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 https://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 https://www.loon.org/loon-festival.php.
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!
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!