Very often, you'll hear the mystical call of the loon long before you ever see one. If you're like me, this intriguing call will stop you in your tracks, leaving you eager to hear more. (Thanks to some folks at the Loon Preservation Committee in New Hampshire, you can hear the loon's entire repertoire of hoots, yodels, wails, and tremolos below.)
The Common Loon has distinct black and white checkerboard markings, piercing red eyes, and a unique swimming ability. While most birds have hollow bones, the loon has solid bones, allowing it to dive deep. Loons can also submerge gradually, with barely a ripple, thanks to something called an internal air sac. You can learn more interesting facts about loons and hear their distinctive calls here, but there's no substitute for experiencing the real thing.
As you are out paddling New Hampshire waters, please do your part to protect these beautiful birds, which are a threatened species in our state. First, if you are fishing -- try not to leave behind any lead sinkers, jigs, or fishing line, all of which can be fatal to loons. Secondly, watch for warning displays during the nesting season, early May through mid-July. According to Naturalists John Hayes and Alex Wilson,
"If you see a loon flapping its wings and making a racket during the nesting season, steer clear. When you see a nest site marked with buoys or warning signs, as is done done on many lakes and ponds, keep your distance. "
I'll admit, it can be hard to keep your distance from such beautiful and intriguing creatures. That's when a good pair of binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens comes in handy. Don't leave home without them!