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The Chik-Wauk Bay Loons

Since before Chik-Wauk opened for the season, a loon couple have been making a splash in the museum’s bay.

Chik-Wauk volunteer extraordinaire Phyllis Sherman donated a loon nesting platform to the museum this spring. After covering the PVC pipe platform with native plant debris and mud, volunteers anchored the platform in Chik-Wauk’s bay.

Within a week a loon couple had claimed the nest, laying their first eggs of the season on May 26. The loons incubated the eggs for eleven days, but when the black flies drove the loon off the nest, a circling eagle ceased his opportunity and destroyed the eggs. After two weeks of mourning and construction work around the nest, the loons lay their second clutch of eggs on June 18. During the nesting interim, volunteers placed vertical sticks around the nest’s edge to dissuade the eagles from a second attack.

Loons typically lay 2 eggs, but sometimes one and very rarely, three. We’ve seen at least one egg tucked in the nest. The loons take turns sitting on the nest and because male and female loons look almost identical, although male loons are usually a little larger, it’s basically impossible to tell if Mama or Papa is sitting on the nest.

We are hopeful for a  happier ending for our loon couple this time. Loons incubate their eggs for 27-30 days before the chicks hatch. After hatching, the chicks still have to overcome many obstacles, like the gigantic snapping turtle who likes to sun itself on a large rock in the bay, before reaching maturity.  The chicks are about 11 weeks old when they learn to fly.  If our loon couple welcomes a new addition (or two) in a couple weeks, they’ll have to work hard to keep their little one safe and make sure the chick(s) are strong enough to make the long flight south this fall before the lakes freeze.

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