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Loons and Solar Eclipse

Photo by Stan Tekiela

by Stan Tekiela
© NatureSmart

July 26, 2021

Everyday in nature is a new and exciting adventure. Even after 40 plus years of working with wildlife in some of the most beautiful places I still learn new things and surprised by what I see or what I learn. All of this creates a sense of wonder and amazement in my mind. It also keeps me going each morning when I get up pre-dawn and head out for the day with only a handful of hours of sleep.  

Right now, I am in the middle of my Common Loon photo workshop and tour season. Each year, photographers from around the world book time with me. I take them out to photograph Common Loons (Gavia immer) from my customized boat.

Each morning and evening during the season, I am out on my boat with up to 5 or 6 photographers. This means I am on the water teaching about loon behavior and helping my clients capture some amazing images of these iconic birds of the northland. It also allows me to log an unprecedented number of hours watching and studying these black and white beauties.

Recently I observed two things that really made me take notice of some new things. One evening I was approaching a family of loons from across the lake. I could see one of the adults was very upset and splashing about and preforming an aggression dance. This is where the loon stands up, out of the water, holding its bill tightly down to its chest while giving a loud call. This is called the penguin dance or vulture stance, because of the way the loon looks while performing this aggression display.

Through my binoculars I could see something large and black in the water. As I got closer, I still couldn’t make out what the heck was in the water that was upsetting this adult loon. It was only when I got much closer could I see the black object was a wind-breaker jacket that must have blow out of someone’s boat and was resting right in the territory of this loon family.

By now the adult loon was exhausted after all its efforts to drive off the floating jacket. I maneuvered my boat to go right up to the jacket and quickly pull the jacket from the water and immediately backed up and away from the adult loon. The second I removed the jacket from the water the adult loon calmed right down. You could almost see the relief on that loon’s face as soon as the jacket was removed from the waters surface. This is something I have never seen happen before.

The following morning, we where back out on the water before sunrise. The plan is always to capture the sun coming up with the loons in the foreground. I found a family of loons that where busy feeding their young. Once again, I maneuvered my boat to capture some amazing sunrise images featuring this family of loons feeding their young.

Taking these kinds of images are a regular part of my photo workshops / tours so nothing seemed out of the ordinary. This kind of photography of looking directly into the sun is challenging. You need to have your camera set on some very specific settings to capture these kinds of moments. And there is no time to waste because the time to capture the best images lasts just 10 mins or so.

Plus, it is not easy looking directly into the sun to capture these images. I wear my sunglasses to help accomplish this task. Everything worked out great and I was thrilled that we could capture some images of the adults feeding the young loons with the rising sun in the background.

But it was back in the office when editing the images did the surprising natural event become evident. Unknown to me, there was a partial solar eclipse going on. Of course, I couldn’t see it while it was going on because the sun is too bright. But the camera captured it perfectly. A corner of the sun had a bite taken out of it. And once again, mother nature amazes and surprises me. Until next time…

Stan Tekiela is an author / naturalist and wildlife photographer who travels the U.S. to study and capture wildlife. He can be followed on facebook.com, twitter.com and Instagram.com. He can be contacted via his web page at naturesmart.com. 

The nationally syndicated NatureSmart Column appears in over 25 cities spanning 7 states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania. It is a bi-weekly column circulated to over 750,000 readers.

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