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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa


October 11th, 2013 · 2 Comments

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Until Wayne and Marveen came to my rescue, I was almost ready to declare that loons were my nemesis birds. In vain I had tried again and again to get good photographs of them. Even when my friends drove me to five lakes close to their home where Wayne had seen loons, we didn’t find any.

Loons aren’t rare birds. The International Union for Conservation of Nature, the world’s main authority on the conservation status of species, says that all five living loon species have a conservation status of least concern.

For almost 40 years loons have been high on my mental list of birds that I wanted see. I still remember hearing their haunting calls one night in 1974 when I camped at a lake in the northern Wisconsin woods, but couldn’t see them. You can hear the​ir​ haunting wails​ on this Cornell Lab of Ornithology video, “Voices: Common Loon.

My first view of a loon was in Colorado, and that was through a spotting scope rather than my naked eyes. On this trip to Alaska ​I saw a common loon on Lake Louise in Canada and a pair of pacific loons on Rock Lake in the Kenai National Wildlife Reserve when Marveen took me there. But all of them were too far away even for my telephoto lens.

Trying to think like a loon, I went back to two lakes that Wayne had showed me and that I thought loons would like the most. Both of these lakes are partly covered by lily pads where the loons could make their nests. At Thetis Lake I briefly glimpsed one loon through my binoculars. And at Salamatof Lake I eventually got an acceptable photo of the male loon.

​A Loon Swims on Salamatof Lake

A Loon Swims on Salamatof Lake

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The male and female loons were hundreds of yards away from each other. When they called back and forth, I heard them for the first time since my memorable experience in Wisconsin many years ago.

Then I Saw the Loon Chick

Then I Saw the Loon Chick

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Finally, the Family Reunited

Finally, the Family Reunited

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I also happened to get satisfactory photos of a beaver. On the other side of the lake, while I was boiling water for a cup of tea, I looked up and noticed a beaver right in front of me. It was carrying a branch to its home.

A Busy Beaver in Salamatof Lake​

A Busy Beaver in Salamatof Lake

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When Marveen told Wayne that I finally got these distant photos of loons on Salamatof Lake, he asked if I wanted to take his boat to look some more for loons. Of course, I said that I did.

In the past he had seen loons on Island Lake, so that’s where we headed. But when we got there at about 8:30 p.m., we found noisy jet skiers who would have driven the loons away. So instead we went to nearby Thetis Lake.

Captain Wayne​ at the Helm on Thetis Lake

Captain Wayne at the Helm on Thetis Lake

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Wayne had fished this lake from the shore, but had never launched his boat there. It turned out to be a great experience for all of us, and I expect that Marveen and Wayne will be returning there again and again.

We had the entire lake to ourselves. Almost to ourselves. We quickly found a pair of loons. Wayne said that maybe we could see​ one of the ​loon​s​ lift up, but I didn’t realize what he was talking about until a few minutes later.

​A Loon Lifts Up on the Lake​

A Loon Lifts Up on the Lake

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This is a beautiful lake surrounded by spruce with few homes in sight. It was especially peaceful when Wayne turned off the motor and we just coasted on the lake, basking in the sun of a warm summer evening as we watched these special birds​.​


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Posted in: Alaska

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bob Fenton // Oct 11, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    I am happy that you got to see them rise and walk on the water. I have seen this several times in Northern Minnesota and Lake of the Woods in Canada.

    This happens as they are paring up for the season and do this in pairs.

  • 2 David Mendosa // Oct 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Dear Bob,

    So that’s why! Thank you for your insight.