Sunday, May 19, 2013 7:32 am CDT


64 degrees F     Rain     Calm

Sunrise   5:39am CDT     Sunset   8:40pm CDT

The next few days promise to be stormy with potentially severe thunderstorms tonight.
We need the rain.  But let us hope that we do not get anything really severe.

Yesterday the single loon came to the general area of the nest but did not approach the nest, let alone try to get up on it.  As I mentioned to you yesterday, we have now verified that the loon in the area was one of the ones we banded last year.  And it is the female from last year's LoonCam.  So far it seems that she is alone.  I have not seen another loon with her.

If that is true it raises questions about if she will nest this year.

As Kevin Kenow said in the email that I showed you yesterday, it is possible that she lost her mate over the winter.  There is no way to know for sure unless and until the bands and geolocater tag are recovered.  Until that time, there is always hope that he is still around.  

Like Kevin said, it was a difficult fall, winter and spring for loons.  And it is a good reminder of the difficulties and challenges they face that we never see nor think about.  Botulism, eagles, natural toxins, ice, snapping turtles, raccoon, mink ... the list of dangers goes on and on.  So every loon we see is very special.  In the North Country we take them for granted.  Most of the country never has the privilege of seeing and hearing these magnificent birds.

Some of you have asked for a reminder of what the meaning is of the different calls of the loons.
There are four basic calls that a loon makes.  I usually refer to them as two 'good' calls and two 'bad' calls.  Now there is no such thing as a bad call but you will see why I call it that in a minute.
The four calls are 
1.  The wail
2.  The hoot
3.  The tremolo and
4.  The yodel

The two 'good' calls are the wail and the hoot.

A loon will give a long mournful call that is called the wail.  It is simply one loon saying to another "I am here.  Where are you?"  They use it to keep track of where their mate is.

A hoot is a very quiet call that loons make when they are close to their mate or to their chicks.  It is an intimate, quiet form of communication.

Both of these calls  usually indicate that a loon is calm and at ease and they are simply talking to other loons.

The two 'bad' calls are the tremolo and the yodel.

I call them the bad calls because they both indicate that a loon is upset and is under stress.

A tremolo is often called the laughing call.  And when you hear it, you can see why.  A tremolo call means that something has upset the loon.  It may be an eagle flying overhead.  It may be an intruder loon in the area.  Or it may be a boat or canoe or someone or something getting too close to the loon and it is showing its concern.

The yodel is the most extreme of the calls.  It is made ONLY by the male.  All the other calls are made by both the male and female.

The yodel often indicates that a male is staking out is territory.  He is saying "This is MY territory and you come over here at your own risk."  Often when you hear a yodel, you will hear an answering yodel from another male across the lake.  He is answering back "And this is MY territory over here."

Here is a website from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that has some good recordings of all the different loon calls.

Now you know how to "speak loon" and when you hear them from now on, they will have a whole new meaning for you.  You will know if they are calm or upset.  You will know if it is a male that is making that yodel call.  And you can be the new 'loon expert' and explain the calls to your family and friends when you hear them.

So enjoy that occasional calls that you may hear since we have not had much action on the nest.  We will soon have to come to a decision about what to do with the nest this year.  But for now we can enjoy the calls, the sound of the water lapping at the nest and an occasional small bird stopping on the nest.
And then our heart beats faster when we actually see a loon swim into sight!

Enjoy it all while you can.

Copyright 2013    Larry R Backlund