Wednesday, June 08, 2011
Loon Rescued on Lake Willoughby
Last week, loon intern Shannon Maes (from Sterling College) and I rescued a loon tangled up in nylon twine shortly before midnight. Lakeshore residents originally reported the loon in early May when it was moving strongly about the lake. Last Sunday Carol and Colm Radic found it strange to have a loon staying in one place in front of their cottage all day. They observed white line or rope behind the loon, and soon contacted the lake assocation president who then contacted me. The red flags went up as the loon was obviously weaker than a month ago. We approached the loon in daylight but it could still dive 20-30 seconds. That's good news for the loon in that it could still swim pretty well. But it could mean the loon would easily avoid capture. We decided to wait until dark for a nighttime capture attempt. It did not become really dark until almost 10 pm. Shannon, Colm, and I followed the bird until we could not see it anymore, waited another 20 mintues, and then turned on the million power spotlights in search. Of course it had moved from where we last saw it. We searched and searched using binoculars following the beam of the spotlight, a slow and dizzying process. Thinking that it was diving every time the spotlight came near, we headed back up the lake only to find a loon about where the loon had been all day. More often then not, free swimming loons like this dive as the boat approaches. I hooted imitating another adult. The loon turned. I hooted again. The loon hooted back. Wow, it was staying on the surface. Shannon kept the beam right on the bird keeping it somewhat blinded and probably confused. Colm did a great job steering the boat closer. I drove the net into the water in front of the loon now 8 feet away. We had it. We brought the loon to shore, cut the twine free from it's feet and wing, and placed color bands on it's legs. The loon was thin but feisty and I decided to release it since loons do not do well in captivity. Based on it's long dives with the twine around it, I hoped that it would be able to feed itself better now. It's nice to have success after usually not catching loons in these situations. For Shannon, the Radic's, and another neighbor Hud Allen, it was a night to remember holding a loon for a few precious moments.
Loon update: we have confirmed 34 nest attempts and only 2 flooded nests from the late May rains. Many pairs have delayed nesting because of high water, so I expect many pairs to initiate nesting in the nest 2 weeks. *** Eric Hanson