A juvenile loon that was found sitting on Big Lake Road in Cloquet, returned home today.
Loons easily become grounded on pavement that resembles water, either due to it being wet or the shimmer of heat. Once on the ground, loons cannot walk nor can they lift back up to fly away. Oftentimes, loons that have been grounded have abrasions on their keels, legs and feet.
This loon was perfectly healthy so after our vets examined it yesterday, we started planning its return to Cloquet. We try to release loon as soon as possible because they’re very difficult to keep alive in captivity, being highly susceptible to aspergillosis (asper).
I released the loon at the north end of Big Lake, at the Fond du Lac Recreation Area. A perfectly quiet bay for it to re-adjust to being home. It immediately tried to dive in the shallow water, then swam away peering into the water searching for fish.
The loon will stay on the lake for several more weeks before moving to Lake Superior where it’ll join hundreds of other first-year loons in huge “rafts.” The rafts of loons will eventually migrate to the Gulf Coast, most likely via Lake Michigan according to new research from a USGS loon tracking study.
It’ll spend a full year in Florida (not migrating back next spring), acquiring its black and white colors with which we’re familiar, before returning to Minnesota. Here’s a view of its current markings:
(for those interested, here’s clinical info on asper (pdf))