Saturday, May 4, 2019 11:45 pm CDT

52 degrees F Clear Wind Calm

Today was definitely a “SIMON SAYS” day!

Deep blue skies, gentle breezes and an above average temperature of 72 degrees. No humidity. No mosquitoes. Trees starting to show signs of leaves ready to burst forth. A few of the earliest spring flowers blooming with the promise of many more to come very soon. And the lake is the quintessential “Land of Sky Blue Waters” color.

I have a huge forsythia bush that is like a beautiful massive yellow bouquet.

But the best part of the last few days is that our loons continue to visit the nest and have definitely taken ownership of it. I would expect that we will see the first egg in the next few days. Maybe a week at most.

And then starts the wonderful countdown to seeing our first cute little loon chicks.

Today the loons have been relatively scarce around the nest. They visited and mated on the nest early this morning. And even though they have been around the nest several times this afternoon, they have not gotten back up on the nest that I have seen.

I am a little surprised by that but not really concerned at all.

It might be that all the boat traffic on the lake today may have had an effect on them. With today being such a spectacular “SIMON SAYS” spring day, there were a lot of fishermen and other boaters out on the lake all day today.

But all of them were very respectful of the nest and kept their distance.

Or it could be that the loons know that very soon they will be tied to the nest 24 hours a day and are enjoying their last days freedom to fish and swim and relax.

For those of you who may be new to the LoonCam (or even you veterans), let me give you a brief ‘tour’ and explanation of the nest.

The nest is a floating platform that is anchored in place in about 3 feet of water. When I first built it there were ‘experts’ that said it had to be in water that was at least 5 feet deep and that it would not work in shallower water. That did not make sense to me since loons often nest on shore and slide off the nest into very shallow water.

I am glad I did not listen to the ‘experts’ or I never would have tried to build the nest.

When I built it, there had been very few nesting platforms built so everything I did was out of guesswork and ‘ignorance’. But it worked. And the loons used it the very first year.

For many, many years the LoonCam was the ONLY place that you could see nesting loons close up. And all of us have learned SO much by being able to observe them undisturbed.

In the last few years there are a few other live webcams on loon nests. But where eagle cams are a dime a dozen now, there are only a handful of cams on loon nests and they are still few and far between. I have had the privilege to work with a couple of them to help them get started in establishing their live webcams.

But the LoonCam is the grandaddy of them all. And it is also one of the very first live wildlife webcams of any kind.

The nesting platform is a little over 5 feet by 5 feet. When the loons form the nest bowl, it will be between 2 and 3 feet in total diameter with the ‘bowl’ itself between a foot and a foot-and-a-half in diameter.

When the water is very calm, you may notice a lighter colored line in the water extending out from the upper right hand corner of the nest. That is the rope to one of two anchors that keep the nest in place and keep it from twisting in the wind.

At the lower right corner on the right side of your screen are willow branches that extend up above the nest about 4-5 feet. These are intended to keep anything, especially bald eagles, from swooping directly down on the nest. the camera mount is also a little over 3 feet high and it also helps to keep eagles from swooping down on the nest.

The material on the nest is anywhere from 6 inches to almost a foot deep. It will settle some as the season goes along. It is made up of all the natural materials that loons would ordinarily find in the wild. Cattails, leaves, grasses and lake weeds.

I simply cover the entire platform with it and then the loons will rearrange it to their liking as they build their nest bowl. Hopefully the nest bowl will be deep enough and back far enough from the edge that the eggs will not roll into the lake.

Erosion from the wind and waves is a constant concern and problem. But through a lot of thought and experimentation, we have almost got it down to a ‘science’ that most of the time withstands the erosion.

The small ‘hummocks’ that you see along the front edge and sides of the platform are plants that are meant to help protect from waves and to give the loons some cover and ‘privacy’ as those plants grow. It is a combination of plants that would be found in the wild but also includes irises and daylilies.

You are just starting to see the first green growth of those plants now. But they will soon form a screen that helps the loons feel more secure in feeling that they are hidden.

I chose irises because 300 years ago the French voyageurs brought wild irises (also known as or similar to the French fleur-de-lis) to the Boundary Waters. And day lilies are one of the hardiest plants that live in the wild for decades with no help or cultivation from man.

Out of sight below the camera is a floating “chick ramp” to help a chick that jumps in the water but wants to get back up on the nest. It is very seldom needed but it is there for emergencies. Usually a chick will jump in the water within 24 hours of hatching! And from that point on they are totally at home on the water.

There are over 20 buoys and a raft that form a ring around the nest to encourage boaters and fishermen to keep a respectful distance away from the nest and to keep them from disturbing the loons.

Loons are protected both by Federal Laws and State of Minnesota Laws.

If you are out in a boat this summer and you happen to see loons or a loon nest, if you stay 300 feet away and observe them through binoculars you usually will not disturb them. Share that information with your friends and family and you will be doing a great favor to loons.

In the next few days, watch for the time when the loons start building their nest and forming the nest bowl. You will see that one day all of a sudden that nest building activity seems to be more urgent. That is a good indication that the first egg is getting close or is on the way.

Enjoy the adventure. And the suspense!

Copyright 2019 Larry R Backlund