Wednesday, May 18, 2016 7:21 am CDT

38 degrees F   Clear and Sunny  Wind  Calm

Sunrise  5:39 am CDT    Sunset   8:40 pm CDT

 

WOW!

What a spectacular spring morning in Minnesota.

And what an interesting morning already.

There is not a cloud in the sky.

The sky is a deep blue as is talked about in the advertising jingle "From The Land Of Sky Blue Waters"!

In fact, one of the interpretations of the Indian word for Minnesota is "sky tinted waters" or "clear blue water".  And that is certainly true this morning.

There is no wind.  The lake is like a sheet of glass reflecting the sky and the newly greening trees around its edge.  And unbroken mirror.

Except for the fish jumping.  And the loons swimming on its surface.  And the ducks.  And mergansers.

The sun is chasing wisps and banks of fog off the lake into the shadows of the trees and cattails along the shaded edge of the lake.  A losing battle for the fog on a morning like this.

The low here at the lake was a chilly 36 degrees and it has warmed only a couple degrees from that.  But what a glorious morning.  New life all around.

One morning like this makes all the Minnesota blizzards worth it!

But also what makes the morning worthwhile is to see that the loons have not totally given up on the nest.

Around 6 this morning, both loons were around and on the nest for a few minutes.  No mating that I saw but this is the first time that the male was also on the nest!

That is a major step that he was willing to get up on the nest.  I will be very interested to watch the video of anyone caught it on video.  I want to see the bands on the female to see if it is our female from 2012 and before.  And also to see if the male is banded.  And to try to figure out who he is.

Or if our female from last year has now found a mate.

From watching through binoculars I could not tell and I missed some of the live video as she got on and off the nest.  So I want to see the video.  Once again THANK YOU to all who do the hard work of providing video for all of us!  I hope someone was able to catch it.

They were on the nest for about 5 minutes and then left.  I did not want to go outside to disturb them at all.  So I watched through the window.

After they had left, I went down to the lake to get a better view.

As I came to the edge of the lake, I was startled by a pair of mergansers and at least 9 chicks just a few feet away who were even MORE startled by me!

The adults noisily swam and splashed away as the chicks desperately struggled to keep up, their little wings and feet paddling and splashing as fast and as hard as they could.  Until the reached the cover of some cattails where they felt safer but kept paddling away from me as the male merganser kept swimming back and forth making known his displeasure with me for frightening them.

As they continued swimming away, they startled an American Bittern, or as we used to call the 'slough pumps', who rose up out of the cattails and flew off.

A startled pintail duck also swam out of the cattails.

Tree swallows circled and chirped and dove to get bugs off the surface of the lake.  You have seen them on and around the loon nest at times.  They are nesting in a martin house that I have along the edge of the lake.

Every direction you looked, there was something fascinating going on.

Right now the pair of loons is out past the middle of the lake having a minor confrontation with another loon.

There seemed to be two single loons, one of which took off flying a few minutes ago.  And now the pair and another loon are circling each other and diving.

If indeed this is two single loons and the pair that was just on the nest, that probably makes a total of six loons on the lake.  This pair, possibly two single loons and the other pair on the other side of the lake.

The other pair of loons on the lake apparently nested about 3 weeks ago, although I have yet to personally verify that.  If that is true, their eggs should hatch within the next week.

I have so much more to share with you about all that has happened on the lake.  About a BIG sturgeon in the lake, about treating for invasive species yesterday, about doing water sampling, about eagles and loons .... well, there is just too much to go into right now.

As encouraging as it is that both the male and female of this pair (whoever they are) were on the nest this morning, the reality is that we may be running out of time.

But how wonderful it is to be able to see what we have been able to see!

Stay tuned.

 

Questions or comments?  Email us at LoonCam at yahoo dot com.  Because of the volume of email I will not be able to respond personally to each email.  But I will eventually read every one and for recurring questions I will try to answer them here in this blog.

Copyright 2016    Larry R Backlund

Friday, May 13, 2016 11:14 pm CDT

38 degrees F   Clear   Wind NW 12 mph

Sunrise  5:44 am CDT    Sunset   8:35 pm CDT

 

It seems like winter has returned to Minnesota.

There has been a cold blustery wind blowing all day long under a cloudy and sometimes rainy sky.

And tonight there is a FREEZE warning for a good share of northern Minnesota, including here at Loon Lake.  And there is a frost warning for the rest of the state.

