By Ali Wagner
Imagine working a 1000-piece puzzle displaying a loon on a Vermont pond. First, you collect similar pieces of an image, like parts of the loon. You work these pieces to get a bigger whole, but for a while, it still remains unconnected to the frame. I call these “fascinators.” Eventually it all fits together.
Next, imagine the journeys of the rescued loon we’ve named “Little Guy” as that puzzle. Many pieces, however, are missing. We need an imagination filled with wonder to complete this puzzle, but here’s how a fascinator grows: It starts with Eric Hanson’s knowledge of the habits and habitats of loons. He predicted Little Guy’s journey began from Beecher Pond 12 to 24 hours prior to my discovery of the chick along a roadside on August 18th. Eric believes the loon traveled about a half mile through dense woods. How a chick, so awkward on land, could make such a challenging trek is a fantastic mystery!
The fascinator grows with the next journey to Maine and the next caregiver, Kappy Sprenger. Here is what she wrote about the care she could offer (8/22):
I’m transferring the VT chick to Avian Haven in Freedom, ME. It needs more care than I can give it at this point.
The waterproofing is poor on all dark feathers. Remember how odd the down looked? Not wet but sort of crinkled and bent? Something dried on or coated it. I wonder if the chick surfaced in a slick from boat gas. Yesterday we gave it a ‘light’ bath which didn’t help at all. The chick also doesn’t eat as much or well as I think it should this many days here. Avian Haven can do lab work, X-rays, etc. and I’m sure will keep you appraised.
Glad you brought the bird to us.
The next pieces fit into place with Diane, from Avian Haven in Freedom, Maine (8/25):
Your loon chick is doing very well so far. As Kappy had noted, her waterproofing is not great, but she can dive, and it takes several hours for her back to get a little wet. She stays dry underneath, which is good. As of yesterday, she learned to get herself up on the pool haul-out, so we feel comfortable leaving her in the pool knowing that, when she feels she needs to be out, she can get out on her own. Rather than try a second bath, our plan is to see if she can get her back feathers into shape by preening.
She has become a voracious feeder, practically jumping out of the pool to grab fish out of someone’s hand as soon as the panel doors are opened. She’s taking 5-6 capelin at a time, and probably eating 25 or so a day. At that rate, she’ll be all grown up in no time! I’ll keep you posted on her progress.
Best regards, Diane
So Little Guy’s fantastic journey continues — from a Vermont pond, then overland through woods to a roadside encounter, then a trip back to water, then another rescue, and now a detour to Maine. I’ll keep everyone posted on Little Guy’s progress.
Ali Wagner is a birder, citizen scientist and educator who lives in Huntington, Vermont. She discovered the loon chick along Route 105 in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom on August 18.