Farewell to Loons

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This is a wonderful time of year to be in the bush. The last of the colours are dangling in the treetops. The morning frost seems to stay in the air all day long, giving it a clean, fresh feel.

The only thing I’m a little sad about is the migration of the loons. Over the next few weeks these big and beautiful birds will be heading for warmer climates. I’ll miss them.

In spring, our loons usually arrive a week or two before the ice completely disappears from the lake. They land at the edges of the lake where the shallower, warmer water melts the ice first. Actually, just one loon arrives on that early spring day. He seems lonely as he swims along the shore.

Every day we, and he, watch for a second loon to arrive. Not just any loon, but the mate to the one who arrived early. She’s always a week or so later, and we’re always glad to see her when she comes. It’s reassuring to see they both made it through another winter, another migration.

We delighted in watching the loons through the spring and into early summer. On the 6th of July, our loons swam proudly by the front shoreline with their little one. A tiny ball of black fluff would sometimes be seen on one parent’s back, or occasionally floating on its own by their side.

We watched the little one grow through the summer. From a downy ball of black fluff he has grown to a full sized loon. Every day this little family swims by our shore, fishing and swimming, or just floating in the last warm days of sunshine.

Happily, this little one survived the threat from the gulls, who are known to prey on tiny loon chicks, and the snapping turtle, and the bald eagle.

Now the time is drawing near for them to go. I wish them well on their journey. I’ll miss them. I’ll especially miss their wails in the middle of the night ˆ when I wake in the darkness, they have sung me back to sleep.

One of the parents has gone already. The other will fly south any time now. And the chick ˆ what will he do? He’ll be here for another few weeks, at least. Until the ice begins to close in on him. How will he know when it is time to go? How will he know where?

I’ll see him a few more times on these cool, crisp November days. As I paddle my canoe on calm days, as he swims along the shore, I wonder where he’ll go, and if he’ll come back one day.

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