Posts Tagged: loon

Catching Up with the Usual Suspects

I’ve been able to get out a few times to visit two of the loons’ ponds. The loons are out and about, along with the full cast of the usual suspects.

The Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee is hosting my exhibit of loon prints through the end of July. There will be a reception where I show my slideshow, An Uncommon Look at the Common Loon, on Saturday, May 11 at 3 p.m. There are more details at https://vinsweb.org/event/artist-exhibition-ian-clark/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/454025283855444.

And, I’ll be presenting An Uncommon Loon again at the Lakes Region Art Association Gallery in Laconia, NH at 6 p.m. on May 20. The talk hasn’t been posted on their site yet, but details about the Association are at https://lraanh.org/.

Do you have critters around? While I do a lot of scouting on my own, tips for finding critters are always appreciated. I’m always looking for mammals, if you’ve got bobcats, coyotes, fishers or bears that show up more than once, I’d love a chance to photograph them. I’m also looking for owls, woodpecker nests and scarlet tanagers along with rarer species that may not visit feeders regularly. Places where I can come and go early in the morning or late in the evening without disturbing you or the critters are best.

And now, the critters. Here’s a skunk that doesn’t seem to appreciate my trail camera.


Last Friday, I caught up with some volunteers from the Loon Preservation Committee (LPC)
as they deployed their loon nesting platform on Post Pond in Lyme, NH.

Nesting platforms have been a huge success in helping restore the loon population. The LPC put out their first platform in 1977. Since then LPC volunteers and staff have floated loon nesting rafts on New Hampshire lakes 1,685 times – not including this year. Nesting loon pairs have used these rafts 917 times, and hatched 976 chicks on the platforms – an incredible one in four chicks hatched in New Hampshire. You can learn more about LPC at www.loon.org – and check out their loon cam watching a nest in the Lakes Region at https://loon.org/looncam/. Sign up for their newsletter to keep up with New Hampshire’s loons. Vermonter’s loons get assistance from the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, check out their site, https://vtecostudies.org/

Volunteers Jim Mason (orange kayak), his wife Dale Mason and Wayne Pushee (blue kayak) towing the loon nesting platform. Loons on Post Pond have used the platform for several years.
Wrestling the platform in to position.
The platform ready for the loons to move in.

On April 23, I made it out to check in with the Westons. (For new readers, to give the loons some privacy, I named the loons on the pond to my east the Eastons. The loons to my west are the Westons, and the pond in the middle hosts the Middletons.)

Getting ready for the day, both loons did some quick preening, ending with a stretch and a shake of the head.

And a stretch from the other loon.

The Canada geese have – mostly – claimed their nesting sites and many of the females are sitting on their nests. This brings some peace and quiet to the pond. Here’s one of our geese heading out for the morning.

This pond hosts at least three pair of beaver. This fellow popped up in close to my boat.

He was too close for me to get a good photo of his tail slap.

But, I got a great look at his back feet as he dove. They’re HUGE!

The pond also hosts a variety of ducks. Here’s Mr. Mallard posing nicely.

Female red-winged blackbirds have returned. Males have returned about three weeks ago to stake out territories to be ready for the ladies. This was the first female I saw this year. Her appearance had the males singing and displaying with gusto. The females are perfectly colored to blend into the reeds while they sit on the nest, they don’t have to be flashy like the males.

On my way out, the loons were doing a thorough preening. They usually finish with a wing stretch. I waited a few minutes and was rewarded when they both stretched.

A nice finish to the morning.

There was another mallard drake posing by the boat launch when I arrived. As I was putting my gear away, an immature eagle dove on him and his mate. The both dove and lived to quack another day.

Last Friday, I visited the Middletons. They were busy foraging, apparently having to work for dinner. They were making long dives and covering lots of territory underwater. I went to see who else might be around the pond.

There was a large number of painted turtles basking around the pond.

This painted turtle seems to be giving me some attitude…..

There was a small flock of warblers foraging for insects high in the trees. I tried to tell them that the black flies were available at my eye level, but they didn’t seem interested. This is a yellow-rumped warbler, known as a ‘butter butt’ to birders.

And this explains how they got their name.

