June 7th Squam Lakes Loon Report
By Tiffany Grade, Loon Preservation Committee
It's been a busy couple days on the Squam Lakes, and I have wonderful news
to report--3 nests!!! After a couple days of busily building their nest,
the pair on Little Squam settled in, and we have two pairs on Big Squam
that have begun nesting as well! It is very exciting to have these three
nests underway, and hopefully other pairs will follow suit soon!
Incubation in loons is 28 days, so these loons are in for the long haul.
Loons are a northern species and they tend to overheat easily. You may
see a loon on the nest with its mouth open (see attached picture from a
nest camera on Squam last year)--this loon is panting, just like your dog
would, to cool off. Notice in the upper right corner, the temperature in
87 degrees--no wonder the loon is hot! It can be a lot cooler, and you
will still see them panting to stay cool. Here in New Hampshire, we are
at the southern limit of their range and we have had some of the warmest
summers on record in the last 10 years. All this combines to make
incubation hard on NH's loons. A couple summers ago, we had a real hot
spell right at the height of incubation, and I remember watching loons
unable to sit on their nests for more than 30 minutes without having to go
into the water to cool off. (Usually they will sit for 3-4 hours at a
time). Once when this happened, a great blue heron flew in and landed at
the edge of the nest. A heron would certainly not pass up a loon egg if
they could get it--fortunately, the parent-on-duty was cooling off nearby
and came rushing back to frighten the heron off. Hot temperatures not
only stress incubating loons but expose the eggs to overheating and
predators. As part of the Squam Lake Loon Initiative, Loon Preservation
Committee has placed temperature data loggers at two nest sites on Squam
to better understand how loons cope with high temperatures while
incubating. One of these nest sites is currently occupied, so hopefully
we will get some good data (along with data from our nest cameras)!
Between temperature extremes, black flies, and egg predators, incubating
loons have a lot to cope with. Please ask your lake neighbors, renters,
and other lake users to stay a respectful distance from loon nests and to
respect the roped and signed areas around the nests. Let's help educate
other lake users about how to give the loons the best chance of success
while incubating their eggs!
Please see the P.S. below for our "Meet the Loons of Squam" series to
continue the story of the closely related territories of Moon Island and
Mooney Point. Don't hesitate to contact me with any reports, questions,
or concerns, and let me know if you see any sick, injured, or dead loons.
Thank you for your interest in Squam's loons!
"Meet the Loons of Squam"
Moon Island: Last week we met the pair
currently occupying Mooney Point. As I indicated, this pair has spent
most of their time together at the Moon Island territory, only getting
pushed over to Mooney Point last year. The pair joined up at Moon Island
in 2012, after the male lost his previous mate to ingested lead fishing
tackle. The male and his previous female were both banded at Moon Island
in 2010, when they produced a chick after an astonishing three nesting
attempts! They had lost their first two nests to predation by a mammal
(in the first instance at least, a raccoon); but they were very persistent
and nested for a third time that season, which is quite unusual. Their
persistence paid off and they hatched a chick in early August. Needless
to say, I was thrilled to see them return in 2011, but, sadly, their nest
attempts failed that year. Even more sadly, the female was found dead
along the coast in Massachusetts in early December from an ingested
freshwater lead fishing jig. Whether she ingested the jig shortly before
she left Squam or at other lake is impossible to say, but it was very sad
to lose another Squam loon to lead.
After her loss, the Moon Island male paired up with his current mate in
2012. As we saw last week, this female had been part of a successful pair
at Mooney Point before being evicted from her territory and spending two
years as an unpaired adult. The new pair's nesting attempts at Moon in
2012 and 2013 were unsuccessful. In 2014, after the loss of their first
nest to black flies, the pair left the territory for a few weeks, as is
typical for loons after a nest failure. In that time, another pair tried
to take over the territory. The male of this new pair was the ex-Great
Island male--we met him last year in another "Meet the Loons of Squam."
(To briefly recap, after a few years at Great Island, he tried to take
over Dog/Heron Cove, lost to that male after several days of fighting,
went back to Great only to find it occupied by a new male, and spent a
couple years as an unpaired adult). Now he was trying to take over Moon
with an unbanded female. The resident Moon male (from the nesting pair)
came back first, but there was little he could do against a very
determined twosome. Finally, his female returned, and, with her arrival,
the fighting between the two pairs began in earnest. The existing pair
retained their nest site, which was right on the boundary of the territory
between Moon and Mooney Point, but they got shoved into Mooney Point and
the other pair stayed in the Moon territory. It's interesting to see
these nest sites right at territory edges switching between territories.
The now-Mooney Point pair successfully re-nested, all the while with the
new Moon Island pair hovering at the edges but fortunately not causing any
more trouble for them.
So, that pair is at Mooney Point this year and the ex-Great Island male is
at Moon with an unbanded female. Already this year, he left Moon, took
over Dog/Heron Cove for a few days after kicking out an unbanded male there,
got kicked out after his old rival (the resident Dog/Heron male) returned,
and had to fight off another male who moved into Moon while he was gone.
It felt like deja-vu all over again, but this time he won out and is still
at Moon. We'll see what happens next in this ongoing saga between Moon
Island and Mooney Point and the rather dramatic life of the
ex-Great-wannabe-Dog/Heron-now-Moon Island male!
Squam Lake Project Biologist
Loon Preservation Committee
(603) 476-5666, ext. 15