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.
* I am being a bit circumspect about the exact location in order to protect the nest site.
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.
*I am now to the point were I can photograph odes without trying!!!
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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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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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