Check out these beautiful photos taken a few days ago by Sue Ann Poskie near Rhinelander. As you can see, the 4 week-old chick that we banded on Thunder Lake on 20 July is healthy and in good feather. You might recall from my posts on 2 August and 28 August that this chick has had a colorful history. Against all reason, this youngster passed under the bridge separating her natal lake from Boom Lake and blundered into the Boom-Hodag loon pair and their two much larger chicks. When she tried to join this family, she was initially picked on by her hefty step-siblings. However, after a period of following the family at a respectful distance, she eventually gained acceptance and was fed by the adults. Despite the untraditional upbringing, she has matured normally and will soon depart for Florida with the 2013 cohort of juveniles.
“She” you are asking? Why “she”? We know the Thunder chick is a female, because Amy McMillan, a collaborator, has sexed most of the chicks we captured in 2013 from the tiny drops of blood we sent her. Knowing the sex of these juveniles will help us learn from their local movements this fall and also interpret their territory settlement patterns when they return to the breeding ground, in adult plumage, in 2-6 years.