Photographs by Frank

20 May 2022

Two Eggs! (Gregg Lake Loons – 2022)

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 1:29 PM

Mid-morning, Joan and I decided to head down to the lake to see if we could confirm that the loon nest contained eggs. While we were getting ready, a single loon flew overhead going towards the lake. The temperature was in the mid-60s F and the skies were changing quickly… mostly cloudy as we headed out and mostly sunny by the time we returned home roughly forty minutes later.

In order to increase Joan’s chances of spotting eggs in the nest, I parked the truck at the side of the narrow road so that she could set up the spotting scope in the bed of the truck… it’s all about angles. I figured (correctly) that there would be little traffic.

Just as we finished setting up (within five minutes of our arrival) we heard the loon on the nest call. We were afraid that maybe the presence of a vehicle parked in an odd spot might have alarmed the bird even though the nest is four or five hundred feet from the road.

Rarely does the wildlife makes the watcher’s life easy, but today was one of those days. Within a few minutes of the first call from the loon on the nest, its mate arrived and loon 1 slipped into the water to greet loon 2. The pair swam around near the nest for a few minutes giving Joan ample time to see that there are indeed two eggs in the nest.

Eventually, one of the birds (presumably the incoming loon) mounted the nest. I was able to make a sequence of exposures that illustrate how ungainly this process is (see the second gallery below). Unusually, the loon stayed on the nest for only a short time before entering the water again.

At this point we decided that we had the ‘data’ we needed the truck for and I moved the truck to the more usual parking area down by the junction of Craig Rd. By the time I walked back to the truck, a loon was back on the nest. The second loon hung around the general area of the nest fishing for several minutes before it headed out under the bridge to the main part of the lake.

Joan took a stroll at this point to see if she could see where the two herons that few by earlier had landed. She did not see the herons but she did observe two loons hanging out together on the main part of the lake… presumably one of the mated pair we were watching and the single bird we heard flying over the house about a half hour earlier?

About forty minutes after we first arrived, we headed back to the house, the garden and the things we are ‘supposed to do”!

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Loon 1 On Nest
Loon 1 On Nest
Loon 2 Approaching Nest
Loon 2 Approaching Nest
Both Loons Near Nest
Both Loons Near Nest
Loon 2 Stretching
Loon 2 Stretching
Loon 2 On Nest
Loon 2 On Nest
Loon 1 Hangin Around #1
Loon 1 Hangin Around #1
Loon 1 Hangin Around #2
Loon 1 Hangin Around #2

Loon Mounting Nest Sequence (about 30 seconds from start to finish)

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Loon Mounting Nest (1 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (1 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (2 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (2 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (3 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (3 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (4 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (4 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (5 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (5 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (6 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (6 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (7 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (7 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (8 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (8 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (9 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (9 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (10 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (10 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (11 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (11 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (12 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (12 of 12)

19 May 2022

Gregg Lake Loons – 2022

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Spring,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 4:04 PM

“Our” loons arrived on Gregg Lake at the end of March (the 28th according to Joan), before ice out.

I suspect, but have no proof, that they arrive in the area earlier and spend time on some other ice-free body of water while make periodic reconnaissance flights to their “home water” looking for a large enough opening in the ice.

For the past several weeks we have seen the pair of birds ‘out and about’ mostly on the main part of the lake but occasionally on the north side of the road where they have nested in the past. We had not observed any nest building behavior. However, we were not looking frequently and systematically.

Yesterday morning, as I headed out to the grocery store, I was excited to see a loon sitting on a nest in the same area they have nested for the past two (successful) years. I am positive that they were not sitting on the nest the day before yesterday.

The skies were cloudless, bluebird blue for most of the morning and early afternoon. I was not even tempted to head down to make the first loon photos of the season. It is difficult to make a good photo of a black and white bird in bright, strong sun light. One can either expose properly for the black or the white but not for both at the same time in bright light.

