70 degrees Sunny Wind N 13 mph
Sunrise 5:24 am CDT Sunset 9:00 pm CDT
15 hours 36 minutes of daylight
Oh my goodness!
Where to start!
This particular LoonCam season has been one for the books.
It is probably good to summarize what has happened, especially for those LoonCam watchers who have not been able to follow events as closely as others.
In the shortest summary possible, we had two faithful loons who laid two eggs and then successfully hatched both of those eggs.
And we had two beautiful little loon chicks.
But from that point, the story takes an unexpected and dramatic turn.
On Friday, both loons left the nest with the new little Chick #1 and swam some distance away.
As night was approaching, the male returned to the nest with the little chick on his back. The female loon stayed out in the lake.
When the male got up on the nest, the little chick was thrown backwards into the water. He frantically swam around the nest trying to get on the nest. His peeping sounds tugged at everyone’s heart strings.
He had found is way up on the “chick ramp” earlier in the day, so the hope was that if he did not back on the nest at least he would safely spend the night on the chick ramp.
At daybreak on Saturday morning, one could still hear the chick peeping but there was no visual sighting of him.
About 9 am I made the difficult decision to go out to the nest to see if I could find the missing Chick #1. Obviously the adult loons were not happy about me being around the nest. So I tried to hurry as much as I could but still be thorough in checking for Chick #1. I heard peeping (in all the commotion of upset loons) but decided that it was coming from the second egg which was already pipping.
I could not find ANY sign of Chick #1.
I left the nest and the area to allow the loons to get back on the nest as soon as possible.
Chick # 2 hatched about noon and then all three loons left the nest about 30 minutes later.
Late Saturday night, with the loons away from the nest, I thought it might be safe to go out to the nest to do a more thorough search for the missing Chick #1.
As i was walking out to the nest, I could hear faint peeping and was concerned that the loon pair might be close by with Chick #2. If they were close, that could mean problems and danger.
But in the darkness while shining the flashlight around, I could not see them so I proceeded out to the nest.
When I got to the nest, I was stunned that I could actually hear peeping!
Could it be possible that our little chick still be alive?
My heart started to beat faster. Hope rose. But also the heartbreak for the little chick if he WAS still there someplace. It even crossed my mind that I hoped I was not making up the sound in my mind out of an intense hope that it was true.
I went around the nest looking very carefully for the chick. I had tried to be thorough when I was out in the paddleboat. But there was a lot of commotion and distraction.
Now in the quiet and the dark of that night, I could concentrate more.
And I was SURE that I heard a chick peeping.
But I still could not find him.
I looked every possible place that I could think.
I even felt under the nesting platform, knowing that the chick could not be there and alive since all of that area sits directly on the water.
I pout my ear down against the nest as I went around hoping to pinpoint exactly where the sound was coming from.
I got to one area on the left side of the nest where the peeping was coming from. I “mewed” and “peeped” . The volume and intensity of the chick’s peeping increased. It HAD to be the chick!
I tried to shine the flashlight in this narrow little area. Could it be that a foot and a half or more away I could actually see the eye and beak of the chick. Now my heart was pounding. There was no way I could reach the chick. But he definitely was there. And he was alive.
I mulled what I could do to try to get to the chick. WIth the biggest concern being that of doing no harm to the chick.
The only possibility seemed to be to actual destroy some of the nest to reach him.
I went back up to the house and returned with knife and scissors and other tools.
I began to carefully and delicately cut through some of the nest structure. I did not hit me until I was talking to someone today that it was almost like doing a delicate C-section operation! The primary concern was the safety of the chick.
It was a delicate and painstaking operation in the darkness.
When I got the “C-section incision” open, THERE WAS THE CHICK!!
He was wedged in there SO tight in an area probably no more than an inch or so wide, I could not understand how he had even gotten in there.
This VERY narrow little gap had been apparently opened up as storms and whitecaps and waves and wind had buffeted the nest. And the storms had destroyed and removed the material that had blocked that whole area.
But our little chick had somehow found or ‘stumbled’ into the area and gotten himself wedged in and could not back out. And he was totally out of sight when I had gone out to the nest with the paddleboat and necessarily had to hurry as I tried to thoroughly search for him.
One of the things that i have thought about is how he got to this area and predicament.
It means that he DID use the chick ramp. And he DID get up on the nest. But instead of continuing ‘straight line’ up to the male on the nest, the chick apparently took a HARD left turn and got into this area. But he had used the chick ramp and had made it up onto the nest area.
