Photo credit : Don Yurewicz
Momma loon feeding baby: Photo courtesy of Tom Gross
Loons arrived early in 2020. The ice went out on April 6th which is very early but loons were spotted on open water that very day, one still with winter plumage. Often our home loons come later than the very first sightings as the migrants hop from one feeding spot to the next as the ice retreats northwards.
And our loons did return in 2019. We had four pairs and started out with four nests, the first at the Town Beach island, as usual. Ropes and signs were pre-positioned around the island to discourage boaters, but by mid-June the nest was abandoned with a solitary egg still intact. We suspect this pair moved onto the Gerson Island nesting spot used in 2018, but once again the nest was abandoned with a single egg left. Both of these abandoned eggs were turned into LPC for analysis.
Marble Island hosted a nest but by mid-July it had failed. There was an extremely heavy rainfall event that moved through the area in July and this may have contributed. However, there was extended loon fighting heard one evening and in the morning a distant observer detected a single egg floating free in the water. Heart-breaking.
The Thorne Island pair never established a nest. There is a bald eagle nest near-by in a tall pine overlooking this area and Cindy Desmarais captured on video an eagle attacking a fishing adult loon in open water. The fight went on for 2-3 minutes and the loon survived, but this threat could have made nesting impossible. The eagles’ chick fledged successfully. Bald Eagles 1, Loons 0.
A nest raft was floated next to Boynton’s Island at the South Cove, but we had no takers. Rick Blank is going to receive some help this year from a strong back in the shape of Ace Tarberry. We welcomed Ace to the CLCA Board over the winter and he has taken to helping right away.
The annual loon census took place on July 20th. Fifteen loons were sighted – the four nesting pairs and seven single loons, perhaps in for the day for fishing. In 2018 we sighted only 9 loons in total, the main difference being the large number of single loons.
In sum, we had a high number of loons on the Lake with four nesting territories, all active, but no chicks were hatched. The Loon Preservation Society (LPC) reports that 2019 was an average year with a reasonable number of successful nests state- wide, so we are optimistic that 2020 will result in perhaps a few chicks being raised on Conway Lake.
This year the LPC has a new northern lakes field biologist, James Longo. James was most recently with the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany as an avian biologist and he knows the area well and has an excellent reputation and track record. We are fortunate to have James on the team looking after our Conway Lake loons.