A sunny Monday afternoon on Snow Pond in Oakland for a small group turned into a memorable encounter when they reunited a 3-week-old loon with his parents after he underwent a weekend surgery to remove a tumor.
The story began Friday night when Gary Bennett, the owner of Snow Pond Cruises, a business he has run since 2014, spotted the young loon while taking customers on a tour of Snow Pond, also known as Messalonskee Lake.
It was not the first time he had encountered the young loon, Bennett said Thursday morning. On the night of July 19, Bennett saw a familiar pair of nesting loons, and when he came across them again the next morning, he saw them with a newborn loon in tow. Bennett said he commonly names the loons he sees, and he decided to name the newborn Jordan.
But that Friday Bennett, a registered Maine Guide, said the young loon was behaving in an unusual way, coming “uncharacteristically” close to his boat while the mother loon floated nearby. That was when he noticed a yellow grape-sized tumor on Jordan’s right foot.
“I got the sense this little guy wanted my help,” Bennett said. “He was trying to shake it off his foot. It was stressing him, and I could see that.”
When he finished the tour that evening, Bennett left a message with Avian Haven, a wild bird rehabilitation center in Freedom. Avian Haven returned his message on Saturday and asked if he could send them photos of the loon. After examining the photos, Avian Haven asked if Bennett could capture the loon so it could be brought to the center, he said.
Bennett already had a tour scheduled that morning and readily agreed to rescue little Jordan, and the group aboard his boat that morning was happy to assist with the effort, he said.
“It took a half-hour to get that little guy into the net,” he said. “The parents were very upset and running interference.”
Jordan was then brought to Avian Haven, where he underwent surgery to remove the mass on Sunday. In a Facebook post, Avian Haven said the tip of one of Jordan’s toes needed to be removed as well.
Diane Winn, executive director of Avian Haven, told the Kennebec Journal on Wednesday that “We won’t know what the tumor is for a few weeks. Our vet got it all, so we don’t have any fear of it coming back. It’s gone to the pathology lab at the University of New Hampshire.”
Meanwhile, Bennett said he did not sleep well after catching Jordan. He was familiar with Jordan’s parents, the only pair of nesting loons on his end of the lake during the breeding season, and they were still in “parenting mode” and searching for their baby. It was clear that the “parents were very upset with me.”
So when Avian Haven called him back on Sunday to report that Jordan came through the surgery fine and asked if he would reunite the loon with his parents, he said yes.
On Monday afternoon, Bennett returned to the lake with another tour that included the group that helped rescue little Jordan to reunite the young loon with his parents. In a video of the reunion Bennett shared on Facebook, Jordan began to call out as soon as he was removed from a box, and his cries immediately drew his parents near the boat. As soon as he was returned to the water, Jordan wasted no time in reuniting with his parents, drawing emotional reactions from those aboard the boat.
“There wasn’t a dry eye on that boat. Those parents were rejoicing. It was just a beautiful moment to be part of,” Bennett said, adding that it was one of the most memorable moments in his 68 years.
“I just feel so lucky that the good lord put me in the position to help that little bird,” he said.