We are mid-way through March and I am excited that a new season at the cottage is coming very soon! The American goldfinches are arriving back from their migration, so they are obviously hopeful that winter is coming to an end. I have noticed an increase in birdsong, the snow is melting, but we will probably get some more before winter ends.
I always enjoy seeing the geese returning in the V-shaped formation from their migration and signalling that spring is arriving. I was impressed to read that they fly with an altitude of 1 km when they migrate. Their honking from overhead announcing their return is always a joyful sound to me and we did actually hear some when we had our winter visit to the cottage. They are such messy birds and a bit of a pest, but I do enjoy seeing them.
We get quite a number in our bay and it always fascinates me to watch them take off.
It is quite a noisy business with them flapping and splashing as they run on the surface of the water.
Unfortunately they are impacting the loons on the lake. We were told that loons used to nest in our bay, but the geese chased them off. There is a quiet bay close to us and we found a loon nesting-platform that was put there to try and help the loons. It had been used the previous year, but it didn’t look like they used it last year.
They are still around and I assume close to us as we see them on virtually every trip in our bay.
We have seen young too, so thankfully they are still breeding.
One thing we noticed as we headed into fall was that the loons started to gather. We see geese doing that, but I didn’t know that loons also gather together. They have social gatherings before migrating. My daughter-in-law got to see over a dozen of them doing a kind of cooperative feeding behaviour where they form a circle around schools of fish and take turns to dive down. We started to see large groups, but we didn’t see anything as impressive as she got to view.
We have enjoyed watching them spread their wings and display their beautiful markings.
I have read descriptions about how loon social gatherings are like a “square dance”, with their bills turned downward as they look into the centre of the circle and then one will erupt powerfully from the water, splaying its wings. We have seen them erupt and splay their wings, but there were only half a dozen gathered at this point, so were perhaps just waiting for others to join them.
I never tire of listening to their haunting, magical calls. They have four different calls that they use to communicate. They have a soft, short hoot when they approach one another. The tremolo is a wavering call, which is given when a loon is alarmed or to announce its presence. The yodel, which is only given by the male, is a long rising call with repetitive notes in the middle and can last up to six seconds. It is used in territorial disputes and is apparently different for each bird, but if they move to a different territory they change their yodel. The wail, which I think is the most beautiful, is what they use to figure out each other’s location. It is the one you often hear it at night; the perfect lullaby to send you to sleep!