Wednesday, June 11, 2014 5:29 am CDT

53 degrees F     Clear     Calm

Sunrise   5:24 am CDT     Sunset   9:01 pm CDT


The sun has just risen but has not cleared the tree tops on the horizon yet.

But our loon family is already busy.

The "minnow brigade" is well underway for breakfast.

Both mom and dad loon bring minnow after minnow to feed the hungry chicks.

The chicks accept each one offered and wait for the next offering.

Dive after dive.  Minnow after minnow.  Gobble after gobble.

It is a good thing there are a lot of fish in this lake.  Because it takes a lot of fish and a lot of minnows to keep our loons happy and well-fed.

In fact, that is one  of the requirements for a good lake for loons.  It must have an abundance of fish, especially a variety of fish and minnows on the smaller side to feed our young loons.

It is amazing to watch the adults come back with minnow after minnow.  The tiniest minnows.  Perfect chick size minnows.

The adult does not catch just anything and everything.  They select only those minnows that are the right size for our chicks.  And right now the right size is only the tiniest of minnows.

One can only imagine the frantic chases that go on underwater as the big loon chases the little minnows that can dart around so rapidly.  But the loon is not chasing all the minnows, he is having to sort out minnows and chase only the ones of the size that he knows our chicks can swallow.

Yet one more amazing thing about our loons that we seldom stop to think about.

I remember once watching an adult bring a small sunfish to their little chick.

As they sat looking at each other, it was as if the chick was saying, "What am I supposed to do with that?!"  Finally the adult swallowed the sunfish and went off to find a minnow that was the right size.

But right now the endless supply of minnows comes on the "minnow conveyor" for the chicks.

It is now only 48 hours since the second chick jumped into the big and scary lake from off the nest.  When the male left the nest, the chick followed without a moments hesitation.

It is amazing to already see how much they have grown in such a short time.  The minnows are just what a growing chick needs.

Yesterday morning I missed when both the male and the female got up on the nest for a short time.  For the first time in a long time, I too 'slept in'!  And apparently they got up on the nest, the female before I was here and the male after I finished my blog.

That is where all of you are so valuable in having "eyes on" the loons to see what is happening.  None of us can be here every minute 24/7.  But by having so many pairs of eyes watching and then documenting what you see, it is so helpful in advancing our understanding of the loons.

It does not surprise me that they got up on the nest ever so briefly.

I watched the videos which are also so very helpful.  Thank you 33jorgey and pam and all the rest of you [I better not start naming people because I will leave someone out and I apologize for that] for your yeoman's efforts in capturing and documenting everything with photos and videos.  What a fabulous record you leave for all of us!

The female was up on the nest for 1 minute 58 seconds according to one of the videos.  And the male was on the nest for 3 minutes 57 seconds.

Both of them made the "mewing" call as they sat and looked around.

It would be SO interesting to know what is actually going through their minds at a time like that.

The behavior, which is not uncommon, seems like it may be almost some kind of a breaking the bond with the nest.  After all, they have spent every waking moment with that nest for the last month.

It is almost as if they are looking around and saying, "Yup.  This is where it all happened.  But there is nothing left for us here.  We have taken everything we need and now we can move on to where we really belong - the lake."

Remember the previous morning when the male got off the nest and the second chick followed him into the lake for the first time without a moment's hesitation? The female then immediately got up on the nest and looked around for about a minute and then left.

We have to remember that was only 24 hours before they both got up on the nest to check it out yesterday morning that the second chick had left the nest for the first time.

The loons have gradually begun to take the chicks further and further from the nest already.

And that behavior will continue over the next few days and weeks.  Venturing further and further away but still staying in this general area of the lake.  And being careful not to wander into another loon's territory.

The chicks do a lot of riding on the back of one parent or another at this stage.

Which I love to see for several reasons.

First because it is just so cute.  It is such an iconic picture of a loon with a baby or two sitting on their back.

Second, and more important, it protects the baby loon from predators and from the cold water.

The back riding will continue for the next couple weeks.  And then one day the chicks will be too big to ride on mom or dad's back.  They will try.  But at some point the loon says, "OK.  That is enough of that.  You are getting to big to do that anymore."

Right now the little chicks are at their most vulnerable.

They are like little black downy corks that float on the surface.

They can't quite figure out how mom and dad can dive like that.  They try to dive but they simply pop right back up to the surface.

But as they sit on the surface of the water, they are perfect targets for toothy pike and muskies, bass with big mouths or snapping turtles.  Or targets from the air for an eagle to swoop down and grab not a meal but a mere morsel.

So it is not an easy life or a safe life for our little loons.

They are also so vulnerable to speed boats and jetskis.

To as speeding boater, they are a mere speck on the water that often times is not even seen and can be run over without the boater knowing they have even done anything.  The adults can dive to get out of the way of a boat.  But the chicks that are like corks cannot dive to safety.

Or even by separating the chicks from the adults or forcing them off the adult's back, it makes the chicks more vulnerable to be taken by predators.

So as you or your friends and family are out on the water this summer, encourage them to be ever mindful and on the lookout for loons and especially little chicks.

Future generations of loon lovers will thank you!

Questions or Comments?  LoonCam at yahoo dot com

Copyright 2014     Larry R Backlund