Squam Lakes Loon Report - 2018

Want More Information About Loon Activity on the Squam Lakes? 

Weekly Squam Lakes Loon Report - Summer 2018 

By Tiffany Grade, Loon Preservation Committee

 

July 17th, 2018

Hi,

There are two new chicks on the Squam Lakes this week!  Against all odds,
a chick hatched on Little Squam after 32 days of incubation—normal
incubation for loons is 28 days, so this was quite remarkable!  Another
chick hatched on Squam Lake as well!  Unfortunately, there was a nest
failure on Squam this past week as well, resulting from predation.  And
there was a serious scare with the family of the oldest chick on Squam,
which is dealing with intrusions from other loons.  Fortunately, the chick
has been accounted for, but this family is not out of the woods yet, and
I’m certainly hoping they will be able to fend off the intruders.  So the
totals for this week are one chick on Little Squam, 3 chicks on Squam, and
one active nest remaining on Squam Lake.  For information on how you can
volunteer to help protect the chicks of the Squam Lakes, please visit
https://www.squamlakes.org/loon-chick-watcher-program.

As many of you know, the annual Loon Census is this Saturday (7/21), and
we could use a few more participants.  If you have a boat and would be
able to help out on Saturday morning from 8:00-9:00, please let me know! 
Thank you!

The Loon Festival is this Saturday at The Loon Center!  The Festival is
from 10:00-2:00 and is a day of family fun celebrating loons!  For more
information, please visit http://www.loon.org/loon-festival.php. (link is external) Hope to
see you there!

“Meet the Loons of Squam” will take a hiatus this week as I get ready for
Census/Festival day, but it will be back with more tales from the field! 
As always, please contact me with any questions or reports, and please
contact Loon Preservation Committee to report any sick, injured, or dead
loons (603-476-5666).

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

July 9th, 2018

Hi,

We have a second chick on Squam!  Another chick hatched last Friday and
the chick from the first hatch continues to do well—all fantastic news! 
Many thanks to those of you participated in Loon Chick Watch over the past
holiday week, I really appreciate your help protecting these loon
families!  The new chick is in a particularly busy part of the lake, so it
would be great if we could have more people helping to protect both of
these families.  Plus, we have another hatch expected this week!  For more
information or to sign up for Loon Chick Watch, please visit the Squam Lakes 
Association's website: www.squamlakes.org/loon-chick-watcher-program.  With this new
chick and a new nest that started in the past week, we now have two chicks
on Squam Lake and three active nests.  The nest is still active at Little
Squam; but, sadly, it is looking increasingly doubtful that that nest will
hatch.

If anyone was out at Yard Islands on Sunday, July 1st, I’m hoping you can
help me out.  It appears that a chick hatched at Yards that day but
immediately disappeared.  When I was there in the afternoon, the loon pair
was extremely agitated and distressed, calling repeatedly.  The pair had
still been incubating contentedly on Saturday evening, so the hatch must
have occurred overnight or Sunday morning.  If anyone saw anything that
might explain what happened, please let me know.  Did you see a chick in
the morning or early afternoon of the 1st?  Did you see anything that
might explain how the chick disappeared (eagle swooping down on loon
family, splashing that might indicate underwater predator like snapping
turtle or large fish, etc.)?  There were numerous boats at Yards when I
was there in the afternoon, so I’m hoping someone saw something.  I’d be
very grateful for any information.  Thank you!

Loon Preservation Committee’s annual Loon Festival is coming up on July
21st from 10:00-2:00!  This free event celebrates “all things loon” and is
a fun day for the whole family!  Hope you can join us!  For more
information, please visit http://www.loon.org/loon-festival.php(link is external).

Please see the P.S. below for this week’s edition of “Meet of the Loons of
Squam,” in which we’ll pay a visit to the oldest banded loon on Squam!  As
always, please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or reports, and
please report any sick, injured, or dead loons to Loon Preservation
Committee at 603-476-5666.

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

P.S. “Meet the Loons of Squam”: Five Finger Point—This week, let’s head up
to Five Finger Point to check in on the oldest banded loon on Squam, the
female of the Five Finger pair!  She is paired with an unbanded male, so
we don’t know anything about his history—but she has quite a history, so
let’s dive in!

