Posts Tagged: loons

Loon Update July 12, 2024

I’ve made it out to check on two of our three loon families, and have heard reports from the third.

The Loch Lyme Lodge in Lyme will host me to present An Uncommon Look at the Common Loon in the evening of July 23, part of their Tuesday Night Cookouts. We’re still figuring exactly when I’ll present, as soon as we know, the details will be on their site: www.LochLymeLodge.com.

And, I’m busy getting ready for the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair, August 3-11 at Mount Sunapee Resort in Sunapee, NH. I’ll be in booth 718, come on by and say hello. All the Fair details are on the League’s Site.

While I haven’t had a chance to visit the Westons, a friend reports they’re doing well with the one chick. And, mom seems to be hanging around.

The Eastons lost their first clutch. All I know is the nest was empty when I visited. The water was up to the lip of the nest, I suspect the nest flooded. They’ve decided to try again and the chicks are due in the next few days.

I often joke that the pair of great blue herons that share the Easton’s pond are skittish and only give me a couple photo opportunities each year. But, they make them count……

The Eastons returned to an island they used for a nesting site as recently as four years ago.

This is mom – this is the pair where dad is banded – turning the eggs.


The local osprey spent the morning hunting breakfast. He? made several unsuccessful dives before coming up with this brook trout he hauled off.

The big news from the Middletons is that the Loon Preservation Committee biologists were able to band both adults over the July 4th Holiday. LPC tries to band something like 30-35 loons every year – almost 5% of New Hampshire’s loon population.

Banding lets them track individual loons over many years giving insights on behavior. Loons get four bands, one with a unique number from the United States Geological Survey (hey, it’s the government). Being unique, that number will forever definitively identify that bird. But the numbers on the USGS band are small and all but impossible to read unless you’re holding the bird. Loons aren’t big fans of being held, so they get three more bands with a mix of colors. If the bird is banded as a chick, the USGS band goes on the left leg, if they’re banded as adults, they wear it on the right leg. The color combination gives a nearly perfect way to identify the individual without having to catch it.

Along with banding the birds, they also take measurements to learn about size and weight along with blood to test for lead, hematocrit (concentration of red blood cells) and for infections including avian malaria.

We now know that this is mom and she passed her physical with flying colors.

Adolescent chicks will pester their parents when they’re hungry. The chicks will poke the parent or pull feathers. They try for the parent’s face or neck to get maximum attention. As the season progresses, the chicks get ever more demanding. The time the adults spend on the surface with the chicks drops dramatically as the season progresses.


Hungry chicks are very persistent. My theory is this is why the parents leave before the chicks come fall – they’ve just had enough.

Dad finally got the hint and headed out to forage for second breakfasts.

Our chicks are no longer tiny fuzz balls, they’re growing rapidly. They’ll start losing their down shortly.

The chicks are rivals and seem to know the other is a competitor for food. The chicks will often squabble. If the older chick has a size advantage, it can kill or drive the other chick away from the family. Sad to watch, but that’s nature’s way of assuring the strongest survive.

One of our chicks was trying to keep some distance from the family – while staying close enough to get fed. When it got fed, the other would come over and peck at it.


The parents were feeding both chicks, here’s a nice perch.

The chick had no problem putting it away….

At one point a great blue heron flew high over the pond. After it got behind me, it gave several loud squawks. The resident osprey repeatedly dove on the heron, convincing it to find another place to forage. Poor stage management had all the action directly up sun making pix of the action impossible.

The bug eaters were doing well. There were several eastern phoebes foraging low along the edge of the pond.

And the waxwings were foraging lower than usual allowing good views.
I’ve got a new toy – a GoPro video camera. It is waterproof to an extent. Here’s a view of a male bluegill guarding his nest on the Middleton’s pond.

I’m hoping to get out to check on the Eastons and Westons this weekend, weather permitting.

Update on Our Loon Families

There’s news – good and disappointing – from our three loon families.

I’ll be at the Blake Memorial Library’s Art, House and Garden Tour July 6 & 7. The Library is in Corinth, VT, the Tour takes you around Corinth and Topsham. I’ll be set up at the Topsham Town Hall. All the details here.

