Celebrating feathered friends’ return

In the midst of all my rantings about foolish governments and stories of man’s inhumanity to man, a Sunday walk in McKenzie Trails brought back a little bit of normalcy to my heart.

About four or five years ago, after repeated unsuccessful attempts to raise young, only to have them washed away by flooding, a mating pair of loons left the area all together.

I had come to care about these divers as friends, and they were a source of story material, especially how their lives and habits can be related to many human characteristics.

Described by some as a freak of nature, these waterfowl are actually perfectly designed, despite a side of their habits that might suggest otherwise.

When you see them on the water, their regal looks belie the fact that out of water, they are hilariously clumsy walkers.

They look like they are floundering like a Looney character, which is probably where their name comes from.

Sometimes, when the water is clear enough and light is in your favour, you can see them as they dive for food. They stretch themselves out in an extremely straight line, making them look like an arrow in the water.

The positioning of their feet so far back on their body allows them great bursts of speed to catch minnows. These graceful manoeuvres are what makes them such beautiful birds; their paint job doesn’t hurt either.

When they did not return to these ponds, it left a hole in our frequent walks in the area. Without intervention, the ponds are totally subject to the wiles of nature.

If there is no rain, the level drops off seriously, no longer able to support the wildlife that live there, so we did not find it too strange when the loons did not return.

Their colours are so striking and consistent that I liken them to being the zebras of Canada. If you examine them closely, their markings are so perfect and beautiful, that it is hard not to fall in love with these marvels of creation.

Other animals sport that same consistency of markings as well, but in my mind, do not stand out in the same way.

As amazing as these birds are, their characteristics are not the focus of this column — the fact that they have come back is.

What with all the negatives in life — such as the pending ice age or baking heat, with three political parties spouting anything, including untruths — life can leave a person disconnected from reality.

Adding to that, the economy, poor summer weather and whatever else that constantly attacks our sensibilities, leaves a person reaching out for relief.

So we take walks, bike a bit, go shopping, spend time on the beach, anything to take our minds off all these influences in our lives.

Then this past Sunday, we took our usual walk around McKenzie park, and in preparing to go, we made sure to take our binoculars, because a week earlier, we had spotted a loon.

In and of itself, that is not such an important event, because we often see many bird species as they travel through, such as Red-necked Grebes, ruddy ducks and common mergansers. Couple that with 1,000 geese and goslings, and it’s usually a busy place teeming with life.

Maybe I’m over dramatizing the situation, but spending time on a bench observing this visiting pair brings a feeling of contentment.

Even with all the negatives life tends to throw at us, all it takes is to witness the return of something that we had lost five years ago.

It brings with it the fact that in spite of everything, life continues as if all these other influences never existed.

Such was my feeling when my friends came back.

Chris Salomons is a retired Red Deer resident with a concern for the downtrodden.

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