A Loon Family’s Home on Lake Vermilion
Lake Vermilion, Minnesota — More than 200 loons are making their summer home on our lake, returning to build nests and bring chicks into the world. During May and June, we were able to watch and listen live to the daily life of one loon family on our very own VLA Live LoonCam. In late June, the eggs hatched and two loon baby chicks came into the world! In a matter of days, the adult male and female loon took the babies out to teach them how to swim, to hunt for food in the waters nearby, and to survive on their own. Click on the window to connect with VLA’s own YouTube Channel to watch highlights of their last days in the small bay where they built the nest.
Vigilant, Secretive, on High Alert for Danger—our Mom and Dad Loon successfully hatch two chicks
Lake Vermilion, Minnesota – The humans watching for any loon nest-building activity in their small bay in early May worried that something terrible had happened to the pair of loons that had come back year after year. They just didn’t show up.
But then, the female loon was there one day, building a nest in the grassy area near the point. Loons can’t walk easily on land because of how far back their legs are on their bodies, so they always stay within feet of the water’s edge to be able to escape danger. Soon the adult female was there every day, sitting on her carefully-built nest. She would constantly sweep the sky, trees and water, on high alert for trouble from anywhere.
And she would take turns on the nest with her mate, who we eventually spotted on the scene. It’s really difficult to tell the female and male apart, but we figured out there were indeed two of them there, after they started appearing together.
During the afternoon of June 9, when they had both gone to the bay for a swim and probably to hunt for food, we were able to spot two eggs in the nest on our live loon cam.
There are frequent visitors to the loons’ quiet neighborhood. A family of ducks lives nearby. More than one Great Blue Heron would swoop in each day to hunt for food in the small bay near the nest, moving stealthily along the shoreline.
Because of the bandwidth limitations and the distance of our Axis M-1137E camera to the nest, the manual focus was tricky and the depth of field really tight. But we got a few good looks at the pair working hard on their prime mission—to bring two new chicks into the world. A number of us were monitoring the live camera from afar via the Internet, as we were live streaming the shot to the VLA’s YouTube Channel. Because of limited WiFi bandwidth for uploading the signal, we could only send out a small portion of the camera’s sophisticated image quality. If more bandwidth becomes available, it would really help us deliver a better sharper image.
Over the Father’s Day weekend, just as rain and storms hit Lake Vermilion, the loons both disappeared from our camera vantage point. A couple of days later, we were able to spot them with two little loon chicks.
Since they are no longer spending any time at the nest, we’ve pulled the camera out of the bay for the season. But before that happened, during the last week of June, we recorded many hours of video so that we could create a video we’re calling “The Little Loons Learn to Survive” –it’s a closer look at their daily routine nearby and the threats they face. About eleven weeks from hatching, the parents will leave the little ones to try to make it on their own.
— Noel and Chris Sederstrom, VLA Volunteers
In March, 2021, the Vermilion Lake Association launched a team to design and build a live camera system that could stream a live view of a loon’s nest during the summer months to our website and to YouTube, also creating content for our Facebook friends. Thanks to our members whose annual dues paid for the equipment, and to Access Broadband of Virginia, MN, for the WiFi service that makes this possible. It’s our intent to keep the location of the live LoonCam unidentified to protect the privacy of the loon family and their human neighbors.
For more information on our loon population and loon stewardship, please visit https://www.vermilionlakeassociation.org/other-programs/loon-information/.