Friday, August 11, 2023

For Our Friend, The Loon

Loon on the water

By Paul Sorgule

This morning I read a small letter to the editor in the Adirondack Enterprise about a loon that was apparently killed by a boater in the channel between Lake Flower and Oseetah Lake. I was struck with profound sadness and a touch of anger. For many years, that loon held court on Lake Flower and was a welcome and highly anticipated sign of Spring. For many years he seemed to be without a mate, until this year. There was an obvious gleeful change in his daily routine and soon we were blessed to notice a pair of newborn chicks riding on their mother’s back. It was this loon’s soothing coo in the early morning that signaled how special it was to live in this Adirondack Community.

When we were on the lake (oftentimes in the late afternoon) we would coast around hoping to see him feeding. He had become accustomed to people and sometimes treated us to his presence just 15 or 20 feet off our bow. It was thrilling to watch him dive for fish only to pop up 50 or 60 yards away -loons are excellent swimmers. Maybe he became too familiar with people and failed to understand the dangers that this familiarity brings. While we drifted in our boat if we ever crept too close, he would let us know by fluttering his wings or letting out a distinctive sound that could only mean “back off”. Then he would settle down and provide a pose for another picture to add to our files.

At the end of the season, in mid to late October, the loon would leave the lake signaling the upcoming winter season and an end to our boating for another year. Throughout the winter we would talk about the next time we would meet our friend and hope that he would return with a mate. Loons are creatures of habit, and we anticipated many more years of sharing space on his lake. Now, that is a wish from the past.

We too own a motorboat on Lake Flower and enjoy a few rides each week through the waters that surround us. We are never in a hurry to rush through the magnificent space that surrounds our hometown. Taking our time to enjoy the incredible views and occasional wildlife, we tend to move with little boat wake so as not to miss anything along the way. When we see an oncoming kayak, canoe, or boarder we slow down to a crawl. Navigating a small non-motorized vessel is increasingly dangerous when trying to push through a motorboat wake. Where people swim, our boat moves as far away as possible. Our eyes are always on the lookout for aquatic creatures, people, and small boats as well as occasional floating logs, or stumps exposed during a dry spell. Passing through the channel or narrow places where homes and docks dot the shoreline, we slow down to do our part in protecting people, property, and shoreline from eroding more than it already has. This is what good boaters do.

We are sad about our friendly loon and only hope that he enjoyed time with his mate and newborn chicks, an experience he had been seeking for years. We will miss his presence and beautiful sound. At the same time, we are angry that some people are so careless and maybe uncaring that they fail to respect the tranquility of our lakes and fail to practice good boating behavior. Let’s practice safe boating and maybe our loon’s chicks will return next year to take his place.

Paul Sorgule lives in Saranac Lake.

Loon pictured above is an Almanack file photo by Don Andrews (not the loon mentioned in this commentary).

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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at

10 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    Very sad story, but thanks for posting it. All too often we need to be reminded of our impact on wildlife – friendly or otherwise. We need to be prepared to act differently and thoughtfully when we are in their world. Sadly, this is not in our nature.

  2. Willy says:

    You should ask folks who live along the shore line there who the tall blonde haired guy was that was doing 50+ miles an hour on a jet ski and actually got so close to my stern that I felt spray. He was flying over the weeds and lili pads on the edge of the channel the same day I saw two beautiful loons. He looked clueless and a little crazed. I figured he was having some kind of mental health issue. Saw him on July 14 and 15th. Maybe he knows something.

  3. Suzanne says:

    My friend wrote the letter to the editor after he and I found the decapitated male loon while rowing our shells early in the morning, the only relatively safe time to row that channel. Some boaters roar right past us, regardless of how narrow the channel is and how large a wake the boat generates. Wakes also affect the loons’ nests. The loon family had become family to me, and I looked forward to watching the progress of the two chicks and observing how the parents took turns diving and watching over them. I can only hope the mother will be able to sustain them until they can manage on their own, and the one death doesn’t result in one or two more.

  4. Gary N. Lee says:

    The loon chicks will stay in the ocean for three to four years before returning to the lake where they were born a or a nearby lake. Hope another male nearby finds your female and pairs with her.

  5. Jackie Woodcock says:

    Paul what a sad but beautifully written story!! I’m so sorry! We too had a careless boater kill a baby loon on the lake. These creatures are like friends to us nature lovers!! I wrote an article titled Friends with Feathers. We have had several avian friends throughout the years and those times with them were precious as I’m sure yours were.

  6. Loon observer says:

    I recovered that loon carcass on Saturday 29 July just downstream from the outflow of Oseetah Lake into the Saranac River. The night before a boat was racing up and down the channel and probably struck the loon I live on that part of the lake/river and had never seen that boat before or since so it was probably not a person who lives here. It would be better for all if our great but very overworked DEC had enough rangers to enforce safe boating. Today is two weeks after the loon died and the remaining adult and the two chicks were diving for breakfast just off my dock. I wish them well.

    • Bill Ott says:

      Paul, thankyou for writing this fine article that really hits home with me.
      I could not find seeding penalties for NY boaters. I found codes about reckless operation and the statement below about safe operation:
      “If you are operating within 100 feet of the shore, a dock, pier, raft, float or anchored boat, your speed is generally limited to 5 miles per hour.”
      The channel between the two lakes closes to less than 200 feet at two choke points, if I am correctly reading Google Earth maps. The speed limit should be 5mph. If just one person were to be ticketed, substantially fined, and publicized, perhaps some people would slow down some of the time, or, hopefully more people would slow down more of the time.
      I could go on, but I am limited to 5mph today

      • Rob says:

        5 mph will create a bigger wake than a boat traveling at a higher rate of speed. Worst part is this was probably an accident and now I’m sure there are people wanting to ban all boats in the park. Heck I remember back in late 80’s people against the loons.

  7. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “we tend to move with little boat wake so as not to miss anything along the way. When we see an oncoming kayak, canoe, or boarder we slow down to a crawl…..Our eyes are always on the lookout for aquatic creatures”

    I’m the same way Paul, I make room for the wild kind, and I look out for them….always! Just this morning less than a dozen geese were preparing to cross over a road which leads to a shopping plaza, they were headed towards an artificial pond which new developments are known for; pitiful-looking sights those ponds, which don’t even come close to the real thing! I had plenty of space, and time, to pass, without interfering with the travels of these geese, but I stopped anyway. I saw they were making for my side of the road so I stopped long before I should have. I did so because, though I am in the moments, I am also looking ahead, I wanted to make sure they got over the road safely, so I stayed put. I kept an eye on my rearview mirror hoping no cars would come up from behind so soon, or before those geese were in the road…..

     There was a dude in a pickup truck approaching from the opposite direction. At this time those geese were part ways over the road, not quite surpassing my travel lane. That dude in the pickup truck! I truly believe the only reason he stopped was because I was stopped and parked in my lane as those geese were slowly making their way across. Geese may have clocks but they are never in the rush us humans are endlessly in, they take their sweet time while traversing roads. The pickup dude was getting very impatient, was revving his engine, was pushing to move forward regardless of these geese making their way across to that artificial pond….. 

    Those geese made it across which was a relief for me Paul, but I’m here to say… the arrogance in some humans is beyond me, unfeeling, cold arrogance. I feel your angst and I’m sorry for the emptiness which I know is within you regards that loon you were acquainted with. It saddens me too!

  8. Jen says:

    My time in the Raquette Lake area..was profound.
    The loon calls each daybreak and evening are magical.
    I am saddened some humans take that away

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