Saturday, May 13, 2017 4:45 am CDT

54 degrees F  Clear  Wind 2 mph NE

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


It is still almost an hour until sunrise.

But in the morning twilight, our male loon is sound asleep on the nest.

Or as "sound" asleep as a loon ever is.  For you can see his eye opening and closing even as he keeps his beak tucked beneath his wing.

Early morning light begins to lighten the eastern sky.  But it still will be some time before the sunlight actually breaks over the eastern horizon.

Our loon is ready to respond at the slightest provocation or threat to the eggs.

The first birds are beginning to sing their song in the cool morning air.

Late Thursday night I saw something that I have never seen before and which is a little hard to explain or know for sure what happened.

About 9:45 pm CDT, a 'carp boat' with very bright lights came by the nest.  These are boats with fishermen who are hunting carp with bows and arrows.

It seemed as if they slowed down a little bit as they passed the nest.

The male was alert but he stayed on the nest in the bright light.

But as they were continuing to move by the nest off to the right, the male loon hurtled off the nest into the water.

He positioned himself in between the nest and the now departing boat in a typical defensive mode of a loon.

But that was not the surprising or puzzling part.

In a couple minutes he returned and swam toward the nest as if to get back up and sit on the eggs.

But as he came to the front edge of the nest, he once again rapidly left  in a huge splash and desperate dive away from the nest.  Something had frightened him badly.

I was very surprised by this reaction.  Because I did not see anything that should have frightened him.  But as I moved from one screen to the next to report to chatters what had happened, I missed some of the most puzzling part.

The male loon once again came in from the left of the picture in a full "penguin dance".

A penguin dance is when a loon rises up out of the water vertically as it paddles furiously with its large feet to make itself appear as big and as threatening as it can. They almost look like a penguin, hence the name.  It is about the most extreme posture a loon ever takes and indicates a VERY high level of concern and aggressiveness.

He actually struck the plants on the corner of the nesting platform with his wing.

But I could not see anything that warranted that type of aggressiveness.

Then a few seconds later he returned and once again went into full penguin dance posture as he once again attacked the area of the plants on the corner of the nest for a second time.  This time it looked like he actually stabbed the plants or something behind the plants.

A few seconds later he came back for at third attack at whatever was there and again appeared to stab with his beak whatever was 'behind the plants'.

The returning yet a fourth time he apparently decided that either he had "killed" the threat or he decided that indeed there was no threat there.

So he swam around to the back side of the nest and got up on the nest and settled on the eggs.

Thankfully one of our faithful LoonCam viewers, gah,  caught the whole thing video and posted it on her Facebook page.  You can find it at

I have watched it over and over to try to figure out what was going on.  And I can't say for sure but here is what I think happened.

It was pitch black.  The  full moon had not come up yet.

In addition, the very bright lights of the carp boat had somewhat blinded the loon.

And as he came back to the nest, he was surprised by the outline of the plants which somehow the thought was an intruder of some kind, and so he splashed away from the nest in a panic.

Maybe it was even another loon.  An intruder. A threat.

He immediately returned in full penguin dance to confront this threat to his nest and his eggs.

And he went after the threat, slapping the plants with his wing and probably stabbing them with his beak.

But he was not done yet.

He came back a second time and did the same thing.  Rising up in the water, slapping with his wing and probably stabbing with his beak.

You can see the viciousness of the attack as the whole plant clump moves and the rope which helps support the camera mount flexes and sags.

But he was not done yet.

He came back yet a third time.

This time not in full penguin dance nor slapping with his wing.  But it appears he once again stabbed with his beak and once again you can see the rope flex and the plants move.

Coming back a fourth time, he now seems to be content that he had killed whatever the threat was.  And so he swam around to the back of the nest and got up and settled on the eggs.

If there had been another loon there or some kind of other animal, it definitely would have been killed in this attack by our male.

But I think that in the darkness and having just minutes before having been blinded by the bright lights of the carp boat, he mistook the silhouetted of the clump of plants for some kind of a great threat to his eggs and he attacked.

I have never seen an attack quite like that before.

But that is the best explanation that I can give at this point for what happened.

Loons have only one offensive weapon.  Tthat is there very sharp beak.

