Squam Lake Loon Report: Another chick!

It was another very busy week for the loons on the Squam Lakes, highlighted by the hatching of another chick on Squam! We also gained another nesting pair on Squam Lake but also had two nest failures (1 nest failed due to a mammalian predator, 1 nest was abandoned). So this brings us to the totals for the week of 1 active nest on Little Squam and, on Squam Lake, 3 chicks in 2 families and 4 active nests.

As we head into 4th of July week, please remind your lake friends and neighbors, renters, and other lake users to be respectful of loons, loon families, and nesting loons. Please ask them to stay a minimum of 150’ away from loons and loons with chicks and to move further away if loons show any sign of stress. Please ask them to stay back from roped and signed nesting areas and to slow down, boat carefully, and keep an eye open for chicks in areas marked with Loon Preservation Committee’s (LPC) orange “Caution: Loon Chick” signs. Please remind them that loons with chicks may cross coves, that they will not only be by the orange loon chick signs, and loon chicks may be alone on the surface if the adults are diving for food. And please remind them to fish only with non-lead fishing tackle to keep loons and other wildlife safe. I’ve attached a poster with information on LPC’s lead tackle buyback program, which we are working on in partnership with NH Department of Fish and Game. Please feel free to distribute to friends who may live elsewhere in the state, so they know their local tackle shop participating in the program, and remember that Squam Boat Livery is our local participating shop. Let’s encourage everyone to clean out those old tackle boxes and get the lead out!

With the chicks coming out, we are looking for volunteers to help with Loon Chick Watch, LPC’s partnership with the Squam Lakes Association (SLA)to protect loon families on the Squam Lakes during the busy summer weekends and holidays. This is a wonderful way to help loons, and what could be more fun and rewarding than spending an hour or two with a loon family while working to protect them? For more information, please visit https://www.squamlakes.org/loon-chick-watcher-program or contact Melissa Leszek at the SLA (melissaleszek@squamlakes.org).

Please see the P.S. below for our final “Meet the Loons of Squam: The Singles’ Edition,” in which we’ll meet a loon who was the ultimate Squam single but is now giving hope to single loons everywhere. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions, concerns, or reports, and please report any sick, injured, or dead loons to the Loon Preservation Committee (603-476-5666).

Thank you for your interest in Squam’s loons, and have a safe and happy 4th of July! Tiffany

P.S. “Meet the Loons of Squam: The Singles’ Edition”–The Ex-Sturtevant Female: The ex-Sturtevant Bay female was Squam’s ultimate single, which is not to say that she was happy about it and it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying to get a territory on her part. But her history is remarkable quite apart from her single life, if only because she is sharing Squam Lake with her mother! She hatched in 1998 at Five Finger Point, and both she and her mother were banded that year. Her mother is now the oldest banded loon on Squam Lake, the venerable Five Finger Point female. Given that loons don’t nest on average until they are 6-7 years old, the Five Finger Point female is at least in her late 20’s! Her chick apparently decided life on Squam was pretty good and returned as an adult, only on the southern end of the lake in contrast to her mother’s life in the northern part. After being banded as a chick, she first came back on our radar when she turned up as part of the pair in Sturtevant Bay in 2008. That year, she was paired with a male who hatched in 1999 on Winnipesaukee—from the nesting raft in front of the Loon Center of all places! She spent 2008 and 2009 with him in Sturtevant, hatching two chicks each year; but, sadly, none of those chicks survived. She was back in Sturtevant early in 2010, but this is when her life as a single began. I was there when the Kimball Island female, apparently fed up with several years of no nesting success and well aware of the chicks hatching in Sturtevant, came down to take over the territory. The Sturtevant female came out to fight and the two had a very impressive battle, which ended with the Sturtevant female being chased by the Kimball female and wing rowing out of the territory, tremoloing the whole way. She was now a single and would have had little idea at the time just how long this would last.

The now ex-Sturtevant Cove female spent the next several years trying her hardest to get a territory. Pretty much whenever there was trouble on the lake, I knew I’d find her there—in the middle of many fights, trying to get a territory. Her efforts centered on her old territory of Sturtevant, as well as the Yard Islands and Moultonborough Bay. In 2014, she actually teamed up with the newly single ex-Yard Islands female to drive the incubating Moultonborough Bay female out of her territory, resulting in a failure of the nest there that year. After they mutually drove the Moultonborough female out, the teammates then turned on each other to determine the ultimate winner. The ex-Yards female easily won the fight, the futility of the ex-Sturtevant female’s efforts being accentuated by her opponent casually snacking on a ~6” perch in the middle of fight—talk about rubbing it in! 2014 was the year that the ex-Sturtevant Cove female won the “Unhappiest Single” award in my end-of-season Loon Achievement Awards for all of her efforts over the years to win a territory. (You may remember from my 6/15 newsletter that the Squam female likely seen in Rhode Island this past winter won the “Happiest Single” award that year for her completely opposite approach to the single life!)

Despite having lost the fight over Moultonborough Bay in 2014 to the ex-Yards female, it was none other than the ex-Sturtevant female who was the pair member in Moultonborough Bay the following year (2015)! After all her years of frustration, she finally had a territory! Sadly, it didn’t last—she had a failed nesting attempt and, by the following year, she was out of Moultonborough Bay. In 2016, her old rival, the ex-Yard Islands female was again holding the Yard Islands territory and the ex-Sturtevant female managed to evict her from that territory, but she, in turn, was soon evicted by an unbanded female. Back to the single life it was for her. Where she spent her time the following summers, I have no idea. In both 2017 and 2018, I only saw her turn up on the lake late in the summer—was her old penchant for picking fights and battling for a territory waning?

Apparently not—this summer, I was stunned to see her holding a territory! She is back in Moultonborough Bay for the third time. I’m hoping the third time will be the charm for her and she will actually be able to hold a territory and, better yet, nest successfully. Unfortunately, she has already had a nest failure (one of the failures I reported on from this past week), but she still has a chance to try again. Hopefully she will—but, in any case, the seemingly perennial single is no longer a single, giving hope to single loons everywhere! And, if all else fails, at least she has her mother nearby!

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