Photographs by Frank

8 August 2020

Gregg Lake Loons – An Update

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 7:15 PM

Joan had the first shift as Lake Host this morning. She got to the Gregg Lake boat launch by 7. An hour or so later the phone rang and although the call was dead when I answered (cell phone signal at the lake is poor), the caller ID said that it was Joan.

Surmising (properly as it turns out) that she was calling with a wildlife sighting. I packed the camera, long lens and tripod into the truck and headed down to the lake to see what was up.

Joan had spotted a sapsucker spending much time at the hole in a dead tree along the road. By the time I had set up, I was able to make one exposure (which is not worth showing) before the bird took flight and I did not see it again… maybe tomorrow!

About 9:30, the loon family made an appearance off the point at the beach. I headed over there and was able to make a few photos of the youngsters at a decently close range. My photo op did not last long because all of a sudden the two adults (who were quite a distance away from the chicks) sounded the alarm call and the family rapidly converged and headed off.

Initially, I thought that I had spooked them, but I was not really very close. (The photos below are significant crops of the full frame.) I packed up when they got too far away and headed back to the truck. It turns out that I was not the cause of the loon commotion. Joan said that an eagle had passed fairly low overhead causing the ado.

It was good to see that both youngsters are doing well and will probably learn to fly in the coming weeks.

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Loon Chicks (Gregg Lake, Aug 2020)
Loon Chicks (Gregg Lake, Aug 2020)
Gregg Lake Loon Chick (Aug 2020)
Gregg Lake Loon Chick (Aug 2020)
Loon Family (Gregg Lake, Aug 2020)
Loon Family (Gregg Lake, Aug 2020)

12 June 2020

Loon Chicks Again.

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 8:00 PM

This morning, shortly after nine, Joan and I headed down to watch the loons.

When we arrived one of the adults was with the two chicks and there was no sign of the other adult. All to be expected.

After a while, the second adult appeared with a small fish , fed one of the chicks and headed off to fish some more. This process was repeated twice more while I watched.

The fourth time the second adult appeared with a fish neither chick even wanted to get down into the water off the back of the other adult. After a bit of coaxing one of the chicks dropped into the water but it showed no interest in the offering, Eventually the adult ate the fish itself. I guess that everyone was well fed!

At this point the four birds settled down for some rest with both chick on the back of the adult that they spent the morning with. The chicks did not stay still for long intervals. They would hop down into the water and wander close to the adults. Eventually they would climb up under a wing and onto the back of the same adult each time.

After three and a half hours,I headed home for lunch. (Joan had stayed for only about ninety minutes before heading home for her guitar lesson.)

I made roughly seven hundred exposures. You should be thankful that I show only six below!

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Adult Loon with Two Chicks on Back
Adult Loon with Two Chicks on Back
Adult Loon with Chick in Water
Adult Loon with Chick in Water
Adult Loon with One Chick on Back #1
Adult Loon with One Chick on Back #1
Adult Loon with One Chick on Back #2
Adult Loon with One Chick on Back #2
Sibling Rivalry
Sibling Rivalry
Adult Loon with Two Chicks
Adult Loon with Two Chicks

11 June 2020

Loon Chicks on Gregg Lake!!!

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 8:27 PM

For the first time in living memory, we have loon chicks on Gregg Lake!

After lunch today (Thursday, 11 June 2020) Joan headed down to the lake to check out what was happening with the loons. Only ten or fifteen minutes after she left, I heard sound of gravel flying as Joan roared back up the drive way. I knew immediately that something was up.

There were two fellows fishing at the bridge who told Joan that they had seen two loon chicks leave the nest at about 2 PM. We were back at the lake as quickly as we could move and I made my first photograph at 2:35 PM.

When we arrived we observed the two adult loons over near the Craig Road bridge and no chicks, Not more than a minute or two later, a chick peaked out from under the wing of one of the adults.

For the next ninety minutes we watched the family just hanging out in the area between the nest and the Craig Road bridge. The chicks kept moving from riding on the back on the adults (one chick per adult) to bobbing like corks in the water to sheltering under the wing of an adult. While the chicks were in the water they were rarely more than a couple of feet from one of the adults.

