Loon calls, fish flops, and other wildlife sightings

August 3, 2017

Sitting on the dock at the pond in Lovell, Maine is a wonderful experience in listening to the sounds of nature. This morning, I heard songbirds calling from the surrounding trees, fish flopping on the surface while feeding on the ever-present insects, and loons taking flight or calling out their eerie songs. I'm not sure if the late afternoon thunderstorms we experienced yesterday affected the wildlife's behavior today, but it was an exceptional day for viewing a lot of wildlife.

 

I rarely have witnessed a fish as it feeds on the surface-dwelling bugs, and I usually only find out about it when I hear the tell-tale splash and see the wake the fish leaves in the water when landing. But today, I happened to see one break the surface out near the diving platform just beyond the dock! I immediately recognized my good fortune to have been looking in the right place at the right time. And then, within a few minutes of seeing the fish flop, my eyes were drawn to another kind of splashing on the water near the opposite bank.

A loon noisily takes off from the water

It was a loon slapping the water as it made its way airborne! I hadn't even noticed the loons over there until then because they lay very low in the water and their black coloring camouflages them perfectly against the glassy and dark water surface. Now that the noise betrayed its location, I was able to see that beautiful creature circle the pond about three times gaining increasing altitude, until it finally reached a height that exceeded that of the surrounding trees. And then remarkably, and much to my happiness, the departing loon released a beautiful song right before leaving the pond's environs. What a wonderful gift!

 

At that point, I couldn't resist hopping in the kayak with our good camera to get some pictures of the rest of the iconic northern waterfowl in the pond. I headed out to where I had last seen the birds and learned something else about loons: unlike the flopping fish, these animals dive and resurface soundlessly. As soon as I trained the camera on them, they would disappear without making even a splash, and I was left with a picture of water! Eventually, I managed to get several shots of the loons, as they dove and resurfaced repeatedly near my kayak, including one above that shows the seemingly ungraceful way they take off for flight.

Group of loons. The bottom photo shows a loon diving (on right). 

My wildlife-viewing fortune continued when I was able to capture videos of a both heron and a loon that flew overhead. The video of the heron was unimpressive, but the one of the loon provides an excellent view of the loon's feet dangling from the far back of its sleek body.

Listen carefully at the end to hear the flap of the loon's wings.

The loon's feet are practically useless, and the birds cannot walk on land and have to nest close to shore. As you might suspect, this makes the birds vulnerable to changes in the pond's water level, which can affect the hatching of their eggs and their overall population.

 

 

The most amazing sequence of all, however, happened when a loon that was hidden from view began to call to the ones on the pond and the waterborne birds responded!

Loon song

I was surprised by the volume the little creatures generated and their eerie sound that reverberated across the water. Again, I was stunned by my good fortune of being able to not only witness this natural event, but also to record it to share here!

 

My curiosity about these magnificent birds was now satisfied, so I headed back to shore. And that's when I saw the bald eagle fly high across the pond! Although I was unable to get a stellar shot of the raptor from my location on the kayak, I did manage to get a few photos that reveal its signature head and tail against the sky.

Bald eagle soaring above the trees

What an extraordinary way to spend our last full day here in Lovell, Maine! I hope the journeys to the remaining five states also prove to be as fortuitous if not for viewing wildlife, then at least for experiencing nature. 

 

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