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2016 Loon Cam Highlights

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The loons finally abandoned their nest on July 12, 2016 after sitting on an inviable egg for 59 days (31 days past the expected hatched date). Thank you to everyone for tuning in this season. Click on the video below for some highlights.


2016 News

Watching the Grass Grow
Mon, Jul 11, 2016

It has gotten hard to tell if a loon is still on the nest, behind all the vegetation that has grown up in the last two months.  We did notice a loon climbing on to the nest at about 3:45 pm today (it was visible underwater as it approached!), but they appear to be off the nest more often now, as they approach 60 days of sitting.  We hope for their sake that they'll give up entirely, soon.   Viewers have asked whether the loons might be tending a second, viable egg, produced after the first one failed to hatch.  It's conceivable, but the odds are remote.  A field survey will be needed this week to get a better view of what's in the nest, and confirm that it has been abandoned. Or--shooting for the moon--a second egg.

 


Still Sticking.....
Mon, Jun 20, 2016

After 36 days, approaching 10 days past the expected hatch, the incubating loon pair continues to sit through temperatures in the mid-80s. This is hard work. Less than 3% of all nest attempts we’ve recorded over the past four decades have gone past the 5th week, like this one.  As we watch, and watch….and watch this loon pair, their stick-to-itiveness underscores an evolutionary tradeoff.  Their efforts at this point, for this nest attempt, are a costly mistake. But in the process of natural selection, the risks and energetic costs that would select against overincubation are, with each additional day, more and more clearly outweighed by all the advantages that come with an unyielding drive to tend the nest.


Sticking to a Nest
Thu, Jun 16, 2016

We’re now at 31 full days of incubation, and the chances that the single egg will hatch are low. Loons sometimes stick with a nest, or overincubate, long after the egg should have hatched. Most inviable eggs are abandoned in the first week after expected hatch, but some loon pairs overincubate for a month more.  A new record of 84 total days on the nest--eight weeks past the expected hatch date—was set last year by a pair on Squam Lake. 

Eggs that don’t hatch may have been inviable from the start, or may have been chilled, overheated, or otherwise compromised during incubation. Loon Preservation Committee field biologists collect confirmed inviable eggs for analysis and archiving, following a protocol under state and federal permits.  On average, about 10% of successful nests, where at least one egg hatches, yield a whole, unhatched second egg.  This gives some indication of how often eggs are inviable from the start, since we know the conditions were adequate for the second, successful egg in these nests.   Infertility, and failure of a fertilized egg to develop, may be influenced by the health and contaminant burden of the loon pair as the egg is formed, as well as the host of factors that can inhibit development once the egg is laid.  Protecting loons means understanding and preventing these factors where that can done.  But even when some factors, like environmental mercury, are clear problems in general, it’s usually impossible to pinpoint a single cause at particular nests.  So the unhatched egg we’re watching so closely on the webcam will likely remain an unsolved mystery.   We are rooting for these loons to move on soon to a second nest attempt, with better luck.  And remembering that the loons are in it for the long haul—this female loon has fledged nine chicks since she was originally banded in the late 1990s, already enough to assure her legacy in the gene pool.


Day 30
Mon, Jun 13, 2016

It’s Day 30 today and the loons are still sitting on the nest. We are watching the nest with growing concern that the single egg may not be viable. The average incubation period for loons is 28 days, but perhaps the chick needs a few extra days after the recent cold snap. Once the chick hatches it will likely spend hours afterward drying out on the nest and resting. You may see the adult loons remove the cream-colored egg membrane from the nest and drop it in the water, to keep the nest itself less visible. The chick is a tiny, black down puffball, weighing in at just over 100 grams (4 ounces) when it hatches, and gaining 40 grams (over an ounce) a day.  It can triple its weight in the first week on a steady diet of minnows, leeches, and other aquatic invertebrates.  This will be the most vulnerable time in the loon chick’s life. As they leave the nest for good a day or so after the egg hatches, the parental focus of the adult loons will shift to the brooding area, in a quiet cove on the main part of the pond, but will require just as much energy and attention as the last four weeks.


