Posts Tagged: new hampshire wildlife

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 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….

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.

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.

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 Diggerhttps://vtdigger.org/2023/06/15/vermonts-oldest-loon-dies-at-the-estimated-age-of-31/ 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: https://blog.ianclark.com/photography/wildlife-photography/the-eastons-have-two-chicks/

Bluebirds Going for a Second Brood

After the first chicks fledged, I’d see bluebirds around the edge of our field occasionally, but their activities were no longer centered around the house. Monday afternoon, I noticed both mom and dad talking from several perches near the house. Yesterday, mom popped into the box to do some quick upgrades and returned this morning to lay an egg.

We’re watching eastern bluebirds in a nesting box with a camera installed inside to let us watch without disturbing them. The camera switches to black & white in low light. And, the exposure control stinks, that’s why it washes out or goes black as a bird comes or goes.

Checking in with the Loon Families

With the beautiful weather we had last week, I was out morning and evening every day checking in on all three loon families along with their neighbors. The Forest Service road to the Easton’s pond is now passible so I finally got up to check on them.

A raft of new subscribers joined us this last week. If you found me from the Paradise City show, thanks for stopping by. For the new visitors, to protect the loon families, I don’t publish their location on the web. Not everyone on the web has wildlife’s best interests at heart. The three families I follow are the ‘Eastons,’ on the easternmost pond I frequent, the ‘Westons’ are on the westernmost and the ‘Middletons’ are in the middle.

The first visit to the Eastons was last Tuesday evening. There was a strong wind kicking up the occasional whitecap. On my first lap around the pond, I didn’t spot any loons and last year’s nesting site was untouched. After time, one adult loon appeared, foraging lazily. The chop was too much for photos and the black flies had decided I was the buffet, so I called an early quit and headed home.

Wednesday morning, I headed out to see the Westons.

A broad-winged hawk settled near the boat launch as I was putting in.
It didn’t take long to find a single adult loon foraging and preening out on the pond. The other loon was sitting on their nest.
After a bit, the loons swapped nest duty and the newly released loon had a good stretch before settling in for a nap. I wandered off to see who else was out and about.
Many painted turtles were hauled out around the edge of the marsh and several snapping turtles were floating with their heads and top of their shells out of the water.
Mrs. hooded merganser was out in the clear – rarely do they stay out of the reeds when someone is in sight. She even gave a good stretch before heading off to forage among the lily pads.
Female red-winged blackbirds are sitting on their nests. The males are keeping watch nearby.
Male common yellowthroats are plentiful in the marsh and are happy to announce their presence.
Leaving the pond, I saw something I’ve not seen before; a hawk or raven was dive bombing a kettle of turkey vultures. By the time I pulled over, the corvid was gone – of course.

Wednesday evening, I dropped in on the Middletons. It was well into the 90s. In previous years, the nest was fairly exposed to the afternoon sun and the loon with afternoon nest duty often sat in full sun for a couple hours. I headed over to check on the nest. On my way, the resident osprey took a fish from just a few yards in front of me. Of course, I didn’t see him until he was just a few feet above the water, I had to watch instead of taking photos.

This year the grass has grown up considerably giving them some afternoon shade. But, not enough to keep them from getting hot enough to pant. Loons will pant like dogs do, holding their bill open and breathing quickly to try to cool off.
Our other loon was floating around the pond and eventually gave a stretch. With one loon on the nest and the other just killing time, it was time to see who else was around. Eventually, the loons swapped nest sitting duty and with my binoculars I was able to see two eggs.
Red-eyed vireos are actually very common, but somewhat rare to see – apparently because I’m always looking on the top of the branch…. They spend most of their time high in the tree canopy, you can hear them regularly. This one ventured down almost to eye level briefly to forage. Looks like he’s trying to pull a spider out its hidey hole. He eventually pulled something free and promptly returned upstairs. I encouraged him to take some black flies along, but he declined.

Thursday morning I headed back to visit the Eastons, hoping both had returned. There was no wind, it was a perfect morning just to be out on the water, even better for photos. As I headed down the pond, I quickly spotted a loon sitting on the bank a couple hundred feet from the previous nesting site. Studies of banded loons suggest that if they are successful in hatching chicks in a nesting site, they’ll reuse the site. The literature says the male picks the site, I hoped our male had returned (I want all my critters to live long happy lives before retiring to Boca Raton.) The male on the pond the last few years was banded, I wanted to get a look at their legs.

Our loon on the new nest.
A loon was preening a few hundred feet from the nest and stretched as I went by. I got a good look at her legs, no bands.
Nearby, one of our spotted sandpipers was foraging along the rocks exposed above the water. Checking each rapidly before moving to the next.
Our loon not on duty did a slow tour of the pond. Before heading towards the nest.