She was originally banded at 5 Finger in 1998 as an adult with chicks. 
Banding studies have shown that, on average, loons don’t get a territory
and start nesting until they are 6-7 years old, so she is now at least in
her mid-20’s.  Those first several years after she was banded were her
golden years:  from 1998-2002, she nested every year and hatched 7 chicks
of which 3 survived, all from 5 Finger Point.  But then things started to
slip for her.  She was not seen on the lake in 2003, did not nest in
2004-2005, and was again not observed from 2006-2008.  It is quite a
puzzle as to where she was during those years.

But in 2009 she was back, paired that year with a unbanded male with an
injured wing.  We kept a close eye on that male throughout the summer;
but, fortunately, as the summer wore on, his wing got stronger and
stronger, and he was fortunately able to leave the lake on his own in the
fall.  Needless to say, with that sort of injury, nesting was out of the
question.  By the next year, she was ready to make up for lost time and
made quite a splash when she nested in 2010 right next to the boathouse at
Rockywold-Deephaven Camps (RDC)!  I am still very grateful to everyone at
RDC for their consideration and concern for this nest and everything they
did to protect the loons.  If the female wanted a place in the spotlight
after several years of obscurity, she certainly got it!  Unfortunately, it
all came to nothing—the nest was near a muskrat den.  The loons had spent
their days on the nest watching a muskrat swim back and forth in front of
them, occasionally taking a jab with their bills at the supremely
unconcerned muskrat.  Just days before the nest was due to hatch, a mammal
ate the eggs.  Whether it was the resident muskrat or something else, I’m
not sure—but I’ll always remain suspicious about that muskrat.

The following year (2011), she took over the Mink Island territory and
produced her first chick since 2002.  Sadly, that chick disappeared when
it was less than two weeks old.  But she tried again the next year, again
producing one chick.  She very nearly had two; but, unfortunately, the
second chick died while breaking through the shell.   Happily, however,
her other chick survived, and Loon Preservation Committee captured her and
her mate for banding.  She weighed nearly 12 pounds—up a pound from the
last time we had captured her back in 1998!  However, the mate caused us
considerable concern—he was extremely lethargic when we captured him and
he remained lethargic for the remainder of the summer.  The female stepped
up and managed to successfully raise the chick.  Considering the male’s
condition, it was very fortunate that the male wasn’t kicked out of the
territory—which would have resulted in the death of the chick.  It was not
surprising when his body was discovered up on shore the following summer. 
At that point, little remained of the carcass, so the necropsy was
inconclusive.

The female was back in Mink in 2013, ready to try again, but she was
driven out of the territory early in the season and remained a single loon
through 2015.  I often saw her in the Mink territory—she obviously still
hadn’t given up on it!  But 2016 saw her back in her old territory of 5
Finger and ready for her place in the spotlight again!  She spent several
days sitting on top of an old beaver lodge near the RDC boathouse—this
loon clearly has a taste for celebrity!  In the end, the pair opted for a
more secluded nesting spot, which ended up getting hit by a mammal again. 
Last year, she was a single loon once more.  This year, she was a late
arrival on the lake and I was getting concerned about her.  She eventually
returned, much to my happiness, but she has struggled to hold on to the
territory and dealt with numerous intrusions from another female.  It
appears her age is starting to catch up with her, but she is a survivor
and I hope she manages to hang on!

