June 17 – 23, 2022Vol. 24, No. 2

Our Friends are Back

by Rod Johnson

Yes, our friends ARE back, and we are thankful for their annual arrival. I’m speaking of LOONS, of course! Don’t you marvel at how quickly loons appear after the ice leaves a lake, either here or elsewhere in the greater New England lakes? I swear, they must have high flying recon reporting back to their brethren, who patiently wait for the “Ice is Out” signal.

Why is it that we humans are so enamored with the loons? We don’t do jumping jacks when the ducks show up, but the loons make us do hand stands and feel warm and cozy inside.

In pondering this question, my thoughts are that loons represent consistency and dependability. (We can count on their re-appearance year in and year out, and always just after ice out.) This was true before we came and will hopefully be so when we are gone. Also, loons present a certain stately demeanor with their stature and fantastic beauty, as well as longevity. Studies show that 25 years is not uncommon and some live to 35 years. Fossils containing the modern loon skeletal structure show their existence up to 35 million years ago.

The abilities of the loon are overwhelming to us. Loons can dive down to 200 feet and have been known to swim up to 60 miles per hour. It is said that loons return to the same lake annually. The nocturnal call of the loon reaches into the human soul as a wake up call and seldom goes unnoticed. Native American lore claims the loon call represents “the cry of a Warrior being denied entry into paradise.”

Of the four most commonly heard loon calls, wondering what one loon is saying to others is always left open to interpretation. The annual loon calling contest featuring young children as participants was an annual event on the 4th of July weekend for many years. Let’s hope that in our post covid era we can reinstate that event!

We are fortunate to have many volunteers in the greater Belgrade and Rome areas who are helping to protect loons. Floating nests are working and likely helping to offset the pressures of mankind, namely boats and other irritants these wonderful birds must endure. If you are out boating and see a loon, give it a wide berth, and do not let curiosity get the best of you by going near nests.

These wonderful creatures need all the help they can get. Each year the Audubon Society collects information to monitor the numbers of loons in many different lakes, including the number of chicks born. These counts are done on the same day each year at 7 a.m. by local volunteers.

Rod Johnson was born and raised in the Belgrade Lakes in the 1950s and ’60s.

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