After seeing the loon trying over and over to take flight yesterday, I woke up before dawn thinking of how I could help. I drove to Robinson Lake and aimed my headlights at the open water.The loon was still there—its head stretched tall with alertness toward my lights shining out of total darkness. I went on to the WRI and did some work. When it got light, I returned to the lake and snapped a picture at 8:38 AM, showing the loon in a patch of open water that was only a fraction of yesterday’s. There was no way it could take flight. With a temperature of 22°F, ice was continuing to close in.
I called a fisherman friend to see if he had a big landing net for catching and moving the loon to a lake that was still open. I went home to get the local conservation officer’s number. I was hoping he would join me or at least give me permission to help the loon. I drove to the site to describe to him the situation of the moment. I arrived at 12:11 PM. No loon! And no sign that people had been there. I had beenseeing eagles flying over, and the only thing I could think of was that an eagle had snatched the loon like Donna and I had seen happen to a duck a couple years ago. Naturalist Sherry Abts (correct spelling) also stopped by the site and saw something important. She put out an email saying “there seemed to be some big wing prints ( maybe eagle ??) in the snow near the ice edge. Also a track like something had been pulled / drug out of the water.”
It appears there was a natural end to this story. We’ll never know why this loon stayed a week or two later than other loons in the area. Earlier, I don’t think there was much we could have done when there was more open water.
Loons are a favorite of wildlife enthusiasts in this land of lakes. To many, the loon is the voice of the wilderness. There was a lot of interest in this loon’s fate.
The loon exhibit at the Bear Center is a favorite of many. The stuffed loon in that exhibit was contributed by the same conservation officer who I was going to call for help today.
On a happier note, a spate of sunshine yesterday let the camera catch good detail in the feathers of an American Tree Sparrow. Today, a chickadee showed the same. The snow that is stirred up around the tree sparrow is because it was looking for seeds by hopping and flicking its feet to kick up snow. They do the same thing with leaves lying on the ground.
Back to normal now, thinking about the book.
Thank you for all you do.
Lynn Rogers, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center
Wildlife Research Institute
145 West Conan Street
Ely, Minnesota 55731 USA