Posts Tagged: moose

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
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.

First Loon Chicks Have Arrived

UPDATE: We’ve got a second pair of chicks that have hatched since I posted this. Lots of pix in their own post at here.

The weather final cleared enough to let me get back out to check on our three loon families. Well, sort of. I got very wet the first evening and made it back to the car with seconds to spare the second.

First, there’s some sad news from Vermont, the oldest known loon in Vermont has died. His age was estimated at 31 years. VT Digger has a piece interviewing Eric Hanson, Lead Biologist at the Loon Conservation Project about the loon.

With loon chicks hatching it is once again time to request that you give them space if you go to see or photograph them. You may not intend them any harm, but you may distract the parents from seeing other threats. Our new loon chicks were greeted by a circling eagle on their first or second day out. The parents need to concentrate on the real threats, keep back and let them do their job. All the images of chicks here were with a 600mm lens and heavily cropped.

Tuesday evening I got a message from a friend on the Weston’s pond that the chicks had arrived. And that the eagle was eyeing them. Wednesday morning was wet and windy. It gradually cleared a bit through the day. I set out in the evening to check on the chicks. It was sunny when I left the house. On the way into the pond, I had to wait while a doe browsed from the road – with her fawn gamboling about in the road. By the time I had everything in the boat, there were a few sprinkles. Not enough to dissuade in intrepid photographer.

By the time I found the loon family, the rain was steady.
The rain got heavier, but I was already wet and wasn’t going to let it stop me. The lighting quickly changed my mind…..

When I got up at 0345 on Thursday ready to head out, it was raining heavily. Early morning is the most productive time in the office, almost no one calls before 0700 or 0800. I got a fair bit done. When the dogs finally got up, I noticed some breaks in the clouds when I let them out. Hoping it would clear a bit, I headed off to to check on the Middletons.
They’re still sitting on the eggs. I missed exactly when they laid the eggs, the earliest we can expect chicks is this weekend.
Our off duty parent had time to preen and gave several nice stretches.
Being a sucker for the stretching shot, I took full advantage.
The off duty loon approached the nest three times over a couple hours. The loons held a discussion each time, but the on duty loon stayed on duty. Interestingly, the on duty loon just sat and watched when alone. When the other loon approached, the on duty loon busied itself sorting out the brush around the nest and added material to the nest. When the other loon left, the on duty loon went back to sitting.
The off duty loon seemed to be checking in to see if it was shift change yet.
As the off duty loon approaches, the on duty loon starts making nest improvements.
Dredging up some vegetation when the off duty loon showed up.
One more shot of the on duty loon gathering material.
While I waited to catch the nest exchange, I amused myself watching several eastern kingbirds hunting dragonflies.
Kingbirds hunt from low perches along the water’s edge – frequently over lily pads. They make short, fast flights to grab dragonflies and damselflies out of the air.
Eventually, it came time for the loon to switch.
When doing a nest exchange, loons will often forage and preen together for a time before one returns to the nest. Not this time, The off duty loon wasted no time in climbing onto the nest.
Before settling in for the shift, the now on duty loon takes time to turn the eggs.
It took three tries to get everything properly arraigned.
Third time is the charm! After this, the loon settle down and sat. I headed out, hopefully to get back this weekend.

Thursday evening, I went back to check on the Westons. This time with just a couple puffy clouds in the sky.

Both parents were foraging for the chicks near the nest.
This young, the chicks are rarely more than a couple feet away from a parent. Although, both parents may dive at the same time leaving the chicks briefly alone.

This morning, I was up and out by 0430, with clouds above and fog below me as I headed to see the Eastons. They’re up in the White Mountain National Forest, they were on their nest by the time the Forest Service got the road to the pond open, so we don’t know when to expect the chicks. But, the last three years, they’ve hatched in the third weekend of June, so soon…..

