You'll be hard pressed to find a nicer route for a Sunday drive than River Road along the Clarion River. We often find ourselves crossing Arroyo bridge and heading toward Irwin Run to begin our trek alongside this scenic river. No matter what your favorite mode of transportation might be this is definitely a route for all. We have enjoyed it while in the comfort of the Jeep, while paddling downriver in our kayaks and while cruising on our mountain bikes. Pretty much from Irwin Run to Cooksburg, it's non-stop beauty and tranquility.
On a recent drive we were keeping a watchful eye on the water for Mergansers or whatever else might be gliding along in the easy current. Just below Belltown we noticed something on the far side of the river. At first we thought it was a Common Merganser as it was definitely a diver. As we scoped it out with the binoculars it became instantly clear this was a Loon which is rather odd for the Clarion. In fact this is the first time we ever spotted a Loon on this river.
We quickly found a place to pull over, grabbed the photography gear and headed for the water. For the next hour we played cat and mouse with this crazy bird. Anyone that has any knowledge of a Loon will know that they are amazing underwater swimmers. In their search for food they spend a great deal of time diving and swimming underwater. In fact they have been known to dive 200 feet underwater. One thing I can assure you is that it's a real guessing game where they will surface. So let me try to describe how this little game played out for over an hour. The Loon is swimming along and we scramble for position. We quickly set up the tripod and as speedy as possible compose the picture. At about this same instant the Loon decides to dive. At this point we try to guess which direction he went and where he will pop up next. I'd say most of the times the Loon outsmarted us. At one point I noticed if I watched the water very closely I could detect a very slight disturbance on the surface and know which way he was heading. That gave us a direction but it amazed us how far he could go before he surfaced.
So pretty much we ran up and down the river for an hour chasing this crazy Loon. To many this may sound like a waste of time but not to us. Anything we can learn about the habits and characteristics of a critter is always a bonus. This Loon was careful to always stay on the far side of the river making it very difficult for good images but we did manage a couple that were decent.
The Loon certainly resembles a duck but in reality isn't really a duck. They are real strong swimmers and the location of their legs really works to their advantage in water. On the other hand this characteristic makes them very clumsy on land as they are not good walkers at all. They are decent fliers though and are capable of very long flights. One thing that will forever be etched in our minds is their call which can be a hoot, a wail or a yodel. If you ever heard it you certainly know what we mean. While they aren't extremely colorful they sure do have some awesome markings which include a black and white pattern on their back and an awesome looking necklace gracing their necks.
So if you are ever sitting by a quiet lake and here and eerie sound coming across the water there's a good chance it's coming from a Loon.