The Home Stretch
Sat, Jun 04, 2016

Our webcam loons have been nesting for almost three weeks, with only one week to go before hatching is expected on June 11.  In the day or two leading up to the hatch, the chick inside the egg will start peeping—making noises that the adult loon on the nest can hear.  Check out this description of a Whooping Crane egg’s development for an exciting look at what goes on inside the egg as it approaches hatching: https://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/crane/VisualizeEgg.html. As the loon chick continues to develop in this final week it is more sensitive to fluctuations in temperature than it was in the early stages of incubation, and the adults are thought to be more committed to the nest.  They will continue to attend it carefully, and are less likely to leave the nest if a threat comes near.  With every hot day we watch the incubating adult loons pant, and speculate about how much heat stress they can tolerate.  The immediate forecast calls for 1-2 inches (3-5 cm) of rain  tomorrow evening and into Monday, another potential nest hazard.  On its elevated mound this nest should be safe from flooding, but managers who regulate the nearby dam have been enlisted to watch closely and let more water out if needed, to offset any extreme rise. Usually, nest flooding is considered a real risk if the lake rises by 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) or more.


Heat wave!
Thu, May 26, 2016

The second week of nesting has been hot! Temperatures are forecast to be in the mid-80’s on Saturday, and topped out at 86 F on Wednesday in nearby Laconia, NH.  As the mercury rises above 70-75 F, you will see the loon pant, breathing with an open bill to cool off.  Sitting in the blazing sun in a black, waterproof, down parka for hours and days on end...you'd be panting, too! On the hottest summer days, loons may leave the nest more often for relief from the heat, exposing the eggs to overheating or predation.  It seems likely that heat stress, especially while incubating, may be part of the reason why loons do not breed much farther south than New Hampshire. Preliminary analyses have found that over the Loon Preservation Committee's 40-year monitoring period, higher average breeding season temperatures are correlated with lower nesting success in the southern half of the state, where we would expect heat waves to be a bigger factor.  Using cameras and temperature loggers, LPC is tracking the potential impact of heat waves like the one this week on nesting loons. Should we be starting to add a solar-powered fan to each of our nest rafts? Only time will tell, although some loon watchers are already experimenting. In the meantime, send a cool breeze to these loons, and hope that they can beat the odds, beat the heat, and outlast the black flies, which haven't disappeared yet, either!

 

 


Changing of the Guard
Tue, May 24, 2016

Incubation duties are shared almost equally between male and female loons.  A nest exchange takes place every 4-6 hours, on average.  If you are lucky enough to catch a nest exchange on the webcam, take a look at the bands on their legs to see if you are looking at the male or female!


Why did the loon lower its head over the nest?
Sun, May 22, 2016

A loon will lower its head and neck over the nest when it feels threatened.  Yesterday late in the day a viewer noticed the loon was in this position because a boat was in the area. This position indicates the loon may flush from the
nest and leave the eggs to overheat, chill, or be taken by a predator. If you come across a loon in this position, please back away quickly!


Day Five
Fri, May 20, 2016

The black flies continue....and viewers have noticed an injury or damage to feathers on the left side of the male loon's head.  This might indeed have resulted from earlier scuffles with a rival loon, visible on camera at the beginning of the week. The loon on the nest now, mid-afternoon on Friday, is likely the male loon. Although both pair members share incubation duties, behavioral studies have found that the female loon is more likely to have the night shift.  Interestingly, the male loon's share of incubation duty peaks in the first half of the nesting period, after the egg(s) are deposited.  This gives the female more time to forage and recoup the energy spent on producing eggs.  Later in the incubation, she may take on more nest sitting.


Battle of the Black Flies: Day Four
Thu, May 19, 2016

This morning the black flies continue to crawl and swarm on the nesting loon. This nuisance can be enough to cause nest abandonment, and there is actually a black fly species (Similium annulus) that targets loons. Yesterday it looked at one point like there might be a second egg. If you've been watching at just the right time and gotten a convincing view of two or one in the deep nest bowl, let us know!


The Nesting Pair

In 2015, this loon pair hatched and fledged one chick. The first egg was laid on May 15, so after a 28 day incubation period we expect to see a chick around June 11, if all goes well. This year, we seem to be off to an earlier start with a few loons already on nests as of May 9. The peak of nest initiation in New Hampshire usually occurs around the first week of June (see About Loon's Family and Social Life for more information). The incubation duties are shared between both loons, and you may see a nest switch if you happen to be watching at the right time. Nesting loons face many challenges, from raccoons to flooded nests, with successful hatches at fewer than 60% of all nest attempts.