The off duty loon wandered over to confer with the loon on the nest. They exchanged hoots, apparently discussing the shift change.
The loon on the nest agreed it was time to hand things off and left the nest.
Free of having to sit, he stretched and then scratched an itch – letting me spot the bands on his legs. Our male is back.
Mom climbed up on the nest and checked on the eggs.
Mom took time to turn both eggs. We think birds turn their eggs to both help distribute nutrients to the developing chick and to keep the chick from adhering to the side of the egg. Mom got them arraigned properly and settled in. I scouted for other wildlife.
Pickings were slim. Merlin claimed there were lots of warblers around, all I could find was common yellowthroats. There was a lone duck foraging along the grass.
Thursday evening I headed back to see the Westons. Their nest is well camouflaged and usually provides good shade. With the temps in the 90s again, the loon on duty was hot and panting.
Hank Heron, or maybe his cousin, Wade, was working through the marsh nearby.
I guess he didn’t like the looks of me, he decided to be elsewhere.
There was an eastern kingbird that was picking perches in beautiful light, I watched him for a time. Kingbird numbers seem to be down on all three ponds this year.

Friday morning, I packed up the Loon Preservation Committee’s nesting sign and headed back to the Eastons.

The loons had company for breakfast, a bull moose was browsing along the edge of the pond. Conditions were good to let me get relatively close, there was a slight wind blowing towards me and I was in deep shadows with him looking up into the sun. I was able to watch him for a time.
After dunking his head under to get a mouthful of underwater plants, he’d give a good shake, scattering water almost as far as a soggy husky can.
Another head shake. Most of the time when I encounter moose in the morning, they’re out before sun up and wander back into the shade before the light hits the pond. This fellow stayed out about 20 minutes after the light reached the pond, then headed back into the woods. I returned my attention to the loons.

Once again, our male had taken the night shift and was on the nest waiting to be relived.
When he was relived, I waited for the stretch.
He cooperated nicely and found a spot with beautiful light. I set out their nest sign and headed home for a much needed nap.

We’re Expecting!

The weather kept me from visiting the loons for several days. I was out to see the Middletons last Thursday, May 18. I didn’t get back until last evening. And I had a chance to visit the Westons this morning. Let’s see how they’re doing.

I’ll be at the Paradise City Art Show in Northampton, MA this coming weekend. Stop by and say hello. I’ll have lots of prints, from small to large, and note cards with lots of critters. All the show details here.

Last Thursday was another chilly morning, with a little bit of fog on the water.

I hit the water well before dawn, ready to make some nice images. The loons slept in.
Eventually, the loons woke and continued their exploration of alternate nesting sites. The looked at three sites, with both loons climbing out of the water and sitting a couple minutes on the site. The literature says the male picks the site, but these two were discussing it at length. Maybe the male picks the site like I’m picking the colors for repainting our kitchen?
The spotted sandpipers were out foraging along the water’s edge and on downed trees.
This eastern phoebe stopped by to feed off of the many black flies that I’d attracted.
Eventually our loons headed back to last year’s nesting site. One crawled out and sat and fidgeted long enough that I hoped we had an egg. No such luck.
Still thinking about it….
All this thinking must have been exhausting, they tucked in for a nap.
Our great egret was flying about.
And a few Canada geese returned from their errands. This one looks little surprised to see the water coming up at him so fast.

I returned yesterday evening, much to the delight of the black flies.

When I arrived, there was a loon on last year’s nesting site, with the other one floating nearby, hooting softly.
The loon on the water wandered off to feed and preen.
I went exploring the marsh. This gander was giving me a look. I suspect he was plotting my demise….
The red-winged black birds were very active, with females hauling nesting material and everyone feeding on bugs.
The loon not on nest duty returned to the nest four time through the evening. They didn’t exchange nest duty, but they had a conversation with lots of soft hooting.

This morning I headed off to check in on the Westons. It became a beautiful morning after a chilly 38° start, with lots of nice fog on the water. The last few years, the Westons have been about a week behind the Middletons in mating and nesting. They must have a new calendar this year.

One of the Westons was out slowly cruising in the fog when I arrived.
Our geese were commuting to and fro on the pond. I could hear them long before I could see them through the fog.
A pair of wood duck drakes were looking sharp, even in the fog.
The loon not on nest duty took time to preen in the cove where the nest is.
A pair of geese ventured too close to the nest. The preening loon dove. The geese saw him coming and decided they would prefer to be somewhere else right about now.
Geese vanquished, preening was completed and we got a nice stretch.
I hadn’t spotted the nest yet. While I was watching the loon not on duty stretch, a second loon surfaced close by and gave a stretch.
They both took time to preen.
And finishing up with another nice stretch.
One of the loons returned to the nest. Again, I’m shooting with a 600mm lens and cropping the image. Please give nesting loons lots of room.

This handsome fellow was out celebrating World Turtle Day today. As good a reason to go wild as any!

It will be next week before I get a chance to get back to check on them. I’ll let you know what I find. Enjoy the holiday weekend and please remember the U.S. military personnel who gave their lives to protect us

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