Wednesday, June 6, 2012 5:35am CDT


61 degrees F     Partly Cloudy     Calm

Sunrise  5:25am     Sunset  8:58pm


As the sun rises, one of our loons sits very close to the nest with a 'lump' under its wing.

I assume that 'lump' is our little chick, although I cannot see it.

I do not see the other loon.  Apparently neither one of them was on the second egg that remains on the nest during the night.

They have not abandoned the nest since they continue to stay nearby.  But the amount of time that the second egg has lain exposed does not give one a lot of hope for its eventual hatch.

Let's take a look at the calendar.

The commonly accepted number of days for incubation of loon eggs is 26 to 30 days.  However, with the increased amount of information that we have been able to document for a number of years, the lower end of that range seems to be more the norm.  We have seen the lower end of the range to be as low as 25.5 days.

Until the LoonCam, researchers have never been able to document the exact minute that a loon egg was laid and to know within a few hours of when a chick hatched.

The first chick this year hatched at 26.6 days.

The second egg was laid 2 1/2 days after the first egg so you would normally expect it to hatch 2 1/2 days after the first egg.  However, because of something called 'catch up', the eggs normally hatch closer to each other than the time between being laid.  

This morning is the 27th day since the second egg was laid.  So tomorrow morning would be the "normal" 28th day of incubation.  And Saturday morning would be the 30 day mark.

Those dates give us some time frames to judge by.

If we reach Saturday morning with no hatch, then things do not look good for the eventual hatching of this second egg.

So we will remain hopeful until then.

But hope will gradually diminish with each passing day.

Especially troubling is that the egg has remained uncovered for such long periods of time.

Maybe surprisingly to some, I am not as much concerned that the egg has been uncovered for a certain amount of time.  If there is a chick developing inside, by now it can generate some of its own body heat.  But the fact that one of the loons was not on it at all last night in the cool night air is of concern.

However, what is more of a concern to me that for the last two days the egg has sat out in the hot sun for most of the day.  I think that is more of a concern that the chick in the egg would overheat rather than be too cool.  Today becomes a critical day for the egg.  Will the loons sit on the egg or will it once again be exposed to the hot sun?

The good thing is that the loons are concentrating on the most important thing - that is our little chick who is so full of life.

They spent most of the day near the nest yesterday with the little chick.  A good share of the day both loons were there with the chick.  It was good to see them working together since so much of this year had seen such strange behavior between the two loons.  But for now they were concentrating on being parents and taking good care of the chick.

It is not unusual for them to stay near the nest with the chick.

What usually happens is that they will stay in the general area of the nest.  As the chick grows, they will venture further and further away.

The chick is especially vulnerable to predators and other danger for the first two weeks of its life.

The chick has great difficulty diving.  It is more like a cork.  If it tries to go underwater, it immediately just pops to the surface.  An adult can dive to get out of the way of danger, whether it be an eagle or a fast speed boat.

But the chick cannot dive to get out of the way of danger.

So if you are out on the lake, or if your friends or family are, be aware of loons swimming with little chicks and give them a wide berth.

The chick is totally dependent on the adults for its food and will be for many weeks.  The adults will dive over and over and come up with the tiniest little minnows which they bring to the hungry chick.

With the rich diet of fish, the chick grows rapidly during these first weeks.

After two weeks, the chick is able to make its first tentative dives but it will still be weeks before it is able to catch its own food.

But while we continue to watch the second egg, our chick is active and doing well.  And learning to be a little loon.

There have been several times when the loons have made the tremolo alarm call.  When I have looked to see what was bothering them, there has been no obvious danger.  No boats.  No eagles.  Nothing.

Sometimes I think that they at times are just holding 'language classes' for the chick.  And telling the chick 'OK, this is what this means and that is what that means.'

There was no better example of that than what we observed several years ago.

The loons sat near the nest with the chicks.  Over and over they called.  Wails.  Tremolos.  Hoots.  And even yodels.

There was no danger that was obvious.

And yet they went through every one of the calls.  It seemed as if they were in the classroom with the chicks and teaching them every part of 'loon language'.

Two nights ago, I heard the loons giving the tremolo alarm call over and over.

When I went to see what was bothering them, there was a boat with two fishermen well within the ring of buoys and within a few feet of shore.

I went down to the shore and said, "Can I ask you to fish off to either side?  This is a federally protected loon nesting area."

One of the fishermen said, "I don't see any signs."

I said, "What do you think all these buoys are for?"

To which he replied, "I didn't see any signs."

I shook my head as they prepared to leave and I walked back up to the house.  As I got to the house, I turned back to look.  They were continuing right through the area, still fishing.  Once again, I shook my head and one of them put out his hands as if to say, "What?!"

They didn't mean any harm to the nest or the loons.  But sometimes it is almost as if they have a sign painted on their foreheads.  I will not say what that sign says!

It was not until later that it dawned on me that they went right over the television cable that brings the picture and the sound from the nest up to the server which them broadcasts it to you to watch.

We are very fortunate that their motor did not cut the television cable.  We would have lost everything for the year.

I have yet to see anyone purposely do anything malicious to the loons or too the nest.  But sometimes being inconsiderate like this can cause inadvertant damage.

Most of the time, we love our loons 'too much'.

We want to get close to them.  We want to see the at close range.  We want to see every detail.  If we could, we would probably pick them up and cuddle them - especially those beautiful, downy, cute chicks.  But they are better enjoyed at a distance.

With the loon cam, most of the time we can enjoy them at closer range than we could ever hope to do in the wild.  We can see more and see it better than if we ever could even if we were on the lake in person.

So as we wait for that second egg, savor every glimpse that you get of our loons.

All to soon they will be gone.

Off doing what they were intended to be doing ... being loons in the wild.


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

Copyright  2012    Larry Backlund