Posts in Category: Loons

Updates and photos as Ian follows the local loon families

Upcoming Events

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Just a quick update to let you know about a couple upcoming evenings.

I’ve got a slideshow of great loon photos, An Uncommon Look at the Common Loon. The Walker Lecture Series will be hosting me in Concord on Wednesday, November 29, 2023, at 7:30 (I’m the second speaker, I should start closer to 8:30). Free and everyone welcome.

All the details on Walker’s site: https://www.walkerlecture.org/schedule.

And, I still have some 2024 Wildlife Calendars available.

Calendars are $25 and $3 shipping per order. You can order them online at www.IansPhotos.com or email me at UpperValleyPhotos@gmx.com to order.

Last, I’ll be up at the Burklyn Arts Council’s Craft Fair in St. Johnsbury next Saturday. I’ll have calendars, lots of note cards and prints, large and small. Stop by and say hello.

One Loon Chick Left

Thursday morning, I headed up to check on the Eastons. When I las visited, the parents weren’t on the pond and the chicks were practicing takeoffs, but couldn’t quite get airborne.

The adults usually stick around this pond until the last week of September, with the chicks departing in the first week of October. Looks like the parents took an early leave this year, with one chick following.

The chick on the pond was foraging lazily when I arrived. I watched for a time before hearing a loon calling overhead. I was expecting one of our parents to drop in to check on things, but the loon appeared to fly over.

Our chick was foraging lazily and swimming, covering a good distance with each dive.

After a time, another loon was calling overhead – or maybe the same one that flew over before. Our chick tried to call. He’s first attempt sounded like someone stepped on a goose. But he quickly found his voice and yodeled.

That’s interesting for a couple reasons. First, only male loons yodel, so we know he’s a he. Second, that’s the response of an adult loon to an intruder. No longer is our chick hiding to protect himself.

The intruder landed at the far end of the pond. The exchanged wails and yodels for a time.
When the intruder came down the pond, our chick took to the air. He circled over the pond for about 20 minutes.
The intruder dove a few times, foraging. Then spent a couple minutes preening before stretching. Our chick continued to circle over head. Eventually the intruder took off and headed out.
Our chick landed and went about his business.
He found something to eat – probably insect larva – on this branch before getting to work diving for a proper meal.
Second breakfast completed, he settled in for a nap.
After a while, he woke up and swam over towards my boat. This may well be the last photo I get of him. With the rest of the family gone, I won’t be surprised if he follows. But, I’m hoping he sticks around to let me visit with him again.

Learning to Fly, Checking in on the Loons

Our loon chicks are now 12 weeks old. They’re almost ready to take care of themselves. This week, they’ve been practicing adult calls, postures and they’re trying to fly. I was able to visit the Eastons twice since the last post.

I’ll be down at the Fall Crafts at Lyndhurst Show in Tarrytown, NY this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Stop by to check out all the new images in prints and note cards. All the show details here.

Last Friday, the Eastons’ pond was above most of the fog at sunup. As I headed down the pond I met one chick coming up.

The chicks are ever more independent. They’re roaming the pond away from each other and mom and dad. Unless they’re hungry, then they’re looking for a parent to provide a handout.

The morning’s big project was working on adult calls. This chick attempted several wails – sounding sort of like a gull laughing and a distressed horse. After a time, the other chick started answering, without much improvement. One of them did get off a proper wail when it counted – a large hawk flew low over the pond. This chick is letting loose with a pretty impressive tremolo.

After a bit, our chicks joined up. They were lazily foraging and taking time to call.

Soon mom started calling back and all three joined up. This is the pond where dad is banded. Dad was nowhere to be found this morning. He may have been off for some R&R at another pond. The chicks were very aggressive in crowding and pinching mom to get fed.

Both chicks were sticking close to mom and would immediately close on her when she surfaced. She popped up on the far side of my boat – away from the chicks – several times throughout the morning. Maybe she needed a moment’s rest where the chicks couldn’t see her?

Mom inbound with another crayfish. The chick’s make very quick work of the crayfish now, no more fumbling with them.

The handoff.

And another crayfish.