I made it up to visit the Eastons on the 25th. They were in the window where their eggs could hatch. Sadly, I found an empty nest. The water was up to the lip of the nest and had probably been higher the days before my visit. The good news is that it looks like they’re going to try again. They were defending an island where they used to nest. I hadn’t realized they’d claimed the island until I attempted to beach my boat to fiddle with my gear. Dad explained that I had to go. So I did.

Update: I visited the pond again Sunday afternoon, there was a loon sitting a new nest.

When I arrived, there was an intruder on the pond. They wailed at each other for a time before the intruder retreated to the far end of the pond. Some time later, he? departed.

The home team cruised peacefully around their pond for much of the morning.

In a recent email, John Cooley of the Loon Preservation Committee mentioned he’d seen loons yodel at low flying aircraft, something I’d never noticed. This morning, mom started wailing for no apparent reason. Shortly afterwards, a light plane appeared.

The LPC is a great resource for loon info. Over the years, John has been very generous answering my endless questions. Thanks John!

The Middletons were out and about when I visited on Friday. The chicks are growing rapidly and appear to be in good health. When I arrived, there was a thick fog on the pond. I had to make two circuits before finding the loons in deep shadows as the sun rose.

They were feeding in shallow water along the shore. The sun was rising behind the trees.

The chicks are now two-weeks-old. They’ve more than doubled in size.

Even chicks can give a nice wing stretch. One was working on diving skills. He? was managing to stay under almost 15 seconds.

A good look at one of the chicks waiting for the next course to be delivered.

The parents kept busy delivering breakfast. They’re dropping the prey in front of the chicks and making the chicks catch it for themselves. The chicks are getting better at it, but still take a couple tries much of the time.

Wrestling with another fish…..

Success!

Mom and dad have noticed an immature eagle flying over the pond. The eagle went on his way without stopping.

When I last posted, Mrs. Weston hadn’t been seen for five days and I feared the worst. Later in the summer, it is common for one of the parents to disappear for a couple days. Probably for R&R on a nearby pond. I was concerned as the chicks were very young and it seemed she was gone a long time.

Just after I posted the last time, a friend on the pond messaged to tell me she appeared to be back. When I visited Thursday a week ago, she was indeed back with the family. When I asked where she’d been, she refused to answer. Loons can be like that.

The family spent a peaceful morning, foraging and slowly touring their pond.

The parents took turns hauling groceries to the chick.

Bass for breakfast again…..

Want to help the loon conservation effort? The loon census is coming up on Saturday, July 20. The idea is to get volunteers to check all the ponds at the same time to get an accurate count of all the loons and chicks. All you need to do is go for a paddle around your pond and count the loons. For more details or to volunteer in Vermont, see the Vermont Center for Ecostudies’ site, https://vtecostudies.org/projects/lakes-ponds/common-loon-conservation/loonwatch/participate/. In New Hampshire, check out the Loon Preservation Committee’s site at https://loon.org/census/.

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.

An Update on the Loons’ Ponds

The weather has kept me from getting out the last few days. The Westons should have chicks by now, the Middletons are due momentarily and the Eastons will be on their nest another couple weeks. Let’s see what else has been happening.

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

Before we get to the ponds, take a look at what my game camera caught. This camera was set up in my blind watching one one of the fox dens. Guess I’m glad I took that morning off.

There’s less activity around the ponds. Most songbirds are on their nests or feeding chicks and not out and about to be photographed.

great blue heron perched on a tree
The great blue heron couple has returned to the Easton’s pond. This is the pair that is fairly skittish, but show up to give me two or three great photo ops for the year.
Bull moose feeding in shallow water
The highlight of my recent trips was this bull moose. He’s been in the area for several days. Usually he browses until just before the sun hits him. When he’s in danger of being nicely lit, he retreats to the woods. This time, he spent about 40 minutes browsing in bright sunlight. I may have taken more than one photo…..
Bull moose feeding in shallow water
Nice to see a good-sized bull in sunlight.
common loon sitting on nest
The Eastons have selected a new nest site – last year’s is just above water level this year. They’re in deep shadow all morning, guess I’ll have to get back a couple afternoons.

