Is there any wonder what the loons see in Long Lake? Here’s the view from 200 feet up near our house. August 7, 2017. This is the north section of the lake. That’s Belly Button Island looking like it’s just a tad away from “our” bay. And if your eyes look beyond the island, and turn left, you’d be in Ghost Bay.
Loons are very bad at landings. And they are even worse taker-offers. They beat their wings like crazy, hitting the water, and almost seem to be walking on those long feet of theirs on lift off. And landings aren’t graceful either. They end up skidding to a halt. So a long lake is perfect for the loons. Our lake also has two islands, which is ideal because loons prefer to nest on islands.
Here’s this year’s twins at three weeks.
And here they are just one week later. They still look a bit unpromising. But looks deceive. These guys are already diving for their own food and staying under water for longer and longer lengths of time.
The parents have obviously been feeding them well. Hopefully the twins will be strong and flying well by late October so they can make their flight south.
These two chicks were born on Belly Button Island, in the north section of Long Lake, on Father’s Day, June 16th. We spotted them riding on a parent’s back on their birthday, but weren’t sure if we were seeing one or two chicks. One week later, as one chick paddled behind a parent and one rode, we knew it was twins.
The chicks grew quickly.
By September, the chicks are adolescents. They often hang out together without either parent. They are very efficient divers, though they don’t seem to stay underwater as long as the adults do. When a parent is around, they still head over hoping to get a snack, but the parents don’t seem to oblige them anymore. The young loon’s plumage is still immature, but size-wise they are only a tad smaller than the adults.
Like the parents, the young loons will approach a quiet boat. Sometimes they even seem to be drawn to our kayaks. Even this fisherman, on a recent chilly and foggy morning, didn’t frighten off the adolescent.
The parents will be leaving this month and will winter in warmer places down South. The twins will be left behind for another 4-6 weeks. They will stay on Long Lake late enough that we’ll start to worry if they know what they are supposed to do. For now, they need to get stronger, bulk up a bit for the flight south and, oh yes, practice their take-offs and landings.
The adults are grooming their flight feathers. Well, either that or practicing their yoga poses.
Four weeks ago, to the day, these two twins weren’t yet hatched. Last weekend they were viewing under the surface just like their parents and doing the foot waggling thing that loons do. They stray a bit away from their parents and we think they are fishing on their own. They are growing fast. Compare. Hopefully, they have grown enough that they don’t seem like a tasty morsel for a big snapping turtle. Eagles are likely still a threat, though. We’ve watched the vigilant parents diving, coming up with tasty little fish, and feeding them to the twins.
Look for the family at the entrance to Ghost Bay, on the east side of Belly Button Island, and where the waters from the narrows spills in to the big lake. They are also feeding near the big weed pile that’s sprouted this year in the first bay north of the narrows on the east side.
On Saturday morning, June 15th, one loon was on the nest tucked near the water on the west side of Belly Button Island. On June 16th, Father’s Day, we saw tiny brown puffs riding on a parent’s back. We weren’t sure if there was one chick or two.
This is the scene near the entrance to Ghost Bay one week later on June 23rd. One of the twins is the back seat driver and the other is trailing behind. We watched the chicks “viewing” underwater, with their heads nearly submerged. They’re learning to fish already. The second parent flew in a few minutes after this photo was taken. For a loon, he made an exceptional landing. Showing off for the kids, I guess. There was not the usual hard braking and skidding and splashing.
OK Long-lakers. We need to watch out for this little family during the upcoming 4th of July activities on the lake. Last year we lost one chick, somehow–maybe to a Bald Eagle or big snapping turtle or illness (and hopefully not a power boat). Let’s keep our fingers crossed that these two make it to their October loony adolescence.
Please also keep our fishing lines free of lead sinkers. The sinkers, especially split-shot, can easily end up on the lake bottom. Loons need to eat small pebbles from the lake bottom to aid their digestion. But if loons eat lead instead, it doesn’t take much for them to die of lead poisoning.
As of this past weekend, no sign that the second nest has been successful yet. The second pair is nesting in the lower lake, on the tiny island on the west side.