Friday, June 1, 2012 5:36am CDT

43 degrees     Clear    Calm
Sunrise 5:28am     Sunset  8:54pm
The lake is like a mirror.
Wisps of fog drift up from the surface, run across the nest and scatter in the cool morning air.
One of our loons is safely ensconced on the nest protecting the eggs.
Always looking around.  Ever alert.  Ever watching for danger.
One of the yellow irises that the loons so unceremoniously uprooted is doing its best to bloom where they planted it.
But the big question is what is going on inside the eggs?
Do some of the small movements of the loon's body indicate that it feels something?  Or are they 'just movements'?
Are there chicks inside the eggs that are getting ready to hatch?  Are the chicks already communicating with each other?  Even through the shells of the egg?
These are things almost too wonderful to behold.  Or to even understand.
But if the eggs are going to hatch, we are now probably within just a few days of hatching.  It could be as early as tomorrow!
If your family and friends have not been watching up until now, now is the time to tell them to start watching.  Now the anticipation builds.  Now the suspense grows.
My best guess of hatching (and I should not even try to guess but I will anyway) is that the first egg will hatch sometime between tomorrow and Tuesday.
There is no reason for concern if they do not hatch until Tuesday.  But if they have not hatched by Thursday of next week, then the concern would start to grow of whether they will hatch.
So we watch the loon carefully for signs.
And we hope to see the small twitches and movements that will signal that something is happening under the loon.  And then when we see the more concrete signals as the loon rises and shifts and lifts its wing periodically, we are seeing signs that there is a new little loon chick moving around under the loon.
Then we wait and we hope to catch that first view of a little loon's head poking out from beneath the wing of the loon.
The miracle of life come full circle.
What could cause the eggs not to hatch?
If the eggs are infertile.  If at some point during the incubation the loons were off the eggs for too long a period in the cool air.    If for some other unknown the chick inside the egg stopped developing.
But on a beautiful and bright morning like this, those thoughts are too dark to even entertain other as distant possibilities.
And so we have to believe that there are two little chicks in those eggs that cannot wait to get out and greet us.
But our view of them is ever so fleeting.  That is why it is so important for your friends to start watching now and not to miss a moment.  Because "the moment" is so transient and so sudden and disappears so quickly.
Once the chicks have hatched, we do not have the luxury of watching them for weeks or months as they grow before our very eyes.
The first chick will hatch and then the second chick will hatch within the next day, even though they may have been laid a couple days apart.
But they will not remain on the nest for very long at all.  Not much more time than is necessary to dry out.
Very quickly they are ready to go into the water.  They are meant to be birds of the water and not of land.  The chick is fully capable of swimming very shortly after it is born.  And they do not wait around long.  The first chick very well could be in the water before the second chick hatches.
A few years ago we watched something very unusual on the LoonCam as one egg hatched and the other egg stopped its development when the nest was filled with a wave cold lake water on a cold and windy day when the adult had been chased off the nest by an eagle.
But that year the loons were ever faithful to try to hatch the remaining egg even when there was no hope of it ever hatching.  And so they returned day after day.  Amazingly the little chick found a way to get back up on the nest and snuggle next to the parent that was trying so valiantly to get the second egg to hatch.
For about 10 days or more, we were treated to the wonderful sight of our little loon growing so dramatically as it day after day returned to the nest with the adult.
But that was not what was normal or natural for that little loon.  He needed to be in the water with his mom and dad learning all about what it meant to be a loon.  Learning of the dangers of life.  Learning how to fish.  Learning how to be a loon.
So reluctantly, after 10 days or two weeks and after much consultation with other experts, we reluctantly removed the egg from the nest.  That was enough to break the bond with the nest and the loons moved on with their normal lives of being loons.
We xrayed the egg and found that a chick had had indeed started to develop.  But that development had stopped at about the two week mark.  Exactly the time that the eagle had chased the loon off the nest and a wave of cold water had filled the nest.
For some reason, one chick survived that cold water.  The other did not.
So that year of being able to watch the chick get back up on the nest was very  unusual.  But very special as we were able to watch how quickly they grow.
I must warn you about something else that may very well happen and probably will happen.  It may happen on the nest or it may happen in the water.
The two chicks may go through a fight.  It can be brutal and it IS very hard to watch.
It is what we would know as establishing a 'pecking order' in which one chick establishes dominance over the other chick.  Usually it is the older chick who is alreay stronger who will attack and establish dominance over the younger chick.
It is very hard to watch.  But it is part of nature.
In all the years I have been observing loons, I think there is only one time that I did not see that fight for dominance.  I just wanted to prepare you for it if you see it.
Today, however, we look forward to the arrival of two little loons chicks very soon.
And we will savor those few precious moments that we get to see the little black balls of down on the nest before they head out into the big, beautiful and scary world that will now be THEIR world.
Such a special time and one that lasts for such a short time - much like the wisps of fog this morning.
Comments or Questions?  LoonCam(at)yahoo(dot)com
Because of the number of emails I am not able to respond to each one personally.  However, I will eventually read all of them.  And when there are several questions along the same line I will try to answer those questions here.
Copyright  2012     Larry Backlund