IF THE SMALL TOWN of Crosslake in the central Minnesota lakes region has an identifying symbol, it would be the loon. It’s everywhere. On signs. On lakes. And soon to be the focus of a new interactive, educational and recreational center.
The National Loon Center is slated to open in the spring of 2024 in Crosslake. For now, a temporary office and information center, The Nest, is located at Crosslake Town Square. I haven’t been there. Yet.
I’m excited about the forthcoming center, which will enlighten me about the Minnesota state bird. Up until I started going Up North to the cabin several years ago, the loon was mostly an unfamiliar bird to me. If there are loons in southern Minnesota, I haven’t seen them. Minnesota is home to an estimated 12,000 loons, their habitat primarily in central and northern lakes.
Now each visit to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s lake property south of Crosslake, I hope to see loons. This summer I enjoyed plenty of loon watching as a family of four swam the waters on our side of Horseshoe Lake.
It’s entertaining to watch these birds swim close together, the parents obviously protecting their two young offspring. It’s interesting, too, to see how the adults dive underwater, resurfacing a significant distance away. I’m especially intrigued by their haunting call. There’s no other word to describe the voice of the loon.
On our final morning at the cabin in early July, Randy called me to come quick to the dock. The loons were the closest they’d been during our four-day stay. Just off the dock. It was then that I got my best photos. My daughter and granddaughter got even closer when a loon landed next to them while they were paddleboarding during a recent stay at the lake.
I wonder about the closeness of people to these birds. I worried about recreational boaters speeding across the lake and possibly hitting the loon family. It seemed a real possibility at times. I imagine the speedboats and jet skis and water-skiers stress the loons.
Once the Loon Center opens, I’ll be more informed about the red-eyed common loon with the black head and ringed neck and distinctive patterned black-and-white feathers layering over a white body. There’s simply no mistaking a loon’s identity. Adults weigh 7-13 pounds.
This lovely and distinct bird symbolizes not only Crosslake and the surrounding area, but Minnesota. In 2019, Minnesota lawmakers appropriated $4 million for the National Loon Center. Fundraising is also part of the financing plan. In the end, the loons will benefit as the center aims to protect and restore loon habitat, to research this beautiful waterfowl and to teach all of us about our state bird.
TELL ME: Have you seen a loon? I’d like to hear about your observations of loons.
© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling