On May 27th, the Little Pine-Dream Island pair was in dire straits. Hounded by black flies, they could not stand to incubate their eggs for more than a few seconds. At the time of our visit, the female foraged a hundred meters north of the nest, having been relieved of incubation duties for the time being. It was the male’s turn to cover the eggs. We watched helplessly as he mounted the nest, settled on the eggs for a few seconds, and then retreated back into the lake, his nape thoroughly inflamed with bites of flies that still savaged him.
Yet even the short dives he made after leaving the nest did not help. Whether it was because the flies’ mouthparts were inserted too securely into his flesh or their six legs grasped too firmly to his feathers, the male failed to dislodge his tormentors as we looked on.
We did not linger on the ill-named Dream Island territory. Although both pair members are exceptionally tame, we did not wish to be an additional distraction to them during their struggles. As soon as we had freed our prop from a stubborn underwater snag, we departed.
Plagued by boat problems and poor weather, it was a full five weeks before we were able to return to the Dream Island territory. Kate and Emily were thrilled to locate the pair with two healthy 10-day-old chicks bobbing about in the light chop of Little Pine. Evidently this sweet pair had the toughness and determination to achieve an outcome that, five weeks ago, seemed a dream indeed.