ARTISTS AND BIRDS
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The Loneliest Sound

Common Loon

        What is the loneliest sound you ever heard in the wilderness? It is probably the call of the Loon, and who doesn’t love to hear it? On a vacation trip with our children, we went to Loon Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada. We stayed in a cabin next to the lake and what an experience to be so far north that we saw the glow of the northern lights, and heard the call of the lonely Loons.loon

        It was a treat to see and hear the Common Loon. Our family spent a good part of daylight in and around the water of the lake. The lake was filled with Loons, and they didn't let one human interfere with their daily routine of fishing, nesting, and enjoying the breeding season. What a vacation for us! Green lights in the skies, the haunting call of the Loon, and the crisp cool nights of a Canadian summer. Great memories to be recalled often. Hopefully you will have memories like mine in your life.

        The Loon is a superbly designed fisherman. Sharp, rapier-like bill, slender long body, and legs set well to the back. It is a superb waterbird, but with the position of the legs, it is difficult for Loons to take to the air without a large body of water to assist in the takeoff. Without water Loons are forced to stay, lumbering heavily on land. Loons, who spend most of their life in the water, prefer nests close to the water so it is possible to leap from nest to water. When Loons fly back down from the sky, the Loon landing is like a controlled crash, and hopefully, will always be in a large lake of water.

        During migration, you could be lucky enough to spot a Common Loon on Quail Lake. This scenic Lake, plunked down in a setting of desert hills and stocked with fish is a great stopover. Common Loons are soundless in migration, saving their haunting calls for setting up breeding territories in the north. This clever Loon fisherman dives under water, finds fish, and consumes most of its prey under water. Loon numbers decreased in the early to mid-20th century, due to poisoning by mercury in aquatic ecosystems and by lead from fishing sinkers. Research, management, and educational programs today are helping the Common Loon make a good recovery.

        Thank you Brenda Rusnell for the beautiful drawing of the Common Loon. It’s beauty is anything but common. If you have questions about birds or about the Red Cliffs Audubon Field Trip to see the Great Sage Grouse on Saturday, call Marilyn Davis at 435 673-0996.


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