Squam Lakes Loon Report from the LPC! *Regularly Updated*

August 9th

Hello!

Squam's four surviving chicks continue to do very well, although I heard
several reports of some close calls in the past week.  A big "Thank You"
to folks for springing into action when they see loons in danger from
boaters and other human-related activities--it is such a great help to
have so many sets of eyes out on the lake working to protect the loons!
Thank you as well for reporting these incidents to me--I appreciate
knowing what the loons are all having to deal with.  Although Squam's
chicks are now in the 3 to 4.5 week age range, they are by no means out of
danger, and I am very grateful for everyone's help protecting them!

Please remind all your neighbors, renters, and other lake users to use
only non-lead fishing tackle.  Loon Preservation Committee collected
another likely lead tackle mortality this week (final necropsy results
still pending), this one from the western part of the state.  Also, please
remind anglers to hold off casting when loons are around.  Loons' instinct
is to strike at something that flashes past them, so loons may strike at
an angler's bait as it is being reeled in, potentially exposing a loon to
becoming tangled in fishing line.  Using non-lead tackle and waiting to
cast until loons leave the area will help keep loons safe while fishing.
Non-lead tackle is available for purchase at the Loon Center or from
suppliers listed on the "Links" page of our website (www.loon.org).

Please see the P.S. below for our new series, "What are those (crazy!)
loons doing??"  As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with any
questions, reports, or concerns, and please report any sick, injured, or
dead loons to me.

Thank you for your interest in Squam's loons!
Tiffany

P.S.  "What are those (crazy!) loons doing??"  Late summer social
gatherings:  I have received several reports in recent weeks of large
gatherings of loons (13+) in various places on Squam.  These are social
gatherings that usually start up in mid-July and run through mid/late
August.  These are loons that either aren't in pairs, never nested, lost
their nests, or lost their chicks getting together to socialize with other
loons in the same situation.  Basically, these are loons with no
responsibilities who have nothing better to do than to hang out with other
loons with no responsibilities!  They gather in what I like to call the
"neutral zones" of the lake (i.e., areas of the lake that are not part of
existing loon territories), where they can get together without ruffling
the feathers of a territorial pair.  Loons from other surrounding lakes
will often come in to meet up with loons on the larger lakes and
socialize.  I once spotted the banded female from Red Hill Pond in one of
these gatherings on Squam.  They will spend usually a couple hours
swimming along together and, eventually, the grouping breaks up and loons
return to their own lakes/territories.  Sometimes the gathering breaks up
in disarray as loons may get into a little scuffle, but, usually, loons
just eventually break off from the group and leave.

There is some evidence that loons may exchange information about where the
good territories are as well.  The loons in these gatherings are all loons
who weren't successful (i.e., didn't have chicks for whatever the reason).
Obviously, information about successful territories would be important to
them.  We know that loons target territories that have chicks for
potential takeover rather than vacant or unsuccessful territories.  They
figure that if loons can hatch a chick in a given territory, they could
too.  Loons want territories with a proven track record of success.  Loons
have been observed leaving social gatherings and making a bee-line to
territories with chicks, presumably to scope them out for potential
takeover.  But even with this information exchange, the purpose of these
gatherings appears to be primarily social in nature.

In years with few pairs nesting on Squam, I have seen these social
gatherings beginning by the 4th of July already.  With few loons nesting,
they had nothing to do but start grouping up.  This year, with more pairs
attempting to nest, I did not see the gatherings beginning until the
expected mid-July time frame, which is a very good sign!  Loon
Preservation Committee is working very hard to give Squam's loons the best
chances at success, so hopefully we will continue to see these gatherings
only in mid-July or later.  We'd much rather have Squam's loons raising
chicks than partying!

 

July 9th

Hi Everybody,

It's been a very busy week on the Squam Lakes, with a mixture of wonderful
news and sad news.  We had our first hatches this past week on both Squam
Lake and Little Squam.  On Little Squam, one chick hatched and, sadly, the
second chick died trying to break out of the shell.  Fortunately, this
family is now doing very well!  On Squam Lake, four chicks have hatched
from two families and two chicks survive (1 chick for each family).  Of
the two chicks that died, one died before leaving the nest and the other
was likely taken by a predator.  I am hoping for the best for all of these
families!

Of the remaining nests, we have an expected hatch due this weekend, so my
fingers are crossed for them.  We had a nest failure this past week, in
which the nesting male was evicted by an intruder and the nest was
abandoned.  So, the totals for the lakes this week are: Little Squam=1
chick; Squam Lake=2 chicks, 2 nests that are still active, and two nests
where it appears the eggs are not going to hatch.

Please consider volunteering for Chick Watch!  This partnership between
the Loon Preservation Committee and the Squam Lakes Association (SLA)
helps to protect loon chicks on the Squam Lakes and educate lake users
about the needs of the loons.  Unfortunately, the second-leading
documented cause of death for loon chicks is boat strikes and jetski
collisions, and loon families are also stressed by the close approach of
boats, canoes, and kayaks.  Chick Watch is a great way to help the loons
and spend time with these magnificent birds.  For more information, please
see http://www.squamlakes.org/loon-chick-watcher-volunteer-sign.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with any
questions, reports, or concerns and please let me know if you see a sick,
injured, or dead loon.

Thank you for your interest in Squam's loons!
Tiffany

 "Meet the Loons of Squam"--Five Finger Point: 

Unlike our visit to
Moultonborough Bay last week, where we have had a series of banded loons
and are able to follow them closely, we have had only two banded loons at
Five Finger Point, one of which is still a bit of a mystery!  The current
pair has an unbanded female, so we have no idea of her history, and the
male is the mystery loon.