However, by mid afternoon a few clouds began to appear. By five or so, there was a high, overcast which makes for perfect conditions to photograph black and white birds. As a bonus, it was breezy so the black flies were small in number. I headed out to photograph the loon(s).

As one expects when watching a loon nest, not much happened in the hour and a half I watched. I saw only one bird in that time. It shifted position twice while I was there but I could not confirm that there is an egg or eggs present yet.*

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Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #1
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #1
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #2
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #2
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #3
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #3

* Joan made a brief stop to observe the nest early this afternoon on her way back from town. She thought that the bird on the nest may have turned an egg while she watched but was only looking with her binoculars. We’ll have to spend some more time loon watching with the spotting scope soon!

29 June 2021

Gregg Lake Loons 2021 – Update

Filed under: Birds,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 1:00 AM

Today was hot (90 deg. F plus) and humid. Late this afternoon, I headed down to the lake to see if I could photograph the loons on Gregg Lake. The chicks are about three weeks old.

The loon family moved out the the main part of the lake when the chicks were only two or three days old. This makes photographing them much more difficult as they have a large area in which to roam. Shore-based photography was not going to work. I needed to use a kayak and Big Bertha is too unwieldly to use while afloat.

Instead, I headed out my 300 mm lens and both a 1.4x and a 1.7x teleconverter. I am able to hand-hold the camera with the 300 mm lens attached. Big Bertha requires a tripod.

The converters gives me roughly 400 mm and 500 mm of magnification, respectively. This turned out to be plenty. I used the 1.4x converter for most of the photos but did try out the 1.7x near the end of my outing just to see how it would work.

Adjusting the ISO so that I could keep the shutter speed at or above 1/1000 second allowed me to get adequately sharp photographs while hand-holding the camera in a bobbing kayak.

The loons are not bothered by the presence of the kayak but I tried to keep my distance and did not approach them closer than roughly 150 feet. For the most part an adult and the two chicks just hung out in one area and the adult spent some time fishing.. Thrice the adult brought a small fish to the chicks but I did not get a good photograph of feeding behavior today. The chicks spent significant amounts of time with their heads in the water as the adults do when fishing, but I only saw two or three short dives by the chicks,

Eventually the adult made a series of calls and the family headed off around the edge of the lake at a decent clip. I followed them for a bit but then thought better of chasing them as they moved along so I headed to camp. The loons eventually headed out into the middle of the lake.

As I headed back across the lake on the way home, I encountered the adult and two chicks again and watched as the second adult met up with them. By then it was almost 7:30, so I did not watch them for long before continuing on home.

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Adult and Two Chicks
Adult and Two Chicks
Two Chicks #1
Two Chicks #1
Two Chicks #2
Two Chicks #2
Adult and One Chick #1
Adult and One Chick #1
Adult Loon
Adult Loon
Adult and One Chick #2
Adult and One Chick #2
Two Adults and Two Chicks
Two Adults and Two Chicks

9 June 2021

Gregg Lake Loon Chicks in 2021!!!

Filed under: Birds,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 7:36 PM

Yesterday (Tuesday, 8 June 2021) evening we received a report that a loon chick had been sighted… right on schedule! Joan had estimated that the chick were due around the 10th.

This morning we headed down to the bridge to see what was up for ourselves. We arrived at about 9:15; the temperature was in the mid-70s and there was a high, thin overcast. We did not have to work very hard to find loons. There was an adult with two chicks hanging out in the area between the two bridges. The distance was pretty much ideal for photography.

After a short interval the second adult arrived, with fish in beak, to feed the chicks. We observed feeding three more times in the two hours we watched. One adult and the chicks stayed within a small area between the bridges the entire time we watched. The other adult made forays into the main part of the lake to hunt.

As the morning progressed it became sunnier and warmer. Eventually we decided that we had spent long enough and headed home. It was about 11:15 and 85 degrees when we packed up.

