Tuesday, June 10, 2014 6:55 am CDT

53 degrees F     Clear     Calm

Sunrise   5:25 am CDT     Sunset   9:00 pm CDT


On a beautiful, calm sunny summer morning, our loon family has just completed making an appearance in front of the camera as they swam by the nest.

But the nest holds no attraction for them anymore.  They hardly gave it more than a glance as they swam by.

What had been "home" for more than a month is no longer home.

Home is in the water.  The wider expanse of the lake.

Since the loons left early yesterday morning, they have remained in the general area of the nest but not always real close by.  The nest had been a necessity before.  Now it is just one more place in their territory.

While I could not definitively see both chicks on the back(s) of the loons as they swam by, I think both of them are still there and ok.  

They were both ok and very active at sunset last night.

As we approach the longest day of the year in just over a week, today is the first time that sunset has reached 9:00 pm.  The day is now over 15 1/2 hours long and with twilight there is almost 17 hours of visible daylight.

These are the magical long days of summer in the far north.

Before every one scatters their different directions for the year, let me once again say thank you to all of you for being a part of this wonderful experience of watching "our" loons.  For they have truly become "our" loons to all of us, no matter where in the world we are.  Probably the most famous loons in the world.

They have allowed us to take an intimate peek into their world.  And by doing so have helped to understand the hundreds of thousands of other loons, or in the case of northern Europe and Scandinavia, the Great Northern Divers as they are known there.

Hopefully they have contributed to our better and larger understanding of all loons.  To see things that have never been seen before.  To hear things that have never been heard before.  To watch behaviors that we could never see in person no matter how good we were as naturalists.

This is one of the true values and contributions of the LoonCam.

I thank you for being a part of it.

Yesterday, the loons stayed in the general area of the nest.  They swam and floated back and forth but always in this region of the lake.  Never wandering too far away.

They seem to feel that the area is generally a "safe" area for them.

This is "normal" behavior from what I have seen over years of watching.  But then what IS "normal".  We seem to help to make a small change in the definition of normal each year.

Some researchers I have read through the years have talked about the loons taking the chicks to a special secluded area after the chicks have hatched.  An area in the weeds or a small cove or near shore.  I have never found that to be the case.  

Without exception I have found the loons from the LoonCam each year stay in the general area of the nest, even though it is essentially open water on the main body of the lake.

As the days go by, they gradually expand the area that swim until they use a good share of the lake.  That is, unless there are other loons on the lake.  Then the very well defined territorial boundaries still apply until much later in the summer when the chicks are almost fully grown.

The chicks already look like they have grown in just the last 24 hours since they left the nest!

The parents have been busily feeding them small minnows.  At feeding times, it is what I call a non-stop assembly line minnow buffet for the chicks.

The minnows that the parents bring right now are tiny little minnows.  They are very selective of what they catch and bring to the chicks.  And the chicks eagerly await each and every one and quickly gobble it down when it is brought to them.

Much of the day the chick have been riding safely on the backs of the parents.  That iconic picture that is so typical of baby loons.

By being able to ride on the backs of the parents while they are so young and so small, the chicks are kept warm and are kept safe from predators both above and below them.  Large fish and turtles that are lurking in the water underneath them.  Eagles and crows and seagulls and other predators in the air above them.

What a marvelous way of protecting the chicks without the need for a nest.

To allow the chicks to learn to be truly residents of the water for the rest of their lives.

For those of you who may be keeping track, the first chick was hatched at just about 26 1/2 days (just an hour shy).  That is, assuming the first chick that hatched came from the first egg.  Which is a pretty good assumption.

I am a little less sure of the time of the second egg since I was not able to see the exact time of laying of the egg because of lightning taking out the camera and all of our equipment.

Based on my best guess of when the egg was laid, it was probably 25 1/2 days but it may have been as short as 24 1/2 days.  It is impossible to know for sure.  If it was 25 1/2 days, that would be in line with what I have seen several times before.   If it was 24 1/2 days, that would be the shortest time ever observed.  But it was somewhere in that range although I cannot definitively say what it was.

This again is one of the wonderful things about the LoonCam.  That we are able to definitively know when the eggs were laid (down to the minute) and to have a very good idea of when hatching took place.

In the past, researchers had to make a best guess based on their observations from afar.  Most of that time it was measured in hours or days rather than minutes.

I will leave the LoonCam up and running for at least another few days for you to hopefully catch a glimpse of our wonderful loon family.  But after a few days, as they expand their territory and move further and further from the nest, we will regretfully bring another season of the LoonCam to a close and look forward to next year with a whole boatload of fond memories from this year.

I will not shut it off without any warning.  We will just watch and see what the loons do and then make a decision of when to turn the LoonCam off for the year.

But I will try to give you at least a little bit of notice when it is going to be shut down.

Let me also say a word about the Chat Room that you have had in the past and which I know so many of you (including me) miss so very much.

I found out a little more information about that a few weeks ago.

When Minnesota Bound went to a whole new platform for their website, they thought (or maybe even had been told) that the new platform supported a chat room like the one that had been so special to everyone.

But when they had the new platform in place and were building the new site, only then did it become apparent that it would not support a chat room like the previous one.

The loss of the chat room was a surprise to you.  It was a surprise to me.  And it was a surprise to them.

Just know that they have continued to ask for the ability to have a chat room like we had before.  Let us hope and pray that it can be done.

I just wanted to let you know what I had found out about it.

So enjoy the sights and sounds of the lake.  And especially enjoy the fleeting and all too rare glimpses of the loons themselves.

And rejoice that they are healthy and doing well.  God, You done good!

Both mom and dad seem to have risen to the challenge of taking care of the chicks.

Let me once again mention for those of you in central Minnesota, I will be speaking at the Isanti County Historical Society in Cambridge, MN on Wednesday, August 13 at 1pm.  I would love to see you there and be able to meet you and thank you personally for your love of loons and your support of watching the LoonCam.

Questions or Comments?  LoonCam at yahoo dot com

Copyright 2014   Larry R Backlund