The resident osprey was interested in fishing in the relatively shallow water near the loons’ nest. The off-duty loon seemed to be moving out of the way for the osprey to dive. Professional courtesy or just not wanting to be nearby when the osprey dove? The osprey finally caught breakfast well down the pond.
Common loon stretching on a foggy morning
A check on the Westons found one loon settled on the nest and the other just hanging around. The highlight of the morning was a couple nice wing stretches.
common loon stretching on a foggy morning
Another nice stretch.
common grackle reflecting on a pond as it forages
It was such a beautiful spring morning, even the grackles looked good.
Common loon stretching  wings
A visit to the Middletons found one loon on the nest, the other lazily cruising the pond, eventually giving a good wing stretch.
Common loon swimming  on a pond
And a nice low-key shot as our loon cruised along the pond.

I’ll be out to check on the chicks as soon as the weather breaks. Check back soon to see how they’re doing.

Catching Up with Life on the Ponds

With all the nice weather, I’ve had lots of time to shoot – but that leaves little for posting. One set of fox kits has moved on, the other den is surrounded by grass tall enough that the kits appear only at the top of their pounces. Let’s check in on our three loon families and their neighbors.

I’ll be giving my slideshow, An Uncommon Look at the Common Loon, locally a couple times in the near future. First is Thursday May 30 at 7:00 p.m. at the Lyme, NH, School. Then again on Sunday June 23 at 2:00 p.m. at the Tenney Memorial Library in Newbury, VT.

The Westons are sitting on at least one egg. Their nest is deep in the marsh, updates will have to wait until the chicks appear. (If you’re new to my blog, to protect the loons’ privacy, the families are the Eastons, Middletons and Westons, by the location of their ponds.)

The hummock the Middletons have used for their nest the past couple years washed away in last July’s heavy rain. They toured the pond checking out potential nest sites before settling on a hummock just a few feet from the previous site. Here, they’re taking turns sitting on the site to decide if it will work.

Taking a quick break from inspecting nesting sites.

Back to checking the site. They decided this was the spot and she climbed up and he followed to mate.

Afterwards, they headed off for breakfast, preening and a nice stretch.

Another nice stretch.

The first of the red-winged blackbird chicks must have hatched, the parents were foraging and returning to the tall grass with food.

There are several spotted sandpipers around the pond.

The sandpipers are fun to watch. As they forage, they bob their butts up and down. I haven’t seen a good explanation why.

And beautiful spring mornings bring the painted turtles out to bask.

I returned the next morning, just to find the loons had decided to sleep in.

While waiting for the loons to get up and at it. our friendly neighborhood beaver swam by to give me a
wave.
The beaver went about getting some breakfast of underwater plants and sitting on the shore to eat them.

downy woodpecker with a grub
There was a hairy woodpecker foraging on a downed tree along the shore. She found several tasty grubs.
Common loon stretching
Eventually our loons got going with their day.
common loons on the nest
They returned to the nest site for one last check……
common loon gathering nesting materials to build a nest
Ok, they’ve decided this is the place. But, it needs some improvements. They set about collecting a few sticks and lots of underwater vegetation to build the nest.
common loon building a nest
Sorting out the nesting materials.
common loon gathering nesting material
One more load…..
common loons mating
They set out to make sure they’re going to have little loons.

close up of a common loon
One of the pair swam by close in to my boat.
Canada geese on the side of the pond
A couple late nesting Canada geese were checking out spots near the loons’ nest. The loons strongly suggested they should move along and nest elsewhere.
An eastern phoebe perched on a small tree
An eastern phoebe perched not far from the loons’ nest. The flycatchers are not keeping up with the black flies.

baltimore oriole feeding among flowers
Finding a Baltimore oriole feeding at eye level is a treat.
Gray catbird perched on a twig
Several gray catbirds live in the loons’ neighborhood.
painted turtle basking
This painted turtle has claimed his own small island.
common loon in the nest, turning an egg
When I returned to the pond, the loons had an egg. Here, our male is turning it. Birds turn their eggs regularly. It is thought that turning the eggs helps keep the chick from adhering to the side of the egg and to distribute nutrients to the chick.

common loons in a territory dispute, the male is about to yodel
We know it was the male on the nest as an intruding loon arrived on the pond. The loon that had been on the nest came out to challenge the intruder and yodeled. Only males yodel. That’s the home team female watching in the background. This suggests the intruder was a male and wanted to displace the home team male.
common loon doing the 'penguin dance' during a territory dispute with another loon
Things escalated quickly! This is the male doing the ‘penguin dance’ to threaten the intruder. Both males and females will dance, but it is thought the males do it more often.


common loon doing the 'penguin dance' during a territory dispute with another loon
A nice shot of the penguin dance. Notice how far back the loon’s legs are. And, great elevation from the home team male!

common loon running across the water to take off
The penguin dance display was enough to convince the intruder to retreat to the other side of the pond.
common loon running across the water to take off
After a few minutes of the home team wailing, the intruder left the pond.
Common loon stretching
The home team male takes a victory stretch.
Common loon on the nest with the mate nearby
And then he returns to the nest.

