Posts in Category: Loons

Updates and photos as Ian follows the local loon families

Checking in with the Loon Families

With the beautiful weather we had last week, I was out morning and evening every day checking in on all three loon families along with their neighbors. The Forest Service road to the Easton’s pond is now passible so I finally got up to check on them.

A raft of new subscribers joined us this last week. If you found me from the Paradise City show, thanks for stopping by. For the new visitors, to protect the loon families, I don’t publish their location on the web. Not everyone on the web has wildlife’s best interests at heart. The three families I follow are the ‘Eastons,’ on the easternmost pond I frequent, the ‘Westons’ are on the westernmost and the ‘Middletons’ are in the middle.

The first visit to the Eastons was last Tuesday evening. There was a strong wind kicking up the occasional whitecap. On my first lap around the pond, I didn’t spot any loons and last year’s nesting site was untouched. After time, one adult loon appeared, foraging lazily. The chop was too much for photos and the black flies had decided I was the buffet, so I called an early quit and headed home.

Wednesday morning, I headed out to see the Westons.

A broad-winged hawk settled near the boat launch as I was putting in.
It didn’t take long to find a single adult loon foraging and preening out on the pond. The other loon was sitting on their nest.
After a bit, the loons swapped nest duty and the newly released loon had a good stretch before settling in for a nap. I wandered off to see who else was out and about.
Many painted turtles were hauled out around the edge of the marsh and several snapping turtles were floating with their heads and top of their shells out of the water.
Mrs. hooded merganser was out in the clear – rarely do they stay out of the reeds when someone is in sight. She even gave a good stretch before heading off to forage among the lily pads.
Female red-winged blackbirds are sitting on their nests. The males are keeping watch nearby.
Male common yellowthroats are plentiful in the marsh and are happy to announce their presence.
Leaving the pond, I saw something I’ve not seen before; a hawk or raven was dive bombing a kettle of turkey vultures. By the time I pulled over, the corvid was gone – of course.

Wednesday evening, I dropped in on the Middletons. It was well into the 90s. In previous years, the nest was fairly exposed to the afternoon sun and the loon with afternoon nest duty often sat in full sun for a couple hours. I headed over to check on the nest. On my way, the resident osprey took a fish from just a few yards in front of me. Of course, I didn’t see him until he was just a few feet above the water, I had to watch instead of taking photos.

This year the grass has grown up considerably giving them some afternoon shade. But, not enough to keep them from getting hot enough to pant. Loons will pant like dogs do, holding their bill open and breathing quickly to try to cool off.
Our other loon was floating around the pond and eventually gave a stretch. With one loon on the nest and the other just killing time, it was time to see who else was around. Eventually, the loons swapped nest sitting duty and with my binoculars I was able to see two eggs.
Red-eyed vireos are actually very common, but somewhat rare to see – apparently because I’m always looking on the top of the branch…. They spend most of their time high in the tree canopy, you can hear them regularly. This one ventured down almost to eye level briefly to forage. Looks like he’s trying to pull a spider out its hidey hole. He eventually pulled something free and promptly returned upstairs. I encouraged him to take some black flies along, but he declined.

Thursday morning I headed back to visit the Eastons, hoping both had returned. There was no wind, it was a perfect morning just to be out on the water, even better for photos. As I headed down the pond, I quickly spotted a loon sitting on the bank a couple hundred feet from the previous nesting site. Studies of banded loons suggest that if they are successful in hatching chicks in a nesting site, they’ll reuse the site. The literature says the male picks the site, I hoped our male had returned (I want all my critters to live long happy lives before retiring to Boca Raton.) The male on the pond the last few years was banded, I wanted to get a look at their legs.

Our loon on the new nest.
A loon was preening a few hundred feet from the nest and stretched as I went by. I got a good look at her legs, no bands.
Nearby, one of our spotted sandpipers was foraging along the rocks exposed above the water. Checking each rapidly before moving to the next.
Our loon not on duty did a slow tour of the pond. Before heading towards the nest.

