Saturday, April 11, 2015 11:21 pm CDT


53 degrees F   Clear  Wind Calm

Sunrise   6:35 am CDT     Sunset   7:54 pm CDT


Today has been an absolutely beautiful spring day here in Minnesota.  Blue sky, sunshine, 74 degrees and the early spring flowers like crocuses and forsythia have started to bloom.

Cardinals and chickadees are in full spring song.

Minnesotans will often joke that you can't really appreciate a spring or summer day until you have survived a Minnesota winter.  So today was payback big time for winter!

Now we wait on our loons for spring fever to hit them.

The pair of loons that I think and hope are "our loons" have done a couple of swim bys but have not yet shown real serious interest in the nest.  But at this point I don't' think there is any reason for concern that they have not gotten on the nest yet.  There is still plenty of time.

But I have to admit that every year I go through this phase of paranoia.

What if we do all the work and get everybody excited and watching and then the loons don't use the nest.  So far at this early stage the 'paranoia' is very small, but a tinge of it is there.  I tell my self it is silly.  But that doesn't make it go away.  And even if I did worry, it would not change anything.

From this point on, we are totally dependent on the loons to do whatever they want to do.

I feel VERY fortunate that the loons have used this loon nest every year except one.  Researchers say that artificial nesting platforms are only used about 50 to 60% of the time.  So we have a stellar record of the loons using this particular nesting platform for so many years.

For those of you who are new to the LoonCam, the nesting platform is made out of PVC pipe and foam.  That supports the nest material that you see on the cameral.  That material is cattails and reeds and other weeds and material that naturally floats up on shore and which the loons would naturally use.

A thick layer is placed on the platform and then it is left to the loons to rearrange it however they want to make their nest.

Loons are opportunistic nest builders and will use whatever is available to them.  This nest is quite plush to what they normally would have.

Many times they will build their nest on top of a muskrat house.  Or simply form a shallow depression in the gravel or sand or mud along the shore.  I have even seen a couple loon nests up in the Boundary Waters where the loons laid their eggs in a shallow depression in a rock with no other nesting material.

Since loons find it almost impossible to get around on land, they will usually build their nests within a few feet of the water.

They are very vulnerable to predators like raccoons, skunks, mink, crows, seagulls, eagles and even dogs and cats in populated areas.

Thus a floating platform like this that is away from the shore gives them a great sense of security against many of the normal predators that they have to contend with on land.  But even on this platform they can be vulnerable to raccoons and mink and eagles and seagulls.

But it is apparently one of the reasons a nest like this has been so successful.

The nesting platform is about 150 feet from shore.  So it tends to discourage even raccoons from swimming out that far from shore.

You will notice some green on the corners of the nest.  These are plants that will grow as the season progresses.  It helps to give the loons some protection and a sense of being out of view.  And you will find it interesting to see the changes as the weeks go by.

On a sunny day, you may see a shadow that moves across the nest as the afternoon goes along.

That is a shadow of the camera that is sending you the video that you are watching.

The square or rectangular part of the shadow is the camera itself.

Then there is another smaller 'ball' that sticks up from the camera on a stand.  That is the infrared light that allows you to see what is going on in complete darkness.  It gives you a very clear view of the nest but the loons cannot see the infrared light and it does not disturb them at all.

So all of this allows you to observe the loons in their 100% natural behavior without disturbing them at all.

Until the LoonCam, the only way to observe loons was to go out in a boat or canoe and find their nest.  But simply by being there near them you would change their behavior.

So the LoonCam has been a major step forward in really seeing and understanding loons.

As far as we can tell, when we videotaped a loon actually laying an egg a number of years ago, that was the first time that it had ever been recorded or maybe even ever being seen by humans.  And now you can see it every year from the comfort of your home!

And this is the only way most people would ever have a chance to actually see a Common Loon on a nest.

So 'enjoy' the anticipation of our loons showing up and nesting.

At this stage, every glimpse is exciting.  And we never know which time will be the time that they actually get up on the nest and make it their own and begin to build their nest.

So let your friends and family know that it is almost time for them to start watching and not to miss a moment.  Tweet and twitter and instant message and facebook and email and even go so far as to use an old-fashioned telephone to let them know!


Copyright 2015    Larry R Backlund