Story: Eric Christopher Adams | Photos: Loren Holmes
The loons have landed. And a herd of humans are preparing.
Each spring, Jean Tam and other dedicated naturalists set the stage for Anchorage's very own "Truman Show" style reality TV. Except instead of watching a kid grow from boyhood to adult, thousands of people from across Alaska and the world tune in to her Alaska Loon Cam -- and over the course of an Alaska summer they'll observe in real time the mating ritual, breeding and rearing of a new clutch of baby birds.
If all goes well, the babies will grow up on Connors Lake, learning how to feed, fly, takeoff and land. The family will leave sometime toward the end of one long Alaska summer.
MORE: Alaska Loon Cam updates on Twitter
Last weekend, Tam and other members of the Anchorage Audubon Society were out at Connors Lake yet again, putting finishing touches on a manmade island that's decked out with a surveillance camera, a protective tent-like structure and a nest for the loons. For nine years, a female Pacific loon has returned to this floating refuge Tam provides on Connors Lake. She arrived Monday afternoon, Tam said. The male loons arrived shortly before she did, though, and challenge each other for primacy on the lake.
The male who wins gets "alpha male" status, according to Beth Peluso of the Alaska Audubon. And the champion will mate with the female, who's identifiable by a metal band placed on her in 2003 by a group of wildlife biologists.
Most years, a clutch of eggs is on the nest in early summer. Loon predators like bald eagles cannot see the eggs because of the covered structure. This offers the loons a leg-up on other migratory birds returning to the Last Frontier each year to procreate and continue the circle of life.
Alaska Dispatch will once again join Anchorage Audubon Society and the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology NestCams project to bring 24/7 coverage of the loons to conservationists and bird-lovers around the world. We'll watch the loons with you, blog about the goings-on at Connors Lake and offer updates from the nest on Twitter.
Expect the loon cam to go live in the days to come.
About Alaska's Pacific loons
- The incubation period for Pacific loons is about a month
- There are five species of loons in Alaska
- Pacific loons are birds of the North, populous in northern North America and mating on land in the summer climates of Alaska and Canada.
- Read much more about Pacific loons at the Cornell Ornithology website, which offers information on the natural aspects of a bird's life cycle.