A challenging week, and a surprising diagnosis

The past week has been a challenging one for the loons of the Squam Lakes. Sadly, one of the chicks on Little Squam has disappeared in what was likely a predation incident. It occurred between late last Friday afternoon and early Saturday morning—if anyone heard or saw anything, please let me know. If anyone finds the body of the chick, please call the Loon Preservation Committee at (603) 476-5666. Fortunately, the remaining Little Squam chick is looking good and getting stuffed full of crayfish by its parents! On Squam Lake, one of the two remaining nests failed as a result of frequent and intense intrusions from other loons trying to take over the territory. So our totals for the two lakes right now are 1 chick on Little Squam and 4 chicks on Squam Lake, with 1 remaining active nest.

You may remember that a dead adult loon was collected from Squam Lake in early July. This loon was the incubating female from a territory where the eggs were due to hatch just days after her death. As is normal when this occurs, the nest was abandoned after she died, so both the female and her nest were lost in this incident. The necropsy results are in, and this female loon died from avian malaria. This was only the second loon ever documented in North America to have died from avian malaria (the first being at Lake Umbagog in 2015) and suggests the influence of climate change in exposing loons to new pathogens that previously were not extant within their range. A dead loon collected elsewhere in the state the same weekend as the Squam loon was also subsequently determined to have died from avian malaria as well, so this may be a new, emerging threat to loons in New Hampshire. Avian malaria is a mosquito-borne disease but is not transmissible to humans. Many thanks to the person who collected and reported this dead loon. It is very important for LPC to recover these dead loons to better understand causes of death in loons and threats facing the loon population.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Census last weekend! Census participants joined other counters throughout New England last Saturday morning to give a region-wide snapshot of loons in the Northeast. On the Squam Lakes, 36 adult loons and 5 chicks were counted.

In lieu of the P.S. feature this week, I am attaching a copy of the July 2019 Loon Preservation Committee’s annual progress report for our Squam Lake Loon Initiative, our intensive research, monitoring, management, and outreach effort to understand the causes of declines in Squam’s loon population and to restore a healthy population of loons to the lake. Please let me know if you have any questions about the report or LPC’s work on Squam.

As always, please contact me with any reports, questions, or concerns about Squam’s loons, and please report any sick, injured, or dead loons to Loon Preservation Committee at (603) 476-5666.