I tried to work VERY carefully as I performed my “C-section surgery” with special care to not hurt the chick or damage him in any way.
But he was SO wedged in, it took some time in the darkness to carefully extricate him. But finally I got him out.
As i held him in my hands, he was still peeping and weakly moving. But he did not look good. I truly feared that he would not make it.
His right eye did not look good. His right wing did not look good. And neither of his feet or legs looked good. He was wet and matted. Without doubt, water from high waves would have washed through this area.
With the possible damage to his right eye, I wondered if that is why he took his “hard left turn”. If he could only see to the left and did not even see the male on the nest. Pure speculation on my part but it would answer some of the questions.
I briefly - EVER so briefly - considered putting the chick on the nest in hope that the loons would return and reclaim him. But I quickly realized if the loons did not return to the nest and actually get up on the nest very soon, the chick would not survive the exposure over night.
And even if they did return, they might very well kill him not realizing he was their chick.
So I was left with no other option other than to take him with me to the house and see if I could save him.
I got him up to the house where I could see and examine him better. He continued peeping and weakly moving. While his legs and feet and his wing did not look good, he at least was moving them which was encouraging. His right eye definitely did not look good.
But now I was faced with the perplexing question of what do I do with him. Nothing seemed to be broken, so that was encouraging.
I dried him off and put him in a container with some soft light towels to keep him warm.
But I knew that it had been almost 30 hours since he had eaten anything! That alone had to be taking a toll on him and his strength. He HAD to be hungry.
I had no minnows and no bait store was open in the middle of the night.
I decided to go back down to the lake and see if I could catch any minnows, which I knew would probably be a fools enterprise! But maybe I could catch a small sunfish and cut him up into tiny slices and try to feed our little loon chick.
So down to the lake I went on an impossible mission. Almost immediately, I saw a minnow almost “laying on the surface”! At first I thought it was a weed or debris. But it was a minnow. I had never seen anything like this minnow before.
I had brought a fishing rod and also a kitchen strainer with me.
I shone my flashlight on the minnow while carefully bringing the kitchen strainer up underneath the minnow.
I GOT HIM! I could not believe it. I actually had him. He was EXTREMELY lively and flipping around.
Then I got another one And another. I caught a total of 6 minnows.
Quickly I headed up to the house with the minnows.
I sliced up one of the minnows into tiny strips and tried to feed the little chick. He wanted nothing to do with the minnow. I tried numerous times but to no avail.
He continued to peep incessantly, even if somewhat weakly.
About 1 am I knew that I had done everything I could at that point. And that I needed to get some rest myself.
So I made sure he was ok. I covered the container with a towel. He continued peeping. How am I going to be able to sleep with that sweet , plaintive cry.
I turned out the lights and he quieted down a little bit but still peeped.
As daybreak, I was up. I did not hear the chick at all. I thought I was prepared for the very real possibility that the chick would not survive the night.
I pulled the cover back from his container.
He was still ALIVE!
I really was somewhat surprised that he was still alive.
And best of all, he looked much better. Now completely dried off and fluffy. Even his legs and wing looked better. Once again he started peeping loudly. I peeped and mewed in return, which really got his attention.
I thought I would try to feed him some of the minnow strips again. But still he would not eat at all.
About 3 hours later, I once again attempted to feed him.
This time he GOBBLED down the strips of minnow! One strip after another. Including the large head of the minnow.
This was a wonderfully encouraging sign.
Being he had not eaten for 30 hours, I did not want to give him too much. So after he had finished the one fairly good sized minnow I stopped.
I even put him in a pail of lake water and he readily swam around. His legs seemed to be working much better and he had use of them.
I went to a community church service.
When I came home a few hours later, I immediately checked on the chick.
He continued to look much better. He was even moving around more easily. His wing and his legs looked better.
I cut another minnow up into strips and tried to feed him. He scarfed them down one after another! Until he had eaten the whole minnow including the head! He made short work of it.
Did I dare try a second minnow?
He scarfed that one down as well!!
Once again I did not want to overdo it, so I did not feed him any more … although I think he would have eaten more.
So I headed off for the trip to take him to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in St Paul.
When I got there, they checked him in to the “hospital”. Where he would be in the best of hands. With wildlife experts.
They have told me that they confirmed the eye damage and also said that he continued to eat well.
(to be continued)
[I apologize for taking so long to finish this and get it posted. There have been a number of phone calls.]
Copyright 2019 Larry R Backlund