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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Loon Crosses the Lake

Air Date: Week of

Salt Marsh Diary writer Mark Seth Lender spent more than a week following a pair of common loons in British Columbia. He got up close and personal to the loons and witnessed an intimate event.


GELLERMAN: Mark Seth Lender has a thing for loons. He’s followed, videotaped and recorded the sounds of the aquatic birds up and down the East and West Coasts. He’s seen many a loon. But on a lake in British Columbia, Mark found a pair of common loons that were decidedly uncommon.


LENDER: Loon crosses the lake. His flight call and the music of his wings linger like a trail of vapor, an invisible wake, and lands far, at some distant place. Where, only for him, someone waits.


LENDER: Daybreak. Loon, on her nest, lays her head down low, her neck an arc of infinite grace. Her beak, thick, weighty as a stone spear points an accusing finger as I draw near, an admonition that warns, and endears.

Neither stillness, nor the checkered black and white of her back meant to mimic the speckling of sun on water ruffled to silver by a breeze of air conceals from those who would harm. No matter what her fate, here she will reside to guard the precious pair of mottled eggs upon the weave of grasses she has made. That is her truth. She will abide. Day fades to black.


LENDER: Morning. Fog thickens the early light. Loon, as dark as the penumbra of the moon, is uneasy. The male, her clone to a feather comes quickly now and takes her place to reveal - one remaining egg and one brown shape formless as carpet lint till it opens its eyes!


LENDER: Afternoon. New Loon looks about, encountering the blurry world aware, without worry, no doubts. That same day stumbles across the threshold (to him a small cliff) and swims, stable as a top. The male loon, his father, approaches. He is enormous, that dreadful garnet eye fierce as a dragon, the powerful beak. Yet offers, so gently, a tiny wriggling orange worm dredged from below and First Born takes his first meal in this world.


LENDER: The great loon moves away and dips his face, searching, dipping, searching, then one quick breath and tumbles soundlessly beneath. Again night. Again, day. Another loon is born. First Born does not like it, dunks Second Born who comes up sputtering and pushed aside.


LENDER: But parents provide equally between, equally watch and care, allow them to hoist upon a parent’s waiting back to ride that boat of feathers and flex their new wings. Cloud, the threat of rain.


LENDER: Loons on the wizened surface of rough water coast and glide. Siblings, well fed, satisfied but keeping near, as if in anticipation. And, like a thing foretold, the jaws of the great male loon part, and he turns, and leaning down to where his offspring wait, calls, loud, the call he’s called these ten thousand years imprinting upon their minds their true, their only name.


LENDER: Distant thunder, lightning. I pull away, hurrying to the safety of dock and fastened line. About the lake smoke curls in the dying pines.


GELLERMAN: To take a gander at some of Mark Seth Lender’s loon photos, and to find out about his new book, Salt Marsh Diary, a Collection of Writings on Wildlife, head to our website LOE dot ORG. And if you have comments about our show –flock over to our facebook page: It’s PRI’s Living on Earth. And you can tweet us…on Twitter - at LivingOnEarth - that’s one word.



Back Story: Listen to a short interview with Mark Seth Lender about his fieldwork seeing loons in British Columbia.

Purchase an autographed copy of Mark Lender’s new book “Salt Marsh Diary” and some of his photos, with proceeds going to Living on Earth.

Salt Marsh Diary


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