Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Call of the Wild

The mournful call of the loon is one of Muskoka’s most recognizable sounds. In late April or early May (almost as soon as the ice is out), the return of the loons is a sure sign that Spring has arrived even if Mother Nature is trying to convince us otherwise.

We’ve been fortunate to have a pair of mating loons visit us at Colonial Bay and thought we’d share some interesting loon facts with you.

  • Loons mate for life and build their nests close to the water’s edge, affording both adults and newly hatched young a quick escape. Chicks can swim and dive within hours of hatching but will sometimes ride on a parents’ back when they are tired or cold.

  • While a loon’s streamlined body and strong webbed feet make it an excellent swimmer and diver, on land they are capable of only a slow waddle using their wings as crutches. Their flying talents aren’t much better: with dense bones and short wings built more for swimming, a loon must run and flap at the surface for a long distance, between 20 and 400 meters, to get enough speed for lift off. Their manoeuverability in the air is equally limited. They do, however, have enough stamina to fly to the Atlantic coast where they overwinter.

  • Loons are exceptional divers and can remain underwater for up to 3 minutes, often resurfacing a long distance from where they submerged. They dive 2-5 meters below the surface to catch perch and minnows. The attached video (from Minnesota, not Muskoka, unfortunately) shows rare footage of a loon swimming underwater with scuba divers.

  • They have four distinct calls which can be heard 2-3 kilometers away.

  • The loon is Ontario’s official bird.

  • 5,000-year-old loon pictographs have been found on cliffs scattered around the Great Lakes region.
The next time you visit us, listen carefully for the distinctive calls of these beautiful creatures.

Up next: May long weekend, the ‘official’ beginning of cottage season, starts Friday. We still have a few cottages available – why not join us?

Let the fun begin!
Bruce, Nicolle, Luke, Ben and Addie

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