MOULTONBOROUGH — The Loon Preservation Committee recorded its first pair of nesting loons this year on May 11. Since then close to 60 loon pairs have begun to incubate eggs, with more expected in the next week.
The peak time for loons to start nesting is usually in early June, followed by a four week incubation period. This was the fifth-wettest May on record in New Hampshire, and water levels are still high on some lakes, so nesting has been delayed in some areas. If traditional preferred nesting sites are under water, a pair of loons may use an alternate site instead, making it even more critical to give them the space they need to nest successfully.
The peak of hatch of loon chicks generally occurs around the Fourth of July holiday and loon pairs on nests or with chicks are vulnerable to disturbance as human activities on the lakes increase. A couple of simple precautions can help ensure a good year for loons in New Hampshire, says the committee:
· Stay back at least 150 feet from a nesting loon, or more if the loon shows any signs of distress such as craning its neck low over a nest. Loons may even appear to be injured or dead while in this head-down position, but it is simply a response to the close approach of people.
· If someone should inadvertently cause a loon to flush from the nest, they leave the area immediately to let the loon return to incubate its eggs. Time off the nest leaves the eggs vulnerable to cooling, overheating, or predation.
In 2016, Loon Preservation Committee biologists recorded 208 pairs of nesting loons, a decrease of 6 pairs from the previous year. Forty-five of those pairs nested on rafts—artificial islands that LPC floats to help loons cope with water level fluctuations or being displaced from natural sites by shoreline development or recreational activity on the lakes. Of the 208 nesting pairs, close to half were protected by signs and ropelines, and 45% of the chicks hatched came from these protected nest sites. Even with this level of management, LPC biologists recorded 112 failed nests, the highest number of nest failures on record. However, overall reproductive success was 0.50 (chicks surviving per territorial pair) which is slightly above the minimum needed to maintain the loon population over the long term.
One of the first loon nests of the 2017 season was recorded on Bolster Pond in Sullivan. (Courtesy photo/Brian Reilly)
- Written by Mike Mortensen
- Category: Community Announcements
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