The loon chicks on Squam have survived another week! The Little Squam chick is growing fast, and the chicks on Squam Lake are already starting to molt out of their down and into their contour (i.e., "regular") feathers. It's exciting to watch them grow through the various stages!
Despite the fact they are growing so well, they are still in danger from boat disturbances and collisions. Please help LPC spread the word to your lake neighbors, visitors, and other lake users to stay at least 150 feet away from the loon families, to keep alert for loons and chicks while boating, and to go slowly in coves and parts of the lake marked with orange "Caution: Loon Chick" signs.
The intern from Tufts University Veterinary School conducted the necropsies on the loon that was picked up on Little Squam earlier this summer and subsequently died during the attempted rehabilitation and on the territorial male from Mooney Point. We will be conducting further tests on the carcasses to determine the cause of death. Both birds had a fungus in their respiratory tracts, but fungal respiratory infections in loons are often a secondary condition that arise when loons are under stress. We will continue analyzing these carcasses to try to determine if there was an underlying condition that caused their deaths.
Dr. Mark Pokras from Tufts University, who has been conducting the necropsies for LPC for 23 years, has noted an increasing number of fungal cases in loons in recent years, as well as new and unusual types of fungi in the loons. As part of LPC's Squam Lake Loon Initiative (SLLI), we are conducting in-depth health tests on blood samples taken from the loons we band. In addition to doing blood counts and screening the blood for indicators of organ dysfunction, we are also testing the blood of Squam's loons for pathogens and parasites. New pathogens, parasites, and fungi that appear in the loons could indicate some of the health effects that a changing climate could have on loon populations in New Hampshire, and LPC's SLLI is helping to identify these impacts.
The Swim 2012 across Squam Lake last Friday was a great success and accomplishment for Wendy Van de Poll and her team! LPC is so grateful for the amazing efforts of Wendy and her team to raise money for the SLLI.
Thank you to all of you who came to the beach to celebrate The Swim and those of you who have supported The Swim and contributed to the SLLI. It is only through intensive research, monitoring, management, and outreach on Squam that we can hope to understand the declines on Squam and restore a healthy population of loons to the lake. Please visit www.loon.org for more information and to donate to the SLLI.