52 degrees F Cloudy Wind 3 mph NW
Sunrise 5:43 am CDT Sunset 8:36 pm CDT
On a cloudy and overcast morning, with a haze hanging in the air, our loons have just smoothly completed their nest exchange of the morning a few minutes ago.
Once again the male has taken the long shift and has been on the nest for 10 hours and 26 minutes over night.
He seems to consistently be the one this year that does the overnight nesting sitting duties. And he also seems to be the one who does by far the longest time on the nest.
Even with the female sitting close by for the last half hour, he was in no hurry to leave.
This morning we will pass the 8 day mark since the laying of the second egg and have already passed the 10 day mark since the first egg was laid.
It is hard to believe that it has been that long already.
Last year I did a look at the development of chicks inside the egg.
I took what is known about the normal development of chicks inside chicken eggs which is well documented, and extrapolated to what might be happening with the longer incubation time of a loon egg.
At this stage today, the heart of the developing chick has already been beating for a number of days!
Blood vessels have grown. The limbs, brain and eyes have begun to develop. Even the beak has begun to form.
How can one even comprehend the wonder of that?!
From "nothing" in the egg just a few days ago. To now a new living creature being formed.
I will never get over the wonder of that.
Our loon parents both seem to have matured so much this year, especially the female.
Where last year she was so skittish and would scare off the nest at the slightest disturbance - or no disturbance at all - this year she has been very faithful in the nest exchanges and sitting on the eggs. She still is much more apt to show concern and go into hangover than the male, but she has done so much better this year.
I have assumed that she may be a very young female who is still getting used to this whole routine. She was new to the nest in 2013. And that year she did not even seem to dare to get up on the nest more than a couple times. They did not nest that year. Which was the first time in all the years I have been doing this that the loons did not nest on the platform.
But now she seems to be learning what is expected of her and is much more comfortable with the whole routine.
I have mentioned "hangover" a couple times this year but realize that I have not really explained what it means. Most of you already know. But some of you who are new to watching our loons, let me explain.
A loon normally sits on the nest with its head held fairly high.
However, when it senses danger it will lower its head.
This danger might be from an eagle, from a boat or canoe in the area or just about anything else that might concern them.
The more concerned they become, the lower their head will go.
They will not leave the nest. Yet. But the lower their head is, the more concerned they are about whatever it is that has caused the disturbance.
They are trying to lower their profile and their visibility.
As they continue to become more concerned, their head will go lower and lower. Until they are laying it right down against the nest. With their neck outstretched. They can still watch everything that is going on around them, but they have dramatically reduced their visibility.
It is what we call "hangover" position.
If the threat goes away, they will gradually raise their head again as they become more comfortable.
But if the threat does not go away, or especially if it continues to get closer, the loon may very well leave the nest.
They will swim away from the nest hoping to draw the threat away from the nest. And apparently also draw attention away from the location of the nest.
That is why I encourage fishermen and canoeists or anyone on or around the water where there are loons, keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings.
If you see a loon on a nest, keep your distance.
We all want to see a loon closeup on the nest because it is something that we never get a chance to see.
And that is the beauty of the LoonCam!
You are able to watch the loons on the nest close up and never disturb them one iota.
Everything you see is their natural behavior.
It is something that researchers from years ago could only dream about. But now we take it for granted.
But if you see a loon in the wild that is on a nest, don't approach it even though everything in your body says you want to get a closer look. Carry a pair of binoculars with you and then you can watch 'close up' from a distance and not disturb the loons.
Usually if you stay about 300 feet away from the nest, the loons will not care and you are not stressing them. If the loon starts to go into hangover position, it means you are getting to close to them for the loon to be comfortable. Slowly back away and they will once again raise their head as they become more comfortable.
Our here on the LoonCam is a perfect example of the difference in loons themselves, even the same pair.
The male of this pair very seldom goes into hangover unless he is really concerned about something. The female, however, is still prone to go into hangover over the slightest little thing. Or sometimes what to me looks like nothing at all.
Watch for that difference in behavior as you watch our loons.
Before it was hard if not impossible to know for sure which loon was on the nest. Now that they are banded, we can easily tell "who's on first"!
The male has a blue striped band on his right leg and silver bands on his left leg. The female has a green band on her right leg and two red (sometimes they look more orange) striped bands on her left leg.
Yesterday we had an "intruder loon" that our loons went out to confront and to keep him away from the nest. They do not want any other loons in their territory. Other loons can be a threat to the nest and the eggs and especially the young chicks after they hatch.
They did not get into a big battle but their was a lot of excited diving and even a couple penguin dances and calls. Finally the intruder left the area and the loons got back on the nest.
But it always concerns me when they are off the nest for any amount of time, especially at this critical time in the development of the eggs. And yesterday morning, the intruder drew them off the nest while it was raining.
Many times I find myself becoming concerned over things I know that I cannot control. And so I have to just walk away. But that is easy to say. And hard to do.
You may experience those same feelings at times.
But the wonder of watching all of this miracle unfold before our eyes is far greater than the stress it puts on our poor hearts.
And seeing those unbelievably cute loon chicks in a few weeks makes all the heartburn and heart attacks worthwhile!
So once again today, enjoy this little peek into the lives of our loons.
It should clear off later today and we should see some sunshine on our beautiful loons.
And with the rain we have gotten, you can almost see the plants on the nest grow.
Enjoy it all.
Have a wonderful loon-filled day!
Copyright 2015 Larry R Backlund
PS If you want to get a possible periodic email update even after our loons have left the nest and the camera has gone off, drop a note to LoonCam at yahoo.com. I won't promise a lot of updates, but there will probably be a couple between now and the new loon season next year.