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The Loons of Lake Dunmore


There are moose roaming in these parts. At least that’s what the local lore says. Last summer we visited the summer home of a colleague on Vermont’s Lake Dunmore located in the foothills of the Green Mountains. Gosh Rocky, I would have loved to have seen a moose, but it would have been easier to spot a Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster. The moose, if they were around, were not as eager to see us as we were to see them.

What we did see though were chipmunks,  which were plentiful and cute, and most notably a pair of loons that had decided to make the lake home. The birds, which are bigger than a duck and smaller than a goose, spend their days riding the gentle current plunging occasionally when opportunity presents them with a fish snack. To the people of Lake Dunmore, most of whom live elsewhere outside the summer season, the loons on the lake are at least a symbolic victory, a tribute to coexistence. One evening Alan, our host, was even able to propel his boat close enough for a look without spooking them. There are lots of lakes in Vermont. Few of them have their own resident loons.

Winter is quite pronounced in that part of the world. Down here we stretch our beach recreation to almost Thanksgiving, up there folks are packing up by Labor Day. The weather can be cold and brutal. The moose and loons have to fend for themselves.

As this summer began I emailed Alan for a loom report. Were they back? At first there was uncertainly.

Then one day, Alan’s wife, Carol, circulated a group email from Mike, one of the neighbors, who had been maintaining a loon alert. Indeed a pair had been spotted on the lake:
“They have been very noisy all afternoon, even up to a couple minutes ago.” Mike wrote. “We are hearing wails and yodels, much of the time for no apparent reason. The male is remaining true to his personality and is yodeling at noisy boats even when they are a couple hundred or more yards away. The female will join in when he starts but by herself is pretty quiet.”

If I ruled the world, and I should, I would outlaw jet skis. Not only are they dangerous for those on them but a nuisance to those around them – including loons. One of Mike’s photos showed the apprehensive male loon watching a jet ski in the distance. He nervously started yodeling though the ski mercifully stayed away.

Loon watching was just about over for that day, but just as the sun was plunging behind Green Mountain the watchers got a surprise. They noticed a little feathery ball between the birds. The loons had not been totally idle. There was a blessed event on the shore of Lake Dunmore, and a loon chick which had been sleeping beneath its mother’s wing came out as though to catch a glimpse of the sunset.

Now that it’s August, the people of Lake Dunmore will soon be packing for the season again. The motorboats will be dry docked to be preserved for the next season. The jetskis will, hopefully, rust. The moose, if they are there, will celebrate another season of being unseen. The chipmunks will dig into their burrows. And at least one loon chick will, we presume, be looking for a partner. The sun rises over Green Mountain. Life continues.

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