Canadian photographer R. John Knight shares the stories behind some of his nature and wildlife images

Monday, September 13, 2010

Loony Images, Lac Le Jeune, June 2009

All of my previous attempts to get close to loons were foiled by uncooperative subjects. When I signed up for yet another attempt with John Timmis and John Marriott, my family joked about what had happened during family camping and canoeing trips in the past.

We stayed at the Lac Le Jeune Resort which is situated about 29 km southwest of Kamloops.  Resort operator, Derick MacDonald, an avid ‘birder’ and nature photographer, provided good advice about where to look for nests, and when to expect the eggs to hatch.

Poised for action, patiently waiting.
We anchored our electric powered boat about 4-5 m from a nest at the west end of the lake. Of the three known nests around the lake with nesting loons, this one had been the first to drop her two eggs about a month earlier. With our long lenses mounted on tripods, we sat patiently and waited for something to happen.

Female sitting on two eggs.
The female seemed unaffected by our presence. She sat quietly and occasionally shifted her position, just as we had to do in our little boat. Several times during the day, she stood, and moved the eggs. Now and then, the male took a turn on the nest, giving the female an opportunity for a break and to feed elsewhere.

After two days of silent watching, the female suddenly began to gently fidget and squirm. Moments later, out popped the small black head of the first chick. A short time later, the male arrived, having been beckoned by some silent signal.

Within minutes of being hatched, the chick took to the water. While the father fed the chick with small critters that he retrieved from underwater, the mother quickly disposed of the egg shell in the water to hide any scent that might attract predators. When the chick became tired, it swam onto the back of one of the adults and took a nap.

Mother feeding firstborn chick.
Getting sleepy.
Shortly after, the adults resumed their routine of sitting with the remaining egg. The firstborn chick stayed either with an adult on the water, or back up into the protection of the nest.

A day later, the second egg hatched. The events were much the same as the day before, but this time, there was a day-old chick already in the nest. The sibling rivalry started immediately. The first chick pecked on the head of the second chick, and for a while, easily pushed the second chick aside during feeding times.

With the hatching of the chicks, both adult loons yodeled in chorus, announcing the birth of their family to the world. They swam near our boat seemingly to show off their new family.

First ride on mother's back.

Cozy place to rest.
Relaxing and enjoying the view.
Two cruising around with the mother.
From this point, the parents focused their attention on the needs and protection of their family. They stayed together, but not far from the nest. The chicks swam, fed, slept, and got stronger. By the end of the day, the loons had disappeared into the cover of the reeds, away from the prying eyes of potential predators. The next day, we occasionally saw the loons in the distance as we photographed other birds around the margins of the lake.

What a week! I could never have imagined being able to sit that close to a nesting loon and watch the birth of a new family in nature.

Mother enjoying a quiet swim without the kids.

Web links:
  Lac Le Jeune ( 
  John Timmis  ( 
  John Marriott  (

    1 comment:

    1. These are remarkable photographs. Thank you for sharing your experience and helping us see what most of us will never have an opportunity to observe for ourselves.

      A very moving collection of images.