Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Tale of Two Loons

The photo below is one that I took a couple of years ago at Lake Gaston. It isn't the loon in either one of the following accounts, but I decided that a post about loons needs a loon photo. This one is "dressed for summer".

common loon in summer plumage

Friday night we had the pleasure of hearing Julie Zickefoose talk as the keynote speaker at the Southwest Florida Birding Festival. One of the many things that she talked about was her adventure last year rescuing a loon from the side of the road on Sanibel Island and returning it to the water. One of the zillion things that I did not know about loons is that they can't walk on land because their legs are located too far back on the body. So if they land on a wet road, mistaking it for a body of water, they are in trouble. Julie's loon was lucky. Imagine the odds of a caring wildlife rehabilator coming along just when he needed her. This bird had some good karma. For Julie's blog entry about the rescue, click here, then scroll down to the April 5th 2006 post.

Around 8pm last night I picked up a voice mail that my sister had left a couple of hours earlier. "Sue, there's a hurt bird here and we don't know what to do...".
Actually, she does know what to do. She knows she's supposed to call a wildlife rehabber, but she looked in the phone book & couldn't find anything listed under "wildlife". Plan B - call her bird-loving sister and ask for advice.

When I returned the call, her husband answered

Brother-in-law: Sue we have hurt bird

Me: What kind of bird is it? (I always start with this question. I just can't help it, even though I'm 90% sure the answer is going to be "I don't know" (refer to a previous post about trying to help Sis with a bird problem)

Brother-in-law: I don't know - it looks like a giant seagull! Let me get your sister...

Sis: It looks like a huge seagull and it shoved itself down the road on its belly, then turned into our driveway. Do seagulls have webbed feet??? (**Note - the minute this phone conversation ended I went to & ordered the "Stokes Field Guide to Birds, Eastern Region" & had it shipped directly to my sister).

Me:This sounds remarkably like a story I heard about a loon just last night!

Sis: Googling "loon photos" as we spoke, No, it wasn't all black & white like this

Me: Try googling "loon in winter plumage"

Sis: Yes, that's definitely what it is!

As I relayed Julie's rescue story, I could hear loud laughter from a party going on in the background. This just happened to be one of my sister's infamous "girls' weekends" at her island beach house. I could just feel the chances of a successful loon rescue decreasing exponentially with the amount of wine consumption. How many human eyes would be jabbed out by the loon? Maybe they could put a blanket over it & carry it to the water????

As we spoke, my sister walked outside to look for the loon & couldn't find it. And this is what I want to believe... that bird shoved himself to the water under his own power. Sis said that they had seen it make a lot of progress. They had watched it push itself down the sandy road, then down their driveway. (perhaps this was the point in time that they opened another bottle of wine & forgot about the bird???) Once the bird had reached the back end of their driveway, it wouldn't have had much more distance to cover before reaching the inlet behind their house. So I'm hoping that this loon is happily swimming & diving today. It's too bad that Julie can't be everywhere.


LauraHinNJ said...

Oh I hope it made it to the water!

Good story (but I would have liked a definite happy ending).


I've never seen a loon in summer plumage - only the drab winter ones - but I would know them by that bill!

Susan Gets Native said...

Keeping all my fingers crossed for the loon.

Maybe it's better to be half-saved by some tipsy "loonies" than never saved at all?
(I'm trying to see the bright side)

It is too bad that Julie isn't everywhere all the time...but thank goodness she travels so much...she spreads the healing around.

Julie Zickefoose said...

What are the chances? Kismet, at work. Susan, I love knowing that that little ice-breaker that I cobbled on to my talk to give it a Florida spin might help save loons elsewhere someday. It's probably best that those folks didn't try to pick the bird up. A common loon, if that's what it was, is a formidable beast! I'd hate to see someone injured. And the loon sounds like it was in better shape than mine. By the tracks in the sand, the red-throated loon we found had made about six feet of progress all day.After my talk at Rookery Bay, a veterinarian from Maryland told us about a parking lot "splashdown" of 25 common loons in W. Maryland--and he got them all! Examined them--only one was injured--and the rest he put in the Antietam River. All they need is a watery runway to be able to take off again. And maybe they got a few fish in the bargain. How cool is that?
Thank you so much for the pictures you sent. They'll show up in a post! Hugs to you and Sherm and those little applehead dogs.

Susan said...

Thanks for the comments everyone - here's hoping that all loons stay in the water where they belong!