The off duty loon wandered over to confer with the loon on the nest. They exchanged hoots, apparently discussing the shift change.
The loon on the nest agreed it was time to hand things off and left the nest.
Free of having to sit, he stretched and then scratched an itch – letting me spot the bands on his legs. Our male is back.
Mom climbed up on the nest and checked on the eggs.
Mom took time to turn both eggs. We think birds turn their eggs to both help distribute nutrients to the developing chick and to keep the chick from adhering to the side of the egg. Mom got them arraigned properly and settled in. I scouted for other wildlife.
Pickings were slim. Merlin claimed there were lots of warblers around, all I could find was common yellowthroats. There was a lone duck foraging along the grass.
Thursday evening I headed back to see the Westons. Their nest is well camouflaged and usually provides good shade. With the temps in the 90s again, the loon on duty was hot and panting.
Hank Heron, or maybe his cousin, Wade, was working through the marsh nearby.
I guess he didn’t like the looks of me, he decided to be elsewhere.
There was an eastern kingbird that was picking perches in beautiful light, I watched him for a time. Kingbird numbers seem to be down on all three ponds this year.

Friday morning, I packed up the Loon Preservation Committee’s nesting sign and headed back to the Eastons.

The loons had company for breakfast, a bull moose was browsing along the edge of the pond. Conditions were good to let me get relatively close, there was a slight wind blowing towards me and I was in deep shadows with him looking up into the sun. I was able to watch him for a time.
After dunking his head under to get a mouthful of underwater plants, he’d give a good shake, scattering water almost as far as a soggy husky can.
Another head shake. Most of the time when I encounter moose in the morning, they’re out before sun up and wander back into the shade before the light hits the pond. This fellow stayed out about 20 minutes after the light reached the pond, then headed back into the woods. I returned my attention to the loons.

Once again, our male had taken the night shift and was on the nest waiting to be relived.
When he was relived, I waited for the stretch.
He cooperated nicely and found a spot with beautiful light. I set out their nest sign and headed home for a much needed nap.

We’re Expecting!

The weather kept me from visiting the loons for several days. I was out to see the Middletons last Thursday, May 18. I didn’t get back until last evening. And I had a chance to visit the Westons this morning. Let’s see how they’re doing.

I’ll be at the Paradise City Art Show in Northampton, MA this coming weekend. Stop by and say hello. I’ll have lots of prints, from small to large, and note cards with lots of critters. All the show details here.

Last Thursday was another chilly morning, with a little bit of fog on the water.

I hit the water well before dawn, ready to make some nice images. The loons slept in.
Eventually, the loons woke and continued their exploration of alternate nesting sites. The looked at three sites, with both loons climbing out of the water and sitting a couple minutes on the site. The literature says the male picks the site, but these two were discussing it at length. Maybe the male picks the site like I’m picking the colors for repainting our kitchen?
The spotted sandpipers were out foraging along the water’s edge and on downed trees.
This eastern phoebe stopped by to feed off of the many black flies that I’d attracted.
Eventually our loons headed back to last year’s nesting site. One crawled out and sat and fidgeted long enough that I hoped we had an egg. No such luck.
Still thinking about it….
All this thinking must have been exhausting, they tucked in for a nap.
Our great egret was flying about.
And a few Canada geese returned from their errands. This one looks little surprised to see the water coming up at him so fast.

I returned yesterday evening, much to the delight of the black flies.

When I arrived, there was a loon on last year’s nesting site, with the other one floating nearby, hooting softly.
The loon on the water wandered off to feed and preen.
I went exploring the marsh. This gander was giving me a look. I suspect he was plotting my demise….
The red-winged black birds were very active, with females hauling nesting material and everyone feeding on bugs.
The loon not on nest duty returned to the nest four time through the evening. They didn’t exchange nest duty, but they had a conversation with lots of soft hooting.

This morning I headed off to check in on the Westons. It became a beautiful morning after a chilly 38° start, with lots of nice fog on the water. The last few years, the Westons have been about a week behind the Middletons in mating and nesting. They must have a new calendar this year.

