Sandy Witvoet: And How her Rennie Lake loons survived an eagle attack

Sandy Witvoet Rennie LakeA few weeks ago, I met Sandy Witvoet online (no, not that kind of online meeting), who was involved with the loon rescue on Bellows Lake near Traverse City. Sandy heard that I was coming down, contacted me, and though the rescue never took place (details below) Sandy and I became good friends. She made a generous donation to Looncorps, and I’ve managed to expand my network of energetic, brilliant, and kind loon advocates throughout Northern Michigan. Sandy has a firm grasp on what makes loons tick and why they behave as they do. It’s great to have her as a friend, and as a dedicated friend of loons. So, I asked her to write a story, with pictures, for Looncorps. She kindly did, and I gratefully offer it here. [Note: How the loon family escaped the eagle is just fascinating.]

Sandy Witvoet Rennie LakeSandy Witvoet Rennie Lake

Story and photos by Sandy Witvoet

As a Loon lover, ya just gotta know about Jeff.  A few weeks ago, I received a call from a visiting friend from downstate who said that there was a Loon in trouble on a lake in SW Grand Traverse County.  Who do you contact? Well, yeah, Jeff is the man!  The Loon was entangled in fishing line with a hook embedded in his bill.  YIKES!  Well, Jeff was on his way for a two-hour trip to rescue this baby at midnight.  Fortunately for the Loon (not so fortunately for Jeff!), the Loon shed the hook and line prior to Jeff’s arrival.  Although I was not able to “hook up” with Jeff that night, I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with him recently, and he asked if I could write an article for the website…

Sandy Witvoet Rennie Lake

I enjoy photographing Loons, but have always been most interested in studying them….They are amazing birds.  I open my windows in April to make sure I hear their arrival wails, then, watch courtship, nesting behavior and parenting and/or partnering, as well as the bachelor Loon parties that are common when the residents don’t have a chick.  When there is a baby… well… all heck can break loose should an Eagle try to have baby for “lunch” … or even if a Cormorant shows up.  Most memorable moment was two years ago when an Eagle was after the baby…Dad Loon came screaming out of the lake (I’ve NEVER seen a loon take off that quickly!), dagger-bill and dead set on that Eagle.  We took our pontoon out… Mom and baby hid under it for about 20 minutes till Dad returned and gave the “all clear” signal-hoot.  Loon family then went about their biz.

Rennie Lake

Rennie Lake

Rennie Lake

Rennie Lake

Our Lake is at high water level now and the natal Loon Island has been submerged for two years… so, no babies.  We built an ANI several years ago on a different lake (although that lake was really not set up too well for Loons).  We are looking forward to working with Jeff to build an ANI for our Lake here in Northern MI to help them out in 2016.


Thanks, Jeff and Loon Corps for your terrific work with the Loons!

Sandy Witvoet  —  Grand Traverse County, Rennie Lake


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