This freeze warning covers most of the Upper Midwest and even reaches all the way out to the East Coast.

So we may very well see frost on the nest in the early hours of tomorrow morning.  Especially if the wind dies down over night.

All day long it has felt like a November day rather than a day in mid-May.  It is hard to believe that just one week ago today we were in the mid-90s!

As I mentioned this morning, we will leave the LoonCam on for a few more days.  Minnesota Bound will be running a segment on the LoonCam this weekend and by leaving it on for a few more days, additional people will be able to see the loon nest even though we don't have any loons nesting.

I missed seeing it live but this morning a loon was up on the nest.

This seems to be the 'single' loon that has been on the lake all spring.

The loon was on the nest for about 4 minutes.

The bands on both legs were fairly visible and from that I am almost sure that this is our female from the last couple years.  

But I will also ask Kevin Kenow of the USGS to look at the video and see if he concurs.

I think that she is probably the loon that chased the goose off the nest a few days ago.

All of that would fit if this is last year's female who still has a sense of ownership of the nest even though the male was killed last year and she does not have a mate.  If he was still alive, I do not have much doubt that they would have nested by now.

When he was killed, we knew there was a very real possibility that the nest may not get used this year.  And that seems to be what has become reality this year.

I also mentioned that I found out last night that the other pair of loons on the lake has apparently nested according to a couple reports.

One of the reports said they saw the loon on the nest at least a week and a half ago.  So they nested at about the time that would be expected.

A loon usually visits a potential nest for a couple weeks before they get serious about settling down and actually nesting.  And since this loon does not even have a mate, for any number of reasons we have to deal with the reality that the LoonCam nest will probably not get used this year.

But let's enjoy the next few days.  And hope for more glimpses of our female loon from the last couple years.

 

Questions or comments?  Email us at LoonCam at yahoo dot com.  Because of the volume of email I will not be able to respond personally to each email.  But I will eventually read every one and for recurring questions I will try to answer them here in this blog.

Copyright 2016    Larry R Backlund

Friday, May 13, 2016 11:32 am CDT

44 degrees F   Cloudy   Wind NW 4 mph

Sunrise  5:44 am CDT    Sunset   8:35 pm CDT

 

Still no loons.  Disappointingly.

With each passing day, it seems to confirm that we will not have loons nesting here on the LoonCam this year.

However, I think I do have a little bit of good news for you.

I just found out from Minnesota Bound that they are planning on airing a segment on the LoonCam  this next week.  I was not aware of that before now.

Because of that, they have asked if we can leave the nest out and the LoonCam on for a few more days.

And of course I immediately agreed with them.

So be sure you try to catch that episode of Minnesota Bound either live on tv locally or on their website.

They have been helpful and so great to work with for so many years.  There is real question if the LoonCam every would have happened without their help.

Early on in the history of this nest, Minnesota Bound wanted to know if they could do a television story about the nest.

Little did any of us know what would become of that.

As part of our preparation for that story, I talked to them about a dream that I had.- that was to actually put a camera on the nest.

We didn't know if we could do it.  We didn't know if it would work.

But we tried anyway.

There were so many challenges to doing a live camera out in a lake.

And miraculously, not only did it work, it worked wonderfully well.  Not to say that there were not a lot of technical challenges to be worked out so many years ago.  But we got it to work.

Not only did it work, we were able to see things that no one had ever seen before with loons.

Including the first video taping of a loon actually laying an egg.  As far as we know, that had never been captured on film or video before.

After the camera has worked so well, the next year I asked Minnesota Bound if they would be willing to work with me on putting it on the web so that people could see what I had been watching on my television in my living room.

As we met and discussed what would be necessary to make it happen, I asked the President of the company that was going to be doing the web hosting and the technical end of things, "What if this really takes off?  Will you be able to handle all the traffic?"

He literally laughed and said, "Larry, we handle the websites for 5 Fortune 500 companies.  We have HUGE server farms in several different places around the country.  There is NO WAY that we would ever come close to reaching their capacity!  We can handle anything that this will throw at us."

Part of the concern was that we were hoping to broadcast live full-motion video.  Almost no one was doing that at the time.  They were doing 30 second refreshes or 10 second, where ONE picture was sent every 30 seconds.

Hardly anyone back then was doing full motion because of the huge bandwidth costs.

Well, suffice it to say that we crashed the network several times with the number of people who were watching the LoonCam around the world.