For most of the time we watched the chicks moved freely between and around the two adults, although there was never more than one chick riding on an adult at a time.

Eventually, there was a clear change in behavior. One of the adults began to distance itself from the rest of the family and seemed to actively drive the chick that approached it back towards the other adult. At this point the adult with the two chicks, one on their back and one following in the water headed back towards the nest. (The chicks were surprisingly strong swimmers.)

The other adult clearly headed off to fish. After an interval the second adult showed up at the nest and fed a small fish to one of the chicks. I’m quite sure that that was the chicks first meal. At this point the second chick hopped into the water and pretty clearing began pestering the adult for a meal. After another short interval, the non-hunting adult climbed up onto the nest with the chicks and the other adult head out presumably to look for a meal for the second chick,

It was roughly half past four at this point and we decided to head home.

I made about seven hundred exposures this afternoon. With four individual animals in the frame the best strategy is to fire away and look for the best combination of poses when you get back to the computer. Making a quick run through the photos, I tagged about sixty frames on the first pass. Going back though those sixty or so exposures, I processed the ten shown here.

The two “first meal” photos are quite severe crops and would not make good prints. I present them here because the adrenaline was flowing as I watched in the viewfinder!

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Our First Look At A Loon Chick
Our First Look At A Loon Chick
Loon Family (Two Chicks & Two Adults) $1
Loon Family (Two Chicks & Two Adults) $1
Loon Family (One Chick & Two Adults) #1
Loon Family (One Chick & Two Adults) #1
Loon Family (Two Chicks & Two Adults) $2
Loon Family (Two Chicks & Two Adults) $2
Loon Family (One Chick & Two Adults) #2
Loon Family (One Chick & Two Adults) #2
Loon Family (One Chick & Two Adults) #3
Loon Family (One Chick & Two Adults) #3
Find The Second Chick!
Find The Second Chick!
Loon Family (Two Chicks & Two Adults) $3
Loon Family (Two Chicks & Two Adults) $3
First Meal #1
First Meal #1
First Meal #2
First Meal #2

9 June 2020

Loons At The Nest

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 10:45 PM

It has been about 24 days since we first saw eggs in the loons nest on Gregg Lake. Gestation in loons is about 28 days so we are expecting (hoping) to have loon chicks over the weekend. Fingers crossed!

This afternoon, right at lunch time, Joan answered the phone and received a report that there was a loon acting strangely on the main part of the lake. We put lunch on hold, gathered up binos, spotting scope, camera, etc. and headed down to the lake.

In talking with the fellow who had seen the loon acting oddly, we decided that what he had seen was really grooming behavior and our concern abated. None-the-less, we were glad that Jeremy cared enough to make a report.

As we were chatting we got a glimpse of the loon headed in the direction of the bridge and the nest on the far side of said bridge.

We hie-tailed it over to the road where we could see the nest. Shortly after we arrived loon #2 appeared at the nest where loon #1 was sitting (The numbers are arbitrary.) The incoming loon (#1) hung around the nest for a few minutes before #2 slid into the water. #1 quickly climbed up on the nest, examined the eggs and sat down. A short while later #1 stood up, turned the eggs and resettled on the nest in the opposite direction from how it had settled the first time.

Meanwhile, #2 spent a few minutes near the nest halfheartedly tossing nest building material towards the nest. Eventually #2 motored away, dove and headed under the bridge.

As #1 settled in for the long wait, we headed home for our lunch, roughly half an hour after we arrived.

I ran some errands after lunch and arrived back at the lake about 5 PM. I spent an hour and a quarter watching the nest but there was little action, just a single loon sitting on the nest.

Every time the sun came out, the loon would open its mouth and “pant”. Birds don’t sweat. Thus to cool their bodies they evaporate water from the membranes in their mouth… More-or-less as a dog does on at hot day, but without the drool!

The first eight photos shown here are from lunchtime today; the last two from the late afternoon.

