Special experiences of the north
When we think of cottage experiences we think of rocky shorelines, great fishing, camp fires at night, millions of stars, swimming and spending time with friends and family. While these are all top of mind when we are planning our trip, we sometimes forget other very special things we don’t get an opportunity to observe in urban places. One of these special northern experiences is the chance to see the Common Loon in their natural habitat. We often watch loons from our docks at Hidden Cove Cottages, swimming and diving for fish, and frequently pass them as we troll along the bay fishing for bass.
The loon’s outstanding abilities to fly and dive, the almost human like quality of its long, soulful call probably earned the awe of northern peoples. If you sleep with the cottage windows open, you will often hear the hauntingly beautiful call of the loon. This familiar, modulating wail, sometimes heard in choruses on still nights or after a rain, is actually just one of four distinct types of loon call, each rising in pitch according to the intensity of emotion. The wail is used to call to mates and offspring. It is also used as a territorial declaration to neighbours. Each male also has his own distinctive yodel for territorial defence. Neighbouring loons can recognize each other’s yodels from those of interlopers. Loons will kill rival loons (and other nesting waterfowl), spearing them with their sharp bill, to preserve their turf which may consist of an entire small lake, or the bay of a larger lake. When they sense danger, loons blurt out a staccato phrase like the laugh of a mad scientist. The call probably inspired the saying “crazy as a loon,”. A fourth type of loon call consists of hoots made by pairs, families or groups of loons as a kind of small talk. There are no other waterfowl as distinctive and majestic as the loon.
Loons mate and nest on land, usually within one meter of the shore, building their nests 2-3 feet above the shoreline, making them suseptible to boat wash and predators. Breeding pairs usually produce one or two eggs around June, but the success rate for chicks is considerably less. Chicks are in the water swimming within hours of hatching, staying close to mom, or even hitching a ride on her back. Because loons begin breeding at four years of age, and with so few offspring, any number of factors can seriously impact the stability of loon numbers. Most are thought to mate for life, though they spend winter separately usually on the atlantic coast. They renew their relationship with an elegant, quiet, diving courtship waltz when they return to their original honeymoon lake each spring. Loons have virtually died out in Southern Ontario Lakes, so the unfortunate truth is that to observe the loon we must travel north. Lakes with populations of loons include those in Algonquin park, and just south of Algonquin.
Here are some facts about the loon: Loons can weigh between 6-14lbs. They can spend more than 3 minutes under water with their deepest dives at 230 feet. They migrate to warmer climates and can fly at an altitude of 5000 – 9000 feet. There are usually only one pair of loons per 4 square miles of territory. Preferred food is; perch, young bass, sunfish, minnows, crayfish, frogs, mollusks, leeches, aquatic insects, water-lily roots and other aquatic plants. Loons live up to 30 years.
We hope you find the information on the loon interesting and welcome you to rent a cottage with Hidden Cove Cottages so that you can experience this wonderful part of nature on Lake Weslemkoon.