University of Michigan Biological Station: The Manic Echo at Sunset

A few friends and I decided to take our rowboat out to the middle of Douglas Lake. It’s sunset, and the air is cool – but not too cool. Our boat is a worn, metal boat that tends to dramatically tip if you move the least bit out of place. The lake is clear and still, and as it grows darker and darker, the sky is becoming beautifully painted with hues of pink and purple, twisting and twining with various shades of blue. Gray clouds obstruct the colors in thick, ridged, stony stripes. All four of us are sitting in silence as we admire the lake and think about how amazing it is up here in this gorgeous, woodland area. It seems so unreal and magical, that all of these students, researchers, and teachers can come together to live and learn in the woods for the summer.

With these thoughts filling our minds, a breeze comes and with it, an incredible voice breaks the silence. The loonI have never heard a loon before, so its call surprised me. It echoes across the entire lake with its desperate, ghostly cry. It starts out smooth, sad, and lonely, like the ghost of a wolf haunting the water. It then tumbles into this chaotic cry of laughter that’s inescapable! Its scream sounds like its last, as if it were trapped in some horrifying device that forced the poor creature into complete insanity. Hearing this sends chills throughout your entire body, instilling a strange, temporary uneasiness in the air. Just as the loon finishes its first call, a young eagle silently glides by our boat and eyes us, its enormous wings spread magnificently across the colorful sky. The loon howls again, reminding us that our attention should be devoted to him, though he is nowhere in sight. Is he a ghost? More spastic echoes embrace the lake, more chills of awe. When the silence resumes, we row our way back to shore in amazement. 

Now, every evening I try to make it down to the lake and eagerly listen, hoping to once again hear that manic echo at sunset.

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