One of the wired life’s pleasures lies in suddenly being taken elsewhere, or, at least, reminded of it. Just so the other day when my inbox brought news from Yellowstone; it promised loon news to boot.

As the poet Gary Lawless notes in these perfect lines from his poem, Listening for Loons,

“like loons we dive under
dive under and
come up somewhere else.’”

And so I leaned forward to see where this loon might rise, where I might come up. The indicator-ripple was one line: “Click on To Catch a Loon when you have 11 minutes.”

Can loons hold their breath for 11 minutes, I wondered as I checked my watch, where I found that I didn’t have 11 immediate moments. “Later,” I said…and worried vaguely that the note might not be there when I returned – that both is and isn’t the way with loons, I’ve found.

In the warmer seasons, when yearlings are along the summer coast, or, in the fall, when parent-loons show up too, I often find gatherings, 4s or 7s of them at predictable sites along my kayak-trails. Then again, every third time, there’s no one there, and I’ve stopped counting the times when, out in the middle of absence, I hear a floating call. For which I always stop and begin scanning the wavelets and reflections until I spot the loon.

In a warmer season.

In a warmer season.

Eleven unspoken-for minutes appeared yesterday, and I clicked the link, feeling the imagined Gs warp me some as I was drawn toward Yellowstone. A call/howl greeted me; a voice intoned that I was hearing a “top predator.” Okay, wolf, I was sure. Then, the podcast morphed to the call of another “top predator”: ah, loon, of course. Boss bird of the lake.

A little rock music followed, to remind me that all life has a soundtrack, and then the narrator’s voice took me into the nights: specifically into the night woods trekking toward the night lake, where loon biologists would attempt the night capture and banding of a mother loon, one of only a dozen loons living in the park.

One of the biologists was loon-notable, Jeff Fair, a friend whose 40+ years of fieldwork form an important part of our loon-knowing. Fair would also be the night-paddler, who would steer the canoe to the loon-catching point – who paddles so precisely and quietly, arriving alongside a bird that Henry Thoreau (famously) could only laugh with from an always-different distance during his loon-games on Walden? Loon-master Fair.

Well, if you’ve read this far, it’s clear that you have 11 minutes to spare; what about another 11? Click this link for a little travel and some looning; send it on to the varied birds of your life. They will like you for it.


Best news: these 11 minutes contain a little audio-tutorial on making baby loon calls, which are central to the strategy of capturing a loon at night. Those calls lure the loon, and they will be a rich replacement for the poor imitation of Loonish that I have so far voiced when trying (repeatedly, I confess) to strike up conversations. When no one else is here, I have begun practicing already.

Already, I sense summer answer.

A loon out there in the Walden mist?

A loon out there in the Walden mist?

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