Sunday, August 7, 2011

Counting... 1,2, 3...

In the middle of the night,as indeed,
each time that we lay on the shore of the lake,
we heard the voice of the loon, loud and distinct
from far over the lake .
It is a very wild sound, quite in keeping
with the place and the circumstances of the traveler
and very unlike the voice of the bird.
I could lay awake for hours listening to it,
it is so thrilling.
Henry David Thoreau

A convention of 15 loons recently clustered noisily around our dock. With all the chatter and a variety of calls heard it seemed they must be in heavy discussion about their upcoming early fall flight down to the gulf. But where were all 15 when we got out on the water today? Our mission was to count loons for the Lake Association census. This can be a challenging assignment since those crazy loons just do not stay put!! Some dive under water playing hide and seek just as you get close and others decide to take flight. But after a bit of discussion we decided on 12 for this section of the lake.
Listening to the loons is part of the Up North experience. Loons communicate among themselves using a variety of calls and visual displays. A loon uses a tremolo call also referred to as the laugh. It is a multi-purpose call to indicate alarm, annoyance or greeting. The wail call is like a wolf call and used to locate a lost chick or mate. The yodel call is a signature call made only by males. It is an aggressive call used during border disputes and to maintain territory. A hoot call is when adult loons maintain contact with chicks or family groups. It is used reserved just for the males and is a territorial call.
I have been practicing all four calls using my new gift. It is a unique instrument called a Loon Flute. It is designed to generate the tones that duplicate the four primary calls. My skills are improving and I am almost ready to head out to the dock play a few tunes and see what happens.

click on each photo for a better close up view

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