Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy as a Loon: Steam Shovels and Sightings

On Thursday, we left Lebanon, New Hampshire for Auburn, Maine, where both Dave's brothers live. 

On the way, we couldn't help but stop for this photo since Dave was wearing his Smokey the Bear shirt, one of his best thrift store finds. 

Only you can prevent forest fires! 

When we stopped at this lake further down the road, we read an advisory sign about preserving the loon population. Loons swallow small bits of gravel from the bottom of lakes to grind up their food, just like chickens, and many of them accidentally ingest lead from fishing lures. The previous weekend, Jesse's wife, Kirsten, and I thought we'd spotted a loon when we were ahead of everyone on our river kayaking trip. We had never seen a loon before, so we weren't exactly sure what they looked like, but it turns out we were correct. The aquatic bird we saw exactly matched the picture the Fish and Game department supplied on the bulletin board warning us about loons ingesting lead. 

Dave and I mused about the loons as we drove on, wanting to learn more about them. Near sundown, we stopped at Meredith Lake to enjoy the beautiful view. 

We liked this island in the lake, and, as we watched, a group of about 10 water birds began flying overhead. At first, we speculated that they were ducks, but as we watched them, we realized their flying technique as well as their bodies were not quite right. Suddenly, it hit us: what we were looking at were loons! 

We quickly used the zoom on the camera to get a closer look. 

It truly was a tree full of loons. As we watched, more and more came flying in to rest in the tree. As excited as we were about our loon discovery, it turned out the best was yet to come. 

When we stopped a few miles down the road to take photos of this old steam shovel repurposed as a flower bed in Moultonborough, we noticed a Loon Center bumper sticker on a car. Even though it was getting late, we had to go. 

We loved the juxtaposition of the steam shovel's heavy metal frame with the delicate flowers.

We followed signs through Moultonborough to find the Loon Center. We were really impressed when we arrived. The Loon Preservation Committee Headquarters, a project of the New Hampshire Audubon Society, is tucked away in a gorgeous wooded area on a splendid piece of property. 

There are several trails open for public use on their property, one of which passes the June nesting ground of one pair of loons. The Loon Center was nice enough to offer up a basket of walking sticks on their front porch for visitors to use on the trails and return. The Center also offers many classes throughout the year, both on loons and other nature topics. 

The Loon Center was closed by the time we arrived, and we were disappointed about not being able to go in. Also, we really wanted a Loon Center bumper sticker for our collection. Dave got a brilliant idea. We left a self-addressed, stamped envelope along with a note, a few of our business cards, a small donation, and two of Dave's handmade bookmarks tacked to the front door of the Loon Center. In our note, we explained our story and asked the staff to mail a bumper sticker to my parent's house. We do hope they send it, and also hope they were delighted by the surprise when they arrived at work the next day. If you're reading this, thank you Loon Center for your work with the loons! 

We've decided to reclaim and change the old saying, "Crazy as a loon" that came as a shortened version of the word "lunatic," but now could be misread to make the loon sound crazy. We propose a new saying: "Happy as a loon." That's how we felt on this whole adventure. It was such a neat serendipitous series of events that led us to learn about the loon, and it will certainly ensure that loons are close to our heart for a long time to come. 


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