Stunning photos and great stories about loons

There is something very special about loons, and photographer Nick Leadley has captured that specialness in a spectacular way. In his book, Gavia – Tales from Loon Country, Nick gives us dozens of stunning photos of loons, and dozens of stories about loons submitted by folks all over the state.

As Harry Vogel, Executive Director of The Loon Preservation Committee in New Hampshire, notes in the Foreword, “Science and magic combine in loons as in no other animal.”

Nick has experienced photographic adventures all around the world, but says one of his very favorite places is the western Maine mountains where he spends his summers running a gallery in Rangeley, leading bird walks, moose photography outings, and more.

Nick included in the book one of my own stories, about a loon right behind my house that died of lead poisoning. Loons are doing fairly well in Maine, but raising a young one is very tough for them. Our two baby loons on Minnehonk Lake in Mount Vernon were both killed this year, I think by a Bald eagle. But even fish eat them.

But don’t worry, all the other stories are very positive and wonderful. Loons have been here for 20 million years, so yes, they are tough! I really enjoyed the two stories of people who freed loons tangled in fishing line. And the tales of battling male loons are amazing. The cries of loons even helped one lady recover from a devastating divorce.

While the stories are great, I’d buy this book just for Nick’s photographs. Loons in the fog. Loons fighting. Loons on the nest. Mother loons with babies on their backs. A parent feeding a baby loon. And one of my favorites, a loon swallowing a large fish.

That photo reminded me of the loon that grabbed a fish my Dad was reeling in on Sourdnahunk Lake. Dad quickly yanked the fish out of the loon’s mouth and whipped it into the boat. And that loon went around and around our boat, flapping its wings and squawking at us. And of course, as soon as Dad released that trout, the loon had it for supper.

To wet your appetite, I will share a poem in the book by Catherine Rogers of Wilton.

My Loons

I call them “my loons”

But of course they aren’t mine

They’re out on Pease Pond

Just taking their time

Floating and fishing,

And teaching their young

Welcoming visitors

Who come to have fun

Sometimes they sit quietly

Sometimes they call

Excited or plaintive,

We welcome them all

Such divine music

Above all the rest

Of the sounds emitting

From our “human-ness”

They’re part of our summer

So glad they are here

Can’t wait to see

“My loons” next year

While I hope you are enjoying your own loons this summer, take some time to check out more of Nick’s wonderful photos at


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.