July 2nd, 2018

Hi,

Great news, Squam Lake has its first chick of the year!  The chick hatched
on Wednesday and the parents are very busily taking care of it, trying to
convince the sometimes reluctant chick to eat all the minnows they bring! 
Unfortunately, the family seems to be struggling to find a quiet spot away
from boating activity to brood the chick.  More nests are expected to
hatch this coming week, so it is very important to remind neighbors and
lake users to keep an eye out for chicks, boat slowly and carefully, and
give the loons plenty of space.  Thanks for your help with this, and
please consider volunteering for Loon Chick Watch to help protect the loon
families!  (https://www.squamlakes.org/loon-chick-watcher-program)

In another piece of good news, two more pairs went on the nest this past
week!  But life for loons on Squam is, sadly, always a rollercoaster.  One
of those pairs already abandoned their nest for reasons that are not
entirely clear.  And another pair lost their nest in a truly appalling set
of circumstances.  One of the signs protecting the nest was tampered with,
causing the protective ropes/signs to drift in close to the nest.  People
were seen close to the nest at the time this occurred.  Not surprisingly,
the incubating loon flushed off the nest, and the eggs were subsequently
eaten by an avian predator.  It is very upsetting, sad, and disturbing
that this happened.  Given the challenges Squam’s loons are facing, it is
appalling that a nest would be lost in this way.  Let’s all work together
to help create a culture of respect for loons on Squam.

The current tally for the Squam Lakes are 1 nesting pair on Little Squam,
1 chick on Squam, and 3 active nests on Squam.  As of last night, an
additional nest on Squam appears to be in jeopardy.  I will be checking on
its status today and let you know in my next report whether it made it or
not.  The spate of recent nest failures has certainly changed the
prospects for the potential number of chicks on Squam this year, but I am
hoping the remaining nests will hatch successfully and that some of the
pairs that failed will re-nest.

As we head into a busy week on Squam, please also remind your neighbors
and other lake users about the dangers of lead fishing tackle to loons,
and don’t forget to clean out the old tackle boxes in your garage or boat
house!  Sadly, in the past week, the Loon Preservation Committee picked up
two loons from lakes elsewhere in the state that died from lead tackle
ingestion.  Please dispose of old lead tackle safely—The Loon Center,
Squam Lakes Association, and all New Hampshire Fish & Game offices are
collection points for safe lead tackle disposal.  Let’s make our lakes
safe for loons and other wildlife and get the lead out!

Please see the P.S. below for this week’s edition of “Meet the Loons of
Squam,” and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or reports. 
As always, please call Loon Preservation Committee to report any sick,
injured, or dead loons (603-476-5666).  Thank you for your interest in
Squam’s loons, and have a safe, happy, and loon-safe 4th of July!

Tiffany

P.S.  “Meet the Loons of Squam”—Moultonborough Bay:  This week we’ll pay a
visit to Moultonborough Bay (M’boro), a territory that historically had
fairly reliable chick production but has struggled in recent years with an
influx of loon intrusions—and high contaminant levels in loon eggs.  In
many ways, M’boro has been the poster territory in recent years for some
of the key problems facing Squam’s loons in recent years.  But let’s back
up and see what the loons have been up to.

The current pair in M’boro is an unbanded male and a female who was banded
in the territory in 2012, the year she had the only chick she has produced
in the territory.  At that time, she was paired with the Grand Old Male of
Moultonborough Bay.  He had been banded in M’boro as an adult in 1999,
moved up to the Yard Islands in 2002-2004, but returned to M’boro in 2005
and spent his remaining years there.  He was a calm and serene presence in
the Bay, and it was very sad when he did not return in 2015.  He hasn’t
been seen since, and I presume he is dead after a long and productive
life.  From the time he was banded, he produced 7 chicks in M’boro and
Yards, which is just about right on average for a loon in New Hampshire. 
Since that time, the male in M’boro has been unbanded, so we do not know
his history.

Since the female arrived and produced a chick in 2012, her fortunes have
taken a downward turn.  In 2013, her eggs were inviable; and, in 2014, the
nest was just days away from the expected hatch date when the female
evicted from Sturtevant Cove in 2010 and the female evicted from the Yard
Islands in 2013 teamed up to drive the M’boro female from the territory. 
This is the only time I have ever seen same-sex loons team up to chase a
rival from her territory!  Needless to say, only one female loon could
have the territory, so the ex-Sturtevant and ex-Yards female then turned
on each other once the M’boro female was gone.  The ex-Yards female won
the battle handily.  In an interesting twist, the ex-Yards female had been
paired with the Grand Old Male of Moultonborough Bay from 1999-2007, so it
looked like the old pair was going to be back together again.
Unfortunately, it was not to be.  The male did not return in 2015; and,
while the ex-Yards female won the battle, she lost the war.  The
ex-Sturtevant female was the territorial female in M’boro in 2015.

