Adirondack Chronicles 2019.5: The Circle of Life
I watched the loon nest for eleven days, from July 3 to the 14th, and lo and behold, on the 11th day the chicks emerged and started swimming immediately! That little guy above is meeting its other parent for the first time, and they went off together into the marsh and then the big lake beyond. Loons take up to 28 days to hatch, so I must have started watching the middle of the cycle.
You may remember this story began when I heard a loon calling out somewhat frantically as I passed by an outlet near Horseshoe Lake, and as I came upon the scene a rather large eagle was perched close to the water where a loon was swimming in circles and calling out.
At that time I surmised the loon was protecting a nest, and sure enough, over the next few days, she was steadfast in tending her eggs.
As I observed the loon, I made some assumptions that now were clearly incorrect — the big one being that the mate was missing. The loon seemed all alone. On several occasions, I saw her leave the nest, eggs untended, and she swam far out onto the lake, and I thought perhaps she was abandoning the eggs — but the next morning, she would be there. One day while I was watching the loon brooding on the nest, I heard a loon call far out on the lake and saw, at a great distance, a second loon splashing about. And then, as soon as the eggs hatched, the second loon showed up!
Now, I don’t want to ascribe gendered behavior too much — perhaps both loons swapped being on the nest and I didn’t see that, and perhaps the duck on the nest above is male. Who knows, but the photo does lend itself to a meme question, “Where have you been and did you bring dinner?” The loon on the nest has the chicks under her wings — she gathered them in after they took a little swim on their own:
Meanwhile, the missing parent showed up all proud and gloating about the new babies….
And promptly took off to show one of the babies how to make it in the wild:
This scene is repeated in lakes all over the Adirondacks at this time of year. The loon chick and parents below were on Bear Pond near Tupper Lake:
Loons will tend to their young for about twelve weeks, and then as fall approaches the young are on their own and the parent loons fly off to winter on the ocean, returning to the nests in the spring to start all over again. The circle of life continues!
Next: Bears and Bees!