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  The Loons of Anglin Lake

by Dave Yanko

ANGLIN LAKE -- No sound in nature captures the spirit of the northern wilderness like the haunting cry of the loon.

When that plaintive wail wafts across the evening water, it tunes the soul to the serenity of the North. So evocative is the song that some people feel shortchanged if they fail to experience it during a vacation.

Canada is the summer home to the loons of North America - their breeding ground spans this vast country. And no place in Canada is so blessed with these wilderness representatives as Anglin Lake, at the edge of Saskatchewan’s boreal forest.

The loons are the spirit of this place.

- image courtesy Phil Hoffman
"The loons are the spirit of this place," says Deb Greening, of Land of the Loon Resort and Conference Centre, on Anglin Lake. "They’re a dominant feature of the lake."

The common loon, with it’s crisp black-and-white plumage and white necklace, is a solitary creature. A small, northern lake might attract one breeding pair that produces two chicks. A larger lake might attract more, if its size and shape provide for enough privacy.

Anglin stretches 12 miles in length and up to a mile in width. A recent count put the loon population at 165 adults and offspring - the densest population of any Canadian lake surveyed.

Why is Anglin so popular with loons? Its wilderness setting on the boundary of Prince Albert National Park obviously is important. And since the freshwater shrimp that thrive in the lake are a popular food source for the diving hunters, the menu’s compelling, as well. The rest is known only to the loons, who return year after year.

A loon can live for up to 30 years and reach a weight of more than 6 kg (over 12 lb.), according to Environment Canada. Nesting pairs leave their wintering habitats in the coastal waters of North America and arrive at their summer breeding grounds soon after the ice leaves the lakes.

As familiar as the loon’s wail may be, it’s actually one of four calls in the bird’s repertoire. The wail is used for social interaction and to regain contact with a wandering mate. The "tremolo", which sounds like an hysterical laugh and is used to both warn and greet, seems apt justification for the bird’s name. The "hoot", meanwhile, is a one-note call used to check on the well-being of family members.

The most complex call is the male’s yodel; a long, rising warning delivered while the bird is in a crouched posture on the water. Research shows each yodel is unique and consistent enough to be used to identify individuals.

Loons are most vocal in May and June, during mating season.

Greening, whose family has been catering to Anglin visitors for three generations, says spring time at the lake can, indeed, be noisy. But in spite the occasional cacophony, she says the mating calls are more melodic and varied than wails, and they hold their own special allure.

While the loons of Anglin are its defining feature, the area is home to a wide array of wildlife and was once a rich, Indian hunting ground. Elk, moose and black bear roam the forest, as bald eagles and osprey wing the skies above the water in search of fish that chance too close to the surface. The heron rookery on Anglin presents increased opportunity for visitors to observe this graceful and powerful, yet wary bird.

One of Greening’s favorite denizens is the river otter. Interesting, amusing and entertaining -- not to mention a most adept and cagey hunter -- the river otter displays a joy of life unequaled among Nature’s fold.

All of these creatures and the land they inhabit are the promise kept by the call of the loon, a promise of renewed acquaintance with a part of ourselves.

Click on Land of the Loon Resort for more information on amenities, programming and bookings. Phone Deb Greening at (306) 982-4478, or fax: 982-4489.

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