If things follow the same pattern as last year, there will be a short window of easy photographic opportunity while the chicks and one adult stay on the north side of the road, near the nest site. Eventually, when the chicks are big enough, the whole family will move to the main part of the lake for the remainder of the summer*. At that point they will be ranging widely and one will need a to photograph from a kayak. I did not try this last year, but I just might try this year.

I made 788 exposures in the two hours! Many are what we photographers call ‘similars’. With up to four critters (in this case) all doing their things and not taking direction from the photographer (to say the least!), the best strategy is to make lots of exposures and to sort out the best frames later.

I processed about 10% of the frames but will only show you eleven. As I said, the rest are ‘similar!

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Adult and Chick #1 (2021 Loons)
Adult and Chick #1 (2021 Loons)
Adult and Two Chicks (2021 Loons)
Adult and Two Chicks (2021 Loons)
All Aboard! (2021 Loons)
All Aboard! (2021 Loons)
Feeding Time! (2021 Loons; extreme crop)
Feeding Time! (2021 Loons; extreme crop)
Adult and Chick #2 (2021 Loons)
Adult and Chick #2 (2021 Loons)
Nap Time! (2021 Loons)
Nap Time! (2021 Loons)
Two Adults and Once Chick (2021 Loons)
Two Adults and Once Chick (2021 Loons)

This sequence of one of the feedings deserves its own gallery! And yes… that fish did slide right down the gullet of that tiny bird!

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Feeding Sequence #1 (9:52:09 AM; 2021 Loons)
Feeding Sequence #1 (9:52:09 AM; 2021 Loons)
Feeding Sequence #2 (9:52:10 AM; 2021 Loons)
Feeding Sequence #2 (9:52:10 AM; 2021 Loons)
Feeding Sequence #3 (9:52:11 AM; 2021 Loons)
Feeding Sequence #3 (9:52:11 AM; 2021 Loons)
Feeding Sequence #4 (9:52:21 AM; 2021 Loons)
Feeding Sequence #4 (9:52:21 AM; 2021 Loons)

* UPDATE on Thursday (10 June) afternoon: The loon family has been spotted on the main part of the lake already.

14 May 2021

Loon Update #2 (2021)

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Spring,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 10:44 PM

I spent about two hours (from 3-5 PM) watching the loons this afternoon. The temperature was about 70 deg. F and it was mostly cloudy. When I arrived at the lake there was a loon sitting on the nest. (S)he was alert and a bit pestered by the black flies.

Periodically the sun would peak out and the bird would open its mouth to “pant”. Avian “panting” is a thermoregulation mechanism. Birds don’t sweat. Thus, when they get hot the open their mouths to evaporate water from their mucus membranes in order to cool off.

After about an hour and a quarter, the loon stood up, examined the nest and settled back down facing in a slightly different direction. His/her movements looked a bit like egg turning, suggesting that at least one egg had been laid. Joan (who had arrived just a few minutes before this), using the spotting scope and a higher vantage point, confirmed that there is at least one egg (and possibly two) in the nest.

Thus the wait begins! The incubation period for loons is 25-30 days.

Roughly five minutes later and without warning, the loon on the nest slipped off the back of the nest into water. Shortly thereafter, the head of a bird appeared in a gap in the vegetation. It climbed up onto the nest, briefly examined the contents and sat down. I was puzzled by this turn of events until I finally noticed the head of a second loon just to the left of the nest. We had witnessed a ‘changing of the guard’! I had been completely unaware that the second loon had arrived at the nest. One of the hazards of peering into a telephoto lens is ‘tunnel vision’!

The loon in the water spent a few minutes moving nesting material towards the nest and then headed out to feed. After watching the sitting loon for a few more minutes, and knowing it could be an hour or more before the next changing of the guard, we packed up and headed home.

