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 https://www.facebook.com/groups/larrysloonlovers/permalink/10154836291338075/
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