Tuesday, July 10, 2012 11:54pm CDT

63 degrees     Clear     Calm
Sunrise  5:36am     Sunset  9:00pm
The stifling heat and humidity of last week have broken.
They are gone.  And they have been replaced with absolutely spectacular summer days.  Warm.  Low humidity.  Blue skies.  And perfect lazy summer days.
But you really are not interested in a weather report are you?
You want to know about 'our' loons.
I had not seen much of them for the last couple days.  And I was starting to get concerned.  Was our chick alright?  Where are they?
This morning I took the canoe out for a while.  Looking for our chick.
It took a while.  But there he was!
With one of the adults.  Swimming together.  Looking good and doing well.
While I was watching them, another loon flew overhead.  Apparently it was the other adult because shortly after, I saw the three of them swimming together.
It seems like the chick's bond with the nest may have finally been broken.  I have not seen him on the nest since before the 4th of July.  Not that he hasn't been up there.  He may have been.  But I have not seen him up there.
He really does seem to have moved on and begun to act more like a loon.
On the 4th of July, the lake was very busy.  People all over.  In and on the water.
There were a lot of kids in the water, both here and at the neighbors.  Splashing and yelling and having fun on a very hot day.  It was the perfect place for them to be on such a hot day.  But it meant that it was not the quiet place that the chick was used to coming to.  And so we did not see them anywhere close.
But as afternoon faded to evening and a number of us, including adults, were cooling off in the water, I spotted the chick and the two loons straight out.  They were not all that far out.
But then in spite of all the people in the water, the chick came swimming toward us.
He came in and sat near the end of the neighbor's dock even though there were many people  in the water here.  I was concerned about why he did not remain out with the adults, even though there was a lot of boat traffic out there.
Then I realized why.
The two adult loons had swum out further into the lake and there were now three loons out there.
Several people asked what was happening and why they seemed to be swimming peacefully together.  I told them to watch for circling and excited diving and splashing if there was going to be a confrontation.
As if on cue, it all started to unfold.  First the splashing dives.  Not the gentle rolling dives that a loon is so good at when it is just fishing.  This is a much faster and more obvious dive with a little bit of water splashed up by the loon's large feet as it goes under.
After several splashing dives then there was even the penguin dance, although I did not hear any calls.
Very soon the third loon seemed to think better of being there and rapidly rowed away as one of the loons pursued him for a short distance.
So this is why the loon chick came in toward us.  Toward the safety of the dock and of shelter.  How did he know?  What were the signals?  What were the clues?  Even though we did not see it, he apparently knew that he needed to find shelter and that the presence of that third loon was a mortal danger to him.
And so he swam in toward the dock even though there were a lot of people around.
Shortly after the confrontation, the adults came in partway and the chick swam out to them and off they went.
But then I had not seen much of them until today.
I have to be honest, even though I am happy that the chick finally seems to be getting on with his life, I miss seeing him up near the dock and the nest on a daily basis.  In fact, usually several times a day.
When he kept coming back to the nest, I have to be honest that I was very concerned about his apparent ease with me around.  Even though I enjoyed it, I felt he was too trusting of me and maybe other humans.  I even went so far as considering if I should purposely scare him in some way so that he was not so trusting.
But I could just bring myself to do it.  To break that bond of trust.
So it is now gratifying to see him spend more time out in the lake even though I miss the times of him being close.
Tonight the chick and both adults were swimming straight out from the dock.  But the chick made no attempt to come in to the nest which is still in the water.
Plans are still moving forward with the USGS and the Minnesota DNR to band the loons this coming Thursday night.  The weather looks favorable and so hopefully it will be able to take place.  I will let you know what happens.
I was excited on Sunday night when I got an email from Kevin Kenow from the USGS saying that he saved a seat in the capture boat and asked if I would like to come with him for at least some of the captures.  Obviously it did not take me long to give him a resounding "YES!".
I don't remember if I have told you what the procedure is to capture and band loons.
As you know, loons are very good divers.   So you cannot just come up to them and grab them.
That is why it must be done in the middle of the night.
You go by boat to the general area of the lake where you think the loons will be.  Then you play a recording of loon alarm calls.  The loons, thinking there is an intruder loon in the area, swim toward the alarm call.  Because the presence of an intruder loon poses a very real danger to their chicks.
As the loons approach the boat and the sound of the alarm calls from the "phantom loon", you shine a bright light in their eyes so that they cannot see what is going on.  And then you scoop the loon out of the water with a large muskie fishnet.
It all sounds so simple in theory.
But it is much more difficult in real life.
So we will see what happens on Thursday night.
If we are lucky and if everything falls into place, by Friday morning we will have 4 adult loons and 3 chicks all sporting new bands and data recorders.
And hopefully we will be able to add even more knowledge to what is known about loons.
Minnesota Bound and maybe one of the television stations will probably be here to film it.  So hopefully you will be able to see some of the adventure at some time in the future.  Whether on television or here on the internet.
I have a number of other pictures that I took of our chick and of the loons (before they finally 'moved on') and I will try to post some of them in the weeks ahead.  Depending on how the banding and capture go, I may be able to get some pictures of that as well that I can post for you.
But the important thing for now is that our chick is doing well.  He was 5 weeks old last Sunday morning.  So he will get his first "bling" when he is 5 1/2 weeks old.
Comments or Questions?  LoonCamATyahooDOTcom
Copyright  2012  Larry Backlund