Year after year migratory waterfowl stop over at Picnic Point and the University Bay to rest and feed before heading further south. November is a spectacular month at the Bay, with Gadwalls, Common Loons, Buffleheads and a large raft of American Coots covering the water. It's a great time for photographers. Arlene Koziol captured these glorious photos of birds in motion.
“The Ojibwe (Chippewa) Indians called the loon "Mang" or "the most handsome of birds."
Loons are listed first in most North American field guides because they are considered to be the most ancient of birds. Adult loons are large, over 36 inches from the tip of their bills to the end of their feet when stretched out. They weigh between six and twelve pounds. Their feet are set back on their bodies so they cannot walk on land.
Loons swim low in the water because their bones are heavy. They are excellent divers and can vanish underwater to find food or escape danger without leaving a ripple. They reach depths of 200 feet or more. Their large webbed feet act as propellers, enabling fast travel underwater.
“To take flight, loons may run as far as a quarter of a mile on the water's surface to build enough speed to get aloft. In the air, they have a rapid wing beat and can fly up to 75 miles per hour. Loons can live for up to 30 years.
LoonWatch is a program of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute that protects Common Loons and their aquatic habitats."
Common Loons use Lake Mendota as a migratory stopover in the Fall. It is possible to see them from the shore especially in University Bay, Picnic Point and Frautschi Point.
“In late October and early November before lakes freeze, loons fly south to coastal seas, with some traveling 3,800 miles. Loons are one of the few birds found in both freshwater and salt water, from northern lakes to southern marine environments. Loons migrate south their first autumn and do not return to their breeding area for three years on average, says Andrew East, who has studied loons as a field biologist in Wisconsin and other states”.
Source: The Uncommon Loon, Glenda C. Booth, Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine
Beneath the Surface: A Natural History of a Fisherman's Lake. By Bruce M. Carlson
For more information, visit LoonWatch - Northland College, https://www.northland.edu/sustain/soei/loonwatch/,
Gisela Kutzbach and contributors