Heat wave!

The second week of nesting has been hot! Temperatures are forecast to be in the mid-80’s on Saturday, and topped out at 86 F on Wednesday in nearby Laconia, NH.  As the mercury rises above 70-75 F, you will see the loon pant, breathing with an open bill to cool off.  Sitting in the blazing sun in a black, waterproof, down parka for hours and days on end…you’d be panting, too! On the hottest summer days, loons may leave the nest more often for relief from the heat, exposing the eggs to overheating or predation.  It seems likely that heat stress, especially while incubating, may be part of the reason why loons do not breed much farther south than New Hampshire. Preliminary analyses have found that over the Loon Preservation Committee’s 40-year monitoring period, higher average breeding season temperatures are correlated with lower nesting success in the southern half of the state, where we would expect heat waves to be a bigger factor.  Using cameras and temperature loggers, LPC is tracking the potential impact of heat waves like the one this week on nesting loons. Should we be starting to add a solar-powered fan to each of our nest rafts? Only time will tell, although some loon watchers are already experimenting. In the meantime, send a cool breeze to these loons, and hope that they can beat the odds, beat the heat, and outlast the black flies, which haven’t disappeared yet, either!