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Loon Pair at Nest #1
Loon Pair at Nest #1
"Couples" (Loons and Red-winged Blackbirds)
The Switch
The Switch
Nest Keeping
Nest Keeping
Loon Pair at Nest #2
Loon Pair at Nest #2
Turning the Eggs
Turning the Eggs
Loon Pair at Nest #3
Loon Pair at Nest #3
Heading Out
Heading Out
Loon on Nest
Loon on Nest
Loon on Nest with Red-winged Blackbird
Loon on Nest with Red-winged Blackbird
Loon on Nest Panting #1
Loon on Nest Panting #1
Loon on Nest Panting #2
Loon on Nest Panting #2

18 May 2020

Gregg Lake Loons, Update (May 2020)

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 3:43 PM

Last Friday (15 May 2020) morning , I spent a couple of hours watching the loon nest. I observed a single individual sitting on the nest and then spend a considerable fraction of the two hours I was there working on building up the nest. I saw no evidence of eggs.

This morning (Monday, 18 May 2020), I again headed down to observe the nesting loons. I arrived at about 10:15 and found a bird sitting on the nest. The temperature was in the low sixties and it was overcast.

Ten or so minutes later, I noticed a great blue heron approaching the nest area from the right. It was on the other side of vegetation from the nest and I had great hopes of an interesting photo of both the heron and the loon in a single frame. Well, I got the photo… sort of… see the third photo!

A few minutes later Joan arrived and set up the spotting scope. We were hoping to get definitive evidence of eggs.

About fifty minutes after I arrived, the loon stood up, rearranged things in the nest,sat back down and began working on the nest.

Joan was able to clearly see a single egg at this point with the spotting scope. At one point Joan could clearly see the loon lift the egg and add nest material underneath. A while later, she was able to get a clear view of two eggs in the nest. My camera was set up at a bit of a lower angle (and it does not have the same degree of magnification) so I was not able to get photos showing eggs.

Eventually, the loon must of run out of nest building material. It slipped off the nest and spent the rest of the time (more than an hour) we observed it gathering more nesting material. It does this by dredging up material from the bottom and tossing it over its shoulder towards the nest. The bird was never more that six or eight feet from the nest. On occasion it would climb onto the nest and add material to the nest. However, it was mostly in gathering mode.

About two hours after I first arrived the second loon finally made an appearance near the nest. We heard some low vocalizations between the birds at this point. The newly arrived bird tentatively approached the empty nest and eventually climbed up on to it. After a short period of egg turning and shifting around it settled down on the nest.

We decided that it was lunchtime and headed home about half past noon.

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Loon Sitting On Nest
Loon Sitting On Nest
Nearby Great Blue Heron
Nearby Great Blue Heron
Loon On Nest with Heron Flyby
Loon On Nest with Heron Flyby
Loon Turning Eggs
Loon Turning Eggs
Nest Building #1
Nest Building #1
Nest Building #2
Nest Building #2
Gathering Nest Building Material
Gathering Nest Building Material
Nest Building #3
Nest Building #3
Loon Near Nest
Loon Near Nest
Loon #2
Loon #2
Loon #2 Climbing Onto Nest
Loon #2 Climbing Onto Nest
Loon #2 Making Adjustments
Loon #2 Making Adjustments
Loon #2 Settled In
Loon #2 Settled In

14 May 2020

Gregg Lake Loons (May 2020)

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Spring,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 10:23 PM

About five this afternoon Joan’s brother George called to say that he and Michelle had seen a loon on a nest on the north side of the bridge while they were out on a walk.

Of course, I grabbed Big Bertha (my 600 mm lens) , camera and tripod and headed down to the lake as soon as I could. The bird and its nest were easily seen at the waters edge on the far side of the lake.

Five or ten minutes after I arrived the bird on the nest slipped into the water leaving the nest empty. This behavior (i.e. leaving the nest empty) suggests to me that the nest does not (yet, hopefully) contain eggs.

I made a couple of photographs of the empty nest hoping to be able to decide if eggs were present or not. However, the angle of view did not allow a clear view of the interior of the nest.

Joan says that she saw two birds in the water at one point, but I, while concentrating on the camera, only saw one. The individual I saw stayed in the general vicinity of the nest for another five or ten minutes before disappearing. At one point it swam close enough that I could fill the frame with the bird. I watched for another fifteen or twenty minutes before hunger and the black flies drove me back home and did not see either loon again.

