Sunday, June 4, 2017 5:06 am CDT

54 degrees F  Clear   Calm

Sunrise  5:27 am CDT    Sunset  8:56 pm CDT


The first color of morning is just painting the eastern sky with wisps of pink.

There isn't a breath of air moving and so the surface of the lake is like a mirror.  Reflecting the sky, the trees and our loons on its surface.

Right now both of our loon parents are floating peacefully near each other.

One chick has already gone for a swim and I think I see the other one on the adult loon's back in the early morning light.

Our little loon babies have apparently made it through their first long dark scary night!

I still stand back in awe of this amazingly awesome miracle.

And we are privileged to be a part of it and get a little glimpse into the life of our loons and the creation of NEW life.

I was gone most of yesterday but when I got home just as darkness was falling, I could clearly see both of our little loons swimming with the two adult parents.

They were obviously healthy and VERY active.  And wanting to be fed.  Two beautiful loon chicks that looked SO small on such a big lake.  But the parents were right there to protect them from danger and feed them.

Well after dark, I heard the male yodeling.  The yodel is the most extreme of the loon calls and is a strong claim of territory.  Since I did not hear an answering yodel from any other loon on the lake, I assumed that the male was simply broadcasting to anyone and everyone within range of his voice, "This is MY territory!  Stay away!"  And he may  have been teaching the chicks what it meant.

This morning both parents are right there with them as well and so the staking out of territory overnight apparently has worked.

Yesterday was an amazing day.

I have never seen two loon chicks hatch as close together as these two.

The two eggs were laid 2 1/2 days apart and yet they hatched only hours apart - less than 4 hours apart.  There is a thing that is called "catch up" where the second egg develops faster than the first egg.  There are all kinds of theories of why this is the case.

But this was a real case of "catch up".

The second egg hatched in almost exactly 25 days!  This is a new record on the LoonCam loon nest.  It has beat the old record by about half a day!  We continue to learn news things every day.  Historically it has always been believed that 28 days was the incubation period for loons. And that is a good guide.  But with us being able to observe them much closer and more accurately, we continue to rewrite the book of what is known about loons.

And you have been a part of it.

I think part of the two chicks hatching so close together may have been that the loons were off the first egg quite a bit after it was laid and that probably delayed the actual time that it started developing.  And so when the second egg was laid, they were on the eggs more faithfully and therefore both eggs probably started developing about the same time.

So it made for a VERY interesting morning yesterday to see BOTH chicks alive and so active.

I have to be honest that I questioned during the early days of nesting whether the eggs would be ok and that the chicks would hatch.

It seemed like the adults were pulled off the nest so often in some fairly cold weather.  If it wasn't an eagle, it was an intruder loon.  They had one thing after the other to be concerned about and to deal with.

But deal with it they did.  And much better than I.  And so today we have two healthy little balls of black down called loon chicks.

And what can be more special than those two little chicks?  And more bittersweet when we see them jump in the lake for the first time and swim off together with Mom and Dad?

This was also another first.  It is probably the earliest that I have seen both chicks jump in the water.  They both jumped about 9:30am yesterday morning.  That meant that the first chick was only about 8 hours old and the  second chick was less that 5 hours old when they left the nest.

Now they are the waterbirds that they were meant to be!

If you did not see it, here is a link to the video of the chicks making that BIG jump into an even bigger lake.   The jump happens at the 9:57 mark of the video.

But the drama did not come to a close yesterday.  Our close up view of it may have closed when they left the nest.  But now our little loons enter the most challenging and dangerous part of their lives.

For the next two weeks they are especially vulnerable to so many dangers.  Dangers from above and below.

Especially eagles from above.

And from below, all kinds of dangers - largemouth bass, northerns, muskies, snapping turtles, just to name a few.

And from the surface of the water itself, boaters and jet skis that may not be paying attention to our loons.  The adults can dive out of the way of most danger from boats.  

But during these first two weeks, the chicks find it very hard to dive deep enough to get out of the way.  They simply pop back up to the surface like a cork.

