For The Love of Loons
As I have mentioned in my previous posts, I live on a lake in Minnesota with my parents which gives us some great nature watching opportunities. In the 4 years we have lived here, it is difficult not to take up nature watching, especially birding as we are a stopover during the yearly migrations.
In spring when the ice has melted just enough, the water birds start to migrate back to their summer homes, some will stay longer than others. In early spring this year for about two weeks we had small flocks of pelicans stop over for a few hours or even for the night. I've not been home much over the last couple years, nor would I have been awake early enough to see them, but this year I was lucky enough to see them! I never realized just how big they were until I saw them and as quickly as they show up, they are already gone. In late spring we would be invaded by families of Canada Geese, making a mess everywhere they went but visiting less frequently as they prepare for the journey south. However, of all the birds that migrate for winter, my favorite has to be the Loon.
If you were to go through my Instagram you would see Loons more than any other animal, but why is that? Well, there are two reasons: first is that they have a hauntingly beautiful call that can be heard at dawn and dusk and even in the middle of the night when they fly over. The second reason comes from the name, are they called Loons because they seem to act foolish or was it just an unfortunate name? Well, for how majestic they look in the water the same cannot be said for when they come out of the water. A Loon usually only leaves the water to go onto its nest or because they are injured, the reason behind this is due to the placement of their legs, they are so far back on their body that they can't actually walk, they drag themselves out of the water. The Loons are so secretive that I have never actually seen one drag itself out of the water, the only time I've actually ever seen their legs was while they are preening themselves and they "wave" their legs behind them.
Loons are also very territorial, normally only sharing space with their mate and chicks if they have any, however when it gets closer to migration the young ones tend to meet up. In recent weeks I have not seen any of the adults, I've only been seeing the young ones in groups of at least 8. A Loon pair will have 1-2 eggs, so our hope is that our Loon pair was able to successfully raise little ones for the first time since we've been here. A few weeks ago I went out on my kayak to watch the sunset and our Loons brought a group of young ones past, I then noted in front of me that another adult had popped up right up in front of me as if to say "Wait here a bit and look at the little ones." It was so wonderful to finally see little ones with them finally! In the last couple days I have come home from work in the morning to see a large group of young Loons right off the shore, I went out on the dock and they were right within a few feet of me. I however have not seen any of the adults in recent weeks, so it's possible they have already traveled south. It's hard to say why exactly our Loon pairs little ones haven't seemed to have made it in years past until this year, but my best guess would be our resident Bald Eagles or a fox.
A story came out a few months ago about a Bald Eagle that had been found dead in a lake in the state of Maine back in 2019. A game warden had been informed of the death; the bird was brought to a biologist to find out the manner of death thinking it may have been poisoned. It turns out that during tests they discovered that it had actually been killed in a very strange way; it had been stabbed in the heart by the beak of a Common Loon! It was also revealed that a dead Loon chick had been found nearby, suggesting the Eagle had found the Loons nest. In Maine, the Bald Eagle had been close to extinction for so long that something that may have been common place became an unusual sight because Eagles had been so rare. It is a reminder that even though a Loon may look beautiful, friendly and curious they can also be very protective. In my opinion, if being protective means raising little ones that grow up to be beautiful and majestic clumsy adult Loons, then being extremely territorial is worth it in the end.