But that didn’t last for the ex-Sturtevant female either.  The M’boro
female was back on territory in 2016 and 2017, after spending the summer
of 2015 as an unpaired loon.  Just as in 2014, her nest attempts in those
years ended after intrusions from other loons.  To make matters worse, LPC
tested one of her eggs from both 2013 and 2016.  These eggs showed high
levels of contaminants, particularly for PCB’s.  While obviously LPC has
only tested eggs from a relatively small number of loons in the state, we
still have tested nearly 80 eggs statewide; and, based on these tested
eggs, the M’boro female is carrying the heaviest contaminant body burden
of any loon in the state.

So in many ways, M’boro typifies the problems Squam has been facing.  Many
nest failures in the territory have resulted from the “social chaos” that
has overtaken the Squam’s loons, apparently as a result of high rates of
adult mortality, resulting in frequent loon intrusions.  Unhatched eggs
from the territory have tested for high levels of contaminants.  And lead
poisoned loons have died in the territory in 2007 and 2017—this is not to
say they acquired the lead tackle in the territory, but it adds to the
picture of the challenges facing Squam’s loons being encapsulated by what
has happened in the territory in recent years.  Obviously, Loon
Preservation Committee is working hard to help Squam’s loons overcome
these challenges, and we are working for the best for the M’boro pair—and
all of Squam’s loons!

----------------------------------------------

June 22, 2018

Hi everyone,

It's been another busy week on the Squam Lakes!  I'm delighted to report
that we have two new nests on Squam!  On a sad note, however, we did lose
one nest that was attacked by a mammal.  This brings the number of active
nests to one nest on Little Squam and 5 nests on Squam Lake!  There are
several other pairs showing interest in nesting, so hopefully they will
settle down soon!

It's hard to believe but the first nest is due to hatch next week already!
 As we head into chick season, please remind your neighbors and other lake
users to give the loon families (and, of course, the nests!) plenty of
space.  We ask people to stay at least 150' away from loons and loon
families so the loons can focus on the hard work of raising loon chicks
without being stressed or disturbed.  Also, please remind people to boat
slowly and carefully in coves or areas of the lake marked with LPC's
orange "Caution: Loon Chick" signs and to keep an eye out for chicks.  The
chicks are small, dark, and can be hard to see on the water; and, sadly,
boat/jetski collisions are the second-leading known cause of death for
loon chicks.  Please remind everyone to be careful so that doesn't happen!

Loon Preservation Committee is once again partnering with the Squam Lakes
Association for Loon Chick Watch this year!  Loon Chick Watch is a
wonderful way to volunteer and help protect Squam's loons!  For more
information, please visit
https://www.squamlakes.org/loon-chick-watcher-volunteer-sign.

In this week's edition of "Meet the Loon of Squam," I'll introduce you to
a new mystery loon on the lake--please see the P.S. below to learn more! 
As always, please do contact me with any reports, questions, or concerns,
and please call the Loon Preservation Committee to report a sick, injured,
or dead loon (603-476-5666).

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

P.S.  "Meet the Loons of Squam"--Kimball Island:  Kimball Island's have
been a something of a mystery for many years, but the mystery only
deepened this year.  There has not been a banded loon in that territory
since 2009.  The banded female, who was on territory in Kimball in 2009,
decided to take over Sturtevant Cove in early spring 2010; since then,
Kimball has been occupied by unbanded loons, so we really don't know the
history of these loons.  The Kimball loons have had several nesting
attempts over the intervening years (in 2010, 2013, and 2015); but none of
these nesting attempts were successful, so we were unable to band them and
begin to learn about these loons.