Both adult loons are marked with color bands on their legs.  The female loon of this pair has been breeding here on this pond since she was originally banded in 1998.  Since the earliest known breeding age for loons is 4 years and the average age at first breeding in New Hampshire is 6 years, she is at least 22 years old, but most likely 24 years or older! She has an orange band on her left leg and blue and silver bands on her right leg. The male loon was banded for the first time in 2014.  He has red and green bands on his left leg and white and silver bands on his right leg. The bands may be visible as the loons climb on and off the nest or turn their eggs. 

The Camera Project

The live video image on this page comes from a high-definition Axis P5534E pan-tilt-zoom camera with night-time infrared illumination. Conventional power and Internet service are supplied from a nearby residence. A single video stream is fed to a distribution service, which can support hundreds of simultaneous viewers. The webcam is funded through donations to the Loon Preservation Committee's Loon Recovery Plan.  Please click here (link to http://www.loon.org/donation-form.php) to contribute to these efforts.

Acknowledgements

Funding for the loon cam project is made possible by LPC's Loon Recovery Plan.  Technical expertise and support has been provided in 2016 by Bill Gassman (www.linkedin.com/in/billgassman), bringing many improvements to the project. Thanks, Bill! Streaming services and web hosting in 2016 are provided by Brown Rice Internet.  The camera installation would not have been possible without the generous permission of an anonymous property owner. 

Loon Cam FAQ

When will the eggs hatch?

The first egg was laid the evening of May 15 so we expect to see a chick around June 11 if all goes well.

How does the loon cam work?

The camera is mounted to a wooden post that is driven into the bottom of the pond.  An Ethernet cable supplies power and an internet connection to the camera, and runs underwater to a residence, where the router and cable internet connection are located.  A single video stream runs 24x7, over the internet to a broadcast service.  The service converts the stream into several formats, so that Windows, Apple and Android users can all see the picture.  With this design, hundreds can view the video feed at the same time. 

Can I see the archived videos

Time-lapse photos are recorded every 10 seconds and video clips recorded on occasion.  Edited videos are occasionally published on the Loon Preservation Committee YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/loonorgnh.

Is there a Twitter hash tag to alert people to special events

Yes.  We are experimenting with Twitter this year and encourage loon cam viewers to Tweet special events that they see on the video feed to the #looncam hashtag.  Our Twitter name is @looncamlpc

Why is there a timeout set on the video?  I have to keep restarting it.   

While the uploaded video stream runs 24x7, the downloaded streams times out after a while, to ensure that people don't leave the stream running in the background.  We will occasionally readjust the timeout period based on the average viewer time.

Where is the loon cam located?

For privacy of the loons and the gracious people that allow placement of the looncam, the location is unidentified.  It is in New Hampshire, within an hour's drive of The Loon Center. 

Can I donate to the operation of the loon cam?

Please use the donate button on the loon cam page and direct your donation to the Loon Recovery Plan, which funds the project.  The cost to bring you the webcam this year is about $1000.  We could use a faster camera with higher resolution, so donations are especially welcome and will be put to good use.  Thank you! 

How do I control the view?

Click on the control icon under the picture, which usually shows within 15 seconds after starting your video stream.  Use the drop-down menu to pick the view that you want to see.  You have control for 30 seconds, then it switches to another user if one is in the queue.  Android users won't see the control screen.  At times, public control is disabled so that loon cam staff can track special events.

Can I make the picture bigger

Windows and IOS users can use the full-screen icon below the picture.  On Windows, use the ESC key to return to normal.

Can you turn the sound up?  I can barely hear it.

The camera's microphone is very sensitive and is set low to provide some natural sounds while protecting neighbor's privacy.  The mechanical sounds that you are occasionally hearing are from the electronics in the camera and can't be eliminated. 

Why is the picture jerky

 Bandwidth is the main cause, although the feed also pauses while changing scenes.  The camera sends high resolution video, which requires a lot of internet bandwidth.  At full speed, it can consume over 20 Mbps.  We've chosen settings that balance frame rate with clarity, capping bandwidth use at 5 Mbps.  When there is a lot of movement, bandwidth requirements rise, exceeding our limit and dropping video frames.  This causes small pauses, or jitter.  While 2 Mbps download speed is sufficient most of the time, you may see localized jitter if your internet connection or WiFi throughput is below 5 Mbps.   

I can't get the video to work on my Kindle Fire. 

This problem has been reported, but it is unlikely it will work this year. 

Who do I contact if I have a problem or question?

For technical questions or problems, send email to looncam@loon.org 

For other questions, contact volunteers@loon.org