Date Night and the Joy of Loons and Bears - UPDATE June 3, 2019

The excitement continues. Saturday’s Date Night was going to be sitting quietly on the pontoon boat near the beaver lodge in our bay where our Samantha's cubSamantha's cubneighbor recently saw five beavers at once, plus two otters and two muskrats on different days. While we waited, two loons swam by without diving for food and went near the shore. Some years back a pair of loons nested on that shore, Samantha's cubSamantha's cuband this is the time of year they often begin their nests. We motored slowly out to watch them with binoculars and a 540 mm camera lens. They took over the show with behaviors I’ve never seen before. One of them, I presume the female, crawled up on a flat dark mound and lay there with the male nearby. She grabbed dark gobs of rotting vegetation from the edge of it and tucked them around her. The male dove and came up with similar material from the lake bottom and swam them to her. Then the female had a change of mind. She left that spot that was barely out of the water and climbed up on a green sedge mound. It looked too narrow to hold a nest. She soon abandoned that one and tried another mound (photo), but that one looked too small to us, too. That all took about 40 minutes, and they swam out of the bay. No furry animals had shown, so Donna suggested we check another beaver lodge where we had watched beavers tow an aspen sapling to be part of their winter food cache adjacent to the lodge. On the way, we gave the loon pair a wide berth and saw that another loon had joined the pair without strife. We didn’t understand what was going on, but after a few minutes, the third loon calmly swam away from them. On to the old lodge that now looks unused with grass or sedge growing on it—nothing like the brown mud-covered lodge that has developed in our bay in the last few years. We motored the mile and a quarter back to our dock and saw the loons still near our bay but not climbing up and testing potential nest spots. We called it a day.

The next morning, at dawn, I drove down to the lake and dock and scanned the shore with binoculars. There they were, loafing a foot apart by the shore, but not gathering nesting material. Another surprise was coming, though.

Loon nestLoon nest Loon with nesting materialLoon with nesting material LoonsLoons

At the WRI cabin, there was Samantha with her four new cubs—the first I’d seen the cubs there. Samantha saw my pickup coming and ran for a big white pine where she’d left them and they scrambled high into the crown. Then it was just me as usual and she calmed down. The cubs walked out on branches, exploring this tree they’d probably never seen before. One sat quietly on a branch as I clicked from the third floor of the WRI cabin. With its dear eyes, it looked so vulnerable and sweet. It has a faint ¾ V on its chest. I look forward to seeing this cub and the others grow through the summer. Samantha is many people’s all time favorite bear. Different bears capture the hearts of different people. The neighborhood is also looking forward to seeing Lily and other potential mothers. I forgot to mention Ursula as a potential mother in the update a few nights ago.

SamanthaSamantha Samanthas cubSamantha's cub 20190603 Samantha 220190603 Samantha 2

A report from another feeder is that three of the females that were getting big attention from males are now being left calmly alone. Mating is probably over for them. One of them had split from her single yearling a couple days ago and walked off with a male. Now, alone again, she is back with her yearling. Family breakup happens in so many ways. We’ll see what happens next with them.

Thank you for all you do.
Lynn Rogers, Biologist, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center.