A chick crowding mom, just in case she didn’t know he might be hungry.

Both chicks crowding mom.

One of the chicks captured a stick covered in weeds. And, had to taught the sibling with it. The stick proved inedible and the chick dropped it. The second chick immediately picked it up to try it for himself.

One last crayfish delivery before I had to head out.

I returned to the pond Tuesday morning. The pond was mostly above the fog again. Beautiful blue skies and the hills to the west were in full sunlight. The pond was stuck in the shadow of one stubborn thick cloud.

The chicks were alone on the pond, both parents were elsewhere. The chicks were foraging about two-thirds of a mile apart. Both successfully feeding themselves. As the sun came up, a breeze grew and the chicks took time to practice flying.

Loons have to run across the surface for some distance to build up speed to get enough lift for takeoff. This chick is giving it a good try.

Further into his run. He doesn’t yet have the strength to get his butt clear of the water.

Here’s the other chick preparing for an attempt.

The first upstroke with the wings for his run.

And back down with the wings. Note how much water he’s kicking up already.

Full extension on the wings…. will it be enough?

Reversing direction on the wings at the top of the stroke. This picture was taken with a shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second, not fast enough to stop the motion.

This attempt didn’t work, he’s slowing and lowering himself back down on the water.

After a quick preen to get all the feathers back in place, he stoop up to stretch. Or his he taking a bow?

The second chick making a second attempt.

He’s really got his wings moving, his butt is nearly clear of the water. Could this be it?

Oh so close! His body – including his butt are clear of the water. But, he’s still pushing off with his left leg.

Rats, not today…. Watching through the lens, I thought he’d made it airborne. Only on the monitor at home did I spot his right leg down. A great try. He’ll be airborne before I can get back to the pond.

The Middletons appear to have scooted from their pond, they haven’t been spotted in almost a week. The Westons were doing well as of this past weekend. Both chicks are growing and getting independent. I’m hoping to get a chance to visit them before they head out.

Loon Chicks at 10 Weeks

Monday morning there were stars above and a thick fog over the river in the valley below. I decided to risk a trip to visit the Eastons. Most of the trip to the pond was slow going through the fog. As I started to climb towards the pond, I rose back above the fog to find a beautiful morning.

Dad was foraging by himself near the boat launch, he paddled in close to hoot softly to me before returning to feasting on crayfish. Mom called a couple times while I was getting the boat in the water. This is the pond where Dad is banded, letting me tell who is who if I can see a leg.

Heading down the pond, I encounter our great blue heron doing some predawn fishing.
And our other heron posing nicely in front of the shadows.

The chicks were keeping mom busy. They’re very demanding, poking and pulling feathers whenever she got near. She didn’t spend much time on the surface, she’d dive quickly when a chick got near. I’m convinced this is why the parents leave the pond before the chicks – they just want some peace.

Mom has just handed off a crayfish that the chick swallowed quickly. The chick started to crowd mom to encourage her to find more.
Just in case mom forgot she has chicks and chicks get hungry, our chick gives her a gentle reminder that it is time to eat.
Mom takes the hint and finds another crayfish.
Mom dives again before the chick can grab some feathers.
Mom is looking good. She surfaces close in, but on the side of the boat where she’s hidden from the chicks.
One of the chicks wanders off on his own and waits for me to look the other way before practicing taking off. They’ll both be practicing, but there’s still a while before they get airborne.
Mom passing by with another crayfish for the chicks.
The crayfish isn’t going to last very long.
Giving a quick head shake after swallowing the crayfish.
Mom serves up yet another crayfish.
Our chick wrangles the crayfish into position.
The chick is trying to swallow this one head first, the crayfish objects.
The crayfish gets a temporary reprieve as the chick spits it out. He’ll flip it around and swallow it tail first.
The chick seems to be pleased with the way that battle turned out.
Mom is inbound with another crayfish, but needs to stop and stretch.
One of our chicks takes a moment to stretch.
Our chicks posing nicely for a pic.
The chicks are still hungry and need to remind mom they’d like to be fed.
Mom comes through with one more crayfish before I had to head out.

