Lean On Me

For about a week the female loon will let her chicks ride on her back when they are tired. The chick is tired because this has been the biggest day of the it's life... it's the first day, so it's been the only day of it's life!

This was a difficult image on a couple levels. It took about 3 weeks to get the adults acclimated to me. Common loons are very shy birds. It's possible that they might abandon a chick if they feel threatened, so I needed to let them get used to me before the chick hatched. I start out by paddling no closer that 100 feet to the nest. The male would swim over and check me out, then after a short while I would leave. Two days later I returned and got a little closer, the male checked me out, and I would  spend a little more time, and leave again. This went on until the loons knew that I was not threat.

Finally one morning I came and instead of seeing the female on the nest I saw a broken egg. At first I was concerned that a raccoon might have raided the nest. But out on the water I could see a tiny spot bobbing up and down. As I got closer I would see that it was the chick!

I started from a distance, making sure that the mother was not bothered by me. It was a very windy morning and before long the chick was on Mom's back. I would paddle parallel to the birds and up wind. Hand holding a 400mm lens I let the wind blow me backwards and photographed as I drifted by. Once I was past I would switch camera for paddle, head back up wind, and do it all again. 

This let me stay in good shooting range without ever getting in the path of the loons. I made several hundred images that morning, including some of the male bringing in tiny fish and feeding the chick, and the chick scooting back up Mom's back.

 I like this photo because of the sweet care of the mom, the sharp details on the loons, and also the lily pads in the background. There is also a personal appeal here too because I know that I really worked hard to gain the trust of these birds, and it is still paying off with loons accepting my presence there many years later.
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