Sunday Nature Walk: The Common Loon — Red Eye of the North Woods

Few birds captivate the imagination and the symbolism of the north woods as much as the common loon (Gavia immer). This large bird is most notably seen and associated with the Northern states. However, what many do not realize is that Connecticut serves as a primary pathway and sanctuary to migrating and overwintering loons.

Easton, Conn. has some of the few bodies of freshwater large enough to support loon migration in Fairfield County. Every year, during the early spring, the common loon uses these areas as a “pit stop” during their journey north for the breeding season. Loons are very heavy birds, weighing up to 15 pounds, and they need a large area to take off. The Saugatuck and Aspetuck reservoirs are a common spot to find migrating loons, which can be seen regularly during their migration patterns.

A common loon flapping its wings. — Tomas Koeck Photo

Loons are majestic birds, but behind their beauty comes a raw fierceness that should be respected. Just this year, the Loon Preservation Committee received a report that a common loon had killed a bald eagle while defending its chick from the large bird of prey. Although bald eagles are a major enemy of loons, their top threat remains unrivaled — humans!

Common loon chicks rely on their parents’ protection even more than most other birds. Once hatched, it takes a short amount of time until the chicks are in the water. Loon chicks are vulnerable to being eaten when the parents leave them alone, and kayakers and boaters can unwittingly endanger chicks by getting too close and separating the young loons from the parents. This is why it is important for humans to keep their distance when viewing any species of wildlife, regardless of one’s degree of familiarity or level of curiosity.

A common loon with a chick on its back. — Tomas Koeck Photo

In the next couple of months, loons will be returning to the southern areas of New England. Many of these loons will be from this year’s hatch. Keep an eye out on your next walk around the Aspetuck or Saugatuck reservoirs, and maybe you will hear the majestic call of the common loon!

This fall, explore some of Easton’s lake trails to find loons through the Aspetuck Land Trust, or explore trails throughout Connecticut at CT Woodlands.

For more nature photos, fun facts, and environmental entries, you might like to follow my nature photography instagram, @wild_new_england_ ( https://www.instagram.com/wild_new_england_/ ).

Tomas Koeck
Tomas Koeck

Koeck is a photographer and videographer. He is completing his bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from the School of Communication, Media & the Arts at Sacred Heart University. He has worked on several stories with the non-profit Vision Project and is on the Easton Courier’s news team.  He has published in the Connecticut Audubon Society, TAMRON Optics, ESPN, and the Spectrum. He has also been featured on the prestigious Instagram wildlife photography platforms Elite Owls and Elite Raptors. He also runs a YouTube channel with over 19,000 subscribers.

He has conducted scientific research for Penn State University on invasive plant regeneration as well as field work with Dr. Kim Steiner of Penn State’s dendrology forest biology division. Koeck is also a recipient of the University of Connecticut’s Environmental Studies Award and has published species profiles for the Connecticut Audubon Society.

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