.

There had been several uneventful, even normal, nest exchanges throughout the day.

About 8pm, the mate had been quietly swimming in the area for almost an hour.  At 8:30pm, the loon on the nest went out to meet the mate and they swam peacefully together - for about 10 or 15 minutes.

Then there were yodels.  And tremolos.  And a chase.

But it was short lived and within a few minutes one of the loons returned to the nest and settled on the eggs.

But this seeming conflict among a nesting pair of loons is something that I have never seen before.  Nor have I seen it described in the literature.

Does it happen in nature?  Obviously yes.  It is happening with this pair.

Does it happen often?  That is a question that is impossible to answer since probably 99% of loons nesting takes place out of the view of humans.  So we can only observe and learn from what we see.  But the bigger questions may forever be unanswered.

This weekend in the northern states of America brings the first heavy human pressure on loons as Americans observe Memorial Day - the first big holiday of the summer.  And people in 'lake country' head to their beloved lakes by the millions.  Boaters and waterskiers and jet skis and fishermen will abound if the weather is nice.

Here at this loon nest that increased human activity will come near the end of their nesting cycle.  In areas further north and in New England, it will come at the beginning of the nesting cycle for the majority of loons who nest up to a month or more later than the loons you are watching.

If you will be on the lakes or know someone who will be, encourage them to be on the lookout for nesting loons or especially loons with chicks that may have already hatched in some areas.

I usually tell people that if you stay 300 feet away from a nest, the loons will be fine and you will place very little stress on them.  But if you come closer, you may actually scare them off the nest.  Even that is not enough to do damage.  

But what does the damage is if you scare them off the nest and then a little later someone else scares them off the nest.  And then someone else.  And then someone else.  And then someone else.  The effect is cumulative.

You will think 'we didn't bother them because they got right back up on the nest'.

But if they get scared off too many times by too many people, they may just abandon the nest.  Or the more they are off the nest, the more vulnerable the eggs are to predators.

So if you are going to be on the lake, play nice and share it with the loons.  Bring your binoculars with and enjoy them from a distance.

If you are a fisherman, consider replacing your lead tackle and sinkers with non-lead alternatives.  One lost lead sinker picked up off the bottom of the lake by a loon is enough to kill  the loon.  I have not replaced all of my fishing tackle with non-lead alternatives yet either.  But it is something that I am aware of and working on.  Several states have campaigns called "Get The Lead Out" to protect our beloved loons and eagles who are at the top of the food chain.

So remind your fishermen friends of that.  Don't nag.  Just a gentle reminder is enough.  And think about replacing some of your own lead fishing tackle.

That way we can help ensure that we will hear the 'call of the north woods' for generations to come.  Our beloved loons.

Now is also the time to tell your family and friends and facebook friends to watch the LoonCam.  We only have a couple more weeks before the chicks should hatch and that time will go so very fast.  And unlike eagles, once the chicks are born the time we see them is so brief and fleeting and so special.

The chicks will leave the nest within about 24 hours of their hatching.  And then they will be birds of the water that seldom if ever return to the nest.

They grace us with their presence for just a blink of the eye.


Comments or Questions?  LoonCam(at)yahoo(dot)com

Copyright  2012     Larry Backlund