Photographs by Frank

19 June 2014

Nesting Loon

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Spring — Tags: — Frank @ 9:00 AM

Yesterday, I had some errands to run in Peterborough. I decided to take the camera along and stop by the nesting loons I visited last week. When I arrived, another photographer (Don from Hudson, NH) just packing up. Word is getting out!

There are no young yet, but both adults were present. The adult not sitting on the nest was only nearby briefly, but two or three times during the couple of hours I watched, I heard it call from out on the water. The adult on the nest did not return the call.

Photographically, the conditions were tough. It was partly cloudly but the clouds were moving fast. The light changed minute-by-minute and ranged from harsh full sun to nice diffuse light; only the latter makes for good photos of black and white birds. It was only worthwhile to trip the shutter when the sun was behind a cloud.

Spending time watching a nesting bird is quite interesting. It is clearly a high stress job. The adult on the nest is hyper-aware… always listening and watching. At one point during this visit the adult arose briefly to shift position  on the nest.  A couple of times small groups of swimmers walked nearby; each time the adult scrunched down on the nest it what was clearly an attempt to hide.

You will note that in most of these photos the loon has its mouth open. This was true  for the large majority of the time I observed it.  One might think that they are calling or singing by looking at still photo. This is not the case, this animal did not make a sound during the time I observed it. Rather, the “panting” behavior is a thermoregulation strategy. Birds do not sweat but, by opening their mouths, they can evaporate saliva which helps them to shed heat. I have also observed this behavior in great blue herons on a hot summers day.

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