As we expected from the early ice-out, nesting has begun a bit ahead of schedule. Linda’s photo shows “Clune”, a male hatched on Manson Lake in 1998, on a substantial nest mound in a marshy part of Muskellunge Lake. If all goes well for them, Clune and his mate (“Honey”) will alternate incubation duties for four weeks. Their reward will be 1 or 2 needy hatchlings that they will have to shield from the elements, protect from eagles and other loons, and feed tirelessly for three months. With luck, their efforts will yield two big, fat, sassy chicks, like those pictured here.
But they have a long way to go. May is the month when black flies emerge, bite loons mercilessly on the nest, and generally make them wish they had hands instead of wings. Al from West Horsehead reported today that the flies have driven the pair off of their egg for the time being. Since we know from experience that loons are loathe to abandon a nesting attempt, we hope that they will resume incubation shortly. (Surprisingly, eggs can hatch despite loons spending considerable time off the nest.)
I will return to Wisconsin in a few days myself to race around the study area and find what nests I can. I hope to find those nests by observing loons sitting peacefully on them, rather than thrashing about in the water nearby in a vain effort to rid themselves of their winged tormentors.