Heading back to the boat launch, I pass dad who is lazily paddling along, seemingly enjoying the peace and quiet on this end of the pond.

I was surprised the fog hadn’t shown up on the pond, there’s usually a period where the pond gets foggy as the fog lifts from the valley. Driving back towards home, I discovered why – the fog was still sitting heavy on the river.

Back at the house, the goldfinches have discovered the thistle I left for them.

A small charm of goldfinches are enjoying the thistle as it goes to seed.

Loon Chicks Now Nine Weeks Old

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to say hello at the League of NH Craftsmen Fair. Nice to know there are actually people out there looking at my blog. My next show will be the Fall Crafts at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, NY September 8, 9 & 10.

The weather and my travels have kept me from checking in on the loons since July 24 when I found the Eastons fighting with a pair of intruders challenging them for the pond. Sunday morning dawned without rain and only a light breeze. I headed back to check on the Eastons.

There was a loon wailing when I put the boat in. I had to paddle down most of the pond before I found the first loons. Mom was feeding one chick. This is the pond where dad is banded, letting me tell who is who. I checked the pond with the binoculars, no sign of any more loons. I settled in to watch.
Our osprey showed up to hunt for breakfast. He? circled low over head for several minutes before diving and coming up empty. While I was watching the osprey, dad and the second chick snuck up on me and joined mom.
Shortly afterwards, the adults gave sharp calls and the chicks flattened out on the water as an intruder arrived. The three adults circled briefly before things escalated quickly to a wing rowing chase. One loon repeated displayed the penguin dance. I lost track of the third loon. Our pair formed up and swam south.

Sometime later, they headed back north and rounded a corner out of sight. A loon flying south appeared and circled to gain height to clear the hills as it departed. Mom took off and followed a few moments later.

Dad gathered the chicks and headed back south, foraging along the way. One chick was almost exclusively feeding itself while the second was putting dad to work.
Adolescent loons will crowd their parents and nibble on them to let them know their hungry. Which seems to be almost all the time they’re not sleeping.
This chick is trying to explain to dad the the horrors of not having been fed for the better part of a minute and urging dad to action.
Dad didn’t get the hint, our chick grabbed a few feathers and pinched him. Dad finally caught on and dove.
Dad came up empty, the chick returned to explain his plight. Dad’s luck improved and he was able to deliver several fish and crayfish to the chick.
Our osprey reappeared and circled the overhead for a few moments before settling in a tree to watch for breakfast opportunities.
Our chick took a break from the buffet to stretch.
You can see the flight feathers growing in on the underside the chick’s wings.
Dad popped up right next to the boat with a tasty crayfish.
Our chick made quick work of the crayfish.
Still hungry, the chick grabbed a bunch of dad’s feathers to signal he’s ready for the next course.

Our osprey made another dive that missed and circled a few times before heading off to the north.
Our chick took a moment to preen and then went up for a stretch. He spun something like 560 degrees while stretching. I have no idea why, but he looked like he was having fun.
He’s up and starting his stretch and spin.
Spinning to the right…..
180 degrees……
Coming around to 270 degrees…..
And around again…
One last shake and time to get back to breakfast.
Dad took a moment to stretch.
Our chicks faced off momentarily, it appeared they were working out the pecking order.
Just a little pushing and shoving to figure out who’s the boss.
The chick that looked to have come out on top of the skirmish finished with a stretch.

It was time for me to head out and I started paddling towards the boat launch.

I caught up with the osprey making yet another try for breakfast.
Success!

A friend on the Middleton’s pond tells me they’ve had intruders regularly over the past few weeks. I’m watching the weather and will get out to check on them and the Westons as soon as I can.

Battle for the Easton’s Pond

Sunday morning, the sky looked like there was a chance of some sunshine. I headed out to visit the Eastons. There was a light fog with hints of blue sky above when I arrived at the pond. And, it was a very pleasant 55° when I launched. The fog rapidly lifted for a beautiful morning. Our loon family was all together and the parents were both feeding the chicks.

Crayfish were on the menu.

One chick had his fill and was settling in for a nap when both parents arrived bearing crayfish. He ignored them and went to sleep. His sibling got both crayfish.

