VCE’s summer interns, Kirsty Carr and Nate Launer, and I had just finished surveying Bald Hill Pond and were driving by Newark Pond when I noticed a loon near shore with some flashes of color behind it. It was banded with colorful leg bands for identification. We jumped out of the truck and observed green and orange bands on the left leg and then yellow and aluminum on the right leg. The loon was very cooperative in giving us good looks at the bands under water. I have some great volunteers on Newark Pond, so I usually do not spend time following the loons there. When I arrived home, I looked up the color combinations and confirmed that this was one of the first loons ever banded on Newark Pond in Vermont in 1998, my first year as the VCE loon biologist.
We don’t know if this male loon is part of the current territorial pair on Newark or if it is now a non-breeder, but we will definitely spend some time on the pond to determine this loon’s status. We banded this loon 20 years ago after he had nested successfully on the pond as part of an US EPA toxicology study. At the time of banding, this male had relatively low levels of mercury in his blood and feathers, which was typical of most loons banded in Vermont then.
The loon was at least 3 years old in 1998 based on plumage (youngest age of breeding), but it was more likely 5 years old or even older, making him at least 25 years of age and likely a bit older now. In the upcoming Loon Caller newsletter, I’ll share a story from Michigan about the oldest confirmed loon on record at 30 years of age. Our Newark Pond loon might be just as old, but because we cannot age adults to the exact year, we don’t really know.