Posts Tagged: bird lovers

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 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.

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.

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.

The Usual Suspects, May 6, 2022

Let’s round up the usual suspects. I finally had time to get the kayak in the water and have ventured to a couple of the local waterholes. Let’s see who I’ve found.

Geese seem to be everywhere near the water this time of year. Lots of them coming & going or squabbling over territory. Here’s one inbound.
Another goose outbound.
One of a pair of geese that landed near what another pair of geese considered their territory. This goose left in a hurry.
Go away!, he explained.
Lesser yellowlegs foraging along the bank.
A swamp sparrow surveying the territory.
A male yellow-rumped warbler, aka ‘butterbutt’ and lots of his friends have been out gleaning along the water’s edge.
Mrs. Butterbutt thinks nabbing a tasty bug is as easy as falling off a branch.
Elvis, the kingbird, is back for the season.
I was headed upstream when I met a muskrat coming downstream.
A turkey vulture circling overhead.
An adult bald eagle flew down the river, briefly silencing the geese.
A murder of crows escorting a red-tailed hawk from the premises.
The crows seemed pretty insistent that the hawk move along.
I was lurking peacefully in the reeds when this bittern let out a pump-er-lunk just a few feet from me.
This beaver escorted me from one end of his pond to the other, slapping all the way.
The beaver put on a good show.
This is just after the tail slap, just a foot remains above water.
A common gallinule appeared – briefly – from the reeds.
And a male red-winged blackbird claiming his territory.
There was a pair of loons foraging on the pond Sunday evening. That’s the beaver in the foreground. The loons seemed unimpressed by his tail slapping.
A local common loon heads out on some errand. Loons are excellent fliers, but have to run across the water for many yards to get enough speed for liftoff.
Our outbound loon had to circle the pond a couple times to gain enough altitude to get over the hills surrounding the pond.
A loon stretching. That’s the beaver in the background.

I’ll be following a couple loon families throughout the summer, along with other critters. Sign up for notifications to follow along.

Saturday With The Bluebirds, April 30, 2022

Mrs. Bluebird continues to sit patiently on her five eggs. Dad has popped in a couple times to make sure she’s doing it right. The eggs should hatch sometime between tomorrow and May 9. Stay tuned!

We’re watching eastern bluebirds in a nesting box with a camera built in to allow us to watch without disturbing them.

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