One of the Westons was out slowly cruising in the fog when I arrived.
Our geese were commuting to and fro on the pond. I could hear them long before I could see them through the fog.
A pair of wood duck drakes were looking sharp, even in the fog.
The loon not on nest duty took time to preen in the cove where the nest is.
A pair of geese ventured too close to the nest. The preening loon dove. The geese saw him coming and decided they would prefer to be somewhere else right about now.
Geese vanquished, preening was completed and we got a nice stretch.
I hadn’t spotted the nest yet. While I was watching the loon not on duty stretch, a second loon surfaced close by and gave a stretch.
They both took time to preen.
And finishing up with another nice stretch.
One of the loons returned to the nest. Again, I’m shooting with a 600mm lens and cropping the image. Please give nesting loons lots of room.

This handsome fellow was out celebrating World Turtle Day today. As good a reason to go wild as any!

It will be next week before I get a chance to get back to check on them. I’ll let you know what I find. Enjoy the holiday weekend and please remember the U.S. military personnel who gave their lives to protect us

More Time with the Loons

Last weekend, I was able to spend both mornings on the Middleton’s Pond. They’ve got a new neighbor, it looks like they may be having second thoughts about the nest location and they, once again, told an intruder to go away.

I’ll be down at the Paradise City Show in Northampton, MA, over Memorial Day Weekend. I’ll have lots of wildlife prints, including lots of loons, as well as note cards. Stop by to say hello. All the show details here.

Saturday morning found a great egret foraging not far from where the loons nested last year and may again this year. The loons were off in another cove on the pond.

Our loons were busy making little loons again.
Once again, an intruding loon arrived on the pond. The home team left their cove to challenge him. The home team male yodeled a couple times to explain the situation to the intruder.
This time, the intruder quickly took the hint and departed. The home team went off to look at real estate.
Several sandpipers have arrived on the pond and spend time foraging along the water’s edge or from downed trees.
Painted turtles took advantage of the morning sunlight.
The great egret moved over to a stretch of reeds along the pond.
Shaking water off after an unsuccessful strike.
The next try was successful, the egret came up with a bluegill.
Whenever I watch an egret walking through the reeds, I think they look like someone stalking off to speak to the manager.
There were two osprey around the pond. While one would circle the pond, the other would perch and call. It sounded like a challenge. I wonder if a third osprey was visiting the pond and the home team osprey were objecting.
A quick wing stretch.
Sunday morning, the loons had a long discussion near last year’s nesting site, the same site they worked on last week.
The literature says male loons select the nesting site. From what I’ve seen, it appears to be a joint decision. They’ll both explore the options and exchange soft hoots and wails. If they see a promising spot, one or both loons may haul out and sit on the spot for a few minutes. They also seem to explore the underwater escape routes from any potential site.
After checking out three sites near last year’s site, they moved over to the reeds and explored options there. This is where they nested in 2017 when the female was killed by a Canada goose with a nearby nest. If we still have the same male, I wonder if that will play into the decision if they’re looking in the reeds.
The loons seemed unconcerned about the egret’s presence. I suspect that will change when the chicks arrive. A young chick would be an easy meal for an egret.
And, I can’t resist a nice wing stretch for a pic.
One more wing stretch….

I’m anxiously watching the weather, itching to get back to see if they’ve decided on a nesting site.

Catching Up with the Loons

There’s news from the Middletons. The Westons didn’t show any signs of getting on with chicks when I visited. They’re usually about a week behind the Middletons, so that’s not surprising. While I’ve been out every morning and couple afternoons, I fell behind on editing. Finally catching up, here’s a very long post.

A note on photography since we’ve started nesting season. Please respect the loons and give them their space if you photograph them. For these photos, I was working with a 600mm or 800mm lens on a crop body. That’s something like a 24X or 26X scope. To get all of a loon in the frame, I’ve got to be something like 110 feet from the loon and further back to get some of the surroundings. That’s far enough back that the loons pretty much ignore me. And, a good distance for you to maintain..

Winter wasn’t quite ready to go away when I visited the Middletons last Saturday. It was a pleasant 34° when I launched. I found the loons in the cove where they used to nest.