The road up to the Easton’s pond finally got some work and I was able to get up for a visit.

Dragonfly emerging from the nymph stage
There were several dragonflies emerging from their nymph stage and drying their wings in the sunshine.
Scenic photo of a mated common loon pair
The water on the Easton’s pond is a few inches higher than last year, making the nest site unusable. They were scouting the pond for a new site. Here, they’ve stopped to discuss something on their search. We’ve got the same male back again this year. The Loon Preservation Committee banded him in Moultonborough, NH in 2015.
close up of a common loon
Mrs. Easton swam by close to the boat to have a good look at me. (Not as close as it looks, I’m using a 600mm lens and have cropped the image.) The loons checked out several spots and may have settled on one. They discussed it for a time before mating on the site.
bull moose feeding in the water
One of the loons’ neighbors was out enjoying breakfast.

Spring Has Arrived

After several false starts, it looks like spring has arrived to stay in the Upper Valley. Of course, I’m not taking the snow tires off until the second week of May.

Along with the ice going out, our summer residents are arriving back in droves. I spotted six loons on the Middleton’s pond on March 31. By the time I put the boat in the next day, they’d moved on. My bet is they’d been scouting the territory to see which ponds were open and just stopped for a rest and a meal before heading back south. But there were other critters out and about.

One of the resident osprey had a good perch overlooking the pond.

A bald eagle hauled several sticks into a tall pine that looks over the shore. I’m not sure what he? was up to – too late for this year’s nest and seems early to be starting on next year’s. When I check again yesterday, there didn’t seem to be any progress on a nest.

My next trip took me to the Weston’s pond last Sunday. A friend on the pond told me that one loon had arrived back on the April 9. There was still only one loon on the pond.

The first loon back on the Weston’s pond. He? spent the morning cruising lazily, occasionally foraging.

Most of the action on the pond was from the Canada geese. They’re sorting out territories. This requires lots of honking, hissing and wrestling. Here’s another coming to join the fray.

Just as the tail feathers touch the water…..

And splashdown!

Eastern Phoebe
There were several eastern phoebes hunting along the edge of the pond and lots of tree swallows swooping over the pond.

I got back to the Weston’s pond on Tuesday for a brisk paddle – it was 39°F when I put the boat in. We still had only one loon and the geese were causing a ruckus.
There was one hummock just off shore that was a treasured spot. It changed hands several times during the morning. The goose on the right has just abandoned it at the suggestion of the goose in the middle.

The fight wasn’t settled and moved out into the water. The goose being chased eventually conceded and moved off down the pond.
Male red-winged blackbirds are back and staking out territories. I haven’t seen a female yet, they usually wait a while after the males head north.

Wednesday morning found me back on the Middleton’s pond. And missing the balmy day before. It was a chilly 28°F as I pushed through a skim of ice to get on the pond. As soon as I cleared the ice, there were trout feeding at the surface. The osprey both made quick work of finding breakfast. And, there were loons.
The loons slept in a bit before waking to face the day. They spent some time preening, ending with a nice stretch.. Then decided the day could wait and went back to sleep.

There were lots of ducks of several sorts around the lake. And what seemed an endless of mergansers suddenly flying around. Here’s a pair of ring-necked ducks, a nice catch.


A pair of mallard drakes were swimming along the shore when something startled them. They took a very short flight – maybe 15 feet before settling and continuing on their way.
After a time, our loons reawakened and decided they’d face the day afterall. They headed out to forage a bit.

They also spent some time exploring along the shore. The hummock they’ve used for their nest site for several years washed away in the heavy rains last summer. They’ll have to find a new site.

At one point, one loon beached and almost seemed to be presenting. That would be about a month early. The second loon didn’t respond and they soon started off down the shoreline again.

