Thursday, July 03, 2003

Last week, at my cottage in Ontario, I was awakened by rumbles of thunder, and the pounding of heavy rain on the roof.
The resident pair of loons were calling to one another more loudly than I recall having heard before and with a distinctively musical series of notes.
The next day dawned clear and sunny. In the afternoon my wife and I were listening to a quiet Mozart piece. About fifty yards off shore the loon pair were floating together in idle fashion. Loons often spend hours each day just resting on the water. Loons are very sensitive to sound. It is my stubbornly held belief, admittedly unsupported by ornithological science, that loons are attracted to man-made music, particularly of the classical genre.
After a while I picked up my binoculars to peer more closely at these wonderful creatures. I noticed that each had a small swelling on the feathers of its back. I continued to watch, adjusting my glasses. I observed that these bumps seemed to change shape and on one of the loons I saw what appered to be a tiny head appear. Of course! Two baby loons had been born, possibly during the storm of the previous night --- perhaps the unusual loon cries were expressions of special excitement by the parents over the hatching of the eggs. This was a cause for celebration for bird and man alike because even though these adult loons return to the lake to nest year after year, the appearance of young is the exception rather than the rule. This is largely due to the predatory appetites of creatures such as racoons and mink who find loon eggs tasty.
On the following day one of the two baby loons was swimming closely behind its parent. The other remained content to
ride, comfortably settled in the softness of the parent's feathers.
They have overcome pre-natal hazards but dangers lie ahead. These little creatures are considered fair game by such voracious predators as northern pike and snapping turtles. I shall follow their adventures and report on their effort to thrive in this beautiful, wild environment.

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