When I talked to him after the first couple crashes, he said, "No one told me or knew that it was going to be this popular!"

So we have come a long way in these last 10 years or more!

Eagle cams have almost become a dime a dozen.  But for many years the LoonCam was the only live webcam on the nest of a loon.

Thank  you to so many of you who have been faithful viewers for all these years!

SO the good news today is that we will leave the LoonCam on for a few more days, at least into next week.

Enjoy the view.   

And hopefully we will at least get a glimpse or two of our loons.

Last night I did get some other good news.  The other pair of loons on the lake has apparently started nesting.  That is very good news!  When I went to look a couple weeks ago, there was no sign that they were nesting at that time.

But now someone has sighted them on the nest.

I will try to keep you updated about what is happening.

Thank you for being such a wonderful community of Loon Lovers!

Questions or comments?  Email us at LoonCam at yahoo dot com.  Because of the volume of email I will not be able to respond personally to each email.  But I will eventually read every one and for recurring questions I will try to answer them here in this blog.

Copyright 2016    Larry R Backlund

Thursday, May 12, 2016

57 degrees F   Partly Sunny   WIn NW 9 mph

Sunrise  5:45 am CDT     Sunset  8:34 pm CDT

 

More days pass without loons on the nest.

There are loons around.  One single loon even comes to the vicinity of the nest periodically.  But no nesting yet.  And no attempt to even get up on the nest.

It is good to hear reports of other loons in other places nesting.

But with each passing day, it is becoming more and more apparent that there will be no nesting loons on the LoonCam nest.

As disappointing as that is, it is not totally unexpected.

As I said in one of my earliest posts this year, it will be very interesting and educational to see what happens this year.

After the death of the male last summer, we knew that things were going to be different.  And we knew that if another pair did not use the nest, that there was a chance the nest would go unused this year.

And that appears to be exactly where we are.

So we have made the decision to pull the nest in and allow the gracious neighbors to once again use their waterfront and the lake.

I am leaving in a few minutes to speak the students at a school about loons.

So I think I will wait to pull the nest in until sometime late tomorrow to give the students a chance to check out the LoonCam before it is shut off for the year.

That is not the outcome that any of us wanted this year.

But it is reality.

As we have talked about so many times, we are merely spectators to this great and wonderful spectacle of watching our beautiful loons and the mystery and majesty of life.

Thank you all for your interest and great and gracious support and encouragement.  It is wonderful to see the amazing caring "loon community" that has developed and grown through the years.

As they say, there is always "Next Year".

 

Questions or comments?  Email us at LoonCam at yahoo dot com.  Because of the volume of email I will not be able to respond personally to each email.  But I will eventually read every one and for recurring questions I will try to answer them here in this blog.

Copyright 2016    Larry R Backlund

 

 

Monday, May 9, 2016 5:05 pm CDT

57 degrees    Rain   Wind NE 2mph

Sunrise  5:49 am CDT    Sunset 8:30 pm CDT

 

As I write this, it is gently raining.

I knew if I watered the plants on the nest it would bring rain!  After I watered the plants the last time, it rained for a week solid.

We are supposed to have rain off and on over the next couple days.

Which is good.  We can use it.  And especially the fires up north could use a LOT of rain to help firefighters get them under control.  It is so sad to see what is happening.

Last Friday night we had smoke that blew in from the fires about 10pm.  I have never seen anything like it.  It was dense enough that you could barely see the other side of the lake.  And the smell of smoke was almost overpowering.  It was almost like you were sitting right next to a smoky campfire.  And it lasted until Saturday morning.

So far there is not much more news on the loons using the nest.  Other than the one time on April 13th, no loons have gotten up on the nest.

But they have not lost total interest in the nest.  And I will say a word about that in a minute.

There are still a number of loons on the lake - at least 4 that I know about.  Maybe more.

But even without loons on the nest, we have had some drama.

I have already talked about the family of loons with at least 7 goslings was up on the nest last week.  And they really looked like they were ready to settle in for the night if not longer.  Had they not been chased off, I think they would have stayed at least the night.

But last night we had another visitor.  One that I do not think we have ever had in all these years.  At least not that I ever saw.

We have had geese.  We have had tree swallows.  We have had muskrats.  We have had beavers.

But last night we had another 'furry creature'.

It definitely was not a muskrat or a beaver, both of which we have in the lake.

I am not 100% sure of what it was.  But I have a pretty good guess and I think I am right.  But I must say it totally surprised me.

