Loons: Summer and Fall
A couple evenings ago, out on the lake in our pontoon, I noticed one loon in three different places. All three sightings appeared to me to be juvenile loons in their coloring. At the time I wasn’t sure if I was seeing the same loon 3 times or a different loon each time. The mystery was solved for me while out kayaking yesterday morning when I saw two loons together and realized the adult loon had taken on its winter coloring. The photos below show the baby loon developing into a juvenile loon as well as the adult loon developing winter colors.
The first photo was taken on July 26, 2011. It shows the “baby” loon at approximately 1 month of age.
The second photo was taken September 8, 2011. This shows how the baby has turned into a juvenile loon. Also notice that the adult’s colors are not as crisp and defined as the earlier photo.
The last photo was taken September 28, 2011. Note the winter coloring on the adult loon.
When researching what loons looked like in the winter, I came across a couple other facts related to their winter migration. Loons migrate to warmer weather, wintering on the southern coasts in either brackish or salt water. A loon can exist in salt water, because they have special glands above their eye that expel salt from their system. Apparently it drips out the salt taken in from drinking salt water and eating salt water fish. Since I also migrate to the southern Florida coast in the winter, I wondered why I had never heard a loon calling in Florida. Ted Gostomski, the LoonWatch Coordinator at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute in Ashland, Wisconsin stated in an Ask the Expert forum, “Though loons have been heard giving yodels and tremolos on the wintering grounds, it is not common. It probably is because the hormone levels in loons are not high enough (i.e., they don’t feel a need to defend a territory) to bring about calling. Besides that, loons spend more time in groups during the winter, so the long distance calls like yodels and wails are not needed. They can communicate with quiet hoots to one another.”
One other worthwhile site to check out is the Common Loon Movements and Migration site by the Midwest Environmental Sciences Center. Loons from the midwest have been tagged with geolocators. Scientists are tracking their migration south. You can follow loons across the country as they make their way to warmer weather. I will definitely be looking for them in Charlotte Bay this winter.