- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Conservation is my profession. For the past 15 years I have been the director of land acquisition for The Nature Conservancy. But to be honest, I'm no expert on the environment. Most of my time is spent communing with lawyers and landowners, not nature.
My only prolonged exposure to nature comes in the summer when, for almost as long as I can remember, I spend a couple of weeks on lakes in Maine, near the New Hampshire border. First it was Lovewell Pond in Fryeburg, now it's Kezar Lake in Lovell. I have always felt that these bodies of water are special, and one of the things that makes them so is the loons.
In this respect, Kezar is unusual. It has been reported that in all of New Hampshire, with the 156 lakes and ponds monitored by the Loon Preservation Committee of the New Hampshire Audubon Society, the summer population of loons does not exceed 500. Some days in July I have counted as many as 19 on Kezar Lake. Their eerie calls at all hours of the night give Kezar at least a semblance of wilderness.
Most people in Lovell are proud of the lake and want to protect what's left of its natural beauty. The Kezar Lake Association is active. Every year it distributes a brochure outlining the dos and don'ts of the lake. The loons are responsible for a lot of the don'ts. Don't chase them, harm them, disturb them, interfere with them or bother them in any way.
One pair often feeds in the water in front of our cabin, so I was somewhat surprised one afternoon two summers ago when my wife, Ruth, called, "David, come quick! Look at the loons!" I rushed out onto the porch and saw something thrashing about in the brush right at the shoreline. I had never seen loons in that close, and what made the spectacle even more amazing was that our neighbors were out swimming not 30 feet away. Wild loons just don't come that close to people.
Our son was on the dock working on his boat. I yelled to him, "Hey, Donald! Look at the loons." If he saw them, he didn't seem to care. "Yeah, sure," he said. "Can you bring me down a wrench?" Don was 15, and nature was not at the top of his list of interests.
The loons started to shriek. Our neighbors stopped swimming. My first thought was that the birds had cornered an exceptionally large and tasty school of fish. What else could make them come so close to humans? What a break. Here was nature on my very doorstep. I felt privileged to be able to share this unique moment with my family. I ran to the dock and saw two loons dive not more than 20 feet from me. While I stared at the cove waiting for them to surface, two streams of air bubbles came streaking under the dock. The loons popped up on the far side of Don's boat. They weren't fishing. One was trying to kill the other. The larger one had the smaller one by the neck and was forcing its head under the water. I could see blood.
Don finally looked up from his boat and said, "Hey, Dad, what are you going to do?" I didn't know. I couldn't just stand there and watch one loon kill another. On the other hand, Would it be right to interfere with nature? What about survival of the fittest and all that stuff? I made a quick decision. To hell with Darwin, I didn't want this loon hanging on my conscience.
I leaped off the dock into the shallows. The aggressor saw me coming and released its grip for an instant. That was all the little one needed. It burst free and beat its way around the point. The big one took off after it. They were both screaming. I stood there, scared and confused. I felt like the first person at the scene of a bad accident.
The land on our point is undeveloped, and the shoreline is still well hidden by bushes and trees. I sloshed out of the water, through the undergrowth, toward the sound of more thrashing, splashing and loons screaming. I stumbled over a boulder, and there, at the water's edge directly at my feet, were the loons. The big one again had the smaller bird's neck in its beak and was forcing its head under the water. Again, I didn't know what to do. I could have bent over and pulled them apart, but up this close, they looked very big, and the bigger one looked very upset.