There were several pine warblers in the flock. I’ve yet to get a good photo of one. They tend to forage deep in the brush, making it hard to get an unobstructed view of them. It turns out one of my skills is photographing branches on which pine warblers were very recently perched. (My other talent is stalking heron-shaped sticks.)

This time I got lucky enough to actually get the bird before it flew. Looks like I’ll have to keep trying…..
The Middletons finished dinner and cruised not far from the boat launch as I headed in. Once again, one beached and called – it looked like the female presenting, but the other loon did not respond. It is still a couple weeks early for them to be mating. I didn’t get a shot of her before she returned to the water, but here she is checking me out.

Saturday morning found me visiting the Westons once again. The weather went south rapidly and I left when it started raining.

The loons were busy preening when I caught up with them, both ended with a big stretch.
And the other loon stretches…..

Eastern kingbirds were out in large numbers. They’re insect hunters – they love dragonflies in season. They perch just about eye level on the edge of the pond and dart out to nab insects passing by.
Another kingbird perched along the side of the pond.
One of the loons stretching a leg. This gives a great look at how far back their legs are and the size of the foot.
Of course, I was willing to pause in the rain to get one last nice wing stretch….

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.

Loon Chicks at Five Weeks

The rain let up enough for me to get out to check on all three loon families this week. And, I only got caught in a shower once.

The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair is coming right up, August 5th through the 12th. I’ll be down there with lots of wildlife and other photos. Stop by booth 726 and say hello. All the details for the fair are here.

I visited the Middletons last night. They’re the ones that lost their chick. On the last visit, they showed signs they might be courting again. That was before the heavy rains and flooding. We were spared the worst of the flooding, but did get significant rain. A friend on the pond has kept me updated. She says the loons have had one or two intruders on the pond regularly. When I visited, the hummock where they’ve nested the last several years has been washed away, with no sign of another nesting spot. There was an intruder on the pond, with some circling and posturing but no outright fights.

This morning, the forecast was for rain and thundershowers. When I got up, there were stars visible. I headed out to check on the Westons. One of the adults and two chicks were foraging not far from the boat launch. The other adult soon came down the pond to join them. They were in shadows, I headed up the pond to see who else might be about. The rain held off until I got to the other end of the pond. I had a soggy retreat.

On Wednesday morning, the forecast was mixed and there were a couple stars between clouds when I got up. I took a chance and headed east to visit the Eastons.

Mom was foraging on her own. She paused to have a look at me on her way by.
As I continued down the pond, I found our heron posing nicely again.
He as wading and looking over his domain.
The area he was foraging in has several piles of rocks just below the surface, separated by a few feet of deeper water. As he moved between a couple of rock piles, he appeared to swim for a short distance. I’ve never seen a heron do this and couldn’t decide if he was actually swimming or just wading through water that didn’t vary in depth.
Eventually I found dad and the chicks. They were resting peacefully. For a little while. Then the chicks woke up and wanted breakfast.
Mom caught up with the family and helped deliver breakfast.
Breakfast started with a few fish. Loons swallow fish head first to deal with the spines in the fish’s fins. Our chicks have gotten good at flipping them around to line them up.
The parents soon switched over to delivering crayfish. The chicks flip them around to swallow tail first.
Dad inbound with another crayfish. This is the pair where dad is banded, letting me tell the parents apart.
The handoff….
And the flip to turn it around….
Mom with a crayfish this time.
And a little fish to cleanse the pallet.
And a final crayfish before I had to head out.

Checking in on the Loon Families

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.

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.

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?

Another Visit With The Loons

This morning provided better weather for visiting the loons than Friday. I headed out before dawn to see what they were up to. The chicks were ten weeks old this weekend. They’re mostly foraging for themselves now, they can make prolonged dives. But they’re still happy to have their parents rustle up a meal for them.

