By Judi Platt
July means many things to us in New Hampshire – fireworks, hot dogs, the Prouty, and this year, hot, hazy days with summer storms. Additionally, on Eastman Lake, once again July means nesting time for our resident loons. The signs are up in North Cove, and with the anxiety and excitement of expectant parents, we humans look forward to the births.
What is it about loons that make some of us, well, sort of “loony”? I can’t imagine a kayak trip around the lake without seeing at least one of the loons. Ducks won’t do. Neither will turtles. Even sighting a graceful grey heron doesn’t stir the same kind of satisfaction that spotting a loon does. Whether paddling a quick 20 minutes around Heron Island or spending a lazy afternoon paddling from South to North Coves, my trip is not complete without spotting at least one of the illusive black and white birds.
Last summer, when the news hit that chicks were born, the normal Sunday afternoon kayaking traffic in North Cove carried the excitement of a royal wedding. Word spread quickly among kayakers as to the location of Eastman’s newest residents. With the use of a pair of binoculars, I spotted them near the west shore in North Cove—tiny brown fuzzballs following closely behind their protective parents. It was our (my and my husband’s) first loon births in Eastman. I won’t go so far as to say that it was as exciting as the births of our children or grandchildren, but we anxiously watched their development as they grew from fuzzy brown chicks to larger brown birds by the end of the summer.
Long before discovering Eastman—and our resident loons—my husband and I visited The Loon Center in Moultonborough, NH. We saw no loons that day. Nor did we see any on a return visit there a few weeks ago. On a trip to the Adirondacks a few years ago, we canoed from shore to shore of the 13th Lake desperately seeking the source of the frequent and loud tremolos of what seemed must be several loons. We saw none that day, either. We began to wonder if the legendary birds really inhabited the lakes of the Northeast. Now, we have them as neighbors—at least for the summer.
What is it that makes me, and many others, so enthralled by these birds? Is it their solitary nature that is so appealing? Is it because there are so few of them in each lake? Is it the way they can disappear underwater and pop up a hundred feet away so that they are always playing a game of whack-a-mole with me and my camera lens?
Am I loony for loons? Perhaps, a bit. If you spot me in my bright orange Pungo somewhere out on Eastman Lake this summer, you can be sure of one thing: I am on the lookout, and I won’t stop paddling until I see one of our aquatic residents—hopefully, soon with its new offspring.