Today’s weather is perfect for a family of Loons. Their home, in a wilderness neck of land, is on the smallest bay of Economy Lake, Nova Scotia.
Hush, as we spot white lines on a mother-loon’s neck. It contrasts with her black back feathers. And her camouflage of color does a fine job. She moves nervously in her nest of leaves. Moss and grass help keep their home from prying eyes. The wily bird knows a raccoon has been in the area and searching for newly hatched eggs.
Right now two olive brown speckled eggs jiggle beneath her warm body. It has been a tiresome one-month wait for this moment. Thankfully father-loon is on guard nearby. He is swimming anxiously back and forth watching for crows or seagulls. They too seek tasty loon eggs.
Suddenly, there is movement inside the eggs. As if in a contest to see their mother, both shells are pecked furiously. Sharp beaks provide sharp jabs, and finally the first chick tumbles out.
Mother-loon watches carefully. She begins a strange series of sounds, her special language of love for her babies. And she wishes to share the good news with father-loon. Now the second chick somersaults into the sunlight.
Hearing the commotion father-loon climbs into the nest. His steps are clumsy with powerful legs set far back on his body. Mother-loon carefully tucks both chicks under her wing for protection and warmth.
The next day begins survival skills as both chicks leave the nest. They must learn quickly. At first they are fearful, each selecting a parent, climbing onto their backs for a better look. Mother encouraged Father to claim this wilderness area for raising a family. Now excited baby chicks follow their parent’s splashing.
The young ones can’t believe water is so much fun. But, life for them is not just full of adventure. They must also prepare for danger. Food brought by mother-loon includes a menu of frogs and insects. And leeches.
With practice both chicks are able to bob like corks and soon begin diving for their own fish. Life for the family is simple and fun-filled. Each day, after swimming and diving, the chicks climb onto their parent’s backs for safety and rest.
Unfortunately, the youngest is very careless. He does not understand there are so many enemies. Mink, foxes, turtles and pike fish are not family friends. Especially the raccoon who is constantly seeking unguarded chicks. Mother-loon often has to chase her youngsters towards the shelter of their nest.
Today the family just returned from exploring the bay, when splashing was heard not far from their hiding place. Both chicks became fearful as their parents threshed about frantically. Although instinct warned of danger, no one realized a huge pike followed in their watery trail. Anxious parents gave warning sounds as the family zigzagged towards their nest.
A bull moose startled everyone by raising his head from behind a wall of reeds. He had been digging in the shallow shoreline water for tender shoots. And was curious as to why a young loon left the safety of his family, and now streaming towards him.
Mother-loon scolded her other chick into the safety of her wings. And father-loon skipped across the water, hoping to distract the intruder. His duty was to protect his family, even if it meant placing himself at risk.
In spite of this protective activity the daring chick continued to paddle furiously towards the moose, amazed at its size. Then in a moment of utter disbelief, one quick snap from a large mouth gave the pike a delicious lunch.
Mother loon saw what took place and shrieked sounds of terror. A mixture of throaty cries came in waves of sorrow. She knew something terrible happened, since she no longer saw her little chick. Echoes of her sadness bounced from one side of the bay to the other.
Father-loon heard the anguish in her voice and began to shout his imitation of a wolf pack. It was meant to scare away any creature threatening his family. But, he sensed it was too late.
The moose hurried away, as haunting calls followed him across the water. It was all for nothing. Mother-loon was left with only one chick. In a few moments she led her remaining baby to the safety of their nest. Father-loon joined them.
Because of this tragedy the family drew much closer. Both parents hastened to teach their last chick everything they could. They wished baby chick to live a long life as mother and father. And so the days passed by. Summer moved closer to autumn and other loons arrived for a visit. A chorus of greetings traveled from each family.
By this time, baby chick had grown older and wiser. She was now three months old and flying with more confidence. In another four years, she would have red eyes, with black and white colors, the same as her parents. The weather changed with snowflakes coming more often and the smoothness of ice formed along the shoreline. Winter moving this way meant it was time to fly south.
And it happened one day, as morning mist drifted lazily across the lake. Sunrise had not yet taken place. Even bullfrogs were mysteriously silent. The family of three loons skipped across the watery surface then circled low around the bay. Their powerful wings allowed them to climb easily into the sky. This was not a farewell to the wilderness area.
Their melodies rose and fell as a beautiful symphony; a parting gift to the land below. Instinct reminded baby chick she would be returning next spring. Now she stretched her young wings and soared high above. A burst of flapping brought her beside mother and father.
Looking back once more, she realizes this bay is home. And one day, she too will raise a family here. Soon, they were three dots of movement in the distance.
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© Richard & Esther Provencher