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Ever Watchful (Loon Sitting on Nest)
Ever Watchful (Loon Sitting on Nest)
Avian Panting (Loon On Nest)
Avian Panting (Loon On Nest)
Egg Turning? (Loon on Nest)
Egg Turning? (Loon on Nest)
Resettled
Resettled
The New Arrival
The New Arrival
Mounting the Nest
Mounting the Nest
Examining the Contents
Examining the Contents
Two Loons!
Two Loons!
Moving Nest Building Material
Moving Nest Building Material
Loon #2 Sitting on Nest
Loon #2 Sitting on Nest

13 May 2021

Loon Update #1 (2021)

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Spring,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 12:30 PM

Yesterday afternoon Joan sent me a text message saying that there was a loon sitting on then nest. Her brother George had also seen a loon on the nest earlier in the day.

When Joan’s message arrived, I packed up my gear and headed down to the lake, arriving at the bridge at about 4:30. Joan reported that the bird had slipped off the nest as she put her phone away after sending the text!

Joan headed home. I set up the tripod etc. and settled in to see what would happen anyway.

I spent most of my time watching the main part of the lake hoping to pick up a bird as it came back under the bridge. However, after roughly a half hour wait, I first saw a single loon, on the upstream side of the bridge, over near the Craig Road bridge.

This bird just “hung out’ in the area between the two bridges for about twenty minutes. It was not actively fishing, it did a bit of stretching at one point, but it really just hung around. Eventually, it headed over towards the far ‘shore’ where the nest is, but again, it just meandered about for another ten or fifteen minutes. Finally it headed over to the nest a climbed up.

I watched the bird on the nest for a half hour or so. It was attentive, looking around a lot, and was still on sitting on the nest when I packed up and headed home about 5:45 PM.

Given that the nest was left unoccupied for long intervals yesterday, it is probable that the birds have not yet laid any eggs.

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Hanging Out #2
Hanging Out #2
Heading to the Nest
Heading to the Nest
On the Nest
On the Nest
Hanging Out #1
Hanging Out #1
Stretching
Stretching

8 May 2021

The Loons Return for 2021

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Spring,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 11:15 AM

Stalwart readers will remember that 2020 was a year to be remembered in Gregg Lake loon-dom… we had the first loon chicks hatched and fledged in living memory.

The loons (presumably the same pair as last year) are back again this year!

On the first of April this year (2021), Joan observed a single loon on the lake during an early kayak excursion. A week later (8 April) she observed a pair of loons. About a week ago (on 2 May) we had the first report of nest building behavior and a day or two later we observed this ourselves.

Late yesterday afternoon, I packed up my camera gear into the truck and made the mile drive down to the bridge to see what was up. I spent a couple of hours observing the loons. Or, more precisely I spent about forty five minutes waiting for the loons to make an appearance and a bit more than an hour watching the loons. The weather was cool (upper forties) and there was a bit of a breeze. Thus the black flies were not an issue and I never donned the bug jacket I brought along.

I first spotted the pair swimming together on the main part of the lake. They dove in unison, swam under the bridge and headed for the far ‘shore’ where they nested last year. They spent a short time adding nest material to the site they used last year and one of the birds climbed up to try out the result. The pair then explored two other sites nearby. At one of these sites they began to make another nest and, again, one of the birds climbed up to test things out.

Eventually one of the birds headed back to the main part of the lake. The second individual spent a few more minutes working on the nest before it headed off for the main part of the lake as well.

Twice, while the loons were hanging out near the nascent nest site(s), I observed a behavior that I had not witnessed before. One of the birds appeared to jump out of the water and pounce on something. The water by the nest sites is much too shallow for a loon to dive. Thus, I wonder if it was pouncing in attempt to catch prey, much like a fox or similar animal does when hunting rodents in a grassy field. I captured this behavior in two photos made a fraction of a second apart.

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The Pair
The Pair
Nest Building #1
Nest Building #1
Nest Building #2
Nest Building #2
Testing It Out
Testing It Out
More Nest Building
More Nest Building
"Pouncing" Behavior #1
"Pouncing" Behavior #2
Stretching One's Wings
Stretching One's Wings

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
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