The chick that was still awake got a very good feeding. Eventually, he too settled in for a nap. The parents headed out, presumably for their own breakfast.

One parent went north, one went south. It wasn’t long before the one to the south sounded an alert. The one to the north went steaming down the pond at a good clip.

There were two intruding loons on the pond. All four loons started on the circle dance – they swim around each other sizing up the opposition.

They try to convince the opposition that they’re just too big and tough to mess with.

The confrontation quickly escalated to wing rowing – the loons propel themselves along the surface of the water with their wingtips. Frequently with an opponent in hot pursuit. Chases while wing rowing can go on for many minutes, covering lots of territory.

After a chase, if no one concedes and leaves, they’ll regroup and start again.

If the circling and staring doesn’t work, they may try displaying by stretching their wings. They’ll come up higher out of the water than they usually do to make themselves look bigger.

The intruders weren’t scared away and the chase was on!

They’ll change direction by dipping a wingtip into the water, this loon is turning left.

Making another circuit and gaining a few feet on the pursuer.

The one being chased ran out of pond and had to turn 180° to keep going.

Coming around again. Shortly after this round, one of the loons flew off. Followed soon after by a second loon. And, to my surprise, the loon I thought was the home team female left too.

Dad headed back up the pond to find the chicks. They’d been hiding deep in the brush near where they’d had breakfast. They promptly came out to join dad. Adolescent chicks will nibble at the parent’s neck and face when they want to be fed. Our chicks have learned how to nibble.
The chicks are persistent, they’ll pester the parents until the parents swim off. Usually the parents take the hint and go find some food for them. I think this is the reason that the parents leave for the season before the chicks, they just want a break.

After a time, what I think was mom arrived back on the pond.

Followed closely by one of the intruders. Dad stayed with the chicks while mom dealt with the intruder. There was a brief skirmish including wing rowing and the intruder left again.

This morning, I went back up to the pond to see how the home team was making out.
Crayfish were again on the menu. Once again, both parents were foraging to feed both chicks.

I’m not sure if our chick is yawning or burping. Either way, that’s a scary view if you’re a fish.

Our chicks are diving in deep water now. I watched this one make several dives that I counted out to be about 25 seconds. After surfacing, he gave a good stretch. You can see his flight feathers growing in along the bottom of his wings.

After feeding the chicks, dad headed up the pond out of sight. Shortly, I could hear yodeling. Soon, a pair of loons showed up – a wing rowing chase. They covered a lot of ground, but didn’t get close enough for photos. Some time after that, a loon flew overhead coming from that end of the pond. A second loon swam down the pond and rejoined mom who was tending the chicks.

The home team held the pond this time. But the fight probably isn’t over. One or both of the intruders are likely to return for several days or even a couple of weeks. Loons pay attention to how well a territory produces chicks. This pond has successfully raised two chicks a season for at least the last three years running. It would be a good territory to take over if the intruder can.

I’m on the road starting Thursday, I probably won’t have time to visit to see how the battle goes. I’ll get back up there to check as soon as I get back.

PS, we’re not supposed to interfere with nature. Don’t tell anyone I’m rooting for the home team.

Loon Chicks at Five Weeks

The rain let up enough for me to get out to check on all three loon families this week. And, I only got caught in a shower once.

The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair is coming right up, August 5th through the 12th. I’ll be down there with lots of wildlife and other photos. Stop by booth 726 and say hello. All the details for the fair are here.

I visited the Middletons last night. They’re the ones that lost their chick. On the last visit, they showed signs they might be courting again. That was before the heavy rains and flooding. We were spared the worst of the flooding, but did get significant rain. A friend on the pond has kept me updated. She says the loons have had one or two intruders on the pond regularly. When I visited, the hummock where they’ve nested the last several years has been washed away, with no sign of another nesting spot. There was an intruder on the pond, with some circling and posturing but no outright fights.

This morning, the forecast was for rain and thundershowers. When I got up, there were stars visible. I headed out to check on the Westons. One of the adults and two chicks were foraging not far from the boat launch. The other adult soon came down the pond to join them. They were in shadows, I headed up the pond to see who else might be about. The rain held off until I got to the other end of the pond. I had a soggy retreat.

