The loons arrived!


Ice out was April 12th. At about 4 in the morning on April 17th, Steve awoke to the tremolo flight calls of the loons. Some of the rest of the Long Lake feathered flotilla also started making a bit of a ruckus. The Mergansers are here. And Black Ducks. And way, way too many Canada Geese.

Loons landed on Long Lake and then began all manner of loony tunes. They went through most of their repertoire of hoots and yodels and wails. The distinctive wail is the call that loons use to figure out where their loon buddies are. Listen to their vocalizations here, on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site.

The Loons arrived and are fishing for the little fish. Shelly the Great Dane and Jeff, her human, made a cameo appearance (see the upper left corner above). They are already out fishing for the big fish.

Here’s a few more shots of one of the loons.



The 2014 loon chick flies


This is Long Lake’s only 2014 loon chick, in about mid-September. Its parents had either recently departed for places south or were about to. We saw the adolescent spending a lot more time alone as fall approached. The adolescent loon regularly came quite close to our kayaks. This one has seemed a bit more independent a little earlier than most of the chicks we’ve met before on the lake.

By late September, we still weren’t seeing the loon fly. But, as shown in this sequence, we got the feeling the young one was feeling his (or her) oats in the flying department. The loon wasn’t going anywhere, but there was an awful lot of wing flapping and stretching going on.





We were definitely rooting for flight. The nights are pretty cold. The little guy is all alone with only the lethargic black ducks for company. The goofy buffleheads will be here soon. This loon needed to get moving south.

Then, on October 8th, Steve saw the young loon dive in the southern smaller part of the lake. It surfaced and then started doing the wing flapping thing. Pretty soon the loon was kind of skipping across the surface of the water, doing one of those very ungraceful takeoffs that loons do that make you wonder if they’ll ever get airborne.

Then, suddenly, this year’s chick was in full flight. It headed north eventually up about 50 feet and has not been seen since.

babyloon_flies1_lowresNot the clearest of photos on this last one. But it’s definitely the adolescent loon. Hopefully this one makes it safely south to its wintering grounds.

We’re getting to be a party lake!


As we paddled to Ghost Bay this morning, the lake was echoing with loon calls. We spotted three flying in together, making that distinctive tremolo call that loons make in flight. There was also an unusual amount of wailing going on.

We knew what was up with all the racket when we spotted this gathering in the north section of the lake, fairly close to shore. Eight loons are shown above. But there were actually nine.

In mid to late summer, loons gather together. Non-resident loons fly in and resident loons will swim out to join them. But first, they stash their chicks someplace amid thick vegetation and then they host the gathering away from the chicks. Biologists believe that these gatherings build relationships and cooperation among mature loons.Typically, the loons will spend some time swimming together in circles with their heads cocked to one side. There is a little of that evident in the photo and we definitely saw it, though we didn’t recognize it as anything habitual until we returned from our paddle and read up on these gatherings.

The loons also spend time diving together. All nine were on the surface in a tight group. One would dive, sort of making a more exaggerated move than normal. And all the others would follow. The loons also spent a good bit of time seeming to clown around–not like the dignified loons we’re so used to. They ran on the water, not preparing to get airborne, but just moving around on the surface.

Such an interesting event. Long Lake is honored to have hosted it!

Paddling back from Ghost Bay, after the gathering had dispersed, we encountered this one lone loon. It was very calm and approached close to our kayaks.


Long Lake’s (un) Common Loons


In early June, this Common Loon was sitting on the nest on the west side of Belly Button Island–the island in the north part of Long Lake. Its mate, who shares nest-sitting duties, was out fishing.  Great news: by June 17th, when this next photo was taken, we can announce a successful nest.


Here’s our one loon chick, riding on a parent’s back. The mate was nearby, apparently the father because he was nervously posturing in vulture pose. He did this even though we were very far off with a telephoto lens, quietly proceeding in our small pontoon boat with its peppy 15 hp outboard.

The pair is a little nervous now, rightfully so. Long Lakers will all hopefully give the family a wide berth. But there are Bald Eagles looking for lunch. Big pike lurk about. And I don’t like the look in the eye of that big-headed, turkey-platter-sized snapping turtle. You know, the one with all the green moss clinging to its back. Hopefully this young one survives to its October adolescence.

The pair nesting on the island near the public access seems not to have fared well. Early in the week, the loon was on the nest. Since we saw their nest activity even before the nest went into full swing on the bigger island, and incubation periods being what they are, the chicks in the lower lake should have hatched first. Instead, on June 18th–with both loons fishing in the lower lake, I kayaked close enough to the nest to see that it was empty. Not even any egg shells. And no sign of any chicks in the lower lake.

But the next day, we saw this loon back on the nest. The empty nest. It was squashing itself way low, even though we were far away. It was bobbing its head up and down–down close to the water.

mourning_loon_lowresIt’s very wrong-headed to anthropomorphize animal behavior. But these loons definitely tempt in that regard. We’ve taken to calling this photo The Mourning Loon.

One chick, one precious chick. Please let me know if you’ve seen another. We’re still hoping maybe they’ve got it stashed someplace we haven’t seen.

If we keep our fish hooks at a distance, our power boats throttled back in their vicinity, and our fingers crossed, Long Lake can help a new member of this threatened species launch itself southward come fall.

The Long Lake loons, 2013

loon_babies2_lowresThese two chicks were born on Belly Button Island, in the north section of Long Lake, on Father’s Day, June 16th. We spotted them riding on a parent’s back on their birthday, but weren’t sure if we were seeing one or two chicks. One week later, as one chick paddled behind a parent and one rode, we knew it was twins.

The chicks grew quickly.


Image 4

By September, the chicks are adolescents. They often hang out together without either parent. They are very efficient divers, though they don’t seem to stay underwater as long as the adults do. When a parent is around, they still head over hoping to get a snack, but the parents don’t seem to oblige them anymore. The young loon’s plumage is still immature, but size-wise they are only a tad smaller than the adults.



Like the parents, the young loons will approach a quiet boat. Sometimes they even seem to be drawn to our kayaks. Even this fisherman, on a recent chilly and foggy morning, didn’t frighten off the adolescent.


The parents will be leaving this month and will winter in warmer places down South. The twins will be left behind for another 4-6 weeks. They will stay on Long Lake late enough that we’ll start to worry if they know what they are supposed to do.  For now, they need to get stronger, bulk up a bit for the flight south and, oh yes, practice their take-offs and landings.

The adults are grooming their flight feathers. Well, either that or practicing their yoga poses.