But the mystery surrounding Kimball has just gotten that much deeper! 
Much to my surprise, the female in Kimball this year is banded--but it is
only a single silver band, so I have no idea who she is!  The silver bands
(well, actually aluminum, but it's easier to call them silver!) are the
official bands issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  Every banded
loon gets one of these, and they have a number on it that is the official
identifier of each loon.  Of course, unless you have the loon in the hand,
there is not a good way to read these numbers.  This is why we put the
unique color combination of lightweight plastic bands on the loons, so we
can easily recognize them while looking through binoculars and keeping a
safe and respectful distance.  Given that this female only has a silver
band, we will have no idea who she is or where she came from until we can
capture her!  You might be wondering why she only has a silver band. 
There are several possibilites--sometimes the plastic bands become loose
and fall off.  Also, if a loon has been with a wildlife rehabilitator,
they are sometimes only given a silver band.  Or she may have only been
given a silver band originally, for whatever the reason.

You may recall from our "Meet the Loons of Squam" last year that there is
a male in Rattlesnake Cove in the same situation.  Here's hoping that both
of these loons will nest successfully and have chicks--most importantly,
so that there will be more loon chicks contributed to the population.  But
also so we can capture these adults and begin to solve the mystery of
these loons!

June 11, 2018

Hi,

It has been a very busy week for the loons on Squam!  Nests have seemingly
been popping up all over!  We had one nest last week, and this week four
more pairs have gone on the nest!  We now have four nests on Squam Lake, and
the pair on Little Squam is nesting also!  This is a very good start, and I
hope that all the pairs will do well and that more pairs will catch the
"nesting bug" soon!

Please remind neighbors and lake users to give nesting loons all the help
they can by keeping their distance from nests and respecting the protective
signs and ropes around the nest areas.  I received a report that we had a
close call this past week when people trespassed near one of the nests,
flushing the loon from the nest.  Thankfully, the loon returned, but
repeated disturbances (or one really bad disturbance) can cause loons to
abandon their nests.  Thank you for helping to spread the word!

Loon Preservation Committee's (LPC) annual Summer Luncheon and Auction is
coming up on June 24th!  Our featured speaker this year is Steven Curwood,
the host of Public Radio's "Living on Earth."  The deadline for reservations
is June 14th--please call LPC to join our celebration of loons
(603-476-5666)!

Please see the P.S. below for this week's edition of "Meet the Loons of
Squam," where we'll meet a loon that has made a triumphant return to his
territory after I feared he was dead--what a comeback!  As always, please
don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or reports, and please call
LPC to report any sick, injured, or dead loons (603-476-5666/603-476-LOON).

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

P.S.  "Meet the Loons of Squam"--Sturtevant Cove:  Sturtevant Cove
definitely saw quite the comeback this summer, much to my happiness!  The
male loon from two years ago, who I feared was dead, is back and looking as
good as ever!  As we pop the champagne, let's backtrack a little bit to find
out what happened to him and this pair.

This male was originally banded in Sturtevant Cove in 2013, and he was
paired with a female who had moved in from Kimball Island and taken over the
Sturtevant territory in 2010.  They successfully raised one chick that year,
but 2014 saw a succession of other males attempting to take over the
territory from this male.  He managed to hang on; but, due to all the
fighting, the pair did not nest that year.  2015 brought another change,
with a new, unbanded female in the territory.  His previous female was still
on the lake but obviously unable to hold the territory.  The pair raised one
chick, and LPC banded the female that year so we could begin tracking her.

Everything seemed to bode well for the pair in 2016.  Both pair members were
back; and, spurred on by their success of the previous year, they got right
down to the business of nesting, hatching two chicks by the end of June.
But a dark cloud was looming on the horizon, which first became apparent
when we captured the pair to collect new samples.  To our concern, the male
was unusually lethargic while he was in the boat.  The results of his blood
work were concerning as well, showing indications of chronic stress or poor
health of some sort.  Unfortunately, the tests could not tell us
more--simply that something was not right with this loon.

