It seems ages ago when my team was out on the lakes, finding pairs with chicks, capturing and banding them — then hastily storing our canoes and the Loonmobile for the winter. So much has occurred since early August that those frantic days linger in my brain only as a hazy memory.
But the loons stayed on. While I was vacationing in the East, attending faculty retreats, and lecturing with a mask and fogged glasses so that we could keep classes in-person, loon parents continued to stuff their young with food, chicks matured and learned to fly, and most adults abandoned their territories for the Great Lakes. Even now though, as I brace myself for that peculiar mixture of joy, renewal, and mortification that only Thanksgiving with family can bring, loons remain on many small lakes in the Upper Midwest. Most are juveniles, like the one in Linda Grenzer’s photo, which often postpone migration until the very last second. This strategy probably permits them to maximize their energy reserves for their first long overland journey to Florida.
So hold a good thought for the stragglers. The Brandy Lake chick, which a lake resident told me about in an anxious e-mail today, is among them. Perhaps by the time we are all sitting down for our Thanksgiving meal, that strapping juvenile will have begun winging his way anxiously in a south-south-easterly direction. Though he cannot have a clear picture of his destination, he will cease his migration off of Cedar Key, Panama City, Tampa, Fort Myers, or Apalachicola. For a time he will be that nondescript brownish diving “duck” that some young family from Nebraska watches distractedly while building their sand castle. Let us hope that we see him back up north in a few years — and in more striking attire.