Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A loon saga

Today I am sharing the story of an injured loon, rather than the post I was planning, about using roofing felt as a wonderful painting surface, and much more.  I'll post that hopefully tomorrow instead.  For those of you who are my Facebook friends, you've probably already seen some of these loon pics, but I hope you don't mind that I'm sharing them again.   
 Our lake, where we we have a 'camp' (the Adirondack term for a cabin, a cottage, or whatever you want to call it), is on a lake named, aptly, Loon Lake.  But it is always a treat when we get to see or hear a loon, since they are animals that prefer quiet and solitude, not at all like the ducks, geese, and gulls that frequent the lake.  Loons are magnificent animals, with brilliant red eyes, and intricate patterns of stripes and dots formed miraculously by feathers.  I think I am drawn to them because their coloring (black, white, with a touch of red) is my favorite fashion color scheme!

Our weekend loon experience started, at least for me, on Friday, when my husband and I were relaxing on our dock, he with a beer, me with a book.  Partway across the lake, we spotted a loon, which is always exciting to see.  But as we watched, the loon looked like it was behaving oddly, so I took out my little Sony point & shoot camera which has a terrific zoom on it, so that I could get a closer look.  And this is what I saw:
 The loon repeatedly stretched up his neck and head.
 And he lifted his body partway out of the water and flapped his wings.
 But he didn't fly. And he didn't dive.  Typically, when watching a loon, you suddenly notice him pop up somewhere.  Then, he looks around for a moment, goes down for a dive, and comes up a minute or two later in a completely different location. 

Instead, this loon slowly swam down the lake, taking his time, and never once diving.  So I was curious.  I grabbed my camera and got in my kayak and quietly paddled in the direction of the loon.  And as I got very close, I noticed a few things.  First of all, the loon didn't do a disappearing act when I came   close.  Second of all, I noticed this:
 Coming from the corner of his mouth was some fishing line, with a metal swivel of some sort on it, and I believe some sinkers.  It appeared to be attached to his neck.  I followed the loon as he swam aimlessly across the lake and here and there.   Occasionally he turned his head and fussed with the fishing line, but obviously was unable to remove it.

At one point, someone riding a jet ski came barreling in his direction.  I screamed 'LOON' (and a few other choice words) and pointed madly, but the jet ski rider didn't turn or slow. The loon very briefly went under water and immediately resurfaced. 
I spoke to my neighbor, who is president of the Lake Association.  He told me that the bird had been repeatedly spotted for two weeks, and that a loon expert (a vet) had been contacted and had visited the lake at night in a Jon boat with a searchlight (evidently the birds are docile then, and are easier to rescue at night) but had been unable to find the loon.  People who had seen the loon prior to my spotting had also indicated the loon had been seen fishing (which I personally did not witness), so the loon expert did not think the bird was in distress.  She said she'd be back if the loon was reported to be in distress, unable to eat.  Evidently at that time the loon would likely crawl up on a shore.  We do not believe the loon is able to fly.

The next day, Saturday, I saw the loon again, and again took my kayak and my camera for a ride.    There were more boaters on the lake, so the bird was definitely more cautious.  When I got close a couple of times he softly vocalized, so I did not attempt to get any closer.  But I also noticed a piece of line coming from the other side of the loon's mouth.  One hypothesis is that the loon caught a fish that had swallowed a lure with fishing line attached.
 Some neighbors were kayaking to the marsh, and I thought about going too, but instead I decided to return to our camp for a swim.  I had just turned back toward home, when I noticed another loon.  The injured loon was heading toward the other, so I followed at a distance.   They met up, had a brief 'conversation', and the other loon proceeded to fish.  The injured loon just floated on the surface.  I  believe that perhaps the people who reported the loon had been fishing had been watching the wrong loon.  
A couple more loon shots -
 My neighbor had me email him my photos of the loon (evidently I'm the only person who had taken pictures that clearly showed the nature of the injury) and he forwarded my photos to the loon expert.

The following day, Sunday, I did not see the loon so I took my kayak for a peaceful spin through the marsh.  When I returned, my husband told me the loon had been hanging out in a little cove down the lake from us.  He witnessed a powerboat come close to running over the loon. The loon kicked up his heels - splashing his flipper-feet on the surface, and flapped his wings madly, but did not go under the surface at all.  What the heck is wrong with these people?  Don't they look where they are going at all?  This is a magnificent animal, and it is definitely large enough to see.  As a matter of fact, it is a VERY large bird!

Anyhow, before we left to go home, our neighbor told us the loon expert 'might' be returning that night, to search again for my loon.  If they find the loon, they will 'rescue' it, and I guess will remove the fishing line.  Meanwhile, here's a couple of pics from my peaceful kayak visit to the marsh, and one of a lovely person I met floating on the lake on my return trip. 
 
 Above, a turtle.  I was worried about it, until friend and turtle-lover Mr. E. informed me that the turtle is shedding his shell.  I didn't know they did that!  I wonder though, at this state, when he swims, don't the loose shell parts get caught on seaweed or something?  And I'd love to see, what's under that shell?  The parts of the turtle I can see have such rich coloring; I wonder if he's like that under the shell, too?

Below, in the marsh.  I believe this floating thing was set up for loon nesting.  I wonder if the loons use it?
 And, the sweet lady I spotted on my return.  I've seen her and dog many times over the years, and the dog used to float in his own little float basket!  Now that he's older, he sticks with her. 
Unfortunately, we won't be back at the lake for more than a week, so I'm hoping that the expert and her team will return and will be successful this time. The Lake Association has a Facebook page, and I was promised that if the loon was rescued that it would be posted to the page.  As of this time, there has been no posting.  I'm gonna keep hoping, but I know, it's a wild animal, and that means it unpredictable. 

I'll close with a funny photo for you.  I wasn't really planning on watching porn while I read my book!!  
 

11 comments:

  1. I sure hope that this loon story has a happy ending:))

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  2. Please let us know if you hear anything about the loon! I hope they find and help it... :(

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    1. I hope so too, and I definitely will update if/when I hear more news. So far, just waiting...

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  3. Beautiful photos and I too hope the loon gets better!

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  4. Yes, please do a follow-up on the loon. I always enjoy your photos Phyl.

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  5. Great pictures! We have two turtles, we got them 7 years ago and they were each the size of a quarter now they are the size of dinner plates. The first time they shed their shells I freaked out! I thought they were going to die for sure. But here we are years later and their still kicking!

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    1. Haha! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who was ignorant about turtles shedding their shells. Learn something new every day, I guess....

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  6. Hi Phyl!
    My name is Tommy and I'm writing from Bearport Publishing. We are a small library and school publisher we'd like to use your photo of the Painted Turtle shedding its scutes for an upcoming book titled 'See Them Grow: Turtle'. If you are interested, please email me at photos@bearportpublishing.com. You can also take a look at some of our books at bearportpublishing.com. I hope we can talk soon!
    Take care,
    Tommy

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