Due to today’s inclement weather, I postponed a Tracking expedition and thought it might be a good day to become a couch potato. But still, my feet itched to get outside as the raindrops fell.
And then a text message arrived: “Potential loon trapped in the ice; rescue happening on Lower Bay.” I was in my truck and on my way before I even knew the exact location.
As I drove, rain changed to big slushy balls that struck the windshield with noisy inkblot-shaped splats. I pulled into a parking area to check on the intended meet-up point and learned I was a bit early, so I went for a walk. All around me, the forest was alive with sounds–of wet snow striking marcescent leaves, and birds chirping as they flew from branch to branch. I’d hoped to meet an old friend, Argee, but he was nowhere in sight.
By the time I did join the rescue group, they were already loading an aluminum boat into the lake.
The Lower Bay of Kezar Lake had sealed over this past weekend and was coated with an inch or more of ice.
Thus the need for the rescue mission. An immature loon got caught by the sudden freeze. Thankfully for it, Susan Clout, a local resident, noticed its situation and put out a call for help.
Responders included Heinrich and Linda Wurm, Paul Buckley, Steve Lewis, and Jim Buck.
Donning life jackets, their only gear: paddles, a net and a box. It all seemed so simple. Paddle out, coo to the bird as it might talk to another, and either make open water for it to fly (loons need at least a quarter mile for take off, this one had a circle that maybe measured twenty feet–it was difficult to tell from the shore) or capture and release it on an open section of the lake. As one of the text messages stated about the plan: Evolving.
The task of breaking the ice was daunting and though it looked like they were crossing the Potomac, all they really wanted to do was maneuver part way across the bay.
Because it made sense for the person in the bow to stand and break ice as the sternman paddled, stability became an issue and within minutes the boat returned to shore and a third passenger climbed aboard.
Though you can see the circle of open water and it may appear close by, it was all a matter of perspective and they had a long path to create.
Meanwhile, back on shore, those of us who remained behind and felt like we might need to rescue the rescuers, were entertained by Susan as she sang the most delightful lines of a song she’d been writing about the loon’s dilemma.
Back on the water, or rather, ice, progress was slow.
And still the loon swam, occasionally calling out. We interrupted its voice to mean, “I see you. Keep coming my way.”
On board the SS Icebreaker, oarsmen shifted positions because it was tiring to chop continuously.
We kept assuming they were making headway given their position.
And they were. But they still had a long way to go. After 75 minutes, with probably two more hours separating them from the loon, and a cold rain falling, they decided to turn around and hope that higher temps and maybe a breeze in coming days will do the trick. All are hopeful.
I was invited to the scene because my friends’ thought it would make a good story. In the end, my story is nothing compared to the one Nature is writing. She, apparently, has Her own plans for the denouement. We can’t wait to read how She resolves this matter.
Update: November 21, 2019
And here is the rest of the story as Heinrich interpreted it for us: “The loon we were aiming our mission toward took off this morning! Just as the Game Warden showed up the loon started flapping its wings and headed east toward the Narrows. Amazing!“
“Unfortunately these remnants were left near the other open space
where a loon had been sighted before.“
I later learned that two Bald Eagles were spotted near the loons.
Nature’s Denouement: Find a balance.