A yodeling loon in the northern Illinois cold

This is not the time to be seeing common loons in their full breeding regalia, bright, glowing red eye, smooth jet black plumage and that telltale black striped white band around its neck — and it certainly isn’t the time for it to yodel and court and woo the ladies.

But seeing a common loon even in its winter plumage — and then hearing it yodel — on a cold November day — made me think, spring will come again. And that is very difficult up here in northern Illinois where the winters can be brutal.

commonloonwinterplumage

My husband and I went to Bangs Lake recently to see migrating ducks, grebes and loons — oodles of coots graced much of the water — their black bodies and white bills seemed to fill the entire space. But amongst them were male and female hooded mergansers, northern shovelers, horned grebes, ruddy ducks and other lovely waterfowl.

We also saw four common loons — in their winter plumage. See the photo above — they are brownish this time of year with dirty white chests, throats and necks.   They huddled quietly together, perhaps anticipating their next dive for food and knowing intrinsically they would be flying even farther south as the winter progressed.

While standing on a sandy beach watching the ducks, we suddenly heard the most haunting wonderful sound.  A loon was yodeling — softly, reminiscent of its summer. It yodeled a few times, then stopped, and then yodeled a few times more a minute later. If you have never heard a loon yodel, you are missing out on one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the world — and that deep interior feeling of joy, nostalgia, melancholy and peace all gathered together.

Click here — close your eyes and listen. It won’t be the same as if you are there, but it will be beautiful nonetheless.

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