All still well, but several close calls. Meet the loons from Dog Cove.
I’m happy to report that the loon chicks of the Squam Lakes continue to do well! Squam Lake still has 4 chicks and Little Squam still has 1 and all are continuing to grow and thrive! But there have been a number of close calls in the past week, which makes me extremely concerned for the safety of the families. I have received several reports of separate incidents and witnessed an incident myself in which loon families were in danger of being hit by oncoming boats traveling at high speeds. I also received a report of a photographer approaching a loon family very closely. I am extremely grateful to the people who helped head off boaters and photographers in many of these cases and helped protect the loon families and to everyone who helps educate neighbors and lake users about looking out for loons and keeping a respectful distance from them, especially families with chicks. And many thanks to those who volunteer for Loon Chick Watch and have helped protect the loon families throughout the summer! It truly takes all of us in the lake community working together to help ensure the safety of the loons and to create a culture of respect in which loons can thrive.
Here are a few points to remind neighbors, lake users, and renters about:
- Please always keep an eye out for loons and loon families when boating, especially in areas of the lake marked with Loon Preservation Committee’s bright orange “Caution: Loon Chicks” signs. Boat slowly and carefully in these areas, keeping an eye out for loons and chicks. Remember that loons and chicks could be *anywhere* in these general areas marked by orange signs, they will not only be near the signs. Loons and chicks will cross from one side of a cove to another, cross boat lanes between islands, and will sometimes just float out in open water.
- Be aware that sometimes chicks will be alone on the surface of the water while the adults are diving for food, or they may be some distance from an adult. Loon chicks are small, dark, and difficult to see on the water. This is another reason it is so important to boat slowly and carefully in the general area of the lake marked with orange chick signs. Boat and jet ski collisions are the second-leading documented cause of loon chick mortality-we certainly do not want Squam’s chicks to become part of this statistic.
- Please do not approach loons closer than 150 feet. This is especially important for loons with chicks. Loons that are concerned about the close approach of a boat, kayak, or canoe may stop feeding chicks to watch approaching boats instead, resulting in chicks not be cared for as well. Chicks that are stressed may refuse to eat for several hours after an incident. In extreme situations, these behaviors can lead to the starvation of the chick(s). Unfortunately, the repeated close approach of kayakers seems to have created just this sort of situation on Squam several years ago and likely contributed to the starvation of one of Squam’s chicks that year. We certainly don’t want that to happen again, so please remind everyone to treat the loons with respect and keep a safe distance. No photograph or “close look” is worth endangering the lives of loons or their chicks.
Thank you for helping to educate other lake users about loons and how we can all work together to protect them, I really appreciate your help with this! And please consider volunteering for Loon Chick Watch to help protect Squam’s loons-and thanks to all of you who have already volunteered, you have made a big difference for the loons! For more information, please visit https://www.squamlakes.org/loon-chick-watcher-program.
Just a few quick announcements about upcoming events: Our end-of-season volunteer appreciation potluck will be held Thursday, 8/23, at the Loon Center at 5:30, to be followed by a first look at what the 2018 season was like for New Hampshire’s loons by LPC Senior Biologist Harry Vogel. You are all invited! Then on Sunday, 8/26, The New Woodshed Restaurant in Moultonborough will donate a portion of their sales to benefit Loon Preservation Committee. We hope you can join us!
Please see the P.S. below for this week’s edition of “Meet the Loons of Squam”-after last week’s look at the sometimes fraught relationship between the Moon Island and Dog Cove loons, we’ll take a look at what life is like for the Dog Cove loons when they aren’t dealing with intruders from Great Island, Moon Island, etc., etc.! As always, please let me know of any questions or reports-and thank you again to people who reported some of this past week’s incidents to Loon Preservation Committee-and please report any sick, injured, or dead loons to LPC (603-476-5666).
Thank you for your interest in Squam’s loons!
P.S. “Meet the Loons of Squam”: Dog Cove-You may remember that last week we followed the current Moon Island male’s determined but ultimately unsuccessful efforts to win the Dog Cove territory and his current pairing with the former Dog Cove female. This week, we’re going to visit the territory he seemed so obsessed with and meet the male who was his nemesis in all his efforts to take over Dog Cove.
The Dog Cove male is one of Squam’s well-established, experienced loons. He was first banded as an adult with chicks in 2001, so, given that loons don’t begin nesting on average until they are 6-7 years old, he is at least in his early twenties. His life as a banded loon began at Great Island, where he was from 2001-2006. During those 6 years, he hatched an astonishing 11 chicks and 9 of them fledged from the lake. This is more than 3 times the average productivity rate in New Hampshire!
His status in 2007 is unclear; but, by 2008, he was in Dog Cove, where he has remained ever since and where his ability to produce chicks has sadly declined from those halcyon days at Great Island. Since arriving in Dog Cove, he has hatched 8 chicks and 3 of those have survived. All 3 of those surviving chicks were produced with the female who is currently at Moon Island, as we learned last week. You may remember from last week that the current Moon Island male was responsible for the loss of two of those 8 chicks; but the Dog Cove male battled him for 3 days following the death of those 2 chicks, managing to hang on to his territory even though his chicks were gone. Kudos to him for persistence and determination, despite the tragedy of his chicks. In 2015, he did not return to Dog Cove until just after Memorial Day. This was very surprising and unusual-prior to his arrival, his mate was first with an unbanded loon and then the Moon Island male. Finally the Dog Cove male returned, reclaimed his territory and booted the Moon Island male out yet again. To this day, I still don’t understand why he was so delayed in returning, but I was happy to see him back-and amused that the female was with 3 different males in the span of a month!
The Dog Cove male’s current mate arrived in 2016; but, for unknown reasons, the pair has not been as committed to nesting as previously. Last year, they mysteriously abandoned the nest after sitting on their eggs for only a few days-and this year, they showed almost no interest in nesting. This is puzzling and disappointing-and certainly breaks this male’s record. Up until this year, he nested every single year since 2001, with the possible exception of 2007 when data on his status is lacking. This was a remarkable run of consecutive nests, and I was very sorry to see it end.
I have many memories of this loon, both the fond and the frustrating. I’ll always remember hiking the trails at Chamberlain-Reynolds one early spring right after ice out. My boat wasn’t in the water yet, but I wanted to see if maybe I could see some loons. I went down to the cove where the raft was always placed for the Dog Cove loons-of course, because the ice had just gone out, the raft wasn’t in the water yet. But there was the Dog Cove male, sitting there in the spot we always put the raft! I could just about hear him thinking, “Well, I’m here-where’s my raft??!?” I’ll also always remember watching him incubating his eggs on a beautiful summer day, desperately trying to stay awake but he just kept nodding off. His head would keep nodding as he tried unsuccessfully to stay awake until he would jerk awake, look around and try to be alert for a few minutes before nodding off again. I certainly empathized with him-we’ve all been there! On the frustrating side of things, he has expertly learned how to evade LPC banding crews-to the point that, as soon as our light hits the territory, he leaves the area. He certainly doesn’t score any chivalry points, abandoning his mate and chicks to the banding crew while he saves himself! Despite his lack of chivalry, he has been a stable presence in Dog Cove and I’m always happy to see him back there each year. I hope that he and his current mate will get on better track with nesting in future years!