On Wednesday morning, the forecast was mixed and there were a couple stars between clouds when I got up. I took a chance and headed east to visit the Eastons.

Mom was foraging on her own. She paused to have a look at me on her way by.
As I continued down the pond, I found our heron posing nicely again.
He as wading and looking over his domain.
The area he was foraging in has several piles of rocks just below the surface, separated by a few feet of deeper water. As he moved between a couple of rock piles, he appeared to swim for a short distance. I’ve never seen a heron do this and couldn’t decide if he was actually swimming or just wading through water that didn’t vary in depth.
Eventually I found dad and the chicks. They were resting peacefully. For a little while. Then the chicks woke up and wanted breakfast.
Mom caught up with the family and helped deliver breakfast.
Breakfast started with a few fish. Loons swallow fish head first to deal with the spines in the fish’s fins. Our chicks have gotten good at flipping them around to line them up.
The parents soon switched over to delivering crayfish. The chicks flip them around to swallow tail first.
Dad inbound with another crayfish. This is the pair where dad is banded, letting me tell the parents apart.
The handoff….
And the flip to turn it around….
Mom with a crayfish this time.
And a little fish to cleanse the pallet.
And a final crayfish before I had to head out.

Checking in on the Loon Families

Bad weather and too many chores kept me from checking on the loons for a time. When the weather cleared this week, I was quick to hit the water.

I’ll be down at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s 90th annual Fair in Sunapee, NH, August 5th to the 13th. Stop by to have a look. All the Fair details here.

Let’s start with a few pix of the Eastons from the day after my last post. The chicks are two and three days old. This is the pair where dad is banded, allowing me to tell them apart – sometimes.

Once again, I had to pass our heron posing nicely on my way to find the loons.
Mom and dad were busy providing breakfast for the chicks.
Mom posed nicely coming out of the shadows.
A brief pause to see if the chicks might have had enough breakfast. Silly parents! They went back to foraging.

That evening, I made it over to check on the Middletons.

Only one of their chicks hatched, the parents had it out on the pond.

The next morning, I returned to visit the Eastons. They spent most of their morning feeding the chicks.

Over the last three years, the Eastons have been feeding their chicks a diet heavy on crayfish. This year, they seem to be bringing more fish to the chicks. I wonder if the change has to do with the supply of fish or are they just partial to crayfish? Here’s the first time I saw dad offer a crayfish this year.
Here’s dad delivering a tiny crayfish.
Our heron caught my eye as I was leaving. I’m beginning to think he’s angling for his own exhibit.

I didn’t make it back out until July 5th, when I again visited the Eastons.
Mom was delivering a good sized horned pout as I arrived.
Loons don’t seem to understand the concept of ‘volume.’ There’s a limit to how big a fish a tiny chick can manage. Both chicks made a great effort to eat the horned pout, but neither could get it down.
Dad ended up eating it himself.
Another crayfish delivery.
Dad found an insect (possibly a mayfly?) floating on the surface and presented it to the chicks.
Chicks do not like mayflies. The first chick spit it out. The second check refused to take it, even with dad chasing him around a bit. It disappeared, I suspect dad ate it.
Mom wandered off on her own, spending some time preening and stretching.
After a second big stretch, she settled in and lazily cruised along by herself.
Dad got the chicks settled in and everyone took a nap.
After a few minutes, mom alerted to something and gave a series of short, sharp hoots. Dad promptly headed out to give her some assistance.
Mom and dad headed out to meet the threat. I couldn’t see what it was, they appeared to be looking at the water, not something flying overhead. They went a few hundred yards up the pond, before returning to the chicks. Mom check on the chicks and left to do her own thing again.
The chick’s defense is to flatten themselves out on the water and hope they’re not seen.
Dad kept the chicks close and kept a watchful eye.
After several minutes, something spooked dad again.
He herded the chicks into shallow water and lowered his profile. Loons can regulate how high they sit in the water by compressing their feathers to squeeze air out. I never did figure out what was spooking them.