The previously-banded loon was a female banded as an adult in 1998, so she
is at least in her early 20's.  Between 1998-2002, she hatched 7 chicks,
of which 3 survived.  But things took a turn for her and she did not nest
in 2003-2005.  From 2006-2008, she was not observed on the lake, but she
returned to Five Finger Point in 2009 and paired with a male with an
injured wing (which, fortunately, healed by the end of the summer).  She
famously nested by the Deephaven boat house in 2010.  Sadly, the eggs were
eaten by a mammal just days before the expected hatch date.  The following
year, she moved over to Mink Island and helped revive the flagging
fortunes of that territory, as recounted in our "Meet the Loons of Squam"
visit to Mink Island a few weeks ago.  Just like last year, she is an
unpaired loon this year, generally hanging around the margins of the Mink
Island territory.

Since her departure for Mink Island, Five Finger Point has been occupied
by unbanded loons until this year.  The banded male from Squaw Cove was
evicted from his territory last summer and took up residence as the paired
male at Five Finger Point.  However, beyond that, this loon is a
mystery--he has only a silver band on his right leg!  We color band the
loons since the numbers on the silver band are impossible to read without
a *really* good picture or a loon in the hand.  When he nested last year
in Squaw Cove, I was hoping we would be able to capture him to find out
who he is.  Unfortunately, the chick died before leaving the nest and he
was evicted from the territory after the second egg didn't hatch.  I can
only hope he will remain in Five Finger Point and the pair will nest so we
have the chance to find out the history of our "mystery loon"!

 

July 1st

Hello everyone,

This week brought mixed results for Squam's loons.  The good news is that
we have two new nesting pairs this week!  The sad news is that we lost
three nests this past week as well.  So, our totals for this week are:  1
nesting pair on Little Squam and 7 nesting pairs on Squam Lake.  Overall,
we have had a very good rate of nesting this year--10 of the 13 pairs on
Squam Lake have attempted a nest--but now we have to do what we can to
ensure those nests hatch and the chicks survive.

We are expecting several of these nests to hatch over the next week.  As
we go into the busy 4th of July holiday weekend, please ask your
neighbors, renters, and other lake users to respect the roped and signed
nesting areas and to keep a sharp eye out for chicks in areas marked with
orange "Caution: Loon Chicks" signs.  Please ask them to remember that
loon chicks can be anywhere in areas and coves marked with chick signs.
Loon chicks are small, dark, difficult to see on the water, and are not
able to dive well enough to get out of the way of oncoming boats, so
please ask people to slow down and keep a look out in these areas.  Also,
please ask people to keep a respectful distance from loons and loon
families (at least 150 ft) so the loons can focus on caring for themselves
and their chicks rather than being stressed by the close approach of
boats.

As always, don't hesitate to let me know if you have any
questions, reports, or concerns, and please report any sick, injured, or
dead loons to me.

Thank you for your interest in Squam's loons!  I hope both you and the
loons have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Tiffany Grade, Loon Preservation Committee Biologist 

"Meet the Loons of Squam"--Moultonborough Bay

Despite being one of the more stable territories in recent years, Moultonborough Bay (MB) has
had a lot of upheaval over the past year.  You may remember that, late
last summer, the MB female was evicted from her territory by the teamed-up
ex-Yard Islands female and ex-Sturtevant Bay female.  The ex-Yards female
then fought it out with the ex-Sturtevant female, won, and spent the
remainder of the summer in MB with her former mate from 1999-2006, the MB
male.

So we were left on a cliff-hanger at the end of last summer, wondering if
this old pair would be back together.  Sadly, it didn't happen.  I have
not re-sighted the MB male on Squam this year, and I am very much afraid
he may have died over the winter.  I continue to keep my eyes open for
him, but it is not looking good.  This is a real shame, as he was a very
calm, steady presence in MB for many years.  He was as calm as his former
mate, the ex-Yards female, is spunky, so they must have been an
interesting pair.  He and the ex-Yards female were both banded in MB in
1999 as adults.  Given that loons don't nest on average until they are 6
years old, they are at least in their early 20's.  They were together in
MB from 1999-2001, moved up to the Yards together from 2002-2004, and then
moved back to MB in 2005-2006.  When the female moved back to the Yards in
2007, he remained in MB and has been there ever since.  Over the years
since he was banded, he produced 9 chicks of which 7 survived.

My favorite memory of him is back in 2009:  it was the expected hatch
date, and, as the day wore on, I had not seen a chick yet so I was getting
anxious.  In the afternoon, I left to do one of my loon cruises, but I
just kept wondering if the chick had hatched.  After the cruise, a storm
was approaching but I just had to know.  I jumped in my boat and dashed
across the lake.  As I neared the nest site, I saw a loon sitting in front
of the nest.  I looked through my binoculars and saw a beautiful little
loon chick nestled in the thick feathers of the male's back, sleeping
peacefully.  By that time, the storm was nearly on top of Squam and I
raced back, but I will always remember that beautiful image of this male
and his chick.

So we have a new unbanded male in the territory this year, and it turns
out the ex-Yards female is not the territorial female this year either.
She has been spending the summer as an unpaired bird, and the summer began
with an unbanded female in MB.  However, the ex-Sturtevant female--who is
very persistent!--prevailed over the unbanded female and is now the
resident female in MB.  She was evicted from Sturtevant in 2010 and won my
2014 "Unhappiest Single" end-of-season award, so I'm happy that she
finally has a territory again.  Best of luck to our new MB pair!