The loons are back!
Last Friday morning the ice was mostly off the lake. About 9AM I spotted a loon on the lake. They work their way north doing daily flyovers to check the lakes for ice so they usually arrive very shortly after the ice is off. Just one loon though for most of the day Friday. Though loons generally return to the same lake the pair that raised a chick the year before do not migrate together. They go their own way in the fall and return to the same lake in the spring. By evening the other loon had arrived and there were two loons off the point at sunset.
That first night back they were noisy! At 10PM they were calling loudly and urgently. It’s very much like the call they make when other loons are attempting to take over their lake. I have no idea if other loons actually show up in the night? Can they fly at night by moonlight? Perhaps? In any case they called loudly and at great length every couple of hours throughout the night.
On Saturday the loons would come and go. One would take-off and leave and the other would call after it. Sometimes we had no loons, sometimes one, and by evening we again had two. Sunday another loon showed up on the lake. It’s never good to have three. While some folks believe that loons mate for life at the loon ranger training we attended they said studies show female loons are more attached to their lake than the male loon. If another male shows up and runs off her mate the female will accept the victor.
Sunday morning the three loons came face to face. I suspect this was another male attempting to do just what I mentioned- run off the current male of the lake. All three would get within beak range, become agitated, and then all three would dive. What happens under the water I can only speculate. They say loons can kill one another by ramming with their beak. I suspect attempts may be made at this under the water.
In any case they would emerge even more agitated than they went under each time. Eventually one loon made an aggressive chest-out push out of the water. This sent the other loon into this exhaustive-looking water splashing run across the water. It’s like a take-off run but there is no attempt to take-off but instead make a huge run splashing as much water as possible.
After a short rest this water splashing loon did an actual take-off run. Now our lake is so small that the loons always need to make a couple circles around it order to get enough altitude to clear the trees. But this loon made no attempt to gain more than 20-30 feet of altitude and just kept circling the lake for about 4-5 revolutions. Eventually he (she?) worked up and over the trees disappearing to the south.
Did the original loons run off the intruder? Do we now have a new loon on the lake? Unless our loons were banded (they’re not) there’s no way for us to know…