Where did August go? Part 2-Gone Loony!

Poodling around the bay:)

Those flat calm days, where the canoe will glide through the water by just thinking, well almost, I wish I had those powers! Our neighbours down the lake had said the osprey nest was full of activity so I took a few hours, poodled (our riding version of taking a nice slow walk on horseback around the field, go for a poodle!) around the far bay first and then slowly made my way down the lake in the lee, no wind. It was quiet, I hunted down a few dragonflies, stared at some bluegills below the surface of the water but hardly a bird to be seen.

I reached the island and turned the corner and I saw a tremendous splashing going on, at first I thought the bird might be in distress, so I inched closer and then just sat and watched for a while, a loon was having a magnificent bath. It truly looked like it was trying to dislodge something from itself but no, just having a wild and crazy time. I was getting some shade from the clouds and it was almost windless so I sat and watched.

“Extreme preening” Ha! Occasionally a loon will bathe more vigorously, splashing its wings in the water, doing somersaults and plunge dives, and aggressively tending to its feathers with its bill. This behavior is often reported as a loon trying to remove tangled fishing line. But the loon is actually giving itself a thorough bath, trying to remove mites and other parasites. To a loon, it may feel good – like jumping into a lake on a really hot day!

I was humming ♫♪♫ Splish Splash I was taking a bath!

They was a-splishing and a-splashing, reelin’ with the feelin’.

Moving and a-grooving, rocking and a-rolling, yeah!

I was a rolling and a-strolling, reeling with the feeling.

Moving and a-groovin’, splishing and a-splashing, yeah! ♫♪♫

A preening loon may roll onto its side or back and pull at its breast and belly feathers with its bill, or, stick one leg in the air and paddle in circles. It may rub its head against its back and shoulders to disperse oil. Loons and other birds secrete oil from a gland at the base of the tail called the uropygial gland. When preening, loons take oil from this gland in their bills and use it to coat their feathers.

While I let the occasional breeze blow me about in the canoe out of the corner of my eye I caught this ones mate, or buddy, just quietly paddling along, diving occasionally, not the raucous show this one was putting on for me. Occasionally it would dive and come up fifteen or twenty feet from the canoe, not a care in the world other than trying to have a bath! It could care less that I was there, the crazy loon voyeur;) Ha!

I did mention Loony right? A legend says that to see a Loon means a dream will come true or a wish will be answered. Why do loons flap constantly while they are flying? I can hear them going over head! Thanks to their tiny wings, loons simply can’t glide or soar, but must ALWAYS flap to stay aloft. Loon wings are so small compared to their body weight that even with strong flapping they can’t support the weight of the loon in the air if they’re missing a couple of feathers. For loons, daily preening is necessary in order to maintain the waterproofing of their feathers and keep them aligned. Individual feathers are like shingles on a roof, their interlocking structure creates a barrier so that water cannot reach the skin. Loons bathe to clean their feathers and rid themselves of feather lice or other external parasites. 

When swimming, loons typically rely solely on their feet for propulsion, however, they may use their wings as paddles to help ‘row’ themselves across the water when they need to escape a situation quickly. Male and female loons have identical plumage, which makes them nearly impossible to tell apart by sight alone. Although males are generally about 25% larger than females, this size difference is difficult to determine. Adult loons weigh from 7 to 15 pounds and measure roughly 3 feet from bill tip to outreached feet.

I completely forgot about the ospreys! The sun did finally come out from behind the clouds, I was just hoping I caught this Loon fast enough to see all the water droplets flying about! It was magical! I was looking forward to a tailwind paddling back as I’d paddled against the wind to get down to the islands but the workout Gods must have been chuckling as the wind turned around again and I had to huff and puff to make it back to the dock. Dastardly wind gods!

I was thrilled to be able to just sit quietly and watch these magnificent birds. Sorry about the loon dump of photos, I couldn’t just pick a few!  They showed no distress and went about bathing and preening their feathers until a motorboat buzzed by and they gave out a few howling wails and calls…just goes to show how much we actually disturb wildlife, humans seem to be good at that…🙁 I have missed our baby, sadly it didn’t make it. Whether the eagle got it, or bad weather, or just bad luck who can say. It was hard to listen to the parents wailing, looking, mourning. They carried on their cries for about two weeks before moving on. I hope they return next year and with any luck, can raise two. It’s a precarious life that of a baby loon. I’ll sign off with my favourite shot of the day, such joy, we need more of this in all our lives! Saludos y abrazos amigos.

The pure joy of water:) For my friend Joanne, may she fly free.

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