Tuesday, April 25, 2017 8:00 pm CDT

54 degrees F   Rain   Wind Calm

Sunrise   6:11 am CDT   Sunset  8:12 pm CDT


Today has been a very quiet day on Loon Lake.

Our pair of loons has only been to the nest twice today and only up on the nest once.

This is quite a contrast to the SEVEN times on the nest yesterday and the two matings.

But all is still good and no cause for concern.

For a good share of the day (from mid-morning to mid-afternoon) there was a single loon that stayed in the area.

At least I think it was a single loon because I never saw a second loon in all that time.  I know from a number of reports that there is a single loon on the lake.  I keep wondering if it is our female from a couple years ago whose mate was killed.  But there is no way of knowing at this point.

Now it is raining a soft gentle rain.  And is supposed to continue raining for the next couple days.

In fact, it is supposed to get much colder and there is supposed to be snow and freezing rain in some parts of the state.  But I think most of that will stay farther north.

It will not bother the loons.  They will take it all in stride.

Since this is a very quiet day, maybe we can take a little time to give you a 'tour' of the nesting platform and explain what is what.  That may help you understand more about how it all works together for our loons.

Many of you already know a lot about the nest.  But for some of our newer loon addicts, this may be especially helpful.

The nesting platform is a floating 'raft'.  It is anchored out in the lake some distance from shore.  One anchor rope is attached to an anchor that is screwed into the bottom of the lake.  It has been there for 15 years and has not moved during that time.

A second anchor rope is attached to a cement block.  The cement block and the long ropes attached to the anchors allows the nesting platform to rise and fall with the water level in the lake and with the waves.  Some of you may remember a few years ago when we had a lot of rain and the lake level rose 17 inches in just 24 hours.  I had to go out to lengthen the anchor rope because it was actually pulling the nest underwater.

I normally never go anywhere near the nest when the loons are there.  But this was an emergency.  Either lengthen the rope  or lose the nest.  Fortunately we were able to save the nest.

My descriptions will be in relation to your view from the camera.

If you look really closely, One anchor rope comes off the corner of the raft on the left hand side of the picture.  It is very hard to see.  It is a dark green rope that goes down into the water almost immediately and about all your can see is the knot that fastens the rope to the raft.  Don't worry if you can't see it.  The important thing is that it is there.

The other anchor rope goes off the corner of the raft that is almost directly across the nest from your vantage point of the camera.

Depending on the light, you may be able to see the rope underwater going toward the far left corner of the picture.  There are actually two ropes, both of them yellow.  But in some light they look like they might be white.

The use of two anchor points keeps the nest from twisting in the wind - which we cannot have because of the camera cables.

The material on the nest is all natural stuff that loons might find washed up on the shore of a lake - although many times loons will also use a muskrat house and build their nest on top of it.  A muskrat house would also have much of the same material that you see on this nest.  It is cattails and weeds and leaves that have washed up on shore.

I place all the material on the nesting platform and then it is up to the loons to rearrange it to their liking when they are ready to nest.

At the corner to the left and the corner across from the camera, there are clumps of plants.  They are there mainly to protect the nest from washing away in high waves.  But they also give natural green growth and some shelter and cover for the loons.

The plants are mainly irises and daylilies.  But there may be other plants mixed in as well.

I chose irises because the voyageurs who first came through this part of the world planted some of them at many of the portages in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, one of my favorite places on the face of the earth.

The voyageurs were French-Canadians and the irises were actually used as a representation of the Fleur-de-Lis of France.  So I felt that the iris was appropriate for the loon nest since so many loons are native to the Boundary Waters and the lakes of the great north woods.

You will really see the plants grow over the next few weeks.

On the far right corner you sometimes can catch sight of something vertical.  They are willow branches that extend for about 6 feet above the level of the nest.  They are inserted in that piece of white pvc pipe that you may be able to see.  That helps hold them vertical (that pvc is new this year and so far seems to be working quite well.  But the season is young!).

The willow branches extend down into the water and actually for roots and grow in the water.  they have already leafed out quite nicely.

The purpose of the willow branches is to be an obstacle so that eagles cannot swoop down directly onto the nest.  So far it has worked well for many years.

The camera that brings the pictures to you is mounted on a column attached to the raft at the bottom of your picture.

On the far left of the picture is a dark 'line' that goes from the bottom of the picture to the top left corner of the raft.  That is a rope that is attached to the top of the camera mounting pole.  Some of you may remember a few years ago in a high wind storm with large waves, the camera mounting loosened and the camera was slipping and was in danger of going in the lake.  That was one of the other times that I had to go out to the nest - to save the camera.  I quickly attached the rope and left.  It worked well enough that I have just left the rope there for safety.

The camera is capable of some very good resolution.  And hopefully your picture is quite clear and sharp.  However, the camera is actually capable of a picture that is of MUCH higher resolution than you are seeing.

So why don't we give you a higher resolution picture?.

Because your computer would not be able to handle all the data of such a high resolution  picture and your video would be constantly buffering.

Out of view at the bottom of your picture is a "chick ramp" for very young chicks to get back up on the nest in emergencies.  Normally it is never used because the chicks leave the nest within about 24 hours, never to come back.

Some of you yesterday also noticed something at the bottom of your picture that was flapping in the wind.  That was part of the extension that I added to the chick ramp this year which made it bigger and more accessible to chicks.

You may have seen me last night do some repairs to reattach the flap to the nest.

Yesterday someone also asked what the "shadow" was in the upper right had corner of the picture.  When I looked at it I didn't know what it was either.

But last night as I looked closer, I realized it was the rounded corner similar to the rounded corner of the picture that you see on the upper left side.  But with the difference in lighting and with the leaves of the willow branches, it was deceptive as to what it was.

Those rounded corners are part of a plastic shield that covers the entire camera to protect it from rain and snow and ice and sun.  It is that plastic cover that produces the distinctive "ping" sound when it rains.  Or the very LOUD sound if we get hail.

Someone also asked why it was so light on the nest when it was dark at their house - no matter if they were well south of the nest or well north of it.  I think it made some wonder if the picture was actually "live".

I have also marveled about the difference in lighting many times.  I look out my door and it is dark outside.  But then I look at the LoonCam and the nest appears to be in broad daylight.

The reason is that the camera is so good at picking up light that it can stills 'see' after our own eyes think it is dark.

But eventually it gets dark enough and the camera switches to infrared mode which allows you to to see the nest clearly all night long.  I use an infrared light to light up the nest so that you can see it.  The loons cannot see the infrared light so it does not bother them or cause them any concern at all.

So now you know a little bit more about the LoonCam nest and nesting platform.  And how it all works together to provide a home for our beloved loons to use during these few short weeks every year.

Enjoy it!

Hopefully there will be eggs coming very soon.


Copyright 2017  Larry R Backlund