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                                                        e-Newsletter Vol. 37
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Winter Loons

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It finally looks like winter here in NH, although some folks would probably argue that we have too much snow! Hopefully you stayed warm during the recent Arctic blast--seems like most of the east coast has experienced below average temperatures this week (and month). 

In the last e-newsletter I told you about a juvenile loon that was rescued at a construction site in Exeter, NH, in mid-January.  After showing no signs of use or recovery of the left wing and more muscle damage than originally thought, the loon was euthanized last week.  We wish there had been a better outcome for this bird, but we appreciate the hard work and dedication by the staff and volunteers at Avian Haven Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center in Freedom, Maine.  

Since then, we responded to another loon rescue in Hampton. A stranded juvenile loon was found by a NH DOT snow removal crew.  LPC staff and volunteers responded and transferred the loon to rehabilitator Maria Colby from Wings of Dawn Sanctuary in Henniker, NH.  An exam at Weare Animal Hospital showed no major injuries but the loon was underweight.  We were initially hopeful that a few days of fattening up would lead to a successful release. Unfortunately, the loon's condition declined over the weekend and it died last Sunday.  We don't always know why a loon has become stranded, but, as you probably know, it is not a good sign when a loon comes to shore (unless they are on a nest).  Nevertheless, we always do what we can to rehabilitate a loon if there are no obvious injuries or negative test results that would prevent it from surviving in the wild.  

Maria had another juvenile loon in her care that was found in a parking lot in Londonderry but it was released earlier this week!  Hopefully, for the sake of loons, the phones will quiet down as it seems like there have been more reports this winter than in previous years.  Plus, the off-season is usually a time for us to catch up and prepare for the season ahead!

In other news, LPC was recently awarded the "2014 All-Star Award" from Constant Contact for engaging our readers with our e-newsletter.  This award is only given to 10% of their customers.  So, thank you for taking the time to read our e-newsletters!  

All the best,

Susie Burbidge
Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator
Winter Loons

LPC members and volunteers Kittie & John Wilson have spent time again this winter watching loons near Biddeford Pool, Maine.  In the photo below you can see this loon eating a crab, which is a big part of their diet while they are on the ocean.  I think that would be a little uncomfortable on the way down, but Kittie said she often sees them remove the legs first!  
It is always a good time to see if a loon is banded when it is preening.  You can just barely see a green & silver band on the loon's right leg under the water (you may need to zoom in on your computer to see them) in the photo below. We are still hoping to confirm the bands on the left leg, but we are optimistic this is the same female Kittie photographed last year in the same location!  She is from Lake Mooselookmeguntic in Maine. Amazing!

The top photo was taken in late January & the bottom one was taken in March 2014.  This female loon was banded on a lake in Maine in 2012.  Photos courtesy of Kittie Wilson.

I always look forward to checking my inbox on Monday morning to see if Kittie has sent new pictures from her weekend adventures in Maine.  If you have any winter loon pictures to share, please feel free to send them anytime.  If you would like to see loons in their marine habitat, take a day trip to Rye Harbor, NH, and I can almost guarantee that you will see at least one loon! 

Loons & Humans: How do They Really Fare Together on our Lakes?
By Isabel Brintnall

After growing up (at least in the summers) on a small lake in NH, I finally got to dive into my master's thesis work on loon behavior and interactions with humans during the 2014 breeding season.  I learned a lot about loons and local lakes from loon-watchers, and I observed many, new-to-me loon behaviors.  It was impressive to watch a fiercely protective loon "penguin dance" across the water, with loud tremolos - in one case a Canada goose was the hapless victim of this aggressive display.  It was equally impressive to watch a gently protective loon cooing to its day-old chick, encouraging it to climb up on "moms" back for a lift.   

Photo courtesy of Kittie Wilson.

For my thesis work, I am interested in how human lake use impacts these behaviors.  Do such activities stress loons?  Do motorized water craft stress loons more than non-motorized water craft?  Is there a correlation between such human activity and lower loon reproductive success?   In June, as the nesting season got into full swing, I spent time observing nesting loons, and then adults with chicks, both at a safe distance that did not stress the birds.  By July, the seven successful nests of my 15 monitoring territories became my primary focus.  On one lake, where motor boats are prohibited, a loon pair with chicks allowed kayakers to get within 30' or so, but the same pair got extremely upset when a sculler appeared.  One loon, in between tremolos, dove towards the sculler repeatedly in an effort to chase it off - and it succeeded!  On a different lake, loons with a chick swam off if kayakers got within 200'.  And on another lake where motorboats are prevalent, I watched a loon pair dive, leaving the chick on the surface, as a motor boat with water skier in tow approached.

Loon nest photo courtesy of Isabel Brintnall.

One nest I monitored was on a hummock about mile or so from the adjacent lake and could only be accessed by a long channel through the middle of a marsh.  I had to negotiate three beaver dams - easy to deal with if the water was high, a little "dicier" if the water was low - and as I paddled down this channel I passed five beaver lodges, at least one of which had been commandeered by a muskrat family.  I returned to the nest site once the chick hatched and just as I arrived one adult loon, with a chick on its back, swam down the channel out of sight.  I paddled after them and as I rounded a corner, suddenly from behind a dense patch of highbush blueberry, a huge black bear lumbered out into the channel.  It was 25' in front of my kayak, splashing slowly through the water, plowing through the shrubs to get to the shore and the safety of the forest beyond.  I was very happy it chose to keep going without even looking at me.


As I write this, I am looking at several feet of snow outside my window, but I know the loons will be back soon enough.  I look forward to kayak trips this summer to follow-up on the loon pairs I watched so closely last year. 


* Isabel Brintnall is a graduate student in Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England.  She worked as an LPC field intern in 2014.

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.

Susie Burbidge
Loon Preservation Committee