Loon rescues peak in wake of erratic weather

12-17 Loon With Chicks John Rockwood

A loon drifts with chicks on its back. (Photo courtesy of John Rockwood/Loon Preservation Committee)


MOULTONBOROUGH — In 2016, the Loon Preservation Committee has embarked on more than twice the number of loon rescues as in past years, the organization reported. This surge in activity partly stemmed from a bout with erratic weather.
But, the weather that played havoc with loon populations wasn't the cold snap afflicting New Hampshire this month. It was a warming pattern that kicked off last winter.
"We're happy to see a more normal winter," said Harry Vogel, senior biologist and executive director of the organization.
"This is the time when the lakes are freezing in, so we're tracking several cases where loons are in danger of being caught," Vogel said.
"We monitor these birds, and if we can safely do so, we go out and try to rescue them," he said.
But loon protectors aren't as anxious about this year's mid-December cold snap and the ensuing subzero temperatures — Laconia hit 4 below zero around 6:15 a.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
"It's actually better than if we have a late cold snap," Vogel said.

"Loons, like other birds, sense the changing of the seasons. When the lakes begin to skim over with ice, that's usually the last straw for the loons," and they migrate to the ocean, Vogel explained. "The vast majority of our loons at this point are on the ocean."
But last winter posed a more difficult scenario.
A warm early winter in 2015-2016 followed by a freeze affected loon migration, as ice formed late at the worst possible time.

"Last year, we had a very bad year for loons being iced in," Vogel said.
A warm winter with lakes open until January followed by a freeze caught the water birds during wing molt, when they weren't as equipped to escape the ice.
"We much prefer a more typical winter like this where we have lakes freezing in, in a more normal pattern," Vogel said.
The New Hampshire Lakes Association explains the life cycle of loons, noting that adult loons leave their offspring behind until flight feathers are long enough to support the chicks' weight. Loon chicks leave their "birth lake" just before it freezes and "won't return to their birth lake until they are approximately 3 or 4 years old, and they won't be able to reproduce until they are 6 or 7."
The Loon Preservation Committee counts 293 pairs of loons in New Hampshire. Recovery of the birds is being slowed down by a combination of stress factors, including encroachment on habitat and outdated lead-based fishing tackle, Vogel said.
"I would characterize 2016 as a good year, not a great year for loons," he said.
"We gained a total of four pairs this year from last year, our population has been growing by about 1 percent per year over the last five years," Vogel said.
Of the 198 chicks hatched throughout the state, nine out of 10 benefited from Loon Preservation Committee management, such as installation of warning signs and rope lines and coordination with dam operators to maintain lake levels, he said.
The Loon Preservation Committee worked with New Hampshire Fish and Game and the New Hampshire Legislature to reduce loon mortality, particularly through passage of Senate Bill 89. Effective June 1, 2016, the law made it illegal to use or sell lead sinkers or lead-headed jigs weighing 1 ounce or less in New Hampshire.
Lead is by far the largest known cause of loon mortality in the state, Vogel noted.
In a population as small as New Hampshire's loon population, any disturbance can endanger nesting pairs.
"The key to maintaining a viable loon population is to keep adult loons alive," Vogel said.
New Hampshire's loon population numbers about a third of the density as seen in areas of Canada with less human impact, he said.
According to its website (, the Loon Preservation Committee "has created the most complete and longest-running database of loon populations and productivity that exists anywhere in the world, and conducted the most comprehensive research ever undertaken on contaminants and other challenges facing loons."
Loons are a state-threatened species and are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

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Judge orders equipment at Tenney Mountain back to owner


LACONIA — A judge has ordered Tenney Mountain Development Group to return heavy machinery and other equipment belonging to a Center Harbor man that they seized, claiming it was collateral for a loan that remains unpaid.

Judge James O'Neill held that Keith Fitzgerald is entitled to the return of his equipment as the defendant has failed to demonstrate a valid security interest, but set some specific conditions, key among them that Fitzgerald post a bond for an amount to be determined by the court.

Fitzgerald was ordered to hire an independent appraiser at his own expense to view the equipment and assess its value. A copy of the appraisal is to be provided to the court and the defendant.