Sadly, this was borne out when another male intruded on the territory.  We
often see that loons are finely attuned to sickness or weakness in other
loons and quickly move in to take over the territory, and this is exactly
what happened in Sturtevant.  The Sturtevant male was driven out, and one of
the chicks immediately disappeared, presumably killed by the new male, as is
normal.  Much to my surprise, the second chick hung on for several
days--this is quite unusual in these territory takeovers.  The Sturtevant
female tried to feed and care for it, but being a single parent is not easy
for loons and the new male was hostile to the chick.  To make matters worse,
the female who had been paired with the Sturtevant male in
2013-2014 was jockeying for position and making life difficult for the
Sturtevant female too.  She hung on; but, sadly and predictably, the chick
disappeared after several days.

I did not see the old male for the remainder of the summer of 2016.  In
2017, an unbanded male was in the territory (likely the male who took over
in 2016), along with the same female.  Together they hatched the only chick
on the lake last summer.  There was still no sign of the old male around the
lake, and I feared he had died.  Between his lethargy during banding, his
blood work indicating something was wrong with him, and his subsequent
eviction, his absence seemed to not bode well, that perhaps he had not
survived the fight and any injuries he may have sustained or his poor
health.  Imagine my surprise when I saw him this summer, paired up with the
same female!  They have already been looking at potential nest sites.  Kudos
to the Sturtevant male, back from the brink and hopefully getting ready to
raise some more chicks!

--
Tiffany Grade
Squam Lakes biologist
Loon Preservation Committee

----------------------------------

June 2nd, 2018

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to the 2018 Squam Loon Season!  Despite the late ice-out this year
(April 27th, latest since 2001!), the loons are off to a fast start!  Loon
pairs are mostly settled in their territories, and one pair is already on
the nest!!  Hopefully other pairs will follow suit soon and it will be a
nice, quiet nesting season for Squam's loons.

I do need to update you on a very unfortunate situation from last fall on
Squam.  In late October, our friends at Squam Boat Livery alerted us to an
immature loon that was tangled in fishing line in the channel between
Squam and Little Squam.  We captured it in Cotton Cove (picture attached)
and found a large lure lodged in its bill and neck and fishing line
wrapped tightly around its neck.  We took it Meadow Pond Animal Hospital
in Moultonborugh, where the vets made a tremendous effort to try to save
the loon.  Sadly, it did not make it.  This was a loon that was migrating
through Squam--not the chick from Squam last year--but, sadly, its
migration ended here.

With fishing season well underway, please remind your neighbors and other
lake users to reel their lines in when loons are in the vicinity and to
use only non-lead fishing tackle.  Loons mistake lures being reeled in for
fish and will strike at them, becoming tangled up as this young loon did
and possibly ingesting tackle.  Please ask anglers, if a loon comes in the
vicinity of where they are fishing, to refrain from casting until the loon
moves on.

I'm sure you will all remember that we had a loon die from lead tackle
ingestion on Squam last summer, and we have already had 3 lead-poisoned
loons elsewhere in the state this spring--2 have died, and one is with a
wildlife rehabilitator fighting for its life.  In addition to spreading
the word to neighbors and lake users about using only non-lead tackle,
please check for old tackle boxes in your garages and boat houses.  Old
tackle boxes are full of lead.  A good rule of thumb is, if the tackle is
old, it's lead.  Please clean out those old tackle boxes and re-stock them
with non-lead tackle.  The Loon Center, Squam Lakes Association, and NH
Fish and Game offices are all ready to accept old lead tackle and dispose
of it safely and properly.  Thank you very much!

If you are looking for something to do when you have visitors at the lake,
don't forget the loon cruises!  Loon Preservation Committee is once again
partnering with our friends at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center to
offer loon cruises this summer!  They begin next Friday (June 8th) and
will run on June 15th and June 22nd and then Monday's and Fridays from
June 25th through August 31st at 3:00.  For more information, CLICK HERE

Hope to see you on a cruise!

Our series "Meet the Loons of Squam" will resume next week!  If your
portion of the lake wasn't covered last summer, don't worry--we'll visit
it this summer for a look at the fascinating and complex lives of the
loons that live there!  As always, please don't hesitate to contact me
with any reports or concerns, and please call the Loon Preservation
Committee to report any sick, injured, or dead loons (603-476-5666).

I'm very excited we already have a nesting pair this summer, and let's all
work together to help make 2018 a great year for Squam's loons!

Best,
Tiffany