Banner day today!
Finally was able to take the boat out yesterday before sunset to look to see if Sven and Helga, my friendly family of loons, had returned to the lake. I was pleasantly surprised to come upon a family, that I at first wasn't so certain was Sven and Helga, and a new chick, very well hidden under daddy's wing. I wasn't certain it was Sven and Helga because of their initial response to my approach and their behaviors were different from last year. Last year, only Helga carried the baby chick and last night, the larger male was carrying the chick. I knew it wasn't Helga carrying the baby, but was pretty certain it WAS Helga that popped up next to the drivers seat, looked me up and down for about 30 seconds before going under only to pop up about 50 feet from where the parent and chick were (leaving my boat between them). This in itself would be unusual behavior for the parent to separate from the other parent with such a young chick on its back with humans nearby (I'm estimating this chick at 2 weeks old). However, last year, multiple times the parents left me with the chick and would frequently go diving for fish while just I and the chick (Fritz) stayed topside. Several times last evening while photographing them, they both would start to cry out, and I thought perhaps I'd gotten too close, only to realize an eagle went overhead - twice. They get very defensive and protective whenever the eagles go over, and for good reason. Anyway...last night after photographing them I returned to the cottage to download the images and to compare them to last year. At that point I thought for certain that the one was Helga, but still couldn't quite be certain the other one was Sven.
This morning after it rained, around 11am, I went out again and this time, the chick was riding on Helga's back. The lighting this morning was a little more flat but much easier to distinguish the markings and shape of their beaks and it was definitely Sven. After about ten minutes of shooting, Helga lifted up and fanned her wings, dumping the baby off her back! Such tough love! Anyway, it swam around Sven for a few minutes while Helga cleaned herself, fanned herself and then went fishing for the baby's lunch. Meanwhile, the baby eventually crawled onto Sven's back, waiting for the lunch wagon to return. Throughout the time I was shooting them, they moved closer and closer to the boat and at one point both parents went under water to fish while I looked after the chick. I did yell at them for leaving me to babysit while the baby was so young (last year they didn't leave me to sit until little Fritz was about 6 weeks old), but it's nice to know they trust me to take care of it.
I'm so happy they've come back...it is typical of loons to return to the same lake, year after year. Fritz will be in the south or east coast for another 2 years before he comes back, hopefully to one of the other coves or lakes in the area. Now, what to name this baby...