Tuesday, July 15, 2014 3:01 pm CDT

68 degrees F     Mostly Cloudy     Wind 8 mph NW

Sunrise   5:39 am CDT     Sunset   8:58 pm CDT


Last night was a cold, windy rainy night on the lake.  Especially for the middle of July.

But the good news is that we were able to catch both adults of our LoonCam loons as well as both chicks.

My thanks to Kevin and Luke and Steve from the United States Geological Service [USGS] for the wonderful work they do with loons and for allowing an 'amateur' to join them.  They are just great people.

It was not looking promising for our venture for most of the day.

All afternoon there were periods of heavy rain as well as high wind that whipped up whitecaps on the lake.  It is hard enough to see a loon on the lake in the best of conditions, let alone having to deal with the 'white' of the whitecaps looking deceptively like loons at times.

We got started shortly after 9 pm as we did a quick survey of the lake.  We were able to locate our LoonCam pair with the two chicks, all swimming together.  We were also able to locate the pair on the other side of the lake, the ones that had one egg hatch on their nest about a week ago.

And then we sat and waited for dark to come.

In the north, it takes a long time for it to get dark even at this time of year a full month away from solstice and "midsommardagen".

At about 10 pm, we decided to start looking for the loons, even though there was still light on the horizon in the northwest and the northern sky.  We were also in a race before the bright moon that was almost full last night came up.

After some looking, we were able to capture the male from the LoonCam [the one we had banded and put data recorders on in 2012] as well as one of the chicks.  The full moon was now up and hiding in and out among the clouds.  But definitely bright enough to make things more difficult.

It was really surprising to see the chick close up and see how big and strong he is! 

Now it was time to see if we could catch the female and the second chick.

This proved to be more difficult.

When we found them, she took off like a shot splashing and rowing across the surface of the water.  As we followed quietly in the boat with the lights trained on her, she kept going and going with only brief rest stops.  And then she was off again.

I commented that is was as if she said, "You're on your own kid.  I am OUTTA here!"

Her behavior wasn't too surprising since she had been so skittish on the nest all year.  When it was obvious that she was not going to settle down, it was time to return to see if we could find the chick.  

After some time, we finally located the second chick.

But she had taught him well.

He was not going to be taken easily either.

Time after time he dove to get away from us.  All the tricks failed.

We finally had to admit that he was the winner in this game of cat and mouse!

The chicks definitely are doing well!

We brought the male and the chick back to shore where the guys could do the work that needed to be done.

Removing the data recorder from 2012, drawing blood, taking feather samples, weighing and taking other measurements.  When the work on the male was done, he went back in his crate and out of the smaller crate came the chick.

It was very interesting to now see him in full light.  And to see how large he was.  And how feisty!

At one point I commented that it was hard to believe how much he had grown in only 5 weeks.  That his head alone was about the size of the little chick that we saw jump into the water for the first time on that Saturday night.  For it was only 5 weeks ago this last Saturday afternoon that you watched him hatch LIVE on the LoonCam!

He was definitely bigger than our little chick from 2012 at the same age.  The chick who loved the nest!

The chick already has some of his primary flight feathers on his wing coming in as well as some feathers starting to show on other parts of his body.

We all commented at how big and strong he was for only 5 weeks old.  And we agreed that the parents must have been feeding him well.

He already weighs about 4 1/2 pounds!

He got his new bands.  One of the guys said, "Larry maybe isn't going to like the colors of these bands."  I joked, "As long as they are not green and yellow!  [Green Bay Packers colors]".  Ummmm, guess what?

They were mostly green and yellow!

We may need to sneak over to Wisconsin some night and put a bunch of Vikings Purple and White bands on loons as well as Minnesota Gophers Gold and Maroon bands on Wisconsin loons!

Then it was time to take both of them back out to release them about where we had caught them.

We headed over to the other side of the lake so see if we could find and catch the other pair of loons.

I know that they had one egg and that the egg had hatched.

But I had not seen that chick.  Nor had any of the people over on that side of the lake.  They were concerned that we maybe had lost that chick.

But with hope against hope, we went to see if we could catch them and hopefully find that there was a new week old chick with them.

After searching and calling, we finally found the pair again swimming close together..

As we started to approach them, they both took off in opposite directions.  "Running" and paddling and splashing.

This was not going to be easy.

And it wasn't.

We followed one of them for a ways but he was just as skittish as the female had been.   After some trying, it became obvious that we were not going to catch them either.  And it was also "obvious" that the chick must not have survived and was not with them.

As we sat in the dark waiting and listening for them, we heard two loons flying overhead, calling as they flew.  It must have been the pair we had been trying to capture.

We headed back over to the other side of the lake to try to capture the female and the second chick.

We were finally able to catch the female, although almost made it out of the net as she was swung into the boat.  But we got her.

And once we located the second chick, it was a little - emphasis on 'little' - easier to catch him on this try.

So we headed into shore with the female and the second chick from the LoonCam safely in containers in the boat.

Once again, weight and measurements and bands.

The female was a different one than the one we had banded in 2012 and she was not banded.  So she got her new set of bands.  And the chick also got his new set of bands.

The second chick was just as big and strong and feisty as the first chick.

It was so gratifying to see them so big and so strong and doing so well, especially with the reminder that we have apparently lost the little chick from the other nest.  And knowing that they have already faced such dangers and survived them.

Now it was time to take them back out onto the lake and release them.

It was now after 3 am.  And it was time to call it a night.  

So you can be happy today that the little chicks that stole your heart a few weeks ago are strong and thriving and doing well.

They are well on their way to 'being loons'!

Questions?  LoonCam at yahoo dot com

Copyright 2014     Larry R Backlund