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Common Loon on Nest - Gregg Lake (May 2020)
Common Loon on Nest - Gregg Lake (May 2020)
Common Loon Near Nest - Gregg Lake (May 2020) #1
Common Loon Near Nest - Gregg Lake (May 2020) #1
Common Loon Near Nest - Gregg Lake (May 2020) #2
Common Loon Near Nest - Gregg Lake (May 2020) #2
Common Loon #1 (Gregg Lake - May 2020)
Common Loon #1 (Gregg Lake - May 2020)
Common Loon #2 (Gregg Lake - May 2020)
Common Loon #2 (Gregg Lake - May 2020)

14 June 2015

Nesting Loons

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 1:00 PM

A couple of weeks ago, Joan and I discovered a loon nest on a body of water that has not supported a breeding pair for more that forty years*.

Yesterday, I got permission to cross the privately-held shore line and photograph the nest and its occupant.

Common Loon On Nest

* I am being a bit circumspect about the exact location in order to protect the nest site.


 

9 July 2014

Loons and Catbirds

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Summer — Tags: , — Frank @ 12:15 PM

Yesterday afternoon, I spent some time observing the nesting loons again. No chicks yet… a worrying state of affairs as they have been sitting on the nest at least since the 9th of June.

I did watch the two adults switch places twice during the four hour interval (1:15 to 5:15 PM) that I watched them.

Photographs of loons actually leaving or entering the nest are not very interesting. These birds leave the nest without any obvious (to me anyway) warning… they simply slide off the nest into the water. Loon butts do not make for interesting photos! Conversely, watching an adult loon climb back onto the nest is a vivid reminder that these are water birds… the word “ungainly” comes to mind.

Once the incoming adult gets on the nest, they proceed to move the eggs about a bit and do a bit of housekeeping by rearranging a stick or two before settling down on the eggs.

Take a careful look at the loon photos… see any other animals present?*

The best place to photograph the nesting loons is from atop a large rock. Yesterday,  I kept noticing that  two or three small gray birds would briefly appear on another nearby rock and then disappear back into the bushes behind the rock.

Eventually, an adult appeared with a single small insect that one of the three fledglings gobbled up in a microsecond. There are only two young birds in the photo because the “winner”  did not waste any time in getting away with the prize. The two you see are still yelling at mom or dad “where’s mine”!

The appearance of the adult allowed me to identify, without the need for a book, the birds as gray catbirds.

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Adult 1 on Nest
Adult 1 on Nest
Empty Nest
Empty Nest
Adult 2 Shifting Eggs
Adult 2 Shifting Eggs
Adult 2 on Nest #1
Adult 2 on Nest #1
Adult 2 on Nest #2
Adult 2 on Nest #2
Gray Catbirds (Adult and Fledglings)
Gray Catbirds (Adult and Fledglings)
Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird

*I am now to the point were I can photograph odes without trying!!!


 

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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Common Loon on Nest #1
Common Loon on Nest #1
Common Loon on Nest #2
Common Loon on Nest #2
Common Loon Shifting Position on Nest
Common Loon Shifting Position on Nest
Common Loon on Nest #3
Common Loon on Nest #3
Common Loon on Nest (Hiding Posture)
Common Loon on Nest (Hiding Posture)
Common Loon on Nest #4
Common Loon on Nest #4

10 June 2014

Loons

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region — Tags: — Frank @ 12:00 PM

 A long time ago yesterday in a galaxy pond far, far not too far away… I discovered a pair of nesting loons.

It is unusual to find a nest that can be observed (and photographed) easily from land and one needs really soft, even light to do justice to a black and white bird photographically. Yesterday afternoon, in intermittent light rain, every thing came together.

The photos are of two individuals. The one sitting on the nest was there the entire time (about 90 minutes) I observed him/her. The other, which was close by most of the time, alternated between fishing and resting. The nearby mallard family was just a bonus.

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Common Loon on Nest #1
Common Loon on Nest #1
Common Loon on Nest #2
Common Loon on Nest #2
Common Loon #1
Common Loon #1
Common Loon #2
Common Loon #2
Mallard Hen with Young
Mallard Hen with Young


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