There is nothing more mesmerizing in the wilderness than hearing the haunting call of the common loon (also known as the great northern loon) from a nearby lake.
Ontario is a haven for common loons, a great looking bird that you’ll often paddle by in canoes. With red eyes, blue and green colourations with white specks, they’re one of the prettiest birds found in Ontario. As kids, when you grow up around cottage country or go “up north” to camp in Ontario, you learn from a young age how to try and mimic the “sounds” of the loon with your hands. Some people can get quite adept at it, although it was never a skill I was particularly good at.
They’re usually found in pairs, but as quintessential as they are to the lakes of Ontario, they are also hard to find in some places where acid rain, pollution and frequent disturbance from human activities take their toll.
Thankfully, Algonquin Park and many Ontario Parks, are safe havens for these birds, who prey on all sorts of fish. Some of my favourite moments from road trips and adventures in Ontario come from quiet nights camping near a lake, when the only noise you hear is a loon calling to another loon much further away on another lake. This sort of call-response communication or back-and-forth calling reminds you that you’re in a part of the country where nature rules, and you’re just a visitor.
Just remember that if you do see loons out on the lake, or nesting nearby, they’re sensitive birds, so please keep your distance and admire them from afar so that they’ll continue to return year after year.
Editorial note: These loon photos were taken during a great canoe trip along Hailstorm Creek, near Opeongo Lake in Algonquin Park compliments of the people at Explorer’s Edge and Algonquin Outfitters who sent me on a 3-day “Quintessentially Canadian” tour in Ontario.