Squam Lakes Loon Report from the LPC - June 11, 2018

Squam Lakes Loon Report - June 11, 2018

By Tiffany Grade, Loon Preservation Committee


It has been a very busy week for the loons on Squam!  Nests have seemingly
been popping up all over!  We had one nest last week, and this week four
more pairs have gone on the nest!  We now have four nests on Squam Lake, and
the pair on Little Squam is nesting also!  This is a very good start, and I
hope that all the pairs will do well and that more pairs will catch the
"nesting bug" soon!

Please remind neighbors and lake users to give nesting loons all the help
they can by keeping their distance from nests and respecting the protective
signs and ropes around the nest areas.  I received a report that we had a
close call this past week when people trespassed near one of the nests,
flushing the loon from the nest.  Thankfully, the loon returned, but
repeated disturbances (or one really bad disturbance) can cause loons to
abandon their nests.  Thank you for helping to spread the word!

Loon Preservation Committee's (LPC) annual Summer Luncheon and Auction is
coming up on June 24th!  Our featured speaker this year is Steven Curwood,
the host of Public Radio's "Living on Earth."  The deadline for reservations
is June 14th--please call LPC to join our celebration of loons

Please see the P.S. below for this week's edition of "Meet the Loons of
Squam," where we'll meet a loon that has made a triumphant return to his
territory after I feared he was dead--what a comeback!  As always, please
don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or reports, and please call
LPC to report any sick, injured, or dead loons (603-476-5666/603-476-LOON).

Thank you for your interest in Squam's loon!

P.S.  "Meet the Loons of Squam"--Sturtevant Cove:  Sturtevant Cove
definitely saw quite the comeback this summer, much to my happiness!  The
male loon from two years ago, who I feared was dead, is back and looking as
good as ever!  As we pop the champagne, let's backtrack a little bit to find
out what happened to him and this pair.

This male was originally banded in Sturtevant Cove in 2013, and he was
paired with a female who had moved in from Kimball Island and taken over the
Sturtevant territory in 2010.  They successfully raised one chick that year,
but 2014 saw a succession of other males attempting to take over the
territory from this male.  He managed to hang on; but, due to all the
fighting, the pair did not nest that year.  2015 brought another change,
with a new, unbanded female in the territory.  His previous female was still
on the lake but obviously unable to hold the territory.  The pair raised one
chick, and LPC banded the female that year so we could begin tracking her.

Everything seemed to bode well for the pair in 2016.  Both pair members were
back; and, spurred on by their success of the previous year, they got right
down to the business of nesting, hatching two chicks by the end of June.
But a dark cloud was looming on the horizon, which first became apparent
when we captured the pair to collect new samples.  To our concern, the male
was unusually lethargic while he was in the boat.  The results of his blood
work were concerning as well, showing indications of chronic stress or poor
health of some sort.  Unfortunately, the tests could not tell us
more--simply that something was not right with this loon.

Sadly, this was borne out when another male intruded on the territory.  We
often see that loons are finely attuned to sickness or weakness in other
loons and quickly move in to take over the territory, and this is exactly
what happened in Sturtevant.  The Sturtevant male was driven out, and one of
the chicks immediately disappeared, presumably killed by the new male, as is
normal.  Much to my surprise, the second chick hung on for several
days--this is quite unusual in these territory takeovers.  The Sturtevant
female tried to feed and care for it, but being a single parent is not easy
for loons and the new male was hostile to the chick.  To make matters worse,
the female who had been paired with the Sturtevant male in
2013-2014 was jockeying for position and making life difficult for the
Sturtevant female too.  She hung on; but, sadly and predictably, the chick
disappeared after several days.

I did not see the old male for the remainder of the summer of 2016.  In
2017, an unbanded male was in the territory (likely the male who took over
in 2016), along with the same female.  Together they hatched the only chick
on the lake last summer.  There was still no sign of the old male around the
lake, and I feared he had died.  Between his lethargy during banding, his
blood work indicating something was wrong with him, and his subsequent
eviction, his absence seemed to not bode well, that perhaps he had not
survived the fight and any injuries he may have sustained or his poor
health.  Imagine my surprise when I saw him this summer, paired up with the
same female!  They have already been looking at potential nest sites.  Kudos
to the Sturtevant male, back from the brink and hopefully getting ready to
raise some more chicks!

Tiffany Grade
Squam Lakes biologist
Loon Preservation Committee