I think it was a mink that was on the nest last night.  Yes.  A MINK!

Do any of you want a new fur coat?!

It definitely was something in the weasel family.  

But it was too big for a weasel.  It was too small for a fisher or pine marten.  Plus I do not think that most of those would be in the water.

Whereas a mink is fairly comfortable swimming in the water.  But I am very surprised that he was this far out in the lake to get up on the nest.  That is very surprising.

You can see a video of it at https://www.facebook.com/groups/larrysloonlovers/ or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxtlvKat3qA  Thank you Pam and Lee!

He was very interested in exploring the whole nest for several minutes.  But finding nothing (loon eggs) to eat, he left.

Like I said, as far as I know, that is the first time we have had a mink on the nest.

Mink are a great problem for loons that nest on shore.  Next to raccoons they are one of the great predators of loon eggs.

Mink can be vicious.

In a battle between a mink and a loon, I do not know who would come out the worse for wear.  No doubt the loon would use its very sharp beak to good advantage.  But a mink is fast with VERY sharp teeth.

It is a battle that I would not want to see.

Then early this morning we had another goose get up on the nest.

But there was someone else who was watching!

And it wasn't just me!

A couple minutes after 6 am I looked out at the nest and was surprised to see a goose standing on the nest.  I did not know how long he had been there.

I went to look for something that I could wave at him to scare him off the nest.  I did not want to run out yelling and wake the whole neighborhood up.

But by the time I got something and came out to wave it, he was off the nest.  But I saw him in between the nest and the shore.

I got in one wave before I did a double take.  It was a loon swimming between the nest and the shore.  And the goose was well off to the right, honking indignantly.

When I watched the video, I could see that something caught the goose's attention.  He watched carefully.  And nervously.

There it was!

A loon surfaced for a split second some distance from the nest and then dove immediately.  Heading at full tilt underwater toward the nest!  He was moving fast enough that he even left a wake on the surface of the water.

The goose knew what was coming!

With a quick jump and flap of his wings, he left the nest in a panic.

You could just see a flash of white underwater as the loon swam past the nest.

And the goose understood that it was a loon and this was no time to stay on the nest and have a confrontation with a mad loon.  So wisely he exited stage left very quickly!

It amazed me how much understanding the goose had even though the loon was underwater.

Videos can be seen at the same two places I gave you before.

Bu there was something else that this confrontation told me.

This loon had a sense of 'ownership' about the nest.  And it was not going to let any geese take it over.

Now here in the interesting part.

There was no other loon in the area.  There was no mate.  I think this is the same single loon that I have seen swim by the nest on several occasions.  But I have never seen it try to get up on the nest.

Now let me speculate on who this was.  I have no proof of this but only 'educated' guessing.

Since the loon seemed to have 'ownership' of the nest, I think that narrows it down to a loon that has used the nest before.

And that narrows it down to 2 loons.

The female from the last two years.

Or the female that we banded in 2012.

I don't think any other 'random' loon would show a sense of ownership like this loon did this morning.

OK here is further speculation.

There is a good chance that the loon that was on the nest on April 13th and seemed so comfortable and familiar with the nest may have been the female from 2012.  We do not have definitive identification from her bands but Kevin Kenow from the USGS ( he was the one who banded all the loons here on Loon Lake) thinks it may very well have been the female we banded in 2012.

But her new mate was not as comfortable with the nest yet and did not ever get up on the nest that I saw.

But the one this morning seems to be single.

There is no way I could see any bands so I cannot say any of this for sure.  But I wonder if the loon who threatened the goose this morning with great bodily harm is our female from the last two years.

That would explain why she still feels a sense of ownership yet even though she does not have a new mate yet to replace the male who died last summer.

Let me repeat - this is all speculation on my part.

I have no proof.

But it is an educated guess with some facts and experience behind it.

As usual, once again we are not in control.

We are just fascinated spectators to watch this wonder of nature play out before our eyes.

And greatly blessed spectators at that.

So even if the loons do not use the nest this year, we still have been able to watch and learn from this great drama playing out before our eyes.  We will probably have to make a decision in the next few days of how long to leave the nest out and the LoonCam on.

I will let you know as we go along.

 

Questions or comments?  Email us at LoonCam at yahoo dot com.  Because of the volume of email I will not be able to respond personally to each email.  But I will eventually read every one and for recurring questions I will try to answer them here in this blog.

Copyright 2016    Larry R Backlund