Squam Lake Loon Report: More nests!

It’s been a busy time on the Squam Lakes, a mixture of nest failures and new nests. We’ll start with the good news: 3 new nests have started on Squam Lake, with another pair looking like they will start nesting imminently (fingers crossed!). The pair on Little Squam has also started nesting. On the bad news side, two of the nests I reported on in my last newsletter failed. One of them was expected—the nest I feared would be done in by the black flies did, in fact, fail for that reason. A second nest failed as well—in this case, the male from previous years returned late to the lake, only to find another male already paired up and nesting. Needless to say, he evicted that other male from the territory and, as usually happens in these cases, the nest was abandoned. So, right now, we have a total of 4 active nests on Squam Lake and 1 on Little Squam. Hopefully all will go well for the nesting pairs and there will be new nesting attempts in the territories where the nests failed already!

With pairs on the nests, please remind your neighbors and other lake users to give nesting loons plenty of space and to respect the signed and roped areas around the nests. It is very important that incubating loons not be disturbed at their nests: disturbances could cause a loon to abandon the nest and the eggs could be exposed to chilling or overheating (depending on the weather) if the adults are off the nest, as well as to being eaten by a predator. As many of you know, Loon Preservation Committee (LPC) places signs and ropes around nest sites, asking people to please stay away from these areas so the loon nests are not disturbed. Please help spread the word to respect these areas and the nesting loons. We can all work together to help give the eggs the best chance of hatching!

Loon Cruises are running for the season! LPC and Squam Lakes Natural Science Center are partnering up again to offer loon cruises and give people the chance to see and learn about Squam’s loons. Cruises run Monday and Friday afternoons at 3:00 through the end of August (exception: no cruise on 6/17), so if you’d love to learn more about Squam’s loons or are looking for something to do with your guests this summer, join us for a loon cruise! Please visit the Science Center’s website(www.nhnature.org) for more information or to make reservations.

At the end of last summer, we had wrapped up our visits to the territories around the lake in our “Meet the Loons of Squam” series. However, there are a couple banded singles out there who didn’t get covered. So we will start this summer with a “Meet the Loons of Squam: The Singles Edition” to introduce you to those loons too. We’ll start with a loon I mentioned in my last newsletter: you may remember I reported on the likely sighting of one of Squam’s single loons in Narragansett, Rhode Island, over the winter. Please see the P.S. below too learn about the somewhat puzzling history of this loon, who has definitely been living two very different lives! As always, please let me know if you have any questions, concerns, or reports about Squam’s loons, and please report any sick, injured, or dead loons to the Loon Preservation Committee at (603) 476-5666.

Thank you for your interest in Squam’s loons!

P.S. “Meet the Loons of Squam: The Singles Edition”: The loon that was likely seen this past February at Narragansett, RI, is a female who was originally banded as an adult with chicks at Great Island in 2001. Given that loons on average don’t start nesting until they are 6-7 years old, she is at least in her mid-20’s and one of the oldest banded loons on Squam that is still alive–although the Five Finger Point female still has her beat by 3 years! (Of course, we don’t know how old these loons are when we catch them, as there is currently no way to age adult loons. So others banded more recently might be older—we just don’t know it!) Her mate from 2001 is also still alive, but their paths certainly diverged after they parted ways. His life has been very different from hers, but they formed a remarkable partnership while they were together.

These two loons were paired up from 2001-2006. During those years they hatched a remarkable 11 chicks, fledging 9 of them! This is a rate of 1.5 surviving chicks each year—the statewide average is 0.5 surviving chicks per pair per year, so this is truly amazing! But their fortunes turned in 2007: a nesting attempt that year produced no chicks and, by 2008, the male was off to Dog Cove. He continued his productive ways there, raising several surviving chicks, although not close to the same rate as with his old mate. The female, on the other hand, has not produced a chick again. So what happened to her?

She continued in Great Island in 2008 with a new mate, but they did not nest. However, in 2009, she began what was to be a her long life as one of Squam’s singles. She frequented areas not far from Great Island and seemed perfectly content, spending her days fishing and relaxing within sight of her old home. In fact, in 2014 she earned the “Happiest Single” award in my end-of-season Loon Achievement Awards on the grounds that I never saw her involved in a fight or intruding into a territory—very unusual for a Squam loon! I suggested at the time that maybe all those chicks she had while she was at Great Island did her in and she had no interest in going through all that again–just kidding!

All that changed when she unexpectedly turned up as the territorial female at Moon Island in 2016. I was both surprised and happy for her, hoping she could re-create some of the Great Island chick-raising magic at Moon Island. But it was not to be, and her stint there was very short-lived. Days after laying an egg, she was evicted from the territory by another female. In an unusual twist, her mate continued to incubate her egg, despite the apparent efforts of his new mate to convince him to abandon it. Of course, he needed to leave the nest at times to feed, preen, and take care of himself, and the new female would not incubate her rival’s egg, so it ended up not hatching. And so our heroine has been a single ever since, now spending time in sight of her (brief) Moon Island territory…and, apparently, her winters in Rhode Island. What limited data we have on wintering loons suggests they are faithful to wintering areas, so she may have been going to Narragansett all these years (assuming the band report from February was accurate). I have not seen her yet this year, although that is not very unusual for singles—they can be hard to track down—but I am certainly keeping my eyes open for her! It will be neat to see her—and to know where she likely spent her winter!

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