Max and the Midnight Loon
(Page 2 of 3)
``Well, sometimes you don't see the loons - like what's happening to us right now. Sometimes you have to count by the moon - at night. You listen for their voices coming from different parts of the lake and try to tell how many there are.''Skip to next paragraph
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After an hour of no loons, when Max was about to suggest that they settle for a night voice count, the boat suddenly started rocking. Max swiveled around to see Mr. Rosiello waving wildly - but silently - and pointing toward the eastern shore as his binoculars swung at his neck. Max looked and thought he saw something bobbing on the water. Then he saw two somethings. ``Loons?'' he whispered.
``Si,'' nodded Mr. Rosiello.
The two paddled quickly and quietly, staying close to the shoreline, weaving in and out among the overhanging birch limbs. When they came within 30 feet of the birds, Max said, ``Mr. Rosiello! Those aren't loons! They're just gray ducks!''
``Oh, no, Max. Those are loons. They look a little different than you remember, eh?''
Max's eyebrows scrunched together as his mouth twisted into a skeptical frown. He needs new glasses, he thought.
Mr. Rosiello chuckled and whispered, ``They've shed their summer feathers. Now they have their winter plumage. When they go south to the sea, they'll match the gray winters there. Then in the spring they'll molt those feathers and turn back into the black-and-white loons you know.''
As Max stared at the gray ``ducks,'' it was hard for him to remember his first loon. These two looked so drab. The awe that he had felt for three years slipped away.
``Odd,'' whispered Mr. Rosiello, ``they don't seem to be bothered by us. They seem to be preoccupied with some....''
Just then both loons reared up and stretched their wings out to the limit - about five feet. They flapped and pounded the water. Astonished at their sudden size, Max glanced back at Mr. Rosiello,
``What are they doing?''
``They're straightening out their long flight feathers, getting them all aligned.''
Furiously beating their wings, the loons lifted up with great effort, with their feet dragging behind on the water. Soon they were in the air over the canoe. With faces upturned, Max and Mr. Rosiello twisted their bodies to watch the birds fly over the lake toward the sun and then arc back toward the east. Within a minute and a half, the loons had vanished.
``My glory, but they're fast!'' said Mr. Rosiello, speaking for the first time in a normal voice. ``They may have heavy solid bones, but they sure are made to fly.''
``Wait,'' cried Max, ``where are they going? Are they coming back?''
``Hmmm,'' replied Mr. Rosiello, ``I think, Max, we were barely in time to count them. I think they are going to their winter home.''
So Mr. Rosiello marked on Wendell's loon counting paper: ``Oct. 15: Two mature loons sighted as they left Lovejoy Pond for the fall migration.'' Then he added, ``No voice count this year.''
That evening, Max and Mr. Rosiello decided to sleep on the dock so they could watch the full moon overhead and hear the rippling water beneath them. As they settled into their sleeping bags, Mr. Rosiello gazed up and began to mumble:
Sea of Knowledge, Sea of
our fears and pains.
Sea of Serenity, Bay of Dew,
Give us peace,
our strength renew.
Sea of Tranquility, Lake of
bear us to sleep
on moonlight beams.
Max was staring at Mr. Rosiello with one eye out of his sleeping bag.
After a few curious seconds, he said ``What was that?''