Loon on her nest – author
Above: Eaglet at the nest Barbara Haskell
One of the activities I look forward to most each summer is spending time in my kayak exploring North Pond that is just down the road from me. There is a wonderful marsh that is tucked in a corner of the lake (a portion of which was deeded over to me because it wasn’t useful i.e. build-able), and it is full of cattails and wild orchids, not to mention a loon’s nest and many Redwinged blackbirds who hang out on slender twigs of the swamp maples that catch fire in the fall.
Above: loon chicks
Above: Loon chicks with parents Kathy Hurd
Author enjoying wandering around on the rocks around one of the islands. Barbara Haskell
This year I have been spending time on the pond with a friend who likes to watch eagles like I do. We pack lunches and take our kayaks out to the rocks and moor them there listening to the eaglets’ cacophony. These youngsters are now almost as large as the adults, and are still screaming for fresh fish. Because we are patient we are always able to witness the parents flying into the nest with a silvery fish, dropping it in the there and then heading for the next island to get away from their youngsters’ incessant screeching, I am convinced!
Although never far away, the parents leave the eaglets on their own and the two spend a lot of time flapping their now huge brown wings to strengthen them for flight and jumping in and out of the nest. One of the mole brown eaglets is larger than its sibling, which is often the case since one is usually more aggressive than the other and gets more food. Sometimes, the second chick dies of starvation, but not this one. Last week we witnessed one of the eaglets fledge. One moment he was in the nest, and the next he was in the air awkwardly landing on a neighboring tree. Within seconds one of the parents arrived with another fish and dumped it in the nest as if to say “well done!”
While we pick a few berries from the bushes on the island and I scour the shallows underwater for sunfish and fresh water clam shells we also have also been watching two loons that fish quite close to the island. Loons like to fish in deep water and I am always amazed to watch one swimming along with his/her head under the water scouting for fish before a black and white herringbone body suddenly disappears below the surface. Barbara and I have commented to one another how curious it is that this pair hunt so close to the island where their would be predators nest, although an eagle would probably not be able to take an adult loon. I think it is the deep water that draws both eagles and loons to the same hunting area.
Eagles are, unfortunately, predators of loon chicks and as an Audubon loon counter for North Pond I often have conflicting feeling about the bald eagles because they predate on the young and for the last couple of years have gotten the babies even though the parents are so vigilant. This year it rained on the day of the loon count and I didn’t see one chick. I was so disappointed believing that once again North Pond was without the possibility of the next generation of loons.
Then, just yesterday I was talking with my neighbor and friend Kathy Hurd at her beautiful old family farm on North Pond when she spied two loons with two babies between them. I couldn’t believe it! These two adults were swimming with their fluffy brown offspring close between them and I watched spell bound as Kathy ran in and got her camera to take pictures of the little family. This sighting made my day!
With August just around the corner, I am looking forward to more kayaking on those glassy mornings when the water reflects the firmament above like a mirror. Kayaking as to be the most relaxing form of entertainment for a naturalist like me. And I never know who I might meet next.