REVIEW - FASCINATING LOONSTekiela, Stan, Fascinating Loons: Amazing Images & Behaviors. Adventure Publications. Softbound. 144 pages, about the same number of color photographs. $14.95.

There is something heartening about people who have a passion for something. In today's homogeneous world where market studies show how we all fit into tidy consumer groups, or pollsters into political simplicities, or sociologists into handy clumps of age, income, education, and desires, it's refreshing to meet those who focus on one thing and center their lives around it. Tekiela, a nature photographer, obviously is possessed by loons. He says he's spent three years on this study, but this has all the earmarks of years of interest, if only serious for three. The photographs are phenomenal. They show eggs, chicks, young adults, and adults at all phases of their lives and actions. Not for him the usual short captions along the lines of "loon swimming" or "loon calling". No, the biology of the loon is discussed at length. Did you know that unlike most birds, loons bones are solid? How about the facts that their wing span is almost that of bald eagles; 5-feet, and adult males weigh up to 17 pounds? (Bald eagles weigh only 8-9 pounds; it's the hollow bones.) Many ducks and geese can sleep with one eye open; the author regretfully has to say that's not proven in loons.

The calls - the wail, the tremolo, the yodel and the hoot, are discussed at length, each accompanied by a photo of a loon doing it. It seems the "laugh", as we amateurs call it, is actually the tremolo.

Here this reviewer can't help adding a personal note. Years ago friends living in Anchorage at the time were distressed by the depression of an urban transplant and took her out to their wilderness cabin on the beautiful, peaceful Wood-Tikchik Lakes. Unfortunately, after two evenings of listening to loons and their laughs, she announced she would go insane if she didn't get back to town. Guess she just wasn't into tremolos.

There's a lot of minutiae; loons in Minnesota have the highest-pitched voices, New York the lowest, and Saskatchewan loons are in the middle. During a yodel a male can rear up out in the water; that's known as the "vulture position." There is also some ornithology jargon - seems "time activity budgets" are what we sillies call pre- and post-nesting behaviors.

Loons like saltwater fish in the winter. The extra salt is excreted though special glands near the eyes.

Like most wild creatures, humans disturbing habitat are the chief danger to the future of loons.

Overall, even if you're reminded of James Thurber's anecdote of the little girl's book report that said it told her more about penguins than she really wanted to know, the magnificent photographs alone are worth the modest price. And who knows, a reader may just become obsessed with loons; not a bad thing at all.

D. L.
                      

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