Loons and the Fourth

July 1, 2023

The long holiday weekend begins and the lakes fill up with people ready to party. It’s a good time to talk about fireworks, as well as boating etiquette.

This time of year we frequently get questions about fireworks disturbing nesting loons. Although there have been no rigorous studies into the possible effects of fireworks on nesting loons, LPC has crunched some numbers to see if there is any correlation between the July 4th fireworks and nest failures. None was found. Observations of loons during firework displays show varying degrees of alertness but little more than that. This fact sheet will give you more details.

On the other hand, fireworks can introduce perchlorate contamination to the water. On small lakes, levels can exceed standards considered to be safe. The good news is that the level of contaminants usually drops back to normal within 24 hours. Those using fireworks can minimize the chance of contamination by launching from an area that does not drain into the lake and by raking up any debris left from the fireworks. NH Dept. of Environmental Services has a useful fact sheet for those launching fireworks over a lake.

A more immediate danger for loons is poor boating etiquette. Ignoring “no wake” zones can cause nest flooding and possibly nest failure. And it’s important to remember that not all no wake zones are signed. Any time you are within 150 feet of the shore (including islands) you should be going at headway speed. And keep an eye out for chicks; there are quite a few of them out on the lakes now. An adult loon has little problem dodging boats but chicks are quite vulnerable to boat strikes. Let’s make this a safe holiday for the wildlife as well as the humans.