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).