Saturday, July 8, 2017 6:33 am CDT

57 degrees  Clear  Wind Calm

Sunrise  5:34 am CDT  Sunset  9:02 pm CDT


In the early morning sunlight, four loons are swimming right out in front of me!

It is OUR loons.  Two adults and two chicks.  Although they can hardly be considered "chicks" anymore.  They are fully three quarters the length of the adults now.

It is hard to believe that they are the same little chicks that left the nest within hours of hatching one month and five days ago.

They seem to be doing very well.  Healthy and active.

The lake is like a sheet of glass.  The sky is blue with just a few scattered clouds.  And the early morning sun's rays are sweeping across the lake.  And they highlight our loons peacefully swimming along and feeding.

The first early morning fishermen have just left the landing and made their way across the lake.  One boat is fishing not too far from our loons.  But they are totally oblivious to the presence of the loons and the loons are not concerned about them either.

The chicks are easily able to dive now.  They may even be able to catch a little bit of their own food.  But for the most part they are still reliant on the parents for their food.

Even though they are approaching the size of an adult loon, they are still wearing their gray down.  It is hard to describe the feel of that down.  It is softer than the softest, most expensive cashmere that you have ever felt.

But very soon the first feathers will begin to appear and they will enter their unkempt 'teenage phase'.

It is interesting to watch the adults as they dive for minnows and fish for the chicks.

It looks simple enough.

The loon dives.  And then a minute or so later he comes up with a fish.

But oh how interesting it would be to see what goes on between the initial dive and the surfacing with a fish.

On a very calm morning like today, one can see hints of what is going on under water as the loon chases VERY fast fish darting around.

Because in between where the loon dove and where he came up, you can see swirls of water on the glass-like surface of the lake.  Swirls that are masked and covered when there are waves or even small ripples on the surface.

Those swirls appear here.  And then there.  And back over here.  And off to that side.  Then this side.  Closer.  Further away.  And all points in between.

The swirls of water on the surface show us that the loon is darting about, making impossible turns and quick movements underwater.  Until he finally nabs the fish he is chasing and comes up with it to give to the chicks.

But then something else catches the loon's attention.

All four loons turn and face the same direction.  Intent on something.  But what is it?

There about a hundred feet away is a dark object swimming straight toward them.  It has their attention.  It leaves a 'v' in the calm surface of the water as it approaches them.

It is a beaver.  With just the top of the head showing above the surface of the water.

As the beaver gets nearer to the loons and the chicks, it does what is probably the wise thing.  It dives.

But one of the adult loons dives as well.

Again how interesting it would be to be able to observe what is going on underwater.

All we can see are numerous swirls on the surface of water.

No doubt there is a new chase going on underwater.

But this time the loon is not trying to catch something.  After all, even if it could catch the beaver, then what would he do with it?

No, the underwater chase right now is a loon trying to drive the beaver away.  Undoubtedly with a few will placed stabs of its beak if the beaver is foolish enough to not beat hasty retreat.

And so that chase and hasty retreat are the story that the swirls on top of the water tell.

Soon the loon surfaces.  Mission complete.  And it returns to its mate and growing chicks.

That is just about a ten minute glimpse into the lives of our beloved loons.

Who knows what all goes on the other 24 hours that we do not see?!

I have some other good news for you.

I have already heard from Kevin Kenow from the USGS.

He has done a preliminary look at the data recorder that we retrieved off our male loon two weeks ago. 

The good news is that the recorder and the data were intact.  And readable.

Kevin said he "obtained a very nice record for 13 July 2012 (date of capture) through 28 October 2013 (when the devices memory was filled)."

With all that data (almost a year and a half of data!), it will take some time to analyze it and make sense out of it.

Kevin has said that he will let me know what he finds out about where our male went and what he did during that time.  It covers two whole migrations south and one migration north in the spring.  So it will be very interesting to learn more about where and when our loon traveled.

Already it sounds like there may be one or two real surprises for us.

But we will just have to be patient and wait for the full results.

I will let you know as soon as I find out more information.

But just know that this morning our loon family is doing well.  Healthy and active and growing.

And they survived a VERY active week on the lake over the 4th of July!


Copyright 2017   Larry R Backlund