August 12 – 18, 2016Vol. 18, No. 10

A Tragic Loon Story

by Kay Overfield

Last night there was a bitter loon battle in our little bay. In the end, the baby chick was dead, and the rogue loon who fought the father loon was on shore, stunned/injured. It was quite an evening. Here's what happened:

My husband and I and our black Lab Shinobi, climbed in the canoe for a late afternoon paddle. The sun shone across our bay at the north end of Great Pond. The water was calm, but we were surprised to see our baby loon there in the water — all alone. That was unusual. She is usually right beside her Mom — or Dad. We so enjoyed seeing the chick develop.

In June, neighbors kayaking had observed the eggs in the nest in the swamp around the corner. By the 4th of July, we were happy to see the mother loon swimming by with the baby on her back. All of the Northbay Lane residents loved watching the little family.

When we returned from our paddle, baby was with the Mom. All was well. Later while eating dinner, we noticed a boat in the bay close to the loons, watching the birds thrashing about. People were gathering along the shore, all concerned about the skirmish in the bay. The baby was a little distance away, and then swam towards the Mom. The rogue loon attacked and quickly killed the babe. The mother loon swam back to the baby who was now dead in the water, its little white belly up. Then the two males fought. The father grabbed the rogue loon by the neck and they engaged above and underneath the water. Eventually, they took their fight to the shore, beating each other against the rocks. The rogue male, losing the battle, crawled up on shore, quite stunned and/or injured. We all watched not knowing what to do.

As it happens, the three men in the boat were Belgrade Regional Conservation Association (BRCA) employees who had come to our quiet cove to water ski. When they saw the bizarre loon behavior, they stayed to check it out and they took videos. After the loon beached, they were concerned about the injured bird; and knew from their training, that even if the loon were able to swim away, the fight would resume and he would be the loser. He would die.

Now it was close to 8:00┬áp.m. and all the experts the BRCA guys called were gone for the day. Voice mail only. Eventually they contacted a bird protection group who advised them to put the loon in a cardboard box — carefully — and bring the bird to them. The BRCA employees — Michael Stevens, Milfoil Field Area Leader; Adrian Heath, Milfoil Surveyer/Diver; and Collin MacGibeny, Diver — with the help of the Northbay Lane neighbors, put a blanket over the bird. One person, controlling the wings, picked up the bird while another held the neck and beak and they put it in the box for transport. Lee Pooler, Northbay Lane resident, drove the BRCA men and the injured loon to meet the bird rescue experts at a designated location.

The BRCA guys, Michael, Adrian and Collin, didn't get to water ski, but this was quite a unique experience for them. Some of the folks who gathered to watch the drama have lived in the area for more than thirty years and have never seen such loony behavior. In retrospect my husband and I recall some bizarre, somewhat frantic loon calls the past few nights and mornings — different from the usual yodels.

And our neighbor Lois also questioned the racket. "Did you hear the loons last night? They were nuts." Perhaps this was a foreshadowing of a building hostility.

We all await news of the injured loon, hoping that time will heal him. Yet we all feel an incredible loss — our loon baby. Now, as night settles, the loon calls seem especially sad, and we imagine that the parents are mourning their offspring. We are too. Nature indeed, can be cruel.