After a relatively cool spring and early summer, it’s warming up fast. The national Weather Service is predicting that the next five days will have high temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Thank goodness for air conditioning! But how will the loons handle it?
Loons are basically a northern species and New Hampshire loons reside at the southernmost limits of the distribution range. As long as they stay in the water, our loons can stay comfortably cool, even on the hottest days of a northern New England summer. But set them on a nest out of the water, and they don’t fare as well. Nesting loons only have two options for regulating body temperature when they are incubating: panting, just as a dog pants to keep cool, and getting off the nest to take a quick dip.
Nesting loons will usually begin panting as an off and on basis when the temperature is in the 70s. By the time the temperature gets in the 80s you can expect them to be panting constantly. At that point they are also prone to take short swims of about five to ten minutes. When the temperature gets in the 90s, the loons are under great stress. Swim breaks become more frequent. This is when nest failure becomes a serious risk. On a 90 degree day with the sun beating down on the nest, an exposed egg can actually start cooking within twenty minutes. 
This is just one of a handful of reasons why climate change appears to already be affecting loon productivity in New Hampshire. LPC’s Field Program Coordinator, Caroline Hughes, is studying the effects of temperature on loons using nesting rafts and she is experimenting with different shade cover treatments. The results of this study will inform LPC’s management procedures and possibly help us mitigate the effects of temperature on loons. If you are watching the loon cam would like to participate in this study as a “citizen scientist”, you can email Caroline at chughes@loon.org.