After a quick preen, one of them gave a morning stretch. In years past, I’ve seen them mating on one of lawns along this cove. Soon, the loons were skirting the shoreline, cooing to each other.
Sure enough, soon mom crawled out of the water. Before they could finish the business, dad turned around and headed back out towards the pond. Mom sat on the shore for a couple minutes before she too headed back towards the pond at full steam.
An intruding loon had arrived on the pond. The home team went out to tell him the pond was already taken. They circled each other, sizing each other up.
They progressed to making aggressive dives and circling each other under water. When I gave my slideshow a while ago, someone asked how you can tell if a dive is aggressive. My best answer is the same way you can tell your wife’s mood by the way she closes a door. When loons are foraging, they usually slip gracefully under. When they’re challenging each other, they’ll make a splash.
When they’re circling and sizing each other up, they’ll often display just how large and powerful a loon they really are. By now, I’d lost all sense of who was the home team.
Of course, the other loons all think they’re the biggest and baddest loon and are willing to display to prove it.
The confrontation escalated to one of the males yodeling at another loon. Only males yodel, this was probably the home team male telling an intruding male to leave. After a time, the intruder took the hint and departed. For now.
After the intruder left, the Middletons were able to spend a peaceful morning. They cruised around their pond.
And they practiced just looking fine. I think they’ll pulled it off very well.
No morning is complete without preening and stretching.
Another stretch.
And they retreated back to the cove for a nap.

When I returned on Sunday, it was a balmy 39° when I launched. I could almost feel my fingers as I shot. I suspect the loons mated before I arrived. They seem to mate just around dawn for several days. They were coming out of the cove that they’ve been using when I arrived about dawn. I followed them over to the cove where they’ve nested the last four years.
After a quick scout around the cove, they took time to preen and stretch.
Here’s one of our loons placing some vegetation around the nest.
One loon is inspecting the work on the nest while the other one checks the basement for some good vegetation to add.
The loons tucked in for a nap and I went exploring. I soon found a male pileated woodpecker working on a birch tree.
Pileated woodpeckers are my nemesis bird, photo opportunities are rare. This was one of my better chances. Here, he’s scored a nice beetle.

Tuesday morning found me with some work to do before heading out. Up at 0330 and with it only 30° on the pond, I once again found myself questioning some of my life choices. This time, I was early enough.

The loons got busy making little loons shortly after I arrived.
After the deed, mom approached my boat and give an in my face stretch.
They made a quick inspection of the nest and decided it was in good shape.
They preened and stretched.
The settled in for a morning nap.
Warblers are back. The marsh is busy with common yellowthroats and along the shore were dozens of yellow-rumped warblers and this palm warbler.

Wednesday I went to check on the Westons. Conditions for photography were ideal, every photographer dreams of paddling on a 28° foggy morning.

The loons cooperated in looking great, the images were worth freezing for.
The loons spent the morning foraging and cruising the pond.
The full cast of characters seems to be back in the marsh. There were several sandpipers around, including this spotted sandpiper foraging along the marsh’s edge.
Tree swallows have been back for 10 days or two weeks. Now they’re getting serious about finding mates, calling and fliting about with each other.
Last year, there was a swamp sparrow who always posed nicely at eye level in a a spot with nice morning light. There’s a sparrow there now, I always hope it is the same bird.
And, he treated me to a morning long concert.
This yellow warbler was trying to tell the ladies he’s single and looking.
And the red-winged blackbirds were out looking for the ladies. The female red-winged blackbirds arrived en mass last weekend. The marsh is suddenly full of them.

We should be getting goslings soon. This goose nests right next to the boat launch every year and objects when anyone comes or goes.

Friday morning found the Middletons once again facing off with an intruder.