The morning started with both chicks trying to fly. They’re not yet ready. They give a good try, running across the water trying to gain enough speed to lift off. They still need to grow their flight feathers a bit more before they can takeoff. Soon. Very soon….
Here’s our other chick giving flying a try.
Great form, just not enough lift to get him airborne.
Most attempts to take off are followed by a stretch.
Or, maybe, they’re just taking a bow.
Once again, breakfast was primarily crayfish. I think this is dad inbound with one for the chicks.
Here’s another crayfish for one of the chicks.
The chicks have gotten very good at taking the handoff from their parents, they rarely fumble the food, something they did often when younger.
After feeding, the chicks took a quick nap.
One of our chicks doing a foot wave. I’m not sure why they do this. I’ve heard it suggested that it is to cool their legs and feet. But, water is a better conductor for heat, so I’m skeptical of that explanation. I wonder if it is just a way to stretch their legs.
And each chick gave a good stretch after waking up.
A stretch with a shake of the head.

Know an organization in need of programs? I’ve got several PowerPoint shows, one on the surviving steam locomotives in the US, visiting the puffins on Machias Seal Island, one on getting started with wildlife photography and one on loons. For educators, I’ve got a program about career opportunities in photography. Email for more info.


Loon Chicks at Five and Six Weeks

Two of our loon families chicks are now six weeks old, the other family’s chick is five weeks. Let’s check in to see how they’re doing, as well as seeing what a few other critters are up to.

I’m going to miss posing next week, I’ll be down at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair in Sunapee. I’ll have lots of new prints and cards, I’m in booth 725, stop by and say hello.

And, yes, yes that bee hovering above the swallow from my last post did survive to buzz another day. Apparently, I should have added that to the caption…. Surprising how many people were concerned for the bee…

The Weston’s remaining chick (on the western pond I’m watching) is doing well. There was an intruder in the neighborhood again, the parents were alerted and searching for him. I didn’t see any interaction with the intruder and the chick made only brief appearances while mostly hiding in the brush. There were a few other animals around.

Hank Heron was on duty in the marsh before dawn.
A handful of painted turtles took took some time to bask.

I made three visits to the Eastons before getting good conditions for photography. The first two mornings were peaceful, this morning they faced an intruder.

There are several families of ducks on the pond, the ducklings are growing up.
As are our loon chicks. They’re growing real feathers and will soon be in their winter plumage. These are the chicks that are six weeks old.
The has been a pair of great blue herons on the pond all season. In the last week, we’ve added two more. They appear to be adults, I suspect they’re this year’s chicks.
The herons seemed to be vying with each other to pick the best spot for photos this morning.

A tough call, but I think this one picked the best spot.
One of our chicks was sleeping in when I arrived on the pond.
The sibling was taking advantage of not having a line for breakfast. The parents were busy feeding it before the sun came up.
Mom and dad are foraging, our chick is awaiting the next course for breakfast.
Shortly after sunup, an intruder flew in. Mom and dad went to challenge him, our chick flattened out to hide. (I’m guessing the intruder is a male, our home team male is the more aggressive challenging the intruder.)
The home team and the intruder ‘circle dancing.’ Loons will circle each other to size each other up.
The intruder didn’t take the hint that the pond was occupied and dad stepped things up. Wing rowing is an aggressive display to drive the other loon off.
Wing rowing is when loons propel themselves along the water with their wings, while calling.
Changing direction is accomplished by dipping one wing in the water.
After a time, the intruder was chased to the far end of the pond. Dad returned to the chicks to resume breakfast. These chicks can now make real dives, I clocked them underwater for over 30 seconds at a time several times this morning. But, they’ll still depend on the parents for food for several weeks.
Adolescent loons will pester their parents to be fed by nibbling on the parent. Mostly they nibble around the parent’s neck. I wonder how they learn this behavior. Certainly the parent’s don’t teach it to them….
Pestering paid off, dad resumed foraging for the chicks.
The chicks are learning to preen – to clean and straighten their feathers. Loons need to sort through all of their feathers regularly.
Loons have a uropygial gland at the base of their tail. This gland excretes a waxy substance that the birds used to keep their feathers waterproof. Reaching the gland and rubbing all of a loon’s feathers requires a bit of contortion.
Dad has finished preening and goes up for a good stretch.
And so does our chick….

The intruder stayed at the far end of the pond for the remainder of the time I was on the pond. I’m looking forward to getting back up to visit them again.

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Local Wildlife

Many of the birds around the marsh are nesting, there are lots of parents hauling groceries back their nests, others still sitting on their eggs. The Canada geese have mostly moved on, making the local ponds much quieter places. Let’s see who was out and about this past week.

