Wednesday, June 5, 2019 5:40 am CDT

58 degrees F Mostly Cloudy Wind Calm

Sunrise 5:26 am CDT Sunset 8:57 pm CDT

15 hours 31 minutes of daylight

It is a beautiful morning on Loon Lake.

The sun woke up just a few minutes ago and is shining on our loon. It appears that the male loon has taken the night shift again and has been on the nest since last night. Shift change may take place any time now.

While the sky is mostly cloudy this morning, there is enough clear sky along the eastern horizon to allow that waking morning sun to paint the nest with its warming rays.

We were very fortunate yesterday afternoon and evening to not have any severe storms here. There was a lot of thunder at times and a fair amount of rain again. But no severe weather here. Not even any wind to speak of.

Other parts of the state were not so lucky. It was the first outbreak of severe weather here in Minnesota this year. A cooler than normal month of May kept the severe weather away from here. Even though we got a lot of rain in the last month.

There were several tornado touchdowns and damage to farms and buildings yesterday. And there were a number of places that got ‘ping pong sized’ hail. Isn’t it interesting that hail always gets compared to something else?!

Ping pong ball. Nickel sized. Quarter sized. Baseball. Softball.

But our loons did not have to contend with any of that yesterday.

They had a relatively easy time of it.

Both of the loons have settled in to a real routine of sitting on the nest. And have been very faithful in doing so. What has been a little different is that they seem to be taking longer shifts than I have seen most years.

Right now it appears that it is the male on the nest. If there was not a nest change during the night that I missed, that means that he has been on the nest since 9 o’clock last night. Almost 9 hours already.

There is a VERY slight chance that the first egg could hatch today. I don’t think it will. But it is a good time for us to talk about what to watch for. Signs that may signal we have a hatch underway.

The actual hatching can go on for some hours. Upwards of 24 hours sometimes.

What you will want to watch for are subtle signs and movements from the loon on the nest.

You may see a wing twitch now and then. At first it can be very minor and almost unnoticeable. But then it gets more pronounced as the chick becomes more active in trying to free itself from the egg. The egg that has both protected and nurtured it as it grew and developed. But now becomes its ‘prison’ that it wants to escape.

The chick will first make a hole in the blunt end of the egg. It is called a ‘pip’.

While the chick has been able to breathe inside the egg in the air pocket that is there, this pip now allows it to get ‘fresh air’.

The chick has a sharp point on its bill that is called an ‘egg tooth’. I have felt that egg tooth on a loon chick and it is really surprisingly sharp. The chick uses that egg tooth to cut through the tough egg shell that has been protecting it.

It is these movements by the chick that cause the adult loon’s wings to twitch or flinch once in a while.

It is VERY hard work for the chick to try to free itself from the egg. So it will be active for a while and then may rest for a number of minutes or even an hour. And then it will resume trying to free itself from the egg.

After it has made the pip or hole in the blunt end of the egg, the chick will do what has become known as “pip and zip”. It will actually cut through the egg shell all the way around. Like ‘unzipping’ the egg shell.

This is when you will see the most subtle twitching or flinching from the adult loon.

Once the chick is actually coming out of the egg shell, this is when you may see the adult loon slightly raise its body.

As the movement of the chick becomes more pronounced, you may see the adult loon partially raise its body slightly more and more.

Then you will see movement under the adult loon’s wings as the chick begins to move around. And the adult loon will slightly raise its wings.

And then comes the moment that we have all been waiting for!

That unbelievable moment when we first get a glimpse of our beautiful loon chick peeking out from under that adult loon’s wing!

The moment that makes the waiting and anticipation all worth it.

But unfortunately, the time that we get to see these wonderfully cute little chicks is all too brief.

The second chick will usually hatch within about a day of the first chick hatching. The chicks are called “precocious” since they are able to swim almost immediately after hatching.

And then within a day or two, the chicks are in the water and they leave the nest.

Eager and ready to begin their new life as a loon.

So tell Grandma and the grandkids and every one you know that now is the time to start watching if they have not been doing so already.

The excitement is about to begin!

Copyright 2019 Larry R Backlund