The morning of the sixth, I headed west to check on the Westons. Their pond has steep hills on both sides of the southern end of the pond. The family spent most of the morning foraging in deep shadows along the side of the pond. I headed out to see who else was about.

The usual suspects were out and about, kingbirds, red-winged blackbirds, lots of warblers seen not heard. But the best find was a trio of tree swallow fledglings and their parents feeding them.

The fledglings get excited when a parent approaches. They’ll start chattering, fluttering their wings, and, of course, opening their mouths to be ready.
Dad with the handoff. (Beakoff??)
The parents make sure the food is well into the chick’s mouths.
I managed to get a red-winged blackbird catching an insect in flight.
Eventually, the loons came out of the shadows to allow a few photos.
One last stretch as I was leaving the pond.

Yesterday, I visited the Middletons. There’s sad news, they’ve been fighting with an intruder or two most days. Their chick has disappeared. We don’t know what happened to it, but the intruders are suspects. As well as a host of other dangers from fish and snapping turtles to otters and eagles.
I found them in the middle of the pond, one still sleeping in, the other out foraging before returning to preen and stretch. They both settled in for naps, I went looking to see what I could find.
There were several warbling vireos foraging relatively low. Vireos usually stay high up in the trees, I hear them far more often than see them.
There were several red-winged blackbirds gleaning insects in the brush along the pond. The vireos were low enough to harass the blackbirds, the first time I’ve seen that interaction.
A pair of northern flickers were working the trees, mom was shy, but dad popped into the open a couple of times.

After their nap, the loons swam down to the cove where I’ve found them mating several times in the past. They might have been courting. They explored the beaches were they mate, hooting softly to each other. Then they did a brief courtship display, swimming swiftly side by side and diving together. They didn’t mate, but I’m hopeful they’ll try again.
They foraged for a time in the cove. This one almost looks like she’s taking time to smell the flowers.
After foraging, they headed out to the middle of the pond to preen and stretch.

The weather kept me in this morning, I’ll be back out soon. Our second brood of bluebirds will fledge in the next couple days. They’re up flapping their wings and looking out the window.

The Eastons Have Two Chicks

The last three years, the Eastons have hatched their chicks the third Friday and Saturday of June. I’d visited last Friday without any sign of chicks. Monday’s forecast suggested a chance I’d not get rained on. I headed out to visit the Eastons in a thick fog.

The fog got even thicker when I arrived at the pond. Our heron – that I claim poses nicely for me twice a year – was posing nicely.
He was lackadaisically foraging from his perch. But he looked good doing it!
After a time, he headed out on whatever errands get great blue heron out and about. About five minutes after he left, our osprey nabbed a nice fish about five feet from the heron’s perch.
I saw and watched the loon on the nest for some time – without the weather improving. The last three years, the male has spent most of the time on the nest in the last few days before the chicks arrived, so I’m guessing this is dad. I couldn’t decide if he was hiding a chick under his wing. At one point, he stood up and I could see one egg, but still couldn’t decide if there was a chick.
While I waited to see if I could catch a nest exchange, the resident family of geese paraded by. It may look like a lot of goslings, but from the amount of poop on the boat launch, I was expecting another 25,000 or so geese. I I had to head out before finding out if our first loon chick had hatched. As I got back to the paved road to head home, the sun broke out.

The weather improved throughout the day, I went to visit the Middletons in the evening. Our off duty parent was preening for some time before giving a series of four stretches.

Nicely posed, even looking at the camera!
Up for another stretch.
And another stretch…..
And one more before heading back to the nest to see if it was time for shift change.
I think the loon we found on the nest the last time was on the nest again. Once again, as the off duty loon approached, the on duty loon started doing some nest improvements.
The off duty loon made several trips to the nest to discuss things during the evening. I took it that he? wanted to take over nest duty. Could there be some status attached to being the parent on duty when the chicks hatch? Or was he? just bored of floating around on his own?
He? eventually gave up., left the cove with the nest and headed well down the pond.
A big snapping turtle came crashing through the marsh and was drifting along the surface near the nest. I watched for a reaction from the loon on the nest, but didn’t see one. The off duty loon was probably 750′ away from the nest. He? returned a a good clip, headed for the turtle.
Kind of hard to see, but that’s the top of the turtle underwater in the upper right, with the loon in the center. There was a bit of thrashing around – with all the action underwater. Eventually, the loon surfaced and kept dipping his? head underwater, apparently to make sure the turtle had taken the hint. Loons must have incredible eyesight. I’m always amazed at how far out they can tell the difference between a harmless osprey and a threat from a hawk or eagle. I was amazed the loon could spot the turtle.