The intruder was on the pond when I arrived at dawn. The loons were circling each other.
Low-level challenges continued throughout the morning. When I was out of sight, there was a great deal of splashing – probably wing rowing and yodeling before the intruder retreated from the pond.
One of our loons stretching after the intruder leaves. With the excitement over, I went looking to see who else was out and about.
Least, but not last, a handful of least flycatchers were calling in the marsh. This on made a very brief appearance low enough to photograph.
Geese continued their skirmishing. Once one goose invades another’s territory, the whole pond ends up involved. When one of the geese in the original incursion retreats, it inevitably lands in yet another goose’s territory. Which starts a new fight….
I lost track of which goose was which, there were about a dozen geese along this stretch of pond. All squabbling.
Painted turtles are basking. I counted 62 of them around the pond this morning. Snapping turtles are out and about, I spotted several large adults on the surface.
These turtles were hauled out not far from the loon’s nest. It seemed like this loon went over to check them out.
One of the osprey from the pond’s nest has been patrolling over the marsh where the eagle was hanging out last week. One of the pair that was involved in last week’s skirmish with the eagle. The osprey has made at least two low, slow flights over the marsh each morning I’ve been on the pond. This time, he was challenged by a red-winged blackbird.
Before departing, I deployed the Loon Preservation Committee’s nesting sanctuary sign near the loon’s nest.

Unexpected Action on the Middleton’s Pond

The forecast for this morning called for rain. I happily planned to sleep in. Owing two huskies often thwarts such plans. When I let them out, there were stars to be seen. There was a thick fog over the Connecticut River, but clear skies above. The Middleton’s – the loons that live on the pond between the other two ponds – pond is a few hundred feet above the Connecticut. Hoping for some mood shots, I packed up and headed out.

The pond had a moderate fog and flat water. I had guessed correctly.
There was no shortage of Canada geese on the pond. I noticed nine nests while I was exploring.

It didn’t take long to find the loons, they were in one of their favorite coves. And sleeping in.
And they continued to sleep in….
After a time, they began to stir. They both did a very quick preen and stretched their legs.
Before giving a good wing stretch to get things going.
Loons on this pond have often nested in this cove. Two years ago, they relocated the nest. This morning, they took a quick tour around the old nest site, poking into the brush and hooting to each other.

When loons are courting, they’ll swim quickly along side each other, softly hooting to each other, and they’ll make synchronized dives. This morning, our pair made a quick courting display before heading off to breakfast.

With the loons off having breakfast, I spent some time exploring the marsh. Warblers are back, the pond was surrounded by yellow-rumped warblers and common yellowthroats. I saw a black & white warbler – briefly. And, the spider webs were covered in dew and standing out. Before I could concentrate on photographing warblers, bigger things were afoot.
A bald eagle that had been sitting out of my sight dove on the pond, coming up empty. I wasn’t quick enough to get the camera around for the dive. He? landed in a tree overlooking the pond and I settled in to wait for the next dive.
The osprey on the pond have returned to their nest and were not in the mood to welcome an eagle.
One of the osprey came in and dove at the sitting eagle.
The osprey came in close to the eagle. I’m glad I wasn’t on the business end of the talons.
The osprey pulled up and came around again.
The eagle was standing higher and calling louder this time. That didn’t discourage the osprey.
The osprey made five dives at the eagle. The eagle held his ground. The osprey headed down the pond towards the nest.
Having proved he could hold his ground (hold his tree?), the eagle sat for a time before flying off to a new perch – out of sight of the osprey. He eventually came back, dove for a fish and missed. Settling in a new tree, the osprey started in on him again.

The loons would be rooting for the osprey. Osprey’s diet is almost exclusively fish, they leave the loons alone, while eagles are a very real threat to loon families.

My luck with the weather ran out. A few raindrops remined me that the huskies needed their morning run. I had the boat packed up and was pulling out of the parking spot when the rain hit. The huskies enjoyed romping in the mud when they got their run.

Visiting the Westons

I’ve been back to the Weston’s (the loons to my west) pond three times since failing to break through the ice on the 17th, and finally managed to get photos of them. Along with some of their pond mates.

Before we get to the photos, is there anyone interested in a trip to see the puffins on Machias Seal Island? A friend and I made reservations out of Grand Manan Island for the trips on July 28 & 29. She can’t make it, I’m hoping to find a new sidekick to come along. I can get away a few days before if we want to explore anywhere along the way, but I have to head back promptly after the trip. Send me an email if you’re interested.