So now is a good time to remind your family and friends to be very careful and watchful for our loons and especially the little loon chicks.

By being mindful and protective of our loons, it means that new generations will survive.

And we will be blessed with their beauty and the magical sound of loons calling at dusk on our beautiful northern lakes!


Copyright  2017   Larry R Backlund


Friday, June 2, 2017 5:46 am CDT

49 degrees F    Clear   Calm

Sunrise  5:28 am CDT    Sunset   8:54 pm CDT


Once again it is a beautiful, calm, clear Minnesota Morning for our loons.

The first rays of the morning sun have just cleared the trees on the lake shore and are touching the nest and gilding the plants and the loon faithfully sitting on the nest.

It has been a long time for the loons to have to leave their beloved lake to sit on 'dry land'.  Today is Day 27.

But hopefully their sacrifice and their long hours and days sitting on the eggs will all be worth it.  Hopefully it will mean a new generation of loons.  Hopefully it will mean two new little loon chicks.

Our curiosity cries out, "WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THOSE EGGS?"

But like so many wonderful things in life, it still is not the right time for us to know.  All things in good time.

And so we watch.  And wait.

Watching for some sign that a new loon life is trying to make its way into the world.  For some sign that the chick is pecking its way through that touch shell that has protected it as it developed for the last 27 days.

We are told that as the chick starts to make its way out of the egg, it will first use its tiny beak to cut its way through the membrane at the large end of the egg where there is an air pocket.  It will cut all around the membrane inside the egg (what I have started calling 'zipping').

The chick at this point is likely to be able to make sounds.  Sounds that the adult loon can hear.  And sounds that the chick in the other egg can hear.  Once again experts tell us that the chicks will actually talk to each other while they are still in the eggs.

The chick has a sharp protrusion on its bill called an "egg tooth".  This is what it uses to literally cut its way out of the egg.  The egg tooth disappears shortly after the chick hatches.

After the chick has cut its way through the membrane inside the egg, it may have to rest for awhile.  That is hard work.

It will work for a while, and then rest.  Work for a while and then rest.

But after it has finished cutting through the membrane all around inside the egg, it then begins to work on making a hole in the egg shell itself with that 'egg tooth' on the tip of its beak.  That egg tooth is surprisingly sharp.

Making the hole in the shell is what is called "pipping".

So the whole process I have started to call "ZIP AND PIP"!

While all of this is going on inside the egg, the adult loon can hear and feel some of that action.

And that gives us our first indication that the hatch is actually underway!

Especially as the chick cuts a hole in the eggshell, the PIP, the adult loon may feel that movement and poking of the tiny beak and the adult loon will 'flinch' slightly.  The loon will rise up a little bit.  Or you may see the wings flinch a little bit due to the actions of the chick as it tries valiantly to free itself from the egg shell.

The very egg shell that has protected it so many days as it developed, has now become too confining for the little loon.  And it wants to get out and be free of this protective prison.

It wants to start its new life out in the big world.

So as we near the actually hatching of the egg, watch for those subtle little signs that something is happening under our loon.

The little flinches of the wings and body.  The slight 'rising up' once in a while.  All signs that the hatch is actually underway.

This whole process may take several hours for the chick to make its way out of the egg.  And then it will lay totally exhausted for some time.  Still wet and worn out.

But soon its down will dry.  It will regain its strength.  And then it will start moving around under our loon.  Anxious to see this wonderful world that it has struggled so mightily to make its way into!

Who can describe the wonder and EXCITEMENT for us when we get the first glimpse of that beautiful little loon chick peeking out from under the wing of the adult loon for the first time?!

Today could be that day!


Copyright 2017    Larry R Backlund




Thursday, June 1, 2017 3:15 pm CDT

84 degrees F   Sunny   Wind Calm

Sunrise  5:28 am CDT  Sunset  8:54 pm CDT


It is a BEAUTIFUL day here today in Minnesota.

Deep blue skies.  Warm temperatures.  And only zephyr winds instead of the gales that we have had so much of.

Both loons have been very faithfully tending to the 2 eggs on the nest.

