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Know the signs - this is a loon's unstressed pose. (Steve Maanum / For the Enterprise)

Leaving waterfowl nests undisturbed

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The soft green of the aspens is bringing color to the surrounding woodlands and the marsh marigolds are painting the lowlands. Signs of spring are all around us. Owls and eagles are hatching out while loons are just beginning to lay their eggs.

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If you have never watched an adult eagle feed its newborn eaglets, go to wildearth.tv and click on Hornby eagle camera. As of Monday, one egg had hatched and the other will probably hatch within a few days. The eaglets will be fed by their parents and will remain in their nest for several weeks.

Our lakes are going to be seeing a huge increase in boat traffic over the coming days. With the walleye opener one week away, the area businesses are hoping for a great kick-off to the summer tourist season. As the fishing enthusiasts hit the water, they are going to be greeted with the sights and sounds of a variety of our area's wildlife. It won't be uncommon to see ducks flying by, swans or geese swimming in the shallows, eagles perched on a branch or soaring above, a deer coming to water's edge to drink, a great blue heron stalking its prey, or loons on nests.

The fishing opener coincides with nesting season and although it's interesting to see a goose, swan, or loon incubating eggs and it might be tempting to move in close for a photograph or video footage, please use caution and common sense. Watch for signs of stress on animals and when you notice that behavior, heed the signs and back off.

One of the first indicators is the posture while sitting on the nest. A loon, swan, or goose will typically sit upright. That's what you might see from a distance. As you get closer, the bird may begin to flatten out in an attempt to go un-noticed. That's the first sign of stress. If you still continue to move closer, they may abruptly leave the nest, exposing their eggs to avian predators such as ravens and gulls. Their mate may even come running across the water in your direction to help defend the nesting site. These are red flags meaning, "Get out of the area."

In our anxiousness and excitement to get a photo, we don't think of the consequences. We tend to excuse our actions by convincing ourselves that after we get those award-winning photos and leave, everything will get back to normal. The bird will go back to incubating and all will be fine with the world. That reasoning, although never justified, might hold a hint of truth if there were no other people on the lake, but what usually happens is that shortly after you leave, someone else will notice the nest and repeat your actions.

Disturbance, such as this, can cause the birds to abandon their nest. Observe and enjoy wildlife and even take photos, but respect the welfare of your photo subject and know when to back off.

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