Close encounters of the Loon kind

Ina Fernandez

After a few weeks of waking up to the haunting calls of loons on Lake Bellaire, I was ready to go looking for them in my brand-new orange kayak. I had heard that there was a “loon nursery”, a raft with a nest in the south arm of the lake, so that was my first stop.

It was one of those crisp Michigan mornings that we all enjoy, particularly up north. The sun was peeking over the trees, the lake was like glass under a bright blue dome. In other words, perfect for my first paddle. I rounded the turn into the south arm and there, about 50 feet ahead of me was a loon family! There were two adults and a chick heading towards the nest further into the arm. Not wanting to disturb them, I immediately stopped paddling and allowed my kayak to slip into some thick reeds watching them unobtrusively. One of the loons peeled off and came towards me with a full-throated yodel. Entranced, I watched as it rose out of the water and stretched its wings out in a little dance. Then it dove under and surfaced near my kayak. How lucky I am, I thought, to witness loon behavior so close at hand on my first try. It repeated this maneuver a few more times and then disappeared. When I looked around for it, I saw the second loon and the chick in the distance nearing their nest. The loon had kept me suitably distracted while its mate led its offspring to safety. I was left feeling a little foolish to think that my orange kayak was camouflaged enough not to be seen as a threat by the loons.


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