, ,

Squam Lakes Loon News—September 9, 2020

It’s hard to believe Labor Day has come and gone, but here we are at the end of another loon breeding season —- and what a season it has been! I am delighted to report that all 8 chicks on Squam Lake and both chicks on Little Squam are still doing well! All but the youngest chick are in the “teenage” loon stage, and the youngster is almost 6 weeks old now and growing fast!

With these remarkable chick numbers on Squam Lake, 2020 is Squam’s best year for loon breeding success since 2003! The 11 chicks hatched this year on Squam Lake are the most since 2003, as are the current number of chicks surviving. All of the surviving chicks on Squam Lake this year —- and all of the chicks that hatched except for one —- hatched off of nesting rafts floated by Loon Preservation Committee. I hope the chicks —- and all the loons —- will continue to thrive as they prepare for migration, or just plain grow up in the case of the youngest chick! But no need to worry about migration for the youngest chick —- it has plenty of time to grow and learn how to fly before it needs to leave.

Many thanks to all of you for helping to protect the loons of the Squam Lakes this summer, for looking out for them, and for helping spread the word to others to be respectful of the loons! I really appreciate everyone’s help! This will be my last e-newsletter of the season, but I will continue to be out on the lake through the fall keeping an eye things and will let you know if anything happens to any of the loons. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions, concerns, or reports. And please report any sick, injured, or dead loons to Loon Preservation Committee. The Loon Center is currently closed, so please report any loons in distress on our website at https://loon.org/report-loon/ or by emailing info@loon.org. And our online store is still open for all your loon-themed shopping needs! Please visit: https://loon.org/shop/.

The last email of the season means it’s once again awards season on Squam! Please see the P.S. below for the Seventh Annual Squam Loon Achievement Awards and find out who walked away (swam away???) with the coveted Productivity Award this year!

Thank you for your interest in Squam’s loons! I wish everyone a happy, safe, and healthy Autumn!

P.S. Seventh Annual Squam Loon Achievement Awards: It’s awards season, time to celebrate everything the loons on the Squam Lakes have accomplished this year!

First, let’s pause to remember the loons we have lost in the past year: the unbanded adult loon found dead at Long Island last October who died of lead poisoning from ingested lead fishing tackle; the Perch Island female, killed at the end of June by a boat strike; and the three chicks on Squam Lake who died this summer, one of whom disappeared at just over 2 weeks of age, another died during hatching, and the third disappeared just after hatching. These are all very sad losses to Squam’s loon population.

But now, let’s celebrate the achievements of Squam’s loons in 2020!

Productivity Award: For the coveted 2020 Productivity Award…we have a tie! Considering how many deserving loon pairs we had this year, it seems only right to spread the award around. Our winners this year are the Heron Cove pair and the Mooney Point pair! The Heron Cove loons were the only pair to fledge two chicks on Squam Lake this year —- congratulations! (Don’t worry, Little Squam pair, your award is coming below!) And the Mooney Point pair shares the award for finally, after many years of nest failures, plucking up the courage to try a new nest site and successfully raise a chick! The current male was part of the pair that last had a chick in Mooney Point in 2014. Clearly buoyed by his success, he stuck doggedly to that nest site despite succeeding years of nests being lost to predation, black flies, and intruding loons. Each year I would hope that the pair would try a different location, each year my hopes would be dashed as they once again settled on their old spot…until this year! I was thrilled when they selected a new, safer location, and they have a beautiful chick as the ultimate reward for making the switch! So, for the Mooney Point pair’s great decision-making skills that resulted in a chick and the Heron Cove pair’s two-chick brood, these are the 2020 co-winners of the Productivity Award!

Ten-Year Productivity Award: Taking the long view —- hands down, it’s Little Squam once again! With their two chicks this year, the Little Squam loons have produced nine chicks in the last 10 years!! Keep up the great work, Little Squam loons!!

Pair Together the Longest Award: I’m awarding this as a two-part award this year, the first half of the season and the last half of the season. For the first half of the season, this award belongs to the Perch Island pair, together for 10 years. Sadly, their 10th anniversary season was cut tragically short when the female was killed, but let’s celebrate once more their 10 years together at Perch Island.