I ventured out to the Weston’s pond on the 20th and again the 21st. Both afternoons had a brisk breeze. The loons were out on the main body of the pond and the waves ruined any chance for good pix of them. I spent some time poking around the marshy coves.

Hank heron was checking out the buffet along the pond’s edge.
I could hear an American bittern calling ‘chu-peep.’ It took almost two hours over two evenings to finally find him in the brush.
A pair of upstanding common mergansers along the marsh. There are also lots of wood ducks and a few hoodies around, but they’ve been too skittish for photos.
The male red-winged blackbirds are working on sorting out territories. They were more animated this morning, but I still haven’t seen a female.
I was out early this morning, finding thick fog and a brisk 30° when I launched.
The loons were just starting out on their day.
There was a couple dozen geese around. Several already sitting on nests, the rest spending much of the morning honking.
As I was exploring the marsh, a gander made a ruckus. Had he been quiet, I’d have missed his mate on the nest. I had to back out and try somewhere else to avoid disturbing her.
Even though we had a quorum of geese, they kept arriving.
Landing gear down, one makes a smooth landing.
This red-winged blackbird has claimed his territory and was lackadaisically calling.
After another male landed in his territory and was escorted out, the blackbird upped his game. You can see his breath in the cold morning air.
Our loons spent most of the morning foraging, making long deep dives. After a time, they took time to preen.
After preening, the both had a good stretch.

My hummingbird feeder is out. We often get one or two the first couple days in May. I suspect they’re making a brief stop before continuing north. We should have our residents back by the end of the week. The weather forecast looks miserable for next week, but I’ll be out again as soon as I can.

Loons Have Returned to the North Country

Loons have returned to our local ponds. The Westons – the loons on the pond to my west – were spotted a week ago on Monday, April 10. The Middletons – the loons on the pond between the eastern and western ponds I’ve been following – showed up Thursday, April 13.

In other news, our bluebirds have been around the yard regularly. Their camera is supposed to send me a notification when they’re in the box. It hasn’t been sending notifications and has been on my list to fix for a time. Yesterday I went to show off the live feed and found Mrs. Bluebird in the box.

Mrs. Bluebird has been busy, I tuned in just in time to catch up on the news.

I was surprised how far along in their plans the bluebirds were when mom left the box.

A friend on the north end of the Westons’ pond messaged to tell me the loons were back. The water was open on their end of the pond. I hit the pond the next afternoon, only to find that there was still ice between the boat launch and the loons. Being too stubborn to take the hint, I tried breaking through with the kayak. Most of the ice was just slushy water, but the last 40 or 50 feet had ice too thick to break through. I had to give up. I returned Sunday and the ice was gone. There were two loons on the pond. It was a windy afternoon, and there weren’t any photos to be made.

On Friday, I tried the Middletons’ pond. Two loons were foraging together for a time before preening and settling in for a nap.

The turtles were lining the pond to welcome the loons back. Or maybe just to bask. Hard to tell with turtles. There were a couple hundred painted turtles, basking on most every long or hummock in the sun.

Insects of some sort were hatching and the trout were near the surface – or jumping above it – most of the afternoon. The loons were foraging quickly, with short shallow dives. They took the occasional break to stretch.

After feeding, they took time to preen.
After preening, this loon give a nice stretch.

I hope to follow the loons on the same three ponds that I have been watching again this season. You can keep up with their adventures by subscribing. And, if you know someone who enjoys wildlife, please share the blog with them.

A Look Back at Our Loons in 2022

Lazy photographers everywhere squeeze an extra post out of their favorite pix of the previous year. Why should I be different? Let’s look at some of my favorite pix of our loon families from last summer.

If you liked following the loons on my blog, you might be interested in seeing my presentation An Uncommon Look at the Common Loon. I’ve put together a PowerPoint presentation with some natural history of loons and we’ll follow a loon family from nest to the chicks in flight. I’ll be giving the presentation a couple times this week.

