Loon Update July 7, 2022
We’re absolutely wailing that loon season is halfway over already, but so much has happened since we started monitoring our lakes this spring. As of June 30, we have confirmed 96 nests, 34 successful nests, 14 failed nests, and 47 chicks in the state. There are several remote lakes that we have yet to survey, and there are a few pairs who might still sneak in a late nest, or are nesting in new locations that we have yet to discover. In 2021, a record 109 pairs nested, but in 2022 it looks like more birds are taking the year off. One possibility is competition with other loons, and some birds are simply spending too much time defending their territories. This is a good thing for the overall health of the population. Because there aren’t any huge changes from last year, our biggest updates mostly concern individual lakes.
Loon Updates in Central Vermont
There are not many lakes between Fairlee and Fairhaven, but the loons are finding them. Two pairs have nested for the first time ever on Lake Morey and Lake Hortonia. Loons tend to do better in lake districts where there are other lakes close by, such as North Central and Northeast Vermont. It simply takes less energy to fly from one lake to another. Floater loons know where the territories are located, and if there happens to be a vacancy, the spot is usually filled within weeks, if not months. Compare that to central Vermont, where lakes are often 10-20 miles apart, and there are fewer of them. Loons are much less likely to fly 20 miles or more on daily trips to another lake.
It helps that Morey and Hortonia are relatively large, at around 500 acres, so loons don’t need to leave very often. Volunteers and I have been monitoring these two lakes closely for years. During the past two years in particular, we’ve been seeing two loons repeatedly on each lake, an indication of pair formation. Both pairs have many challenges ahead, they are located on busy lakes with multiple eagles.
Two central Vermont loon pairs that nested in 2021 have kept us guessing in 2022. The Glen Lake pair is present, but they have ignored the two nesting rafts we placed for them. The Sunset Lake pair might have dissolved after a season, which happens with new pairs sometimes. We often call new pairs “transitional” for a reason. The only pair in the far western side of Vermont with past nesting success on Old Marsh Pond had a failed nest.
Loon updates in Northern Vermont
The Fairfield Pond pair had their second successful hatch after over a decade of failures, but a bald eagle likely nabbed one of the chicks in the first few days. The other chick, as of right now, is doing well and the parents are learning.
We rescued a beaching loon on Joe’s Pond in mid-June after monitoring it swimming on and off beach fronts over the course of a week. It was having waterproofing problems, and was essentially swimming in a wet down coat. Karli Flectcher, our VCE intern and first-year veterinary medical student from Tufts University, transported the loon to Avian Haven in Maine. The staff there could not find anything of significance wrong with it, except that it was on the thin side and did have a swivel in its gizzard (but it was not likely causing any problems). It does beg the question–what was attached to the swivel, and is that the start of the problem?
We’ve recovered two other dead loons in the past year. One from Halls Lake that died of lead sinker, and another from Lake Groton, where the cause of death was unknown, but it was thin and weak. We brought both loons to the University of New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Lab so that they could be tested right away for Avian Flu. Both birds tested negative.
The Vermont Loonwatch day annual count is coming up on July 16, where over 200 volunteers will survey over 165 lakes statewide at the same time. We are always looking for dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers, so check out the Loonwatch project page on our website for a list of lakes.