Thursday, May 29, 2014 9:12 pm CDT

71 degrees F     Clear     Calm

Sunrise   5:30 am CDT     Sunset    8:51 pm CDT

Expected Egg Hatch Sometime June 6 - 11

It is twilight.

This is the magical time of evening in Minnesota in the summer.

The sun has already set but it will not be truly dark for sometime.

These twilight hours are special.  Quiet.  Enfolding.  Magical.

So many places in the country, the sun sets and then it is dark.  Not here.

The glow of the sun and twilight lingers in the western and northern sky.  In fact, at the longest days of summer, there is a glow that stays in the northern sky most of the night.  And when you get even further north from here, it is even more pronounced.  Until you reach the Arctic Circle where there are the days of 24 hour sun.

But now, the evening is quiet.

The lake is still.

The frogs are just beginning to sing their evening song.

And the male loon looks like he is settled in once again for the 'night shift'.

A little earlier this evening as I was talking to some of you great people on chat, I wondered whether it was the male or the female loon on the nest since the loon would go into deep hangover.  Normally the male does not do that.  When I looked, I did not see anything that should be upsetting it.  There were two pontoons of people sitting enjoying the evening but they were far enough away that I didn't think they should have bothered the male.

I knew the female would possibly go into hangover, but not the male.

Later when I saw it again, I went down to the lake to see what was bothering him.

There was a canoe that came in to the neighbor's place a couple doors down.  A great young man and he came no where near the nest.  But as long as he was down by the shore, the male stayed in hangover.

When he went up to the cabin, the male once again resumed his heads up posture.  Even though I was standing right there.  The neighbor had been over twice as far from the nest as I was.  But the loon saw him and was concerned.

Now these neighbors are not out very often.  So the loon doesn't really know them.

Yes, I know that sounds silly.

But loons do get to know and recognize people!

And they seem to know me.

When I first saw it years ago, I thought I was loosing my mind.  I talked with a biologist at the University of Minnesota who specializes in waterfowl.  He said he also believed that they do get to recognize people.  He said that some of his research birds (not loons) really do seem to know him but are frightened of strangers.

So when the young man left the lakeshore, the loon resumed his relaxed posture even though I was standing right there much closer to him.

A couple days ago I gave you the video about the development of a chick in a chicken egg as a way of visualizing what might be going on inside our loon eggs.

The video talked about "claws developing" in the chicken chicks and I repeated that description.

I have been asked if loons have 'claws' and if I have ever seen them use their claws.

I did not mean to mislead you.  The chickens do develop claws.

The loons develop what might more appropriately be called "toenails".

And yes I have seen them use them.

And yes they are sharp.

And yes they have used them on me!

It happened two years ago when we were banding the loons in the middle of the night.  We had just finished putting the bands and the data recorder on the male that you are watching now.

People wanted to get some pictures of me holding the loon.  He was relaxed.  As I was holding it, a number of camera flashes were going off.

I guess it was all the flashes going off in the middle of a dark night that frightened the loon.  He began to fight to get away.  I had all I could do to hang onto him.  They are unbelievably strong.  And I especially did not want to lose control of that sharp beak!

Once I had gotten him calmed back down, we put him back into the transportation crate while we worked on the other loons.

It was then that one of the people from the Minnesota DNR said, "Larry!  You are bleeding!"

I looked down and saw a bright red stream of blood running down my arm!

Obviously, as I had been struggling to control the loon, one of those "toenails" had put a pretty good gouge in my arm.

So someone had a first aid kit, they bandaged me up and we were ready to continue for the rest of the night.

So yes, loons have 'toenails' but they do not have 'claws' as we think of claws when we think of an eagle's claws.

It will be VERY hard to see but you might get a glimpse of those toenails as they come up on the nest.

Once again today, it has been a very hot sunny day with temperatures up near 90 degrees.  I am sure the temperatures were over 90 on the nest!

You have seen the loons panting like a dog as they sat in the hot sun.

And once in a while going for a swim to cool off.

The female once again today did a great job of staying on the nest for several hours at a time!  It has been good to see her increase the amount of time she spends on the nest.

She is still very shy and ready to go into 'hangover' is still there but she is getting better at staying on  the nest.

You have a whole new understanding of what repeated disturbances can mean to loons.  When we are out on the water, we tend to think that we did not disturb the loons by coming too close.  Because they went back to the nest right away.

And your ONE time will not make a difference.

But when it happens from one person.  And then another.  And then another.  And then another.  And another.  And another.  Soon it does have an impact on the loons.  If the disturbances become too many, it may actually cause the loons to abandon a nest.

So remember that when you are out on the water.  And tell your family and friends about it as well.

A good rule of thumb is that if you stay at least 300 feet away from a nest, you will have little if any effect on the loons (although that is not the case with this years female!).  Bring a pair of binoculars and enjoy them from a distance.

So enjoy these special days with "our" loons!

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

Copyright  2014    Larry R Backlund