So far there is no sign of hatching.  Either from the loon on the nest, nor could I see any signs of pipping on the eggs when the loons made the shift change.

But we are ever so close to the expected hatching!

If only we could peek inside the eggs to see what is going on.  Or listen to the possibility of a little loon chick already peeping inside the egg.

But wait we must.

There is nothing we can do to speed it up.  Or slow it down.  It happens on Someone else's time frame.

Tonight at 7 pm we mark the 26 day mark of when the first egg was laid.  Commonly accepted 'wisdom' is that loons incubate for 28 days.  But we have seen them hatch before the 28 days is up.  So this year will add more information to our knowledge about loons.

For those of you who may be new to this whole loon experience, unlike most birds, the little loons do not stay on the nest for very long.  In fact, in most instances they leave the nest and get into the water withing about 24 hours of hatching.

If they want to return to the nest, there is a "chick ramp" just out of sight down below the camera.  But most times when the chick gets in the water, it stays in the water with the parents.  Sometimes the first chick will stay on the nest until the second chick happens, but I have seen every combination of what happens.

The chicks are able to swim shortly after they hatch.  They are called precocious which means they are able to get about on their own very early.

They are not able to feed themselves for a number of weeks.  And so they rely on the parents to bring them their food.  Usually tiny little minnows at first and then larger and large as they grow.

And grow they do.  Very fast.

For the first couple weeks the chicks will ride on the backs of the parents.  That image of the beautiful chicks riding on the adult loon's back is so iconic and special.

By the time they are two or three weeks old, they have already become large enough that it is more and more difficult for them to get on the parent's back.

But even at that point, it will still be necessary for them to be fed by the parents.

So they will stay very close to the parents.  At two or three weeks, they start to try to dive but it is difficult.

They tend to just pop to the surface like a cork.

That is why it is SO important for boaters to watch for loons.  And adult can dive out of the way of a fast moving boat.  Although adult loons are also killed by being struck by a boat or a jet ski.

But a baby loon cannot dive to get out of the way.  And so if a boat is coming at them, they have no way to keep from being hit.

Share that information with your boating friends and neighbors.

But for now, we wait for the first indication of a hatch taking place.

And we especially wait for that first MAGICAL view of a new little loon chick!


Copyright 2017   Larry R Backlund


Wednesday, May 31, 2017 11:04 pm CDT

46 degrees   Clear   Wind Calm

Sunrise  5:29 am CDT    Sunset  8:53 pm CDT


Surprisingly we had some sunshine today, the first in some time.  But the wind still remains.  Hopefully as the systems equal out the winds will also die down.

For the most part, it has been a quiet day for our loons.

There have been a couple incidents of eagles soaring over and causing concern for our loons.  But there was no swooping down on the loons where the loons felt it necessary to leave the nest.

But this morning, we once again had a third loon - an intruder loon - in the area that did cause both loons to go out in the lake and confront the intruder.

For about 10 minutes, there was a lot of circling each other, splash diving and even a couple instances of a penguin dance.  But they succeeded in driving him off.

And the female loon returned to the nest and once again protected the precious eggs and kept them warm.

If only we could see what is going on inside those eggs!

By now, if the eggs are fertile and developing, the loon chick is almost fully formed.

For sure it has had a heart beat for some time.  And it may actually be making its first peeps or sounds from within the egg.  Some researchers believe that the chicks actually talk to each other while they are still in the egg.  And they think that is part of the reason for "catch up".

"Catch up" is when the second chick develops faster inside the egg than the first chick.  The eggs may be laid 2 days apart but then hatch only 1 day apart.

Whatever is happening inside the eggs, we are now within days of hatching.  Not weeks.  And at a moment's notice it could happen.

My best guess is that they will hatch any time between tomorrow and Monday.  I would be surprised if it is tomorrow but it could happen.  But the loons were off the eggs quite a bit in the first few days and I think that may have delayed development.

But we are now down to that VERY CRITICAL time of hatching.

You do not want to miss a minute of it.


Copyright 2017   Larry R Backlund