Thursday, May 31, 2012 5:27am CDT

47 degrees F    Clear     Wind Calm
Sunrise  5:28am    Sunset  8:53pm
The eastern sky is pink.  Announcing the imminent arrival of the sun.
Its warming rays will feel good on this chilly morning.
But the loon doesn't seem to notice.
Its heavy coat of feathers give it all the warmth of a down jacket.  So it sits relaxed on the nest and keeps the eggs warm and protected against the cold.
One can only wonder if it can feel or hear anything happening inside the eggs.
We are now only a matter of days away from the expected hatching of the eggs.  This might be a good time to talk about what kind of signs to watch for that signal that the eggs are hatching.
Watch carefully for small movements of the loon that may tell us that hatching is underway. 
The loon will look like it is sitting "lighter" or "higher" on the nest.  It may even tilt to one side or the other.  But the most obvious sign that the eggs might be hatching under the loon is that there will be small 'twitches'.
The loon may move its wing slightly.  Or you may see small body movements or jumps.  The movements will be subtle but once you start to see them, they will be obvious.  Not just one movement.  But a number of movements.
They all are indications that something is happening underneath the loon. 
A little chick is trying to make its way out of the egg.
And each movement of the chick or the egg, causes the loon to twitch in response.
The chick has what is called an 'egg tooth' on the tip of its little beak.  The whole purpose of the egg tooth is to help the chick break through the shell of the egg which has protected him during his development - but now it has become an egg shell that constrains him.  A shell that must be broken through to free him from those constraints.
So the chick will work mightily to break through that shell  in a process that is called "pipping".
In yet another of the countless miracles that have been placed around us, many birds even have a special muscle at the back of their neck called a 'pipping muscle' that gives them the strength to break through the egg shell.  This muscle develops and strengthens just before hatching to give the chick the strength to break free of that egg shell.
And for our loon chick it needs to be strong.
The shell of the egg that confines it is very thick.  It will take a lot of work and energy for the chick to make its way out of the egg.  It will work mightily to make that first hole in the egg.  And then it will something called "zipping" - where it actually goes around the egg much like a can opener.
A combination of 'pip' and 'zip'!
So the chick will work mightily.  And then it will rest.  And then work once again.  And rest.
Repeated over and over.
And each of those small movements will cause the loon sitting on the egg to react with small movements and twitches of its own.
Finally the chick will be free of the egg.  A tiny little black chick all wet and all worn out.
It will take a well deserved rest under the adult as it regains its strength and dries out. 
When it does regain its strength, it will become much more active and want to move around.  The 'twitches' of the adult loon will become more and more noticeable as the chick tries to move around under the loon.
And then finally it happens.
The moment we, and the loons, have all been waiting for.
A gorgeous and impossibly cute little black loon chick will peek out from under a wing for the first time.
It will look onto a big and whole new world that it has never seen before.  A world full of new wonders.  And new dangers.
But for now, the dangers have no meaning to the chick.  It just wants to move.  And explore.
So it will be constantly moving under the parent.  Moving here.  Moving there.  Peeking out from under this wing.  Then peeking out someplace else.
It is a show in and of itself.  A show where you never know from behind which 'curtain' the actor will poke his head out next.
But it will have made all the long days of waiting worthwhile.  The days of heat.  The days of cold.  The days of wind.  The days of rain.  And maybe even the day of hail.
All of it has pointed to this time.
A new life.  A new little loon.  A new chick.
But we are not done yet.
There are two eggs under that loon.  And so the drama will be repeated all over again for the second chick.
In yet another miracle, due to something called 'speed up', the second egg will usually hatch sooner than the first egg.
Even though the eggs were laid two-and-a-half days apart, they will hatch closer to each other than that.  They may hatch only a day apart.
No one has been able to definitively explain how this happens.  But it happens most times.  Some have said that the chicks even communicate with each other even while they are in the eggs.  And some feel that this communication between the chicks during the last few days of their incubation may actually 'speed up' the development of the second chick.
So even though the eggs were laid several days apart, many times they will hatch within a day of each other.
So many miracles around us.
But it takes effort from us to see them.  We must slow down.  That is  hard for most of us to do.  We must pay close attention to small details.
And then all of a sudden we begin to see miracle after miracle that have been there all along but that have passed us by because we were not paying attention.
May your day today be filled with all kinds of miracles.  Big and small.
Comments or Questions?  LoonCam(at)yahoo(dot)com
Copyright 2012     Larry Backlund