Lingering loons (624)

MOULTONBOROUGH — It's been an unusually warm start to December, which may be keeping snowbirds around a bit later. Those local residents that have delayed their annual escape to a winter home in a warmer climate might be noticing another of the region's summer faithful – loons – also seem to be sticking around later than usual.
In fact, that's not the case, according to John Cooley, biologist at the Loon Preservation Committee in Moultonborough. Loons generally leave the lakes where they spend the spring, summer and fall by a schedule that is encoded in their DNA, not by changing temperature.

"The timing is hard-wired by instinct," he said.

Non-breeding adults may leave as early as August. Adults who have been rearing chicks will stay into October, or even late November.

"The juvenile loons tend to stay a little longer than the adults, and there always are a few juveniles and adults that push the envelope," said Cooley.
It's not unusual for lakes to still have loons this late into the year. It will be difficult for the casual birdwatcher to tell juvenile loons apart from adults, as both have gray and white plumage as opposed to the iconic black and white the bird is known for.
Much of the concern that onlookers experience can be traced back to the winter of 2006-2007, when over 20 loons were stranded on Winnipesaukee in late January after a very late ice-in caught them during their flightless mid-winter feather molt.

"People who have heard that story certainly know that there can be a problem," said Cooley.

Loons are evolved to be expert swimmers, with dense bodies and feet placed at the rear of their body. These adaptations make it unable for the bird to take off from a hard surface, and they need a long stretch of open water to take flight.

"In 99 percent of the cases, the lingering loon does take off," said Cooley, adding that the Loon Preservation Committee will look for signs of clear distress before attempting to intervene.
After the loons leave local lakes, they will spend their winters at the coast. Cooley said local birds will be found anywhere from the Maine coast to Cape Cod.
2015 has been a great year for the loon population on Lake Winnipesaukee. According to Cooley, there were 28 pairs of breeding adults, who produced 29 chicks. Of those chicks, 23 survived, making it the most successful breeding year in over a decade. Winnipesaukee currently has about half as many loons as what biologists estimate it would naturally have.

"We're in the midst of a slow, gradual and intensively managed recovery back to where it should be," he said.
However, serious threats to loons remain.

"We are continuing to see adult mortality from lead fishing tackle and boat strikes," he said.

Loons survive for decades and produce a couple of chicks per year, so Cooley said each adult bird is vital to the effort to repopulate the lakes. A single case of lead poisoning casts what he calls a "long shadow" on conservation efforts.
Loon conservationists, in the Lakes Region and throughout New Hampshire, are also beginning to fear that changing climate patterns could undo all their work. Early summer deluges, once rare in this region, are now becoming a frequent occurrence. Because loons nest at the shoreline, these heavy rain events can flood their nests, forcing adults to abandon their eggs or newly hatched chicks.
Warming temperatures could also drive the loons away. Cooley noted that in New Hampshire loons are at the southern extreme of the bird's geographical distribution. If average temperatures rise by a few degrees, he said, "There could well be effects on temperature and physiology of loons... Changing climate is likely to have a profound effect on the loon population."

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Laconia police address drug use in library bathrooms

LACONIA — Lacona police and firefighters were able to successfully assist a person who overdosed on heroin Wednesday night while in the bathroom at the Laconia Public Library.
Capt. Matt Canfield said yesterday that the police are not strangers to people misusing the bathrooms at the library and said there had very recently been an educational and training session with police and library staff.
He added that the downtown area patrol officers will be increasing the presence at the Laconia Library both in the parking lot and through "park, walk and talk" visits to the public facility during the times of day where abuse of bathrooms is most common.

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Traffic signal plan brought to Meredith

MEREDITH — The Board of Selectmen appear to prefer installing a signal between Lake Street and Dover Street to manage pedestrian crossings of US Route 3 among three options the state Department of Transportation presented at a workshop this week.

In August, after residents roundly rejected a proposal to string three roundabouts along the US Route 3/NH Route 25 corridor, the selectmen asked DOT for a proposal for coordinated signalization to improve the flow of both traffic and pedestrians. This week, the department returned with suggestions to install pedestrian signals at Dover Street, at both Dover Street and Lakes Street or between the two.

Counts taken at the US Route3/NH Route25 intersection, Dover Street and Lake Street in August indicated that pedestrian traffic was heaviest at Dover Street, where 275 people crossed during a peak hour on Sunday. Fewer than 100 pedestrians crossed at the other locations at peak times. Managing pedestrian traffic has been a recurrent theme of the discussion about easing congestion along the corridor since talks began in 2004.

All three options would include what Gene McCarthy of McFarland Johnson Inc., the project manager, called "adaptive signal control" at the US Route3/NH Route25 intersection. He said the equipment that controls the signal at the intersection would not only optimize the flow of traffic through it, but would also manage whatever system of pedestrian signals is chosen. In particular, he said the system could handle vehicles passing through the intersection along with a signal controlling pedestrians crossing US Route 3 and do so continuously in real time as the volume of traffic and number of pedestrians traffic changes.

Likewise, all three options would reduce the number of northbound lanes on US Route 3 and widen the two southbound lanes at the intersection with NH Route 25. McCarthy explained that reconfiguring the intersection would ease the left-hand turn for westbound traffic on NH Route 25, especially for trucks.

McCarthy told the selectmen that designated pedestrian crossings should not be located at intersections. Moreover, he noted that pedestrian crossings at Lake Street and Dover Street would also be in line with the entrance to and exit from the parking lot at the town dock.

Initially, the state had allocated approximately $6 million to address congestion through corridor. However, after the town soundly rejected a proposal to construct three single-lane roundabouts at Lake Street, the US Route 3/NH Route 25 intersection and Pleasant Street, the funds were assigned to other projects, leaving $1.75 million for Meredith.
The selectmen plan to place the options on the agenda of a future board meeting with an eye to holding a public hearing in the new year.

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