Saturday, January 19, 2013

Out of the Fog

I find the ocean pleasant enough but my heart lies in the swampy, mucky marsh where unseen things slither and hop and crawl. But this past week produced fog almost every day, and like a classic black and white movie it lured me across the road to breathe the briny air and take a stroll on the sand.

A favorite access dumped me onto the beach, greeted by high tide. Where I usually turn right on the sand, I felt a pull to turn left. There were no treasures in sight, but off in the distance I spied a dark mass near the edge of the water; maybe a piece of driftwood I could haul home if not too heavy. But as I got closer I realized it was a large bird tucked into itself. I didn't want to disturb it but something seemed wrong so I slowly approached expecting it to move away. The bird raised its head but made no effort to get away, and I saw the telltale red eye and the white spots on the dark feathers. It was a loon that had become stranded on the beach, a death sentence from starvation or a roaming animal if I didn't intervene.

Loons spend their whole lives on the water and need a large water runway to become airborne. Their legs are positioned far back on their body making walking difficult and clumsy. Unlike most birds that have hollow bones, many of a loon's bones are solid making them heavy, great for diving and staying submerged. This bird was no doubt exhausted and possibly injured.

My plan of a leisurely walk along the shoreline quickly changed. I took my favorite gray sweater and wrapped it tightly around the bird, encasing its wings and feet so he wouldn't become a problem in my car as I was driving. This bird was long and heavy, 10 or 11 pounds. He was fairly calm, laying his large head along my upper arm like a tired toddler as I walked to the car. Off I went to our wildlife veterinarian on the next island. My little car has hauled pelicans, gannets, turtles, opossum and other island creatures. Now I can add a loon to the list. I keep a large cat carrier, crabber's gloves and a blanket in the car at all times because inevitably my path will intersect with another animal needing assistance.

The vet would check him over for injuries and let him rest and recover before releasing him the next day. Anywhere else, if someone walked into the local veterinarian's office cradling a loon, people would take notice. Not here. It barely ruffled a feather. The tech came over, (the same one that helped me with the opossum last year spring), and took the loon to the back. She returned and handed me my sweater wet with loon poop, reminding me to wash it to get rid of the lice.

So when I have those times that I think I can't take any more hurricanes or tourists or sand spurs, I recall days like this when I held a loon in my arms.

"Life is not made of the number of breaths we take, but of the moments that take our breath away."
                                                                                                       source unknown


  1. I hope one day to become more tech savvy...until then, you'll find my comment to your post this week at LAST WEEK'S comment section.

  2. a black throated diver,member of the loon family,is gorgeous!
    the pattterns on their feathers are very 60's!
    hope your loon gets well soon!