Loon Census 2016

LOON CENSUS 2016

by Terri Lynch

 

The statewide Loon Census, organized by the Loon Preservation Committee (LPC) will take place on Saturday, July 16th from 8 a.m.-9 a.m.  I will organize our effort on Lake Mascoma by assigning areas to volunteers, collecting reports and submitting observations to the LPC. To see last year results or learn more about Loons go to http://www.loon.org Participating involves being out on the lake in your assigned area by 8 a.m., recording your observations  for a full hour and reporting them back to me. A boat, binoculars and ability to identify loons are needed. From start to finish it takes a maximum of 2 hours.  If you would like to participate in this event, please contact me via email,  HYPERLINK "mailto:terri.m.lynch@gmail.com" terri.m.lynch@gmail.com This event is Rain or Shine.

It is with joy that I am once again hearing the loons on the lake. The first sighting was reported in a small pool of open water around the Shaker Bridge on March 15th. Most of the lake was still covered in ice. This early traveller was likely a male as they are the first to return in spring, followed weeks later by the females. Now in May there have been regular sightings of a couple loons around the islands and three on the Lebanon end. I am hoping that this summer they will have a successful nest or two.  The major cause of nest failure on Mascoma has been due to flooding. Loons nest on shore close to the water’s edge, as they do not walk well on land.  This makes the nest very vulnerable to flooding if we have heavy rains during the nesting period, usually a 26-28 day period between the end of May and mid July. We have had nest failure due to flooding the past three years. While we have floated nesting platforms to alleviate this threat, the loons have failed to accept this alternative. Our last chick to hatch was in 2012. While flooding is a threat to the egg, the loon chick also faces predation by eagles, crows, snapping turtles, and injury by powerboats. So many challenges for them to overcome, but we have had chicks survive to fledge in 2005, 2009 and 2012. Hope 2016 proves successful.

 The strange El Nino winter we had posed problems for loons. The Loon Preservation Committee  (LPC) rescued 11 loons since January 1, Nine loons were found trapped in ice in January/February and two crash landed in what may have looked like open water but wasn’t. Ice rescues are very dangerous and difficult but the LPC has been working on safer ways to make these rescues. To learn more about these daring rescues go to the LPC website, e-Newsletter Vol. 46. Eight of the rescued have been successfully rehabilitated and released.

 N.H. Loons usually winter in the ocean waters off the Northeastern coast where they undergo a molt of their flight feathers sometime in January or February.  This temporarily renders them flightless for a couple weeks while new feathers come in. Some of the rescued loons were found to be in a stage of molting, so they were not able to fly. They had stayed too long, perhaps fooled by the mild winter. Lead was also found to be a contributor. Three of the rescued loons were suffering from lead poisoning.  Loons ingest stones to break down their food in the gizzard, a substitute for teeth. Unfortunately, sinkers look very much like stones to loons. The lead is ground up in the gizzard and is absorbed into the bloodstream. Death occurs within weeks. Researchers have had some promising results lowering lead levels if the sinker or jig can be removed, with chelation therapy.  The long-term effects of the lead poisoning are still unknown. We don’t know if these loons will be able to migrate and breed.  As of June 1, 2016 Senate Bill 89, which was signed by Maggie Hassan in 2013 goes into law. This law bans the sale or use of lead sinkers one ounce or less. This size lead fishing tackle have been linked to death in over 48% of the recovered adult loons in NH. The law will certainly help protect our loons, but there is still lead out there on the bottom of our lake and likely in some tackle boxes. Please do your part by removing any lead you find, and disposing of it properly.  The loons need all the help we can give them. 

 A new threat to NH loons is possibly on the horizon. An adult loon death in Maine has been attributed to tropical malaria, which in the past has only effected southern birds. This form of malaria does not transfer to humans and could be related to climate change. Further study is needed to evaluate this. Please report any loon injuries or deaths to the LPC at 603-476-LOON (5666) and/or to me at terri.m.lynch@ gmail.com.  Thank you.

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