Once again, I headed home not knowing if the first chick had hatched.

The forecast for this morning was for the fog to burn off and the morning to be partly cloudy. Low, heavy clouds greeted me when I got up, with some breaks to the north. I decided to risk it and headed back to see the Eastons.

There’s an island blocking the view of the nest from the boat launch. As I put in, the loons raised a ruckus, but I couldn’t see what was going on. As I rounded the island, I could see one loon in the water near the nest, and the second on just climbing off the nest. I couldn’t see the chicks, but one adult had a wing up inviting a chick aboard.

Dad is a much more attentive parent than mom, assuming we have the same female from the past few years. Dad is also banded, letting me tell them apart when I can see a leg. Dad rounded up
both chicks and got them aboard. Mom decided it would be a good time for her to go out and get her own breakfast. After about 15 minutes, dad started calling, it sure looked like he was reminding her that she needed to get to work.
Mom soon returned and started foraging for the chicks. Lots of fingerling fish this morning.
The chicks spent a fair bit of their morning going at each other while on dad’s back. Loon chicks are competitors, there’s no family loyalty. If one fails to thrive, the parents will abandon it and put their work into the stronger chick. This squabble ended with mom delivering another fish. I’m not sure if this was an actual squabble between the chicks or if they’re just figuring out what is edible and what isn’t. Both tried a number of dad’s feathers, deciding they weren’t very tasty.
Mom goes for the handoff! There’s a fumble! The chick didn’t manage to hang onto the fish. Mom had to catch it and offer it to the chick again.
The sun finally broke through and the chicks cooperated by looking cute.
Still looking cute.
Back to squabbling! Why does it look like dad is thinking it will be a long summer?
Mom is back with another fish.
And yet another fish.
One of the chicks hopped off dad’s back and swam around him for a few minutes. Dad is inviting him back aboard.
Getting aboard is a big job for little loons.
When I went down the pond to retrieve the nesting sign, our heron was back, trying to convince me he was walking on water.

I’ll try to keep up with all three families through the summer. If you know someone who might be interested in following along, please share my blog with them.

First Loon Chicks Have Arrived

UPDATE: We’ve got a second pair of chicks that have hatched since I posted this. Lots of pix in their own post at here.

The weather final cleared enough to let me get back out to check on our three loon families. Well, sort of. I got very wet the first evening and made it back to the car with seconds to spare the second.

First, there’s some sad news from Vermont, the oldest known loon in Vermont has died. His age was estimated at 31 years. VT Diggerhttps://vtdigger.org/2023/06/15/vermonts-oldest-loon-dies-at-the-estimated-age-of-31/ has a piece interviewing Eric Hanson, Lead Biologist at the Loon Conservation Project about the loon.

With loon chicks hatching it is once again time to request that you give them space if you go to see or photograph them. You may not intend them any harm, but you may distract the parents from seeing other threats. Our new loon chicks were greeted by a circling eagle on their first or second day out. The parents need to concentrate on the real threats, keep back and let them do their job. All the images of chicks here were with a 600mm lens and heavily cropped.

Tuesday evening I got a message from a friend on the Weston’s pond that the chicks had arrived. And that the eagle was eyeing them. Wednesday morning was wet and windy. It gradually cleared a bit through the day. I set out in the evening to check on the chicks. It was sunny when I left the house. On the way into the pond, I had to wait while a doe browsed from the road – with her fawn gamboling about in the road. By the time I had everything in the boat, there were a few sprinkles. Not enough to dissuade in intrepid photographer.

By the time I found the loon family, the rain was steady.
The rain got heavier, but I was already wet and wasn’t going to let it stop me. The lighting quickly changed my mind…..

