Thursday, November 1, 2007
Tales of the Origin of Things
HOW THE LOON BECAME A SEA BIRD
A long time ago the loon was a land bird. He was a great nuisance to the Indians, for he was always around, in and out of their wigwams, tumbling over their baskets, upsetting their firewood. The Indians shouted at him and threw things at him. Still he came poking around their wigwams, until one day he upset an old Indian's pot of beans.
The Indian grabbed him. "Now I'm going to throw you in the fire, or I'm going to throw you in the water." Loon squirmed and tugged to get away. "Don't throw me in the water. Don't throw me in the water," he begged. "Throw me in the fire, but don't throw me in the water."
"If that's what you don't want, that's what I'll do. I'll throw you in the water."
The old Indian threw him in his canoe and paddled out into the deep water and tossed him over the canoe. Loon went off laughing, the wild laugh that he has laughed ever since at the Indians when he remembers the old Micmac that threw him in the water. "Just what I wanted, just what I wanted."
From: RED EARTH: Tales of the Micmacs. With an introduction to the customs and beliefs of the Micmac Indians, by Marion Robertson. The Nova Scotia Museum: Halifax, N.S., 1969, p. 42. (Reprinted 1977)
(I came across the above delightful little book in a local thrift shop, at the remarkably low price of 10 cents. These early inhabitants of our continent called the sun "Nicscaminou, the Very Great".)
Listen to the loon:
The wail is most frequently given in the evening or at night, and can be heard for many miles. This haunting call is not an alarm call but is used to keep in contact with other loons on the same lake and surrounding lakes. Click to listen.
The yodel is only made by male loons. This call is used to advertise and defend their territory, especially during incubation and early chick-rearing. If you are watching loons and they make this call or a remolo, it usually means that you are too close and are disturbing the loons. If that happens, you should leave their territory and give them their space. Click to listen.