When I arrived, one loon was on nest duty. I had a bit of excitement as I looked through the lens. It looked like a chick peeking out from under the wing. No such luck, enlarging the image showed it to be a stray feather. This is the pair where the male is banded. If I can see a leg, I can tell mom from dad. I missed any nest exchange this morning, so I can’t say for sure. But, I’d bet it was dad on the overnight, he’s taken the last few overnights the past three years.
There as a surprising moose to loon ratio on the pond this morning at 1.5:1. This bull looks like the one I saw on June 2. He’s shaking his head after submerging it to get the tasty water plants.
Sometimes I’m convinced the critters know how to frustrate my photography. With the fog and the back light, I suspect this fellow knew he was frustrating me and enjoyed it as he had breakfast.
Our off duty loon was lazily cruising around the pond, occasionally diving to forage. I went looking for other photo opportunities. There seemed to be more herons on the pond this morning. There’s been a resident pair every year since I started visiting in 2012. Later in the season chicks from the nest join the parents. Most of the time, herons are content to stand or slowly stalk along the water’s edge. Occasionally, they’ll make short flight to a new hunting spot or to roost in a tree. This morning I saw about a dozen heron flights and the herons were more vocal than normal. Not sure if the resident pair was restless or if more have moved in.
This heron posed nicely. He kept me occupied by occasionally crouching as if about to strike – which kept me glued to the camera. Before I could get a pic, I was distract by two new visitors to the pond.
Mrs. moose was out and about. Seeing two moose in a day is a treat. But we weren’t done.
A second bull was foraging with the cow. I can remember just a couple days in my life that I’ve been lucky enough to see three moose in a day.

I’ll be out looking for the rest of our chicks as soon as we get a break in the weather.

Link to the newer post:

Loon Chicks at Four Weeks And More

Sunday morning was a beautiful time to pay a visit to the Eastons – the loons in the eastern most pond I visit regularly. The chicks were four weeks old this weekend. Both seem to be doing well.

Our bluebirds have four chicks in their second brood, they should fledge this week. There are at least three chicks from the first brood still around. The like to hunt from the roof of the house, they come and go past my office window regularly.

I’ll be down at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair in August. I’ll have lots of prints of loons and other wildlife and more. Stop by to say hello.

The loons had another visitor before dawn.

A good-sized bull moose was feeding in the shallows of the pond.
The specs above him are flies – either horse or deer. I had impolite words for several that went after me.
His antlers are still in ‘velvet’ – sort of a skin that delivers nutrients to the growing antlers. He’ll scrape off the velvet in late summer, before the rut.
The chicks continue to grow rapidly.
Mom and dad took the chicks into shallow water and showed them how to forage. The chicks can’t dive yet, but can reach down. After a lesson, mom and dad went to work serving up a proper breakfast, mostly crayfish.
The parents will often show the chick the meal, then drop the meal in front of the chick. The chick has to learn how to grab food for itself. I think this is dad showing the chick a crayfish.
Dad dropped the crayfish and watched while the chick tried to catch it.
Success! The chick caught the crayfish.
Our osprey had to work for breakfast. He made five dives without catching anything before heading off over the trees.
After breakfast mom and dad tried to nap.
The chicks gave them a short break before demanding second breakfasts.
I think I’m being chastised. I carry a supply of soda in the boat. When I finish a can, I toss it over my shoulder into the back of the boat. I tossed one and missed without realizing it. I’d padded about 50 yards when dad approached the boat, then veered off towards the can. I promptly went back for it.
Something spooked the loons. I couldn’t figure out what upset them. Mom and dad went off to deal with the threat and the chicks flattened out to be harder to see.
When there’s any sort of breeze that ruffles the water, the chick’s defense is very good. On flat water, they’re more obvious.
Mom on her way to help dad with the threat. They were close to shore of one of the islands in the pond. They made several aggressive dives without my seeing any threat.
The threat neutralized, they returned to delivering second breakfasts. Both parents were bringing food as quickly as they could catch it. Our chick is stretching his leg, they may do this to cool down. Looks like he has some more growing to do before those feet fit.
Second breakfasts finished, the parents took some time to preen. This is dad. He’s wearing bands put on by the Loon Preservation Committee. Banders put four bands on the birds. On the right leg is a silver band with a unique number from the United States Geological Survey. The number is next to impossible to read if you’re not holding the loon. So, banders put another colored band on the right leg and two colored bands on the left. The combination of colors let’s observers identify the loon without having to capture it.
Our osprey returned and made up for his earlier lack of success.
Mom finished preening and gave a good stretch before settling in for a nap.

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