Monday, May 20, 2013

Nettie Lake's loons

This is part of the viewscape from the cabin where I'm staying, at NettieBay Lodge. That tiny island in Lake Nettie - the house hasn't been used for some time - is smack in the midst of a large, beautiful glacial kettle lake. Most of our forays take us much further afield, but when in residence at the lodge there is plenty to see. Wilson's Snipe nest along the north end, and can be heard delivering their aerial coutship winnowing. Kingfishers, Spotted Sandpipers, Osprey, Bald Eagle and plenty of others are regular fixtures.

The undisputed avian rulers of Lake Nettie are the Common Loons. Look closely under the conifer on the left side of the island, and you'll see a loon on its nest. A pair has nested in that spot for decades, probably - as long as anyone can remember. It must be a great location, as each year's offspring (loons normally have two) make it to the flighted stage, and eventually migrate from the lake.

The Schulers, masters of NettieBay Lodge, take good care of their loons. If only every lake up here had such admirers. These loons know them by sight, and often approach their boat and swim alongside, fishing in the clear water below. Once the young fledge, the downy chicks will occasionally ride on the back of one of the parents, and it'd be hard to find a safer place to be. No pike or giant Snapping Turtle will get at them then. Sometimes, in a remarkable bird-human example of trust, the adult loons will leave the loonlets alongside the boat and head off to fish, returning to pick up the chicks when dome foraging. The longevity and success rate of this nesting site speaks volumes for the ideal situation that the loons find on Lake Nettie.

This loon followed our boat around like a puppy dog, as we birded the farflung regions of the lake. Once, when the loon pair that lives at the other end of Lake Nettie flew by, the trio got into a yodeling war. If you've not heard loons war-whooping it up, you've been missing out on one of the great sounds of Nature.

Our loon "snorkels". Oftentimes, when actively fishing, a loon will stick its face under the surface to check on the piscine prey below. When a tasty fish is spotted, down goes the loon, and you wouldn't want to be that fish.

Thanks to the Schulers for providing safe haven for these loons. Although when they wake me at 3 am with their raucous yodeling, I might temporarily feel a bit differently :-)


Kelly said...

Wow! Looks so beautiful...what a neat place!

Jack and Brenda said...

Aren't they beauties. We were backpacking on Isle Royale on Lake Superior a few years ago and listening to the loons from our tent was something I'll always remember.