Thursday, May 21, 2015 5:10 am CDT

38 degrees F     Scattered Clouds   Wind Calm

Sunrise   5:37 am CDT     Sunset   8:43 pm CDT


It is a perfectly still morning.

The eastern sky is painted with pinks and blues and the sun will soon peak over the eastern horizon.  And with it starts a new day.

Our loon is awake on the nest, alert and looking around.  I assume it is our male.  If it is still the male, that means he has been on the nest since 1:27 pm yesterday afternoon.   Once again it is the male who has been taking the overnight shifts.  Very LONG shifts.

Other birds have started their morning songs and calls.

It is still chilly this morning.  But unlike the last two mornings which hit 32 and 33 degrees and struggled to rise during the day, today should be the start of a warming trend.

Late last night when I went outside to check on things, I heard a coyote howling and yipping across the lake.

I have been told for the last couple years that we have numerous coyotes in the area.  But this is the first time I have actually heard one howling.

You can add coyotes to your list of predators that would disturb loons that are nesting on shore.  I don't know if they would specifically target loons or their eggs.  But they seem to be very opportunistic predators so I think there is a probability that they would go after the adult loon or even the eggs.

I have never heard or read any reports of that.  Normally coyotes would not occupy the same area that most loons would be nesting.  But as coyotes become more prevalent, I think we may hear reports of increased conflict.

Several people have asked for more information about the nest and the area where it is located on the lake.

So let me try to give you a little bit of a  bird's eye view - or "loon's eye view" - of the nest.

The nest is located about 150 feet off shore in about 2 to 3 feet of water.  That level varies depending on the year and the time of year

It is anchored at two points to keep it from spinning and twisting in the wind.

One is a permanent 'screw' anchor that is attached to the bottom of the lake.  The other is a rope attached to a cement block.  Both have excess line so that if the water rises, the cement block will move and allow the nesting platform to rise with the rising water.

Some of you will remember a few years ago when we had very heavy rains and the lake came up 17 inches in 24 hours.  We ran out of rope and the nest was in danger of being pulled underwater and destroyed.

I had to go out there and add additional rope to keep the nest from being destroyed.

Going out to the nest is something I try to NEVER do when the loons are around.  Both for their safety as well as mine.

Even though the loons seem to know me and tolerate me, the danger of being stabbed is very real.

They have never tried to stab me in the few times that I have had to go out to the nest through the years.  But they have swam within a few inches of my legs.  Close enough that I could feel them as they swam by.

They easily could have stabbed me.  But I have not seen them try.

The nesting platform itself is built out of a framework of PVC pipe,  Then there is a 'base' of foam that fills the entire center of the platform.  This provides additional flotation and support for the nest itself.

All of that is bound together by plastic mesh and landscape fabric.

On top of all of that, I place cattails and weeds and other material that normally washes up on the shore of the lake.  All things that loons would normally find when they are looking for a place to build their nest.

On the 'back' corners of the nest platform, are willow branches about 4 feet high - behind the camera and also to the corner of the platform to your right. The camera and the infrared light are mounted on top of a very sturdy post attached to one corner of the nest platform.  It is about 3 feet high and that puts your view within 3 to 4 feet of the nest itself.

That is a view that you would never be able to get in the wild.

The willow branches actually grow roots in the water and the leaves begin to open.  Not as well as if they were still on the tree.  But they do grow nonetheless.

Those willow branches are there to try to prevent eagles from swooping down directly on the nest or on the loon who is sitting on the nest.

Around the edges of the platform I have planted a number of different plants.  Their function is to help keep the nesting material from washing away in high waves and wind.  Most of the plants are flowering plants, especially iris.

I chose iris as a tribute to the voyageurs who centuries ago plied our northern lakes along what is now the Canadian border during the fur trading era.

These voyageurs were often of French background and the iris is the fleur- de- lis on the French crest.  The voyageurs would often plant iris to mark some of the portages in canoe country.  To this day you will find iris growing near some portages in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

I have a couple new plants that I am trying as well this year.  But I haven't said what they are .  I am letting you watch them grow and see if you can guess what they are.  Hopefully some of them will bloom before the loons leave the nest.

The plants have really struggled this year.

From it being very dry early in the season, the plants have suffered from the lack of rain.  So they are way behind where they should be.

But in addition to that, the loons seem to love to 'excavate' around the plants this year.  I don't know what their fascination is with trying to take every bit of dirt.  But they have done just that.  They even pulled on plant out by the roots and moved it closer to the nest.  I think they totally destroyed one of the other plants because I cannot see it on the camera any more.

As the plants grow, it also give additional cover to the loons.

But everything I have done is to try to keep the nest as natural as possible.  To keep it close to the type of material and vegetation that loons would normally find when they would build a nest along shore. 

Around the nesting platform are 15 buoys plus a large swimming raft that the neighbors graciously provide.  These buoys are anywhere from 50 to 200 feet away from the nest.  The buoys that you can just barely see on the cam are about 50 feet out from the nest.

All of that is to try to keep boaters and fishermen and canoers and kayakers from coming too close to the nest.

It is a federal and a state crime to purposely disturb nesting loons.

In addition to that, there are a couple buoys and a number of stakes and posts that show where the tv cables lie on the bottom of the lake ... just in case a boat would ignore the other buoys hopefully they would not run over and cut the tv cables.

So there you have an overview of what you can see on the LoonCam as well as a few things you cannot see.

So enjoy the view of our loons today on the LoonCam.

And watch things that you would never be able to see in any other way other than the LoonCam!

We are probably less that two week away from hatching.

If your friends and family have not been watching so far, tell them it is not too late.

The most exciting time is yet to come.


Copyright 2015   Larry R Backlund