2016 Loon Watch: The Last Visit

My Summer With The Loons: Lazy Fall Days

Once school started, I didn’t get out on the lake as often.  But when I did, the fall foliage views were amazing!

I never knew where the loon family would be. Sometimes they were right off our point, fishing around the docks. Sometimes they were down by the State Park beach. Or over in the cove.

The lake was quieter now. As was my campground and the State Park.  And every time I went out to see my loons I wondered if it would be the last time.

The adult loons look a little different in September and October.

They’re losing their black and white feathers, and growing in stronger, warmer gray feathers to help them winter on the ocean water. Remember, they stay on the ocean water, until the next nesting season – through snow storms and ice storms and winter winds.

And even now, when the chick can feed itself, the parents still brought fish to it now and again.

Look!  The chick is as big as its parents, too!

The adults have taught it all it needs to know, in a much shorter time than other loon families, who’s chick was born a month early. They’ll fly separately to their winter home, the adult leaving first. The chick following several days later.

One day, in early October, with the warm Fall breezes and the late afternoon sun, I watched the adult catch a large fish while the chick was off diving and preening.

It dunked the fish, turned it and dunked it again. At first, I thought the loon was trying to attract the chick to eat it.

But the chick never came. So then I wondered if it would eat it itself. Loons turn fish so they can swallow them head first.

And whole.

But it never did. I’m pretty sure it let it go.

Strange. This time, the behavior escaped me.  Has your Mom or Dad ever told you to stop playing with your food?  Maybe it was something like that.

As I said goodbye to these loons . . .

Little did I know that it would be the last time I’d see them.

I learned a lot from this loon family, from the first failed nesting attempt, to this last playing-with-food behavior. I learned that loon adults care for their chicks. They feed them, protect them, and teach them. Not unlike our parents do for us.

I learned that being out on the lake at 6 in the morning helps feed my soul. The quietness was like deep meditation, calming my thoughts and freeing my mind during the busiest time of my year.

This was an incredible experience, and one I’ll carry in my heart for a very long time.

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