Many (most) of the bird sightings and pictures for the reports here come from a small network of birders/naturalists here in northern Maine. A longtime friend, Bill Hersey, of Caribou, is one of those reporters. Bill regularly keeps me up to date with the bird life he sees at his home, camp and as he travels around the county. Like most of us, Bill has been thinking of the warmer days to come and reflecting back on the past year. I thought I'd share (with his permission) some very interesting Common Loon observations Bill recently recounted... Enjoy...
Finally am getting around to writing to you about my observations at Lower Lapomkeag Lake in T8 R7. This is the same little (100 acres + or -) mud bottom lake where I saw 6 ospreys fishing at the same time the day after ice out last spring. I’m not sure whether the early morning of August 11, 2007 was the most exciting time of my life, or whether it was another early morning while serving in South Vietnam in 1969.
Things started to happen shortly after 7:00 A.M. while sitting on the dock having a coffee in the early morning sun; and while watching a loon and her about 2 week old chick. The dad was aimlessly floating about 500' away from the mom (presumably), and her little, black fluff ball.
THE LOONS OF LOWER LaPOMKEAG
My brother-in-law (now deceased) and I inquired about obtaining a camp lease in 1986. In 1987 we obtained a lease and put in the access road during the summer of 1988, followed by a camp platform in 1989, a privy in ‘90 and construction of the camp on the platform in ‘91. We built a small 4' by 10' dock in ‘95. We noticed during these years that there were 2 - 4 loons on the lake most of the time, but never saw any evidence of any nesting, or of chicks.
I returned to the lake on August 1st with my grandson and never saw or heard any loons. On August 4 we jumped into a couple of kayaks and circled the lake looking at the 2 nests near the inlet - no activity. We then circled the loon nesting raft. Both eggs had only shells remaining. Since I had not seen any loons, I supposed the nest had been parasitized by the eagles, or other animal. We headed toward camp, as the wind was coming up. On the way, I noticed the loons at the far southerly end of the lake where the water was more calm. Looking at them through my unsteady, rocking binocs I saw a small, black, fuzz ball which I assumed was only a couple of days old. The loons had hatched at least one of the eggs, and it was still alive (I suspect both eggs hatched but one chick was lost).
In the 20 years we have been at the lake no chicks had survived. The only time I knew for sure they hatched an egg (2000), the chick did not survive. No chicks were seen the other years the loons had nested, though the eggs apparently had hatched. Until this year. I did not expect to see the chick when I next returned the evening of August 10. But, looking through the gathering darkness, there was the chick swimming beside its parents in the middle of the lake.
Time for breakfast and another coffee!
I made it a point to return to the lake at least once per week - even if only for 15 minutes - to check on the chick. It kept growing, though slower than I thought it should. One time during its early flight training, I heard what I thought was a lynx or bobcat on the far shore, meowing softly, until I noticed that the sound seemed to move with the mom and the chick (dad was almost always away goofing off). All of a sudden the chick took off and flew about 300'. Apparently mom was making a deep guttural sound, encouraging her chick to fly. The next time I was at the camp the chick flew and circled the lake three times. Dad had left by this time - or at least was not around. I was unable to get to camp the weekend of Nov. 3. By the next weekend mom and chick were no where to be seen. I expect (hope) they are swimming off of Schoodic Peninsula.
I’m going to forward this to The Cornell Lab. They ran an article in the Autumn issue of Living Bird about eagles stealing from ospreys. This puts a little different twist on it.