And they can use it with great skill.

They have been known to kill other loons that they see as a threat to them or their nest or their young.

And It is one of the reasons that I never go out to the nest unless absolutely necessary.

I don't go out to the nest, or many times even down on my front lawn, because I do not want to disturb the loons while they are nesting.

But I do it for my own safety.  The loons very easily could, and would, stab me if they thought I was a real threat.

But in a couple instances when I have had to go out to the nest, and they have swam so close to me underwater that I can feel the rush of water as they pass within inches of my legs, they have never attempted to stab me.  Thankfully!

So we continue to see new behaviors and new wonders with every passing day.

What will today bring?


Copyright 2017   Larry R Backlund





Thursday, May 11, 2017 6:21 am CDT

44 degrees F   Clear   Wind 6 mph NE

Sunrise  5:48 am CDT   Sunset  8:32 pm CDT


This morning has already been an eventful one for our loons.  

The sun has just come up about half an hour ago on a clear morning and there is a  chilly breeze out of the north.

And already the female loon has been chased off the nest twice by two immature eagles circling over the nest!

Each time she went hurtling off the nest with a wail.  But she was back on the nest in a matter of minutes.

The crows are no more happy  with the eagle than our female loon is.  They are chasing the eagles and cawing loudly.

When I went outside to look to see where they were, one of the immature eagles circled directly over my head twice.

So while most of us sleep, the loons must be ever vigilant.

Last night the loons were also off the nest just about dusk for an extended time.  I could not see what was going on in the fading light.  But there were calls back and forth across the lake, including yodels and tremolos and wails.

Obviously there was at least one other loon on the lake although I did not hear more than wails from the direction it was in.  So I cannot tell if it was more than one loon or if it was a male.  But apparently it was enough to get the attention of both of our loons.

But after about half an hour off the nest, our male loon came back to the nest and settled on the nest for the night.

For those of you who may be new to watching the LoonCam, you may be wondering whether it is the male or the female loon on the nest at any given time.  I do, too!  And how you tell them apart.

For the most part you cannot tell the male from the female by their coloring or plumage.  They are identical.

Unlike many birds where the plumage of the male is very different from the female, with loons they have the same plumage and coloring.  The male usually is slightly bigger but only slightly.

After all these years of watching loons closely, I have gotten a few hints to differentiate between the loons.  But for the most part, I cannot tell them apart at all.

So the only way to tell them apart for sure is if they are banded.

The pair on the LoonCam nest this year can be identified that way.  The male has a green band on both his right leg and his left leg.  We were able to band him in 2012.

The female does not have any bands on her legs.

Those bands are the surest way for you to differentiate between the male and the female.

So while we go about our daily business, the loons go about theirs.  Always watchful.

Right now they have only one goal in life - to protect and hatch the two precious eggs on the nest.  It is what they have lived for all year long.

And we have the privilege of being able to witness this miracle up close!


Copyright 2017   Larry R Backlund


Wednesday, May 10, 2017 5:36 pm CDT

69 degrees F   Sunny   Wind Calm

Sunrise  5:49 am CDT    Sunset  8:31 pm CDT


After a few midday rain showers, the sky has cleared and right now it is once again The Land Of Sky Blue Waters.

A gorgeous evening which is a forerunner of what is supposed to be a gorgeous few days for the next four days.

And what could be better than the fact that our loons are sitting on 2 eggs!

I think that is it.  I would be VERY surprised if there is a third egg.

What is really encouraging is that our pair of loons really seem to be settling into a nice routine.

After several days of eggs being left uncovered for half an hour or more at a time, today there have been at least two nest exchanges between the male and the female loon where the eggs were exposed for no more than 10 seconds!

They are getting to be real pros.

So now we settle in on the egg watch for almost the next month.

As you watch the loons on the nest, let me give you a few things to watch for.

When the loon gets on the nest, the will use their beak to position the eggs just right and then they will 'plop' down on them.  I sometimes worry that they are going to squash the eggs.  But the eggs are really quite strong and have fairly thick shells.

After they have gotten on the nest, it will take them several times of rolling the eggs to get them positioned just right where the loon feels comfortable with the positioning.