The first presentation will be at the Thompson Center in Woodstock, VT, this Thursday, January 12, at 1:00 p.m. The second presentation will be at the Blake Memorial Library in East Corinth, VT, this Friday, January 13, at 6:30 p.m. Both are free and everyone welcome.

And, if your interests include steam locomotives, I’ll be giving my presentation Under Steam at the Bugbee Senior Center in White River Jct., VT, on Wednesday, January 25 at 1:00 p.m. We’ll take a look at some of the US’s remaining operating steam locomotives. I’ve been tracking down the last steam engines since the 1970s, this show looks at the highlights from coast to coast. Also free and everyone welcome.

One of our parent-to-be adult loons still has time for relaxing on a spring morning before the kids arrived.
Another nice stretch shot.
Both chicks have hatched. This was early Sunday morning, the chicks would have hatched Friday and Saturday. That’s dad on the nest (he’s banded). The family left the nest for the last time just minutes after this was taken.
Just a few minutes after leaving the nest, the parents have set to work feeding the chicks.
Our chick woke up with a big yawn….
A good wing flap and head shake to complete the morning’s preening.
One of our chicks patrolling the pond at sunrise.
The intruder retreats! This loon challenged the home team one morning. After several displays of how tough everyone was, the home team was able to chase this loon off. He’s running to gain enough speed to lift off.
Not today, little guy. One of our loon chicks makes a one of his first serious efforts at flying. He had a couple weeks to go before his wings were ready to lift him. But, he does look proud of himself.
Will this time work? Our chick is ten weeks old and making repeated efforts to get airborne. A couple days after this was taken, both were able to take flight.
Our loon family was spread out across the pond, sleeping in when I arrived. A few minutes before the sun reached the pond, the pack of coyotes that lives to the west convened to discuss – loudly – the issues of the day. That got one of our adults stirring and starting the day with a big stretch.

One Loon Family Still Here

Dawn yesterday found a cloudless sky and with the temperature here on the hill at 32°, I figured I could get the kayak around the pond. I headed north to check on the Westons. This is the family that faced intruders for several weeks in the spring. They hatched two chicks and one survives and is 15 weeks old.

I’ve got a couple appearances coming up. Wednesday October 26, I’ll be at the Bugbee Senior Center at 1:00 p.m.with my slideshow An Uncommon Look at the Common Loon. The show is open to the public, see the details on their site:

There’s a photographic print version of An Uncommon Look which I’ll be hanging at the Kellogg-Hubbard Memorial Library in Montpelier on November 1. It will stay up until November 30. I’ll be giving An Uncommon Look at 6:30 p.m. on November 9 at the Library. Free and open to the public.

And, I’ll be at Craft Vermont November 18-20, 2022 at the DoubleTree in South Burlington. Come on by and say hello.

When I got to the loon’s pond, the sun had yet to hit the tops of the trees along the west side of the pond and it was a refreshing 29°. There was only the slightest trace of ice along the shore, no problem for a kayak.

While I was launching the kayak, I noticed what looked to be a large hawk land in a tree towards the other end of the pond. Too far away for a good ID and with the loons talking I headed out to find them.

There were two loons on the pond. One I suspect is mom, the other is our surviving chick. When I found thems, they appeared agitated. They were swimming back and forth, fairly rapidly and making low hooting calls. After I watched for a few minutes, it occurred to me to check that hawk out. It turned out to be a juvenile bald eagle. One of the residents on the pond told me earlier that a young eagle had been harassing the chick. The eagle is at the top of the tree just right of center.
After a time, the eagle flew off to the north. The loons started foraging, but still appeared agitated.

A little looking around found a second immature bald eagle watching the pond.

A few minutes later, this eagle took off and made a couple of low passes over the loons. Both loons dove in plenty of time. The eagle settled on a new perch. The eagle that had flown off to the north reappeared – coming in like a husky hearing me unwrap a piece of cheese.
The loons kept a eye on the eagles – and kept talking about them – while they tried to forage.

