Squam Lakes Loon Update

It’s been another very busy week on the Squam Lakes, with 5 more loon pairs going on the nest on Squam!  Unfortunately, 2 of those nests failed within days of the nests being initiated (both appeared to be predation by a mammal), but we still have 7 (yes, 7!!) active nests on Squam Lake and the nest on Little Squam is also going strong!  I continue to be astonished and thrilled that so many pairs are nesting early this year.  Thanks to everyone for your help protecting these nesting loons and reminding lake users to be respectful of the loons and of the signs and rope lines around the nests!
This week begins a new “Meet the Loons of Squam” series, our tour of the Squam Lakes introducing the loon pairs and updating you on who’s in and who’s out at the various territories.  Please see the P.S. below as we pay a visit to the incredibly productive loons at Little Squam!
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, concerns, or reports, and please report any sick, injured, or dead loons to the Loon Preservation Committee at (603) 476-5666 (476-LOON).
Thank you for your interest in Squam’s loons!
P.S. “Meet the Loons of Squam”-Little Squam pair:  Little Squam has been on a remarkable run of cranking out loon chicks, thanks in no small part to some truly remarkable loons that have been in the territory for many years.  The success of the loons on Little Squam underscores the importance of stable, long-term, established pairs in contributing to future generations of loons.  Let’s take a look at who’s there now and who’s behind all the chicks of Little Squam!
The story of the current pair begins in 2010, when the female arrived on the lake, but it really goes back further than that when we look at who she paired up with.  Some of you may remember the “Grand Old Male” of Little Squam who, sadly, died early in 2017 while spending the winter off the coast of Massachusetts.  During his 15 year run on Little Squam, he hatched 15 chicks and 12 of them fledged-a truly remarkable number of loon chicks!  Just over halfway through his reign on Little Squam, the current female arrived after the presumed death of her predecessor, who had been seen tangled in fishing line late in the season in 2009.  The two paired up-but little did the old male know what he was getting into!
His new mate was, well, everything a loon parent shouldn’t be!  She apparently had better things to do than spend time with her new chicks.  Once the chicks had hatched from her nest that first year, she was pretty much nowhere to be found-I wouldn’t even see her out on the lake!  To this day, I don’t know where she spent all her time.  In short, the male was essentially a single parent raising those chicks that first year; but good, experienced, loon parent that he was, he pulled it off.  The following year, the female had apparently learned a little, but not a lot-the male was still more or less a single parent.  Finally, by their third year together, she had learned the ropes, and she hasn’t looked back-she is now an old pro at raising loon chicks!  I found it fascinating to watch her learn how to be a good loon parent-as well as to see just how much her mate stepped up to make up for her inexperience!
After this somewhat rocky start, the pair settled in, hatching 9 chicks and successfully raising 7 of them during their 7 years together before the male’s death.  This is a rate of 1 chick per year-nearly twice the statewide average!  So, needless to say, when the male died, not only was I sad for the death of such a wonderful loon, but I was concerned what this would mean for raising chicks on Little Squam.  But the female learned her lessons well, and she is now the experienced old hand in the territory.  An unbanded male arrived in 2017 and they nested, but a chick that hatched disappeared immediately and the second egg didn’t hatch.  But things improved from there:  she paired with an unbanded male again in 2018 and 2019-likely the same one as in 2017-and they produced a chick each year.  We were able to band the male in 2019, and he is back with her again this year.  No doubt her parenting experience has benefited them as they have raised their chicks.  At least she doesn’t have to work quite as hard to make up for the slack as her old mate did when she was a newbie-her new mate is definitely more dedicated to raising chicks than she was in her first couple years!  I hope this pair will have many years together and continue the grand tradition of cranking out lots of chicks on Little Squam!