Friday, December 30, 2011
Airboat Rescue of Loon
2011 has ended