Most birds have a 'brood patch'.  A brood patch is an area of bare skin on the breast of the bird.  When they are sitting on eggs, they will put that area of bare skin against the eggs which makes for a very efficient transfer of body heat to the incubating eggs.

Some birds, especially ducks, will actually pull out feathers and down to enlarge the brood patch area.

Loons are different.

They do not have any featherless, bare skin brood patch on their breasts.

Instead they have an area of their abdomen that has a large number of blood vessels near the back of their body.

So when they are going to sit on eggs, they use their beaks to push the eggs back into this area of increased blood flow which gives additional body heat and better transfer of body heat to the eggs.

After sitting on the eggs for some time, they will raise up and turn the eggs.  This helps prevent the developing chick from sticking to the inside of the shell of the egg and helps it develop evenly.

As the loon gets out of the water and onto the nest, it feathers are also wet and that added moisture helps to keep the eggs from drying out.

All of these things are such simple but yet such profound things going on that we never know about nor stop to think about little miracles like that!

One of the other things to look for as the male (he is the one with the green bands on both legs) gets on the nest is for something on his left leg.

Just above the green band on his left leg, you will notice a little silver-colored thing about 3/4 of an inch long and about the diameter of a lead pencil.  That silver-colored object is a "data recorder".

We placed it on the loon's leg when we banded him 5 years ago.  And we have been hoping to retrieve it ever since.

It has recorded where he has traveled, how deep in the water he dove and a number of other items and data.  But we have to retrieve that data recorder to download the data.  So if this pair of loons has chicks this year we will hopefully be able to retrieve all that interesting data that will add to our knowledge about this loon in particular.  And about loons in general.

So watch to see if you can get a glimpse of the data recorder when the male loon is on the nest.

In the meantime, just enjoy the beauty of our wonderful loons and the spectacular weather and blue skies and water for the next several days.

And marvel at the miracle of all of this.  Of being able to watch loons nesting.  And the real miracle of life developing under the loon as it sits there.

That alone is beyond the ability of my small mind to even begin to comprehend!

Someone way greater than me is responsible for that.


Copyright  2017   Larry R Backlund


Tuesday, May 9, 2017 6:31 am CDT

48 degrees CDT   Cloudy   Wind 1 mph NE

Sunrise  5:50 am CDT    Sunset  8:29 pm CDT



When did it arrive?  I am not sure.

At 6:15 am CDT I looked down and the loon was on the nest, head held high.  The other loon was swimming nearby.

Then I became aware that the cam had gone down.  So I restarted it at 6:19 am CDT

At that time the loon was on the nest.

At 6:22 am CDT, the loon let out a single wail and left the nest.  The crows were also calling so I assume an eagle was in the area but I did not go out to look.

When the loon left the nest there were two eggs!

A couple chatters said there was only one egg before  the cam went down.

IF that is true, in a 'coincidence of bad luck' for all of us, the loon decided to lay the second egg right in that 20 minute time frame when the cam was down and when I first looked at 6:15!

Either that or the egg was laid earlier during the night.

I just know that I did not see it being laid.

But the good news is, WE HAVE A SECOND EGG!

Let the fun begin!!


Copyright 2017  Larry R Backlund



Monday, May 8, 2017 11:28 pm CDT

52 degrees F  Scattered Rain   Wind 2 mph N

Sunrise  5:52 am CDT    Sunset  8:28 pm CDT


We expectantly await the arrival of the second egg.

I would think that the egg would be laid in the next couple days if it is going to be laid.  Loons usually lay 2 eggs.  Sometimes only one egg.  And rarely 3 eggs.

So we will know soon how many this female loon will lay.

Then incubation will begin in earnest.

Based on the laying of the first egg, I would  expect it to hatch between June 1st and June 5th.  But they have been off the nest more than what I have seen in the past so I may need to adjust those times later.

In fact, the female has just returned to the nest 34 minutes after the male left the nest.  I would much prefer to see where they change shifts on a much more timely basis.  Especially since there are scattered light rain showers in the area.

But each pair of loons is different so we will see how this pair develops their nesting behavior.

Always so much to learn.

And when we 'think we know it all', they teach us something new.

But for now, let's look forward to what we hope will be the laying of a second egg.



Copyright 2017    Larry R Backlund