Scott Rykken was in his lakeside cabin in Douglas County on Sunday when he noticed something peculiar.
It wasn’t just the nesting common loon that had stationed itself on a platform built by neighbors a few years ago. It was the little turtle with big dreams of the sun, trying to make its way to the body of the bird, which remained calm the entire time.
“We have never seen a turtle even attempting to climb the loonie,” Rykken told Bring Me The News.
After a few unsuccessful attempts (during which the turtle slipped), the curious reptile managed to position itself directly on the loon’s back, where it could best enjoy the sun. All the while, a muskrat – new to this location on the lake this spring – was basking nearby.
Rykken, a retired science teacher who takes photos of landscapes and wildlife, managed to capture the stunning moment in one image. Rykken shared the image on Facebook, including to a bird photography group. In less than 24 hours, he had over 2,200 shares, with commentators praising the coup.
“I’ve never seen one like this,” Walter Piper, a scientist at the National Loon Center, told Bring Me The News of the photo.
Piper said that while loons coexist well with muskrats and turtles, the species “just don’t interact much.” But because loons are “not easily pushed out of their nests,” he said it was no surprise that a turtle “could crawl onto the back of a loon and a muskrat could. rest on the platform without alarming – or moving – the loon that is laying eggs there!
Rykken said the loonie “never showed any sign of anger in any way. She even lifted her wing once to help the turtle glide once she reached the top.”
The turtle stayed on the loon for about 10 minutes before setting off again, he said. he is sell prints of the photo (and others he took) on his website.
Piper said, “It’s a pretty amazing scene.”