Loon Chronicles V: Almost ready to fly

The chicks continue to amaze us with their growth and hilarious antics. The chicks’ fluffy “baby feathers” have been replaced with well-defined brown and cream colored flight feathers. Their emerging white chests make it easier to spot them in the waves. Our sunrise visits have become more challenging because the chicks are traveling longer distances and often will explore new sections of the lake on their own. We had a few unsuccessful trips without a chick in sight, after scouting the entire lake. Fortunately, the chicks have attained celebrity status and Loon lovers, all around the lake, have been keeping us posted. We thank our newest Loon family fan, Kirsten, for sending us a video of the chicks at play on one of the days we went without a sighting. The parents continue to deliver fish, which keep getting bigger, but also leave the chicks to fend for themselves to develop their own fishing and diving skills. The chicks are slowly mastering the skill of turning the fish, head first in their bills, before swallowing to avoid internal tearing from sharp fins. Watching the chicks’ necks expand, while swallowing the squirming fish, is something else. After successfully receiving and swallowing a fish, the chicks often will vie for their parents’ approval and affection by circling and trying to hug their parents’ necks. The moment is fleeting, because the parents like to keep moving. After fishing on their own, the chicks always find their way back to each other and greet each other by pulling and pecking at each other’s feathers and getting in each other’s “face”.  If the Loon family stays on schedule, flying lessons should get underway this week. 

— Ellen Maas

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