With several nice days, painted turtles were out in force basking around the local ponds and streams.
Turtles are out laying eggs around the Upper Valley. She”ll lay between 20 and 40 eggs. The eggs will take something like 80 to 90 days to hatch. The hatchling turtles may spend the winter in the hole she dug before venturing out in the spring.
Dragonflies and damselflies are abundant this time of year. They’re great mosquito hunters and prey for many of the birds around the marsh.
Eastern kingbirds are common around the marsh. They hunt insects, including the dragonflies and damselflies. Kingbirds will often perch on stumps or brush just above the water, darting out when a meal comes in range.
An eastern kingbird hunting insects over the water in the marsh.
Eastern kingbirds nest in trees along the edge of the marsh or fields. The female will incubate the eggs and both will work to raise the chicks.
Our loons are still sitting on their eggs in the Upper Valley. They should hatch within the next few days. Please don’t approach the nest or chicks, this was taken with an 800mm lens and cropped.
Another one of the local loons sitting on the nest.

And, of course, no visit to the pond is complete without a couple photos of the loon stretching.

This loon has just finished a shift of nest sitting and gives a good stretch.

Loons Are Nesting, May 31, 2022

Many of the loons around the area have laid their eggs and are sitting on their nests. I’ve been out on several ponds this last week, checking on them and in some cases, putting out the loon nesting signs. Let’s see what I saw along the way.

Just a reminder to let the loons be. You may have the best intentions, but the loons don’t know what you’re up to and approaching them may stress them. And, while it may be harmless for you to approach the nest to have a quick peek, remember you could be the 20th person getting close enough to stress the loons. All the photos of the loons on or near their nest were shot with a 800mm lens and cropped – I’m back well over 100′.

A pileated woodpecker gives me a flyby over one of the local ponds.
An eastern kingbird poses nicely not far from one of the loon nests.
There’s a beaver lodge that I have to pass to visit the loons on one of the ponds. The beavers are sure to greet me as I pass.
When I last checked on the loons on this pond, they were still exploring real estate. The swim along the shoreline – usually on an island or check out the hummocks in the marsh. They vocalize softly while hunting for a spot. The male will eventually pick a spot. If a pair was successful hatching chicks the year before, they’re likely to pick the same spot again – if it is still available.
On my most recent visit, the loons had selected a spot near where last year’s nest was and were sitting on egg(s).
Loons’ legs are very far back on their body, making walking difficult. They’ll nest within a couple of feet of the water. This loon is climbing out of the water to take a shift sitting on the egg(s).
Both parents take turns sitting on the eggs. Females are more likely to take the night shift and spend more time sitting as incubation ends. During the day, the pair will do a handful of nest exchanges – a shift change for sitting. Often when the off duty loon returns to the area around the nest, the loons will dip their heads with the tip their bills in the water. I suspect it is a greeting, but haven’t found any documentation to back that up.
Loons coming off a shift of nest sitting will often stretch and preen a bit before heading out to forage. I think is is the loon version of a yawn, with full neck stretch.
An early morning departure for one of the loons on a local pond.
Another loon sitting on a nest. The loons on this pond were successful in raising two chicks last year, the laid their eggs in the same spot. All those black specks are black flies. It is a very good year for the flies.
Here’s the same loon leaving the nest for shift change. This shot gives you a good view of how far back their legs are.

Loons lay one or two eggs in a simple nest.
Here’s the same nest late in the day. I returned to the pond with their sign to try to keep people away from the nest. Loons will pant like dogs when they’re hot. This loon has been in direct sun for several hours and is trying to cool down.
This loon is very stressed – an otter surfaced not far from the nest while I was watching. If a loon flattens out like this when you approach, you’re too close and are bothering the loon.
If you’re sitting quietly, loons will sometimes surface close to your boat.
Of course, we’re all looking for the shot of a loon stretching…

I hope to follow a couple of loon families for the rest of the summer again. Sign up for post updates to keep up with how they’re doing.

You can learn more about loons and conservation efforts on their behalf on the Loon Preservation Committee’s site, the Vermont Center for Ecostudies site or the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation site.

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