Looking back on my favorite loon pix from the two families I followed in 2021. A little late for the end of the year, but close enough for government work.
Both families were in the Upper Connecticut River Valley area. Sorry, I learned the hard way not to post exactly where. One family hatched two chicks, the other family only one. All the chicks survived until the end of the season.
Here's our family with two chicks. The chicks have hatched over the previous two days and have yet to venture away from the nest. They've gone into the water a little ways when the parent swimming brought them food, then returned to the nest. (I never determined which loon was which parent. The loon on the nest was banded, but even when it was in hand, the experts couldn't tell. For my story, I've decided she was mom.) Shortly after this image was taken, the family set out from the nest, never to return.
The chicks rapidly took advantage of the parent's offer to ride.
Here are the chicks at four and five days old. They've already roughly doubled in size.
The parents on this pond were partial to crayfish and many of the chick's meals were crayfish. This pond is relatively shallow overall. I wonder if the shallow water made crayfish easier to find, or if they were more plentiful than fish.
Not much life from the wings yet. Our four or five day old chick is stretching.
Our chicks settling in for a rest. The little guy under the wing makes this shot.
We're at ten and eleven days old. The chicks seem to be talking things over. There's no family cooperation with chicks, the world is every chick for himself.
Something about me must have appeared interesting. This chick approached the boat to see what I was up to.
We're just stretching. But, we look very happy about it!
I keep an eye out for the other residents of the loon's ponds. This is Hank Heron, found early one morning when I went to check on the loons.
A nice portrait of the banded adult and the chicks just over one month old.
A big trout for a little bird.
Still no lift from the wings, just another stretch.
The chicks learn to forage on their own fairly quickly. The adults will feed them all summer, but after the parents leave (before the chicks), they're on their own. This little one is still learning what is edible and what isn't.
This is one of the parents from our other family (Dad, I think) stretching.
An eagle made several passes over the loon's pond one morning. The parents herded the chicks close to my boat for protection. The chicks flatten out in the water to make themselves hard to see. After all was clear, this guy stretched before getting back to feeding.
There was a pair of Canada geese on the pond with a gosling. Mostly, the loons and geese ignored each other. But a couple times, the loons suggested to the geese that they should go elsewhere. Our adult loon has just surfaced near the goose family and explains the benefits of going away.
Adolescent chicks will poke and nibble at the adults - usually around the neck - when they want to be fed. Which seems to be most of the time they're not sleeping. Here, our 'teenage' chick has grabbed the feather's on a parent's neck to say it is time to eat.
The one chick from our second family stretching, at about eight weeks.
Back to our two chick family and another meal of crayfish.
The last time I saw our two chicks. They're big enough now that their wings are working. The chicks made several short flights across the pond. By the time I had a chance to get back to the pond, the family had moved on. Most likely, they winter in the Atlantic off the coast of New England. The adults are likely to return to their pond in the spring. The chicks will spend three years in the ocean before coming back inland to try to find a mate and a pond to call their own.