My Summer With The Loons: Will there be chicks?
On a rainy July 10th, 2016, exactly 27 days after laying two olive colored eggs, the adult loon on the nest reared back to turn them. I very clearly saw pips (tiny cracks) in the eggs, and I knew those chicks were trying to make their way out into the world.
As the sun rose on July 11th, I watched the adult loon on the nest raise her wing over and over and over again.
I didn’t *see* the chick . . . but I was pretty sure at least one had hatched! I waited as long as I could, but eventually I had to go. The campground needed me, and honestly, I didn’t want to stress the loon family by overstaying my welcome.
All day long, all I could think about were those loons and their chicks. Their first nest had failed in the final days. Would their second attempt in a different location be successful?
I worried and hoped and wondered . ..
On July 12th, I paddled out at 6am, still hoping and praying and wondering. As I rounded the corner and came upon my usual vantage point, I saw this . . .
an empty nest.
Suddenly, the loons cried out – long and loud – the tremelo call! Danger was in the area! My eyes searched the lake and there . . . I saw them!! Through my long, long camera lens that works like binoculars, I could see . ..
One. One chick. My heart skipped a beat with joy, but at the same time I was disappointed. Only one. The loons cried out again. Could it be me? I looked around to see I was the only boater on the lake at this early hour. Then I looked up. There! That was the trouble! An eagle hanging out high in a pine tree above, its eyes focused on the loons . . . especially on the new chick. No wonder the adults were upset!
The eagle looked down at me. “Go find your eaglets breakfast somewhere else,” I told it. The eagle stayed only a couple minutes more, before flying down the edge of the lake toward the State Park.
I looked back to find the adults feeding their chick. Can you see the teeny, tiny, minnow?
The adult was working hard to get the chick to take it.
He kept dunking it and offering it, dunking it and offering it, dunking it . . .
There IS two!! Two chicks!!!
And look how precious they are!!
I put my paddle down, and just floated. For as far as the eye could see, it was just the loons and I. The sun shone brightly over the tree tops, reflecting green leaves and pine needles onto the calm water below. No breeze blew. It was so still, even from the distance I was at, I could hear the soft hoots of the parents. This was my first time watching a loon family with two chicks! Two! I still couldn’t believe it.
I’m not afraid to admit, I got a little teary at the wonder of it all.
I watched the adults stretch . . .
and the chicks try to copy it.
I was able to see for the first time, a loon chick hiding under its parent’s wing.
This protects them from the eagles above and the snapping turtles below. I also helps keep them warm.
The chicks floated, and ate . . .
And just when I thought perhaps it was time to go in to shore and leave them sleep, they’d wake up and do something adorable again!
I can’t tell you how many times I giggled out loud at their antics.
Feeding the chicks seemed to be the adults only mission. First they’d dive or duck their heads in the water.
How they caught the little minnows so quickly, I’ll never know!
Then they’d bring it over to the chick. Sometimes the chick was floating in the water and would meet their parent halfway.
Sometimes, they were fed “in bed”, so to speak.
This time though, the chick really didn’t seem to want their meal.
The adult tried hard to get this little one to eat something! He even laid the minnow right on top of him!
For a second, it looked as if the little one was going to give it a try . . .
But he turned away!
But the adults weren’t giving up. (And right about this time, I was wondering where the second chick had gotten to!)
Well, there’s a little interest . . .
Or maybe not . . .
And after all of that, it was time to sleep again!
Where is that second chick, anyway??
I looked up at the sky, there were no eagles in sight. I hadn’t seen any snapping turtles . . that second chick was here just a second ago . . . Oh!
There he is!!! He’d been under the wing the whole time!
I came to discover the chicks are completely hidden under a loons wings. So as our lakes open up this year, please keep this in mind when you come across an adult. If it doesn’t dive and move away, it might just have a chick under its wing, hidden from you!
As I paddled in that day, I thought about how healthy both chicks looked, and what great parents both loon adults were. Working as a team, they seemed to be getting the chicks everything they needed. Food and warmth, were their main concerns right now.
That and keeping their loon chicks out of harm’s way.
Note: Teachers, please feel free to use these blog posts in your lesson plans for Cooper and Packrat’s first adventure; Mystery on Pine Lake. From this point on, my observations could be the observations of Cooper, Packrat and Roy after the final pages of the story.
Next time: DANGER!