Wish You Were Here: Listening To Loons In Maine The visitors and their soulful call make Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine Roxana Robinson's favorite place.

Wish You Were Here: Listening To Loons In Maine

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You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Mount Desert Island off the coast of northern Maine is known for its dramatic scenery. Acadia National Park covers much of the island with its steep forests plunging down to the water. Writer Roxanna Robinson has a home on the island and she sent us this postcard for our series Wish You Were Here.

ROXANA ROBINSON: Our cove is silent, ringed by white pines, salt grass and bayberry. Our house is up among the trees and, from my desk, I can watch the cove. Sometimes I see a fox or coyote trotting along the shore. Sometimes I see a stalking great blue heron or a sweeping kingfisher.

Recently, we've had a pair of loons. This is an honor. Loons are royalty.

Loons are big handsome water birds - black and white, with distinctive markings and a regal manner. Males and females are identical, and they both look as if they were designed by a graphic artist. They're striped, dotted, checkered and incredibly chic. Their backs are patterned. Their breasts are snowy white. They wear wide black chokers around their throats. Their heads are glossy black, and their eyes, their jewel-like eyes are ruby red. A loon looks magical, like a bird conjured up by a spell.

Loons are powerful swimmers, extraordinary divers and fabulous parents. They're also kind of adorable. They have two chicks at a time, and when these hatch, the parents carry them around on their backs - tiny, fuzzy nestlings, safely adrift on mom or dad. When our loons' chicks were nearly grown, the family came down to our cove. In the afternoons, I saw them rocking on the green water. Each sighting is like a gift, and I watched with my breath held, but the pleasure is not just in looking at these birds.

Loons are never alone. They're always in pairs or in families. There's always another loon nearby, even if he's out of sight. They keep in touch by calling - pond to pond, cove to cove. Where are you, they seem to call. And I am here. If a visit from loons is like a visit from royalty, hearing the call is like receiving a blessing. The sound of a loon is the cry of the soul, a long, melodious drift.


ROBINSON: In the afternoons, they call briefly and quietly.


ROBINSON: But it's at night when the great songs are sung.


ROBINSON: Then the loons open their throats to the dark sky and the bright stars. I lie in bed with the windows wide.


ROBINSON: Where are you? I am here. I listen to those gorgeous dreaming cries. I hear that sweet opening into another world, and there's nowhere on the planet that I'd rather be.


CORNISH: Writer Roxana Robinson of Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine. Her most recent book is called "Cost." Those loon sounds came to us courtesy of the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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