Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Loons

The usual confederation of ducks in the cove was replaced the other afternoon by an alliance of loons. There were four of them, and in contrast to the loose chaos of their cousins, always diving and squabbling and paddling helter-skelter, the loons' formation was tight and geometrically sound, a kind of diamond shape going forward. Occasionally, one would turn up its white belly to groom, seeming to capsize in the process, and the watcher remembered again how sitting so low in the water masks their true size. Two had classic, strikingly beautiful markings in black and white. Two had markings slightly duller, and one was tempted to think that these were the females, and that the alliance was an afternoon outing of couples. The sex of loons, however, is not easily distinguishable; males do not show off . The change in markings occurs with the change of seasons, as the loons leave the inland lakes for the ocean. It did seem to be an outing, however. They moved almost imperceptibly (each animal should have its own jargon for its behavior - the words amble or paddle or meander don't quite fit here), staying together, toward the south. No other creature can be so calmly wild.

That half-hour of watching loons was a most subtle tonic at the end of summer. There's no need to panic.

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