Another pretty good indication that spring is really here is the return of the warblers. Warblers are beautiful little birds. Emphasis on little. They’re devilishly hard to photograph. They’re in almost continuous motion while foraging through the underbrush. This palm warbler paused briefly in the clear.

This morning I headed to the Easton’s pond again. Our second loon has returned. As I was putting the boat in, another loon flew over and was challenged by the loons on the pond. A loon flew over the pond on two more occasions, both times flying off after being challenged. The home team spent the morning foraging and preening.

The highlight of the morning was finding three otters feeding and wrestling on the bank of the pond.

I don’t know that I’ve ever found a pair of otters. When I spot them, there are either one alone or a trio of them. Today there were three. This was the first time I’ve seen this behavior – they were clawing at a tree stump. They didn’t seem to be finding anything to eat and the scratching was interrupted by rounds of wrestling.
One of the trio broke off from the tree and grabbed a perch for breakfast.
The other two otters took time for a couple rounds of wrestling while the first ate.


As I was heading back to the boat launch, I passed the loons foraging together. One started preening, so I stuck around to get the stretch shot.
And, should you have any remaining doubts spring has returned to the Upper Valley, the honey wagons are flocking to the fields.

Our bluebirds are again building in our nesting box. I checked the cameras several weeks ago and all seemed fine. But now the camera in the box the birds are using isn’t working properly. We’ll have to skip watching the first brood – I’m not going to disturb the box to get at the camera until the the chicks fledge. Hopefully we’ll be back online for the second brood.

You can sign up to be updated when I add new posts, if you want to follow the loons through the season, go ahead and sign up. And, please share with your friends that might enjoy the wildlife.

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 at 10 Weeks

Monday morning there were stars above and a thick fog over the river in the valley below. I decided to risk a trip to visit the Eastons. Most of the trip to the pond was slow going through the fog. As I started to climb towards the pond, I rose back above the fog to find a beautiful morning.

Dad was foraging by himself near the boat launch, he paddled in close to hoot softly to me before returning to feasting on crayfish. Mom called a couple times while I was getting the boat in the water. This is the pond where Dad is banded, letting me tell who is who if I can see a leg.

Heading down the pond, I encounter our great blue heron doing some predawn fishing.
And our other heron posing nicely in front of the shadows.

The chicks were keeping mom busy. They’re very demanding, poking and pulling feathers whenever she got near. She didn’t spend much time on the surface, she’d dive quickly when a chick got near. I’m convinced this is why the parents leave the pond before the chicks – they just want some peace.

Mom has just handed off a crayfish that the chick swallowed quickly. The chick started to crowd mom to encourage her to find more.
Just in case mom forgot she has chicks and chicks get hungry, our chick gives her a gentle reminder that it is time to eat.
Mom takes the hint and finds another crayfish.
Mom dives again before the chick can grab some feathers.
Mom is looking good. She surfaces close in, but on the side of the boat where she’s hidden from the chicks.
One of the chicks wanders off on his own and waits for me to look the other way before practicing taking off. They’ll both be practicing, but there’s still a while before they get airborne.
Mom passing by with another crayfish for the chicks.
The crayfish isn’t going to last very long.
Giving a quick head shake after swallowing the crayfish.
Mom serves up yet another crayfish.
Our chick wrangles the crayfish into position.
The chick is trying to swallow this one head first, the crayfish objects.
The crayfish gets a temporary reprieve as the chick spits it out. He’ll flip it around and swallow it tail first.
The chick seems to be pleased with the way that battle turned out.
Mom is inbound with another crayfish, but needs to stop and stretch.
One of our chicks takes a moment to stretch.
Our chicks posing nicely for a pic.
The chicks are still hungry and need to remind mom they’d like to be fed.
Mom comes through with one more crayfish before I had to head out.

Heading back to the boat launch, I pass dad who is lazily paddling along, seemingly enjoying the peace and quiet on this end of the pond.

I was surprised the fog hadn’t shown up on the pond, there’s usually a period where the pond gets foggy as the fog lifts from the valley. Driving back towards home, I discovered why – the fog was still sitting heavy on the river.

Back at the house, the goldfinches have discovered the thistle I left for them.

A small charm of goldfinches are enjoying the thistle as it goes to seed.

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.
Success!

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.

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