The Pair Together the Longest Award for the second half of the season goes to, ironically, the Long Point pair —- last year’s winners of the “Most in Need of Marriage Counseling” Award! I like to think that the fact that they actually DID pair up this year indicates they took my advice and got some professional help over the winter. As you may remember, this is Squam’s on-again/off-again pair. Including this year, they have been a pair for a total of 7 years, but these 7 years have been interspersed with years when both of them were present in the territory but they never actually paired up. After a promising start together in 2019, the relationship again hit the rocks; and, after seemingly being unceremoniously ignored by the female, the male had little choice but to spend the latter half of the summer hanging out with other females. I was left wondering if this was the end of the road for this twosome, so I was pleasantly surprised to see them both together this summer —- and vaguely shocked when they settled down on a nest. The nest of was on the verge of hatching when, sadly, it failed, possibly due to the presence of intruding loons. What this setback will mean for their fragile relationship remains to be seen —- maybe another winter of marriage counseling is in order? In any case, I am both pleased and amused to award Squam’s own on-again/off-again pair with the “Pair Together the Longest Award —- Second Half of the Season”!

Father of the Year Award: Even without chicks, this award definitely belongs to the Perch Island male. As many of you will remember, after his mate was killed while the pair was actively nesting, the male tried incredibly hard to continue incubating the eggs. As far as I could tell, he was on the nest almost constantly for a week after she died. Loons are not cut out to be single parents —- they need their mate to chip in so they have time during incubation to feed, preen, and take care of themselves. Obviously, that was no longer possible, but he gave it an absolutely heroic effort to stick to those eggs. He was finally forced to abandon them; and, as I collected the eggs for LPC’s research the day after the expected hatch date, I was thinking about what could have been but also filled with admiration and respect for the male and his valiant efforts to hatch those eggs.

Mother of the Year Award: This goes to all the female loons of the Squam Lakes who had chicks this year! It was a remarkable year for productivity on Squam —- for all the hard work all those loons put in to make it happen, they all deserve the award!

She’s Just Not That Into You Award: The poor Squaw Cove male was trying so hard. Sitting in front of a potential nest spot, he was patiently waiting as his mate slowly made her way down the cove, preening, bathing, and generally appearing rather self-absorbed and oblivious to the presence of her mate eagerly waiting for her. As she (finally!) got closer, the male began cooing, trying to entice her to come and check out his perfect nest site. But she just kept going past, preening away, seemingly studiously ignoring him and all his efforts. The male continued cooing determinedly, convinced this must win her over. Finally, even he couldn’t ignore her indifference and he gave up at last, swimming after her, clearly determined to keep trying. They never did nest. For all his hopeful cooing, for all his efforts to win her heart, and for all her determination to ignore him, the Squaw Cove male wins the “She’s Just Not That Into You” Award. Well, Squaw Cove male, there’s always next year…

Messiest Break-Up Award: It was an epic loon chase by any standards, as the two loons wing-rowed deep into Owl’s Head, back out again, and then went clear across the entrance to Sturtevant Bay, swerving and dodging as they raced across the water. I watched the chase for at least ten minutes and was told by other boaters in the area that it had been going on for quite a while before I happened upon them. But aside from the impressive speed, maneuvering, and stamina of the loons and the tenacity and fierce determination of the loon doing the chasing, what was truly remarkable about this fight was who it involved: two loons who had been blissfully paired up just last year, the 2020 Kimball male and his ex from 2018-2019! There was a new female in Kimball this year, who was peacefully sitting on her and her mate’s nest while he was busily chasing his ex all over the place. The former Kimball female was a single this year, and I can only speculate on how this fight began —- loon fights are typically between same-sex birds, so to see a male and a female going at it was very surprising, complete with the added twist of this being a former pair. All I can say is, they were engaged in this chase with all the enthusiasm, hostility, and stubbornness that can only result from a very, very bad break-up! With that, I bestow the Messiest Break-Up Award on the Kimball male and his ex from 2018-2019, congratulations!

Congratulations (??!?) to all the winners of the Squam Loon Achievement Awards 2020! It was wonderful having so many pairs to choose from for the Productivity Award —- I hope I will have so many options in 2021 too, or more! Have a wonderful Autumn, everyone!