Lake Vermilion’s Loons are back in spite of Storms and High Water

Lake Vermilion, Minnesota — The high water levels and pummeling storm systems have slowed down just about everything on Lake Vermilion this May and June, but the loons that migrate from the Gulf Coast or southeast Atlantic states have made it back. Our favorite loon family is back too! The female is now sitting on her nest on a small peninsula, with the male taking turns. Watch them any time of the day on our VLA Live LoonCam. Or listen to them call out to each other after sunset. 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.

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Loon Chicks Hatch, Learn How to Swim – June 23, 2022

It’s amazing–only two hours after hatching, Lake Vermilion’s newest loon chicks were being taught how to swim and eat a healthy “lake lunch.” The older one took to the water quickly, but the younger one wasn’t quite so brave! See the drama-filled first few hours of the loon family’s new life together in this special video from the Vermilion Lake Association.

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Loons Scare Away Animal Threatening Nest – June 20, 2022

An animal lurking in the bushes near our loon nest was scared off about 8:50 a.m. Monday. The loons roared to action, screaming and standing on the water flapping wings, chasing the creature away. It came back minutes later and the frantic commotion unfolded all over again. Watch the video. Look in the bushes on the left side of the screen. Was it a skunk? Raccoon? Bear? Bobcat?

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Out of the Water and Back to Work – June 19, 2022

It was a year ago–on Father’s Day 2021–that our loons left the nest and we were chagrined that we missed the hatching of the two eggs. Then we were able to get a few shots of the chicks in the days that followed. This year we hope we’re better prepared for the big moment. Our Axis M1137 camera is on a post in the lake and better positioned this year. Hoping to see some magic in the days ahead. Happy Father’s Day from the loon watchers of Lake Vermilion!

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Loon Nest Mystery – How Many Eggs? – June 16, 2022

Two days after the Lake Vermilion loons were terrorized by a bald eagle rampaging through their nest, they were again carefully sitting on their egg or eggs on the nest built on a small peninsula. Look carefully. You might see the Dad Loon plop down on one egg, then realize that a second egg was off to the left behind him. See how he handles it.

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Shift Change for Mom & Dad Loon – June 15, 2022

Mom and Dad Loon have been taking turns sitting on the eggs in the nest they built on a small peninsula of Lake Vermilion. It’s in an area with a half dozen homes and cabins and lots of boat traffic. But to them, it’s “home.” It’s fun to watch them interact as they do their nest shift change. This video clip is from a few minutes past 7 a.m. on June 15.

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Eagle Attacks Loon Nest – June 13, 2022

An eagle attacked the Vermilion Lake Association’s loon nest on 6/13/22–driving off the loons and rampaging through their nest. The good news is that the loon is back on their nest… so perhaps the eagle was scared off by a neighbor mowing his lawn.
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Highlights of Loon Nest Cam from 2021 below:

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

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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/.