Saturday, May 30, 2015 6:00 am CDT

43 degrees F    Clear     Wind 13 mph N

Sunrise   5:29 am CDT     Sunset 8:52 pm CDT


On an unseasonably cold and windy morning, we have just had our morning nest exchange.

The male has left  after his long overnight shift the nest and the female smoothly moved onto the nest, turned the eggs and settled in for her shift.

The eggs are now once again protected from the wind and cold air.  Safely sealed under the female loon.

Are there chicks in those eggs?  How far along are they?  Are they doing well?  When will they hatch?

So many questions.  So few answers.  And the loons aren't talking.

So we can only wait and watch.

It will take the chick sometime to work its way out of the egg as it uses its egg tooth to break through the shell.  It will work its way around the egg internally first and then externally through the shell.  This is something called "pipping".

Or as someone has referred to it, "pip and zip" as it unzips its egg.

Whenever it is going to happen, it definitely should be within the next few days 

Now that some of the flowers have bloomed, just in time for the arrival of our chicks, it may be time for me to tell what they are.

You have made so many wonderful guesses.  And people have guessed one of them, but not the other.

First of all, there are yellow irises and daylilies which have not started to bloom yet.  

My yellow irises around the house are already blooming.  But the irises on the nest have suffered a number of indignities that they do not look like they are even close to blooming yet.

First it was very cold and dry for them during the first couple weeks on the nest.  So they did not grow much.

And then the loons seemed to want to dig and mine every bit of soil they could from around the iris roots.  Which probably set them back even more.  So they are surviving but that is about it.  I do not see any blossoms that are ready to open.

There were two new plants that I had put on the nest this year.  And you have guessed one of them.

The white flowers are daisies.  And specifically they are Shasta daisies

The ones on the far side of the nest have been blooming for almost a week now, but the blossoms have been up above the top edge of your picture so you could not see them.    The ones on the right side have now opened and are in view.

The other new plants that I put on the nest this year is the lavender flower that you see right next to the nest.

If you remember, the female loon pulled it out by its roots when she was 'excavating' and moved it right next to the nest!  I am surprised that it even survived!

There was a second plant of the same flower in the top corner furthest from the camera.  But that one obviously did not survive all the excavating.

The plant has been stunted by its rough transplanting.  Normally it would be almost 3 feet tall.

It is what I have known all my life as Sweet Rocket.

I am not sure what the scientific name for it is, but it is a wildflower.  It has a head of individual florets and in a large grouping is really quite pretty.  It can spread and take over an area and can be quite invasive.  But during its main bloom period a large group of them offset with white daisies and yellow and purple irises can be quite striking.

Those of you who were watching very early in the year may remember what someone referred to as a 'stick' in the upper left hand corner of the nest.  A stick that the wind blew over fairly quickly.  That stick was the flower stalk from last year's Sweet Rocket flowers.'

The other small green plants that you see beginning to grow at the bottom center of your picture look like they might be Jewel Weed.  This is also a wildflower that often grows along the shores of lake and rivers and swamps.  I have a lot of it that I let grow along the lakeshore.  Later in the summer it has attractive yellow/orange flowers.  It is part of the impatiens family.

But the best part about the plant is that if you have mosquito bites or even poison ivy, crushing the leaves and stems and rubbing them on the site will give you some relief from the itching.

So now you know what the new flowers are.

And they have bloomed just in time to welcome our new chicks.

But the chicks aren't quite here yet.

We will have to wait just a little bit longer before we see what could be some of the cutest chicks in the whole world of birds.

And then unfortunately we only get to see them for about one day before they leave the nest!

Let me tell you about something else you might be interested in.  Most of you know the name Kevin Kenow.  I h talked about Kevin many times and the work that he has done for years studying loons.  Kevin Kenow is with the United States Geological Services (USGS) and he is the one who has banded our loons.  They bands that you are now thankfully able to use to know which loon is which.  Which one is the male and which one is the female.

For those of you in Minnesota or even the Upper Midwest, you might be interested in hearing Kevin speak.  He will be giving a presentation on the results of some of his research on loons at Douglas Lodge in Itasca State Park on Thursday evening, July 8th at 7pm.  I am sure you would find it very interesting.

Itasca State Park is well known to Minnesotans.  But even those of you from other states or even other countries around the world may know of Itasca State Park.  You just didn't know you knew it.

It is Minnesota's oldest state park and the second oldest state park in America, right after Niagara Falls State Park.

Itasca State Park is where the Mississippi River, one of the great rivers of the world starts!

The Mississippi River flows out of Lake Itasca and at its headwaters, you can walk across the Mississippi on a few rocks!

For many years it was not known where the Mississippi River started.  But finally the explorer  Henry Schoolcraft found its true source.  In fact the name "Itasca" comes from the Latin words for 'true head'  - "verITAS CAput".

I bet you never thought you were going to learn all that when you started reading this morning.

But the main thing that all of us want to "learn" is when the loon chicks are going to hatch.

That is still a secret known only to the loons.


Copyright 2015   Larry R Backlund