A loon and eagle having a showdown

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Keeping an eye on threats from above on Zack Woods Pond several years ago.  Photo by Phil Etter

Keeping an eye on threats from above on Zack Woods Pond. Photo by Phil Etter

As I paddled toward the south end of Derby Pond last night, I came across a single loon with it’s head tucked in napping. Sixty feet away a mature bald eagle was perched on a snag 5 feet off the water. Why wasn’t the loon more alert or even riled. My first thought was that the loon was just keeping a half-eye on the eagle while (hopefully) it’s mate was sitting on a nest nearby. I went on my way to search the areas further south where the loons have nested in previous years. I did not find any signs of nesting over the next 20 minutes.

I paddled back north to check other marshy habitat nearer to the eagle and the loon, who were both still in same location. The loon had woken up and had given a few wail calls, maybe calling its mate. Because of the sun and glare, I accidentally ended up between the loon and the eagle 30 feet on either side of me and neither showed any sign of distress with each other or me. My second thought, “this is odd.” I then noticed a protrusion of freshly moved mud in toward shore. Here was the loon nest with 2 eggs. I was literally in the middle of a stand-off between two showy birds.

The loon did not feel safe on the nest and the eagle was more interested in the loon than the eggs. They seemed to be waiting on who would make the next move. I moved.  As I turned the kayak around the eagle to took wing. I looked back a few minutes later and the loon was still floating in the bay waiting to make sure it was safe. I came across the mate preening in the middle of the lake either totally unaware or unconcerned with the predicament facing it’s partner.

Earlier in the day I found a loon nesting on Island Pond within a few 100 meters of an active eagle nest. Last year a loon chick survived into the fall on Island Pond even with the eagle family around, so somehow loons can evade these aerial predators, at least some of the time.

Eric Hanson

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Comments (1)

  1. Susan Taylor says:

    Excellent writimg of an exciting story, Eric. I can picture it so well and am glad it was you and not I!

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