Wednesday, May 9, 2012 6:22am CDT

44 degrees   Clear   Wind 4mph N
Sunrise  5:49am     Sunset  8:30am
Today promises to be a beautiful day for our loons.
Blue skies, mild temperatures, light winds and a break from the rain that we have had so much of.
A few weeks ago, the lake was on the normal to low side.  Now it is high.  In a couple weeks it has come up at least 8 to 10 inches from all the rain we have had.
This is the type of condition that washes many loon nests away.
They will build them at a safe distance above the water and then the water rises and inundates them.  This is the cause of failure of many loon nests.  But it is one of the reasons that a floating nest platform like this helps loons nest successfully.  When the water rises, the nest rises along with the rising water.  And when the water falls, the nest falls with the lowering water.
This morning we still have only one egg on the nest.
Over the last 6 years, the shortest time between eggs on this nest has been 34 hours and the longest time has been 70 hours.  We are now at 35 hours since this first egg was laid.  So I would expect that we will see the second egg within the next day.  But there is no way to predict that for sure.
Loons sometimes will lay only one egg.  And rarely they will lay 3 eggs.
Biologists feel that the number of eggs and chicks sometimes is controlled by the amount of food available to the loons.  More food, more eggs.  Food lacking, less eggs.
In this case, that should not be a problem for these loons.  There is plenty of food available for them.  The lake has an abundance of small fish and minnows.  The loons love minnows, small sunfish and perch.
A loon's diet is made up almost exclusively of fish, with a few water insects, crayfish and leeches thrown in as appetizers.
If a lake does not have a good food supply (in addition to other factors), loons will not nest there.
If we are going to have a second egg (and I have no reason to think we will not), it should happen in the next day-and-a-half.  We have had two eggs on this particular nest every year.  We have never had only one egg nor have we had three eggs.
The loons have been off the nest more than I would like to see.  But they know better what they are doing than I ever could.
The weather has been mild and so there has been no danger from very cold weather.
You will remember that a couple years ago the loons were drawn off the nest on a very cold and frosty morning for over half an hour.  That year neither egg hatched and when we x-rayed and examined the eggs it is very probably that they were lost that morning.
The average last frost date for the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul is May 10th, tomorrow.
But further north here at the lake, the average date of the last frost for the year is May 20th.  So even though the forecast for the next several days is for very nice and mild weather, we could still get some frost yet this spring.  I don't expect it but it is very possible.
The territorial battles among loons on the lake is still not over.
You will occasionally hear yodels which is the call made by the male as he stakes out his territory.
I have seen a couple chases and confrontations between loons over the last few days.  But for the most part, the yodel calls are simply the male broadcasting to anyone within earshot that this is his territory.
Another resident on the lake told me last week that he had seen another loon building a nest in the same general area where a pair built a nest last year.  Last year was the first year in my memory when two pairs of loons had built nests on this lake and both of them had two chicks and successfully raised them to adulthood.
This other pair of loons (and maybe a single loon or two) probably explains the territorial battles that we have seen and explains some of the tremolos and yodels that you have heard.
I guess that we can be thankful that there has been an abundance of loons here.  Most states do not have any loons at all.  And they are the poorer for the lack of this beautiful bird with its unique haunting calls.
So today we once again wait for an egg.  The next egg.
You now know the signs to watch for to know that an egg laying is imminent.
Will it be today?
Once again, we can only watch and wait.  We are merely spectators in this great drama.
The loons are the actors.  The loons are the ones on stage.  The loons are the stars.
Comments or Questions?
Copyright 2012   Larry Backlund