When I got up at 0345 on Thursday ready to head out, it was raining heavily. Early morning is the most productive time in the office, almost no one calls before 0700 or 0800. I got a fair bit done. When the dogs finally got up, I noticed some breaks in the clouds when I let them out. Hoping it would clear a bit, I headed off to to check on the Middletons.
They’re still sitting on the eggs. I missed exactly when they laid the eggs, the earliest we can expect chicks is this weekend.
Our off duty parent had time to preen and gave several nice stretches.
Being a sucker for the stretching shot, I took full advantage.
The off duty loon approached the nest three times over a couple hours. The loons held a discussion each time, but the on duty loon stayed on duty. Interestingly, the on duty loon just sat and watched when alone. When the other loon approached, the on duty loon busied itself sorting out the brush around the nest and added material to the nest. When the other loon left, the on duty loon went back to sitting.
The off duty loon seemed to be checking in to see if it was shift change yet.
As the off duty loon approaches, the on duty loon starts making nest improvements.
Dredging up some vegetation when the off duty loon showed up.
One more shot of the on duty loon gathering material.
While I waited to catch the nest exchange, I amused myself watching several eastern kingbirds hunting dragonflies.
Kingbirds hunt from low perches along the water’s edge – frequently over lily pads. They make short, fast flights to grab dragonflies and damselflies out of the air.
Eventually, it came time for the loon to switch.
When doing a nest exchange, loons will often forage and preen together for a time before one returns to the nest. Not this time, The off duty loon wasted no time in climbing onto the nest.
Before settling in for the shift, the now on duty loon takes time to turn the eggs.
It took three tries to get everything properly arraigned.
Third time is the charm! After this, the loon settle down and sat. I headed out, hopefully to get back this weekend.

Thursday evening, I went back to check on the Westons. This time with just a couple puffy clouds in the sky.

Both parents were foraging for the chicks near the nest.
This young, the chicks are rarely more than a couple feet away from a parent. Although, both parents may dive at the same time leaving the chicks briefly alone.

This morning, I was up and out by 0430, with clouds above and fog below me as I headed to see the Eastons. They’re up in the White Mountain National Forest, they were on their nest by the time the Forest Service got the road to the pond open, so we don’t know when to expect the chicks. But, the last three years, they’ve hatched in the third weekend of June, so soon…..

When I arrived, one loon was on nest duty. I had a bit of excitement as I looked through the lens. It looked like a chick peeking out from under the wing. No such luck, enlarging the image showed it to be a stray feather. This is the pair where the male is banded. If I can see a leg, I can tell mom from dad. I missed any nest exchange this morning, so I can’t say for sure. But, I’d bet it was dad on the overnight, he’s taken the last few overnights the past three years.
There as a surprising moose to loon ratio on the pond this morning at 1.5:1. This bull looks like the one I saw on June 2. He’s shaking his head after submerging it to get the tasty water plants.
Sometimes I’m convinced the critters know how to frustrate my photography. With the fog and the back light, I suspect this fellow knew he was frustrating me and enjoyed it as he had breakfast.
Our off duty loon was lazily cruising around the pond, occasionally diving to forage. I went looking for other photo opportunities. There seemed to be more herons on the pond this morning. There’s been a resident pair every year since I started visiting in 2012. Later in the season chicks from the nest join the parents. Most of the time, herons are content to stand or slowly stalk along the water’s edge. Occasionally, they’ll make short flight to a new hunting spot or to roost in a tree. This morning I saw about a dozen heron flights and the herons were more vocal than normal. Not sure if the resident pair was restless or if more have moved in.
This heron posed nicely. He kept me occupied by occasionally crouching as if about to strike – which kept me glued to the camera. Before I could get a pic, I was distract by two new visitors to the pond.
Mrs. moose was out and about. Seeing two moose in a day is a treat. But we weren’t done.
A second bull was foraging with the cow. I can remember just a couple days in my life that I’ve been lucky enough to see three moose in a day.

I’ll be out looking for the rest of our chicks as soon as we get a break in the weather.

Link to the newer post: https://blog.ianclark.com/photography/wildlife-photography/the-eastons-have-two-chicks/

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