I suspect that’s mom in front. My guess is based on not hearing the adult loon yodel. The male on the pond this year was not shy about yodeling at eagles or most anything that moved along the shore. Our chick is a male, he tried a couple of yodels that didn’t impress the eagles. Note that mom has pretty much changed into her winter plumage.
Our chick is just about as long as the adult, but isn’t yet at full adult weight.
The eagles took another leisurely flight over the pond. The chick took off wing rowing.
With the eagles out of sight, the chick took a moment to stretch.
But the eagles weren’t done yet. They reappeared and one made a dive at the chick.
The chick was prepared…..
And dove rapidly. I’m impressed by the speed. My camera takes 10 images a second. The chick was entirely submerged in the second frame after having been sitting mostly still in the first. After missing the chick, both eagles headed out of sight to the north.
The chick is capable of foraging for himself now. But that doesn’t stop him from from encouraging mom to feed him.
With the eagles gone, the loons had time to forage and to let me get good looks at them. Here’s a good look at our chick.
And a good look at mom.
Our chick foraging on the shadowed side of the pond.
And pestering mom to provide a meal.
And we’ll close with a couple shots of the chick stretching.
The loons are likely to stay on the pond until the ice starts to form. Mom is likely to leave first, the chick following a week or 10 days later. They may make a stop in a warmer pond and stay until the ice starts to form there. Eventually, they’re likely to head for the coast between Maine and Cape Cod to spend the winter. The parents will return next spring, the chick won’t be back until they’re ready to raise his own family. Depending on who tracks the loons, that will be somewhere between two and five years. This is likely the last time I’ll knowingly see this chick. I wished mom a good winter and the chick a long healthy life before I headed out.

Checking in on the Loon Families

I had a chance to check in on two of our loon families this weekend. Let’s see what’s up.

The Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton, MA, is this coming weekend, October 8, 9& 10. I’ll be there in booth 220 with lots of photos of loons, owls, fox kits and other critters.

Friday morning, after scraping ice off the windshield, I headed east to check on the Eastons. This is the family that last I saw them, the chicks were practicing takeoffs, but were not yet airborne. This pond is almost 2,000 feet above sea level. The loons usually depart from this pond much earlier than the nearby ponds at lower elevations. This year, I wondered if fish were scarce; the parents seemed to feed the chicks more crayfish than other loons and in the last couple visits, the parents delivered only a couple fish of any size. Anecdotal evidence from fisherpeople also suggests that fish are scarce, but when has anyone fishing complained of there being too many fish?

One loon flew over the pond about half an hour before sunup, and that was the only sighting for the day. The loons have moved on. They’re likely to have moved to a lower pond where they’re likely to stay until the ice starts forming. Once the ice appears, they’ll head to the coast.

Our heron was around to give me the consolation prize.

One of our herons was hunkered down and fluffed up. Not too surprising, it was 34°F when I put the boat in.

He’d picked a spot that got early sun. He seemed more interested in warming up than foraging.
Getting started for the day with a big yawn.
After a time, he headed out, choosing a flight path with through the sun with deep shadows behind.

This morning, I visited the loons to the west, the Westons. Their pond is much lower, about 870′ ASL. And, much warmer, at 47 when I arrived. There was one adult and the surviving chick on the pond. The chick is 13 weeks old this weekend.

One of the residents on the pond tells me that the chick has had a busy week with an juvenile eagle repeatedly harassing him. No sign of the eagle this morning, but I wasn’t out long.

Our chick is nearly grown up and dressed for the winter.
The adult on the pond has started to change into winter colors. The other adult may have already headed out for the season or could just be visiting a nearby pond for the morning.
The chick is capable of foraging for itself, but is still willing to take a meal from the parent. Here’s the chick popping up from a dive.
And here’s the chick pestering the parent to be fed.
Our chick has learned to fly! He(?) took a quick flight over the south end of the pond this morning before setting back down.
While the chick has learned to fly, his landings still need work. He approached the water at a steep angle and made quite a splash as he hit. Looks like he forgot to pull his nose up too.

Anyone have a bear coming after the last of the apples?

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