Posts Tagged: loon chicks on back

Loon Chicks Have Arrived

Two of our loon families – the Westons and Middletons have hatched two chicks. I’ve been out to see how they, and their neighbors are doing.

The Tenney Memorial Library will host me this Sunday, June 23, at 2:00 p.m. for my slideshow, An Uncommon Look at the Common Loon. Free and everyone welcome.

I left a game camera looking out my blind by one of the fox dens. Here’s a minute of foxes big and small coming and going.

A neighbor told me he has a whippoorwill stopping by late every evening and early every morning. I sat out by his garden and got a good listen to the whippoorwill. Unfortunately, it was too dark to see him. So far, he’s eluded my game cameras. My consolation prize was a pair of bobolinks:

Mr. bobolink looking dapper as he looks over his territory.
Mrs. bobolink stopped by for a time.

A friend on the Weston’s pond messaged me on the 13th, telling me they’d seen a chick. I headed up to visit that evening.

I quickly found the babysitting loon with a chick riding along.
The chick riding in sight climbed off and was swimming along the far side of the parent when the parent lifted a wing to let me see they had a second chick.
The other parent returned to the cove where the family was waiting, the family headed to greet him(?).
Little loons face big challenges – like powering over those pesky lily pads.
The parents set to feeding the chicks. After several small meals, one of the adults arrived with this crayfish. Both chicks tried to get it down, but couldn’t. It looks to me like our parent is checking the fit. Apparently realizing the crayfish was too big, the adult ate it.
One of the parents gave a nice wing stretch as I was getting ready to head in.

By the 16th, the Middletons were in the window for the chicks to hatch. I headed over early, in heavy fog. It was a fine 36° when I put in. Heavy fog made it hard to find the loons.

After a bit of searching, a parent went by carrying a meal, I knew that at least one chick had hatched. I never saw the nest after they started sitting on the first egg, so I was curious to see if they’d had a second. Soon I found the other parent with a chick onboard. I floated in the fog for about 40 minutes before a second chick popped up from under a wing.
The parents took the chicks into one of the coves to give the chicks second breakfasts. The problem with second breakfasts for little chicks is that it seems to make them hungry for brunch… The sun was coming up and most of the pond was nicely lit with wisps of fog. Our family stayed determinedly stayed about 10′ into the shadows.


Second breakfast came to an end, one parent packed the chicks aboard, the other took a chance to stretch before heading across the pond to serve brunch.


Along the way, the parents traded babysitting duty and the other adult had a chance to stretch.
Now in nice sunlight, the parents got back to work feeding the chicks.

A quick reminder about photographing chicks – give them their space. I’m using a long lens – something like a 20x scope and these images are heavily cropped.


This side of the pond seemed a good place to catch fingerling bass for the chicks.


Both parents kept busy delivering food.
One of the chicks seems to want to skip the whole chick business and get right on being a big loon. He stretched his wings several times.
Give it time, little one….
And made a couple of impressive dives – this time he stayed under for the better part of three seconds – excellent for a little chick.


Waiting for the parents to retrieve the next course.
Looking hopeful when a parent returns.
A chick’s eye view of a meal being delivered.

Early on the 18th, I headed up to check on the Westons. It was 74° when I put in, almost 40° difference in two days.

There was sad news when I got out on the pond.

I could find only one parent and one chick. After a few minutes, a second adult flew in. The adult on the pond objected and challenged the intruder. Off and on all morning, they chased each other across the pond. Eventually our parent yodeled at the other loon, telling us he’s the male.
Another shot of a loon wing rowing across the pond – a sign of aggression.
One of the adults started hiding close in behind my kayak. The intruder was still on the pond when I left.
There was other activity on the pond. Here a doe stopped by for a drink and a snack of reeds.
A merganser and her duckling paraded by.
There were several beaver pups out on the pond. They’re just a bit bigger than guinea pigs and found the unopened water lily flowers tasty.

I went back up to the pond on the 19th, on a very hot and hazy morning.

Sadly, just dad and the chick were on the pond. Another loon flew over calling, but continued on. It seems unlikely that mom voluntarily left the pond with chicks this young, I fear the worst.
There was an eastern kingbird sitting and watching for some time. I suspected there was a nest nearby.
After a time, a second kingbird appeared with a dragonfly and I was able to spot the nest. I’ve seen several nests in these trees (cedar?) but never noticed how well the chick’s mouth blends in with the pinecones.
And, I’m busy printing new images for the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair. It opens in Sunapee, NH, on August 3rd.

Loon Chicks At One Week

This morning was a perfect morning to be a loon on an Upper Valley Pond. Well, I can’t know that for sure, but it was a great day to be a loon photographer… The family I visited – I’m going to call them the Eastons – had the chicks hatch Friday and Saturday a week ago.

I’m trying to follow three families again this summer. Last year, I kept trying to sort out which family we were looking at by the number of chicks. That’s not going to work this year, the first two families each hatched two chicks. (The third is due… yesterday.) So, This family, that had the two chicks last year is now the ‘Eastons.’ The second family in the last post is now the ‘Middletons.’ And the family still sitting is now the ‘Westons.’ (I’ve learned the hard way to be circumspect about where I’m working. I’m now getting something like 10,000 visitors a month and not all of them have the loons’ best interest at heart.

Let’s take a quick peek to see how the Westons are doing.

The home team was still sitting on the nest. There were two intruders on the pond, one interacting with one of the home team and another off by itself. I think this is one of the home team. The stretched neck shows the loon is alerted to a danger. In this case, the other loon is hiding and this one is trying to locate it.
This is probably the intruder on the pond. The loon was hiding up against a birch log along the shore. The black and white blended beautifully into the birch bark. Now, did the loon realized the coloring with hide him, or was this just chance? I’m betting loons are smart enough that this was intentional.
Along the way, I found a cedar waxwing gathering material for a nest. Apparently, the female does almost all the work on the first nest of the season. If they have a second brood, dad will help building or rebuilding the nest.
A hairy woodpecker peers out the front door to see what I’m about.

Moving east to this morning’s outing, one of the great blue herons on this pond usually gives me two nice photo ops a year. I think I collected one of them today.

The great blue heron wading through the fog shortly before dawn.
One adult was baby sitting while the other was off foraging as the sun rose. We’ve got on chick on back and one under the far wing.
Our chick woke up with a big yawn….
Our second adult soon appeared to serve up breakfast. Today’s menu was mostly fish – and all small enough for a chick – along with a few insect nymphs.
Both adults were soon busy foraging for the chicks.
This looks to be another insect nymph. Our chicks have greatly improved their skills at taking the handoff from their parents. Last week, they fumbled the handoff more than not, today they were on their game.
And another fish.
After a time, everyone settled in for a quick nap.
The adults were floating about 25 feet apart, each with one chick.
One of the birds on the pond last year was banded. Today was the first time I got a good look this season. Our banded bird has returned. The Loon Preservation Committee banded this bird over on Lee’s Pond in Moultonborough, NH in 2015. They were unable to determine the sex.
One of our chicks gives a foot wave. Lot’s of growing to do before that foot fits. Foot waving is thought to be a way for the bird to cool down.
After a bit of feeding, the chicks started to ride the babysitter’s back while the other adult continued to bring food for them.
Another shot of a chick riding.
One of our adults stretching.
And one of our chicks giving a stretch.

And a few more stretching shots, just because they’re fun…

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