Loons have begun nesting in Vermont this week with the first confirmed nest on Great Hosmer Pond in Craftsbury a few miles from where I live. Volunteers and I have been busy these past two weeks putting out and vegetating loon nesting rafts. When doing this, the pair often swims right up to the area likely out of alarm with us being so close to the nest site. From an anthropomorphic angle, it seems like the loons are just glad the housekeepers have arrived to fix up the place for the summer. I’ve yet to receive any tips.
But it’s also a tough world out there to find a good and safe nest site. Nicki Steel, a new volunteer on Lake Raponda, came across the loon pair courting and/or nest searching near the 2016 nesting island. However, some geese were nearby and also looking over the island. With the expansion of the Canada Goose population, we are observing geese nests near historic loon nest sites, and we’ve even had some geese utilize the floating nesting rafts. We’ve started to place “goose guards” on the rafts to keep the geese off. Nicki was curious why the geese were hissing as she was not that close, when she caught a glimpse of movement back in the shrubs (see photo). A mink was prowling around not too far from the 2016 loon nest site and she was able to take a quick photo of it. Mink have been observed taking loon eggs on webcams.
I tell people that the majority of pairs initiate nesting between May 20th and June 15th with some earlier and some later. If all goes well, we’ll see over 80 pairs attempt to nest again this year despite the challenges of geese and mink and people. Volunteers, VCE’s two new interns (who begin next week) and I will track all our pairs and help them out as necessary. Whether it’s placing loon nest warning signs or communicating with landowners, VCE will try to manage the people around loons, and hopefully the loons can manage the other challenges they face.