Loon Chicks At Four And Five Weeks

The loon chicks to my east are five weeks old this weekend. All four on both ponds, the ‘Eastons’ and the ‘Middletons,’ seem to be doing well. The pond to my west, the ‘Westons,’ has sad news, the parents have lost a chick.

Our bluebirds’ second brood is ready to fledge. Wednesday afternoon the adults started calling to the chicks to leave the box. Thursday they were more insistent. Friday they sounded impatient. Saturday morning, two of the four chicks left the box. This morning their are still two chicks in the box. Mom and dad have stopped calling, they’re busy feeding the two that fledged. The two in the box are looking out the door, trying to get up the courage to make the leap.

The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair is August 6-15, I’ll be there with lots of wildlife prints, cards and more. Other images are available through my web site, www.IanClark.com. It takes me some time between capturing an image and getting prints made. If you see a photo that you’d like in one of my posts, send me an email and I’ll bump that image to the head of the queue.

The Weston family couldn’t be found during last week’s census. They’ve been under pressure from intruding loons all spring. They’re on a small pond, not being found in 90 minutes of searching was worrisome. I love how people watch out for ‘their’ loons, I heard from folks who live or have camps on the pond, worried that they hadn’t seen the loons for a couple days. A couple that live on the pond set out Monday to have another look and found the adults and one chick hidden in a remote part of the pond, a much better outcome than we’d feared. I visited Friday the pond Friday morning.

We’ll never know what happened to the missing chick. There are lots of threats, eagles, otters, coyotes if they get too close to shore and more. The intruding loon is also a likely suspect.

An intruding loon arrived on the pond shortly after I did. The Home Team came out from the little cove they’d been foraging in to meet the intruder, the chick hid in the brush. There was enough fog on the pond to make them have to search for him. (I’m guessing the intruder is male, the home team’s male is the more aggressive towards him, with lots yodeling to let us know he’s the male.)
The search continues… Eventually there was a brief skirmish and the intruder retreated to the far end of the pond.
After the intruder retreated, mom collected the chick to get breakfast started. Dad took up station between the family and the intruder. Things were quiet for a time.
There was a flock of tree and barn swallows feeding along the shore and gleaning insects from some of the plants. That’s one lucky bee overhead…..
With a gentle breeze, perching was precarious on the plants.
The flock is much bigger than it was a few weeks ago, this year’s chicks must have joined up. There were swallows coming and going in every direction after insects.
Mr. kingfisher briefly perched nearby while foraging.
Dad has spotted the intruder! He took a short flight to put himself between the intruder and the family.
Mom soon joined the fray. Dad is aggressively displaying and calling.
Dad lunged towards the intruder!
The intruder retreated down the pond. He didn’t leave, the fight for the territory is likely to continue.
Saturday I visited the Eastons, where both chicks are doing well and things were more peaceful. These chicks are five weeks old. They can’t dive yet, but are learning how to forage in the shallows. Mom and dad will have to provide most of their food for a few more weeks.
The chicks have learned that the water is shallow near rocks above the surface. Both chicks ventured to nearby rocks to forage on their own.
One of the adults herded the chicks into a shallow spot along the shore. The chicks were foraging on their own. The adult was foraging, eating some of the take and sharing some with the chicks.
This chick was “today years old” when it learned that sticks aren’t food.

This chick managed to catch a dragonfly in the brush. It then continued to test the brush to see what else might be good.
The other adult broke up the lesson to deliver second breakfasts. The first course looks to be a shiner.
The other adult appeared with a delicate morsel.
One of the adults arrived with a crayfish. The adult dropped the crayfish in front of the chick, making the chick catch it for itself. Once caught, crayfish have to be lined up to be swallowed tail first.
Ack! The crayfish isn’t very cooperative! It looks like it pinched the chick. The chick tossed it. The adult looking on supervised as the chick caught it again.
Mom had been off preening and trying to nap by herself for a bit. Out chick went over to her. Was it coming for some cuddles, or was it just hungry?

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4 Comments

  1. Reply
    Priscilla Douglas July 25, 2022

    Your photos bring me joy!!! Thank you!

  2. Reply
    Sharon July 25, 2022

    Fantastic photos! Keep them coming. Thanks for doing this and the story too!

  3. Reply
    Erin Costello July 25, 2022

    Wonderful!!!!

  4. Reply
    Lee Carvalho July 29, 2022

    Another spectacular post, Ian. Thanks for keeping us up to date on all three loon families and for sharing such gorgeous photography.

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