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.