Loon Fight
                                                    e-Newsletter Vol. 1
In This Issue
Lead Strikes Again on Squam Lake
What is a Rogue Loon?
Stories from the Field- "As Squam Turns" 2009
Local Students Design & Build New Loon Signs

Upcoming Events

Loon Cruises
Every Friday 6/18-8/20 @ 3pm
Summer Nature Talks Every Thursday @ 7:30 pm
Did You Know?
The closest living relatives to loons are penguins and tube-nosed swimmers (albatrosses, petrels, & shearwaters).
What's that call?
Have you ever wondered what the different loon vocalizations mean?
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P.O. Box 604
Lee's Mill Road
Moultonborough, NH 03254
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Welcome to the first e-newsletter from the Loon Preservation Committee!  We hope this email finds you doing well.  Hopefully you've had time to get out and observe the loons on your favorite lakes.  We're more than mid-way through the nesting season and have a few numbers to share.  As of mid-July, we've observed 263 loon pairs establishing territories; 159 of these pairs have nested.  85 chicks have hatched so far, with 77 surviving.  These totals are comparable to last year in terms of both population and productivity.  We will send another update in the next e-newsletter so please stay tuned!  The annual Loon Census took place on Saturday, July 17 from 8-9 am.  Thanks to everyone who participated!


Don't forget about the summer nature talks every Thursday evening (through 8/26) at The Loon Center.  Please click the link under "Upcoming Events" for more details.  We also have a wonderful visitor center with displays and exhibits about loons, hiking trails to explore on our 200-acre wildlife sanctuary and a great shop with unique loon gifts!


We hope to see you out on the lakes or at The Loon Center soon!


Enjoy the rest of your summer,


Susie Burbidge
Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator


Lead Strikes Again on Squam Lake
Lead Loon

Photo by Mark Wilson 

Two loons on Squam Lake, NH, fell victim to a single lead-headed jig on July 17, 2010.  Earlier in the
week, biologists from the Loon Preservation Committee (LPC) and BioDiversity Research Institute (BRI) were surprised to find levels of lead in the blood of an adult male loon that were twenty times expected background levels.  Following consultations with Dr. Mark Pokras of Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, biologists from LPC and BRI launched intensive efforts to recapture and save the loon, unfortunately without success.  On July 17, as a result of showing clinical symptoms of lead poisoning, the bird was attacked and injured by another loon, which detected the weakened condition of this bird.  Despite the efforts of the female to defend her young, the chick was killed.  Staff from LPC took the injured loon to Plymouth Animal Hospital, where it was examined by Dr. David Cote.  X-rays showed a large jig in the stomach and the loon was immediately euthanized.  "These were two unnecessary and preventable deaths that resulted from lead poisoning, with the chick as another victim of the jig that killed the adult," said Tiffany Grade, Squam Lakes field biologist for the Loon Preservation Committee.  "Given the recent history of adult mortality and low chick productivity on Squam Lake, this is a significant blow to recovery efforts on Squam."


The sale and use of small (one ounce or less) lead-headed sinkers and small (<1 in. long) lead-headed jigs have been banned in New Hampshire since January 2006. 
Losing even one adult loon has a measurable impact on the population in New Hampshire.  Another loon died of lead poisoning earlier this summer on Granite Lake, NH, on June 19, 2010.  Lead poisoning continues to be the largest single known cause of death for loons in New Hampshire.  
However, the loon on Squam Lake died after ingesting a jig more than one inch long.  "One of the most disturbing parts of this whole incident [on Squam Lake] is that the lead-headed jig this loon swallowed was legal for sale and use in New Hampshire" said Harry Vogel, Loon Preservation Committee Executive Director.  "The legislation that was passed to protect loons and other waterbirds failed, in this case, to do its job.  We've found many loons over the years that have swallowed lead jigs much larger than an inch long and died of lead poisoning.  I hope that some day we will have a standard for these jigs that is truly protective for loons and other waterbirds."
What is a Rogue Loon? Common Loon fight 
Photo by Peter Broom 


Anyone who has watched the fierce drama of a territorial confrontation between adult loons knows that this combat can determine the very survival of the loons involved.  Besides being a direct source of adult loon mortality or injury, territory intrusions by unpaired adult loons known as "rogues" have long held a bad reputation among LPC volunteers for their perceived tendency to disrupt successful nesting and chick survival. 
This behavior has led to the burning question as to whether territorial competition among loons has increased as the loon population density has grown.  Does less elbow (or wing) room mean more loon fights and less successful nesting?  Are the loons clustering around existing territories, rather than occupying empty lakes?  Recent studies in Wisconsin loons reveal that unpaired loons are drawn to established territories, prospecting for sites that have successfully produced young and seeking to evict or replace one of the pair members (Piper et al. 2006).  This social strategy keeps loons close to their neighbors, even if empty lakes exist in other places.  At the same time, some rogue loons will attempt to create new territories, staking a claim on an unoccupied lake and hoping a mate will appear. 


To understand the impact of territorial competition on nesting success we compared breeding success between territories where an intruding loon and territorial pair were present and territories where only the pair was present.  For 120 territories that had years with and without an unpaired adult present, the average number of chicks surviving per territorial pair (CS/TP) was 0.83 when unpaired adults were not present, and 0.49 when they were present.  These same territories had an average of 20 years of pair presence and at least one additional unpaired adult was recorded in three of those years.


If you've watched a rogue loon on your lake prevent the usual pair from nesting successfully, these numbers should offer some comfort.  Your lake is not alone.  Loon behavior has adapted to this kind of territorial intrusion and it appears to have played a role in the New Hampshire loon population all along.  It is also important to note that rogue loons will be the ones to replace a member of an established pair in the event of a lead death or other causes.  We may see more competition as the loon population continues to grow, but it is already a regular and familiar drama on our lakes.
"As Squam Turns" 2009
 By Tiffany Grade

Squam Lake from Rattlesnake

While out monitoring the loons of Squam Lake, I sometimes feel like I am watching a soap opera.  Having 13 banded loons on Squam allows me to follow some of these individuals and the triumphs and tragedies of their lives...not to mention their "marriages" and "divorces." 


Sturtevant Cove has been the center of a particularly compelling soap opera over the past two years.  Everything was peaceful between 2008-2009, when the same pair returned to nest.  However, in good soap opera fashion, 2009 brought chaos, upheaval, murder, and divorce.  Two days after hatching two chicks, all was peaceful within Sturtevant Cove, with the father brooding the chicks and carrying them on his back and the mother feeding the chicks.  Suddenly, a second male loon came into the cove.  The father immediately set out to confront the intruder, leaving the chicks with the mother.  He seemingly succeeded in driving the intruder out, amid much yodeling and wing rowing.  But an hour later, the intruder was back and resumed his attack on the territorial male until he had driven him off.  In keeping with loon notions of how to best take over a territory and weaken a pair bond, he then killed both chicks.  The male survived, but the intruder had succeeded.  The chicks were dead, the father defeated, and the following weeks saw the female associating with an unbanded male in Sturtevant Cove (likely the intruding loon).  After spending a few days with the Kimball Island female, the former territorial male settled for the remainder of the field season with the female of the Yard Islands-another territory suffering from intrusions in 2009.


So, as the summer of 2009 drew to a close, I was left wondering what would happen in these unsettled territories the following field season.  Stay tuned for the next e-newsletter to follow the saga of "As Squam Turns" 2010.

Local Students Design and Build New Loon Signs


The Moultonborough Academy Tech Class, instructed by Brendan Quinn, recently undertook a project coming up with new "loon sign" designs.  The numerous designs were reviewed by LPC Director Harry Vogel, and LPC Senior Biologist John Cooley.  The best aspects from the designs were combined to produce two prototypes which were float tested and presented to the LPC earlier this month.  LPC field staff have already put the signs out on Winnipesaukee and Squam Lake, and plan on implementing the student's concepts with future signs.  Pictured above from left to right:  John Cooley, Vincent Spagnuolo (Winnipesaukee Biologist), Harry Vogel, the Tech Class students, and Brendan Quinn.
The Loon Preservation Committee is dedicated to restoring and maintaining a healthy population of loons throughout New Hampshire; monitoring the health and productivity of loon populations as sentinels of environmental quality; and promoting a greater understanding of loons and the natural world.
Loon Preservation Committee
Save 20%

The Loon's Feather Gift Shop, located at the Loon Center in Moultonborough, is chock full of new and interesting items for loon lovers.  Bring in your coupon and receive 20% off any non-sale item (sorry, this does not include items on consignment).

You can also visit our gift shop online (coupon does not apply to online purchases).