Tenney Mountain Development Group was also directed to provide Fitzgerald and the court with documentation of the money it claims Fitzgerald owes.

Upon receipt of the plaintiff's appraisal and the defendant's claimed damages, the court will set an appropriate bond amount, which Fitzgerald must post with the clerk of court prior to retrieving his equipment.

Once the bond is posted, Fitzgerald is to be allowed to enter the property of the Plymouth ski area to retrieve his equipment at his own expense, the judge ruled.

On Dec. 6, Fitzgerald and his one-time employer faced each other in court after their parting left such hard feelings they each brought a lawsuit against each other. Fitzgerald claims he was hired by Tenney Mountain Development Group as chief operating officer to oversee the redevelopment and expansion of the ski area which has yet to reopen.

As part of his work, Fitzgerald maintains he supplied certain equipment and that the understanding between the parties was that he was to be paid for the use of a tractor and other heavy equipment used during the project. Earlier, the court granted Fitzgerald a $375,000 attachment against Tenney Mountain Development Group's real estate pending resolution of the dispute.

Meanwhile, Michael Bouchard, the president of Tenney Mountain Development Group, who is not named as a defendant in Fitzgerald's suit, filed a counterclaim alleging that he was duped into giving Fitzgerald money for services not delivered.

In a ruling issued Dec. 12, Judge O'Neill also upheld his prior decision mandating that Tenney Mountain Development Group pay Fitzgerald's attorney, Robert Hunt of Franklin, $1,300 in legal fees necessitated after it initially failed to respond to the suit and defaulted. Payment must be made within 15 days.

A status conference in the case is now scheduled to be held on April 25. If the parties are unable to negotiate a settlement, a jury is set to be picked in mid-July.

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Red kettle campaign runs $8,400 behind in Laconia area, $140k statewide

12-17 bell ringers file

In this scene from in Portland, Maine, Harry Sawyer, left, and Don Lowry enjoy a light moment while bell ringing for the Salvation Army. The red kettle campaign is a major fundraiser for the Salvation Army across the Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont region. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)



LACONIA — The Salvation Army in Laconia is about $8,400 behind last year's mark with the red kettle campaign, part of a $140,000 lag statewide attributed to bad weather and other factors.
No bell ringers went out Friday in the Laconia area because of the bitter cold, but Capt. Scott McNeil — who with his wife, Nora, operates the Laconia Corps office — expect a strong finish to the season. The campaign will close out on Christmas Eve.
"We're about $8,400 less than last year's effort, so we're a little behind," McNeil said Friday, but added that he was excited about the last week of the fundraising push.
In Laconia, the Main Street kettle is a draw — "the support is wonderful at that location," McNeil said.
Bell ringers solicit donations from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Besides the Main Street location, the Laconia Corps raises money at Vista foods in Laconia; at the Shaw's and Wal-Mart in Gilford; and at the Wal-Mart and Market Basket in Tilton.
Many civic groups and businesses help, and McNeil pointed to "strong chemistry" among this year's group of volunteers.
"It's been a blessing here," he said.
In New Hampshire, the Salvation Army's Christmas ministry includes the distribution of toys to needy youngsters, food baskets and food vouchers, warm winter coats and other causes during the rest of the year, the organization reported. Last year, the Salvation Army helped 52,800 individuals, and 15,000 during the holidays.
Patricia James, with the Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters in Portland, Maine, said in New Hampshire, the organization maintains 10 facilities, with additional volunteers in smaller towns.
With about 140 kettle locations in New Hampshire, the Salvation Army here is more than $140,000 behind compared to last year at this time, James reported.
"The weather has been a big factor; right now because of the extreme cold, it's hard to get people out," she said.
Salvation Army leaders are hoping for a surge in public response. This year's campaign goal in New Hampshire is $1,256,704 as Salvation Army officers attempt to meet demands for Christmas assistance. Falling short of the goal may have a long-term impact on programs and services, James cautioned.
"It's important that people know that people can always donate online at," James said.
For more information on how to help the Salvation Army in Laconia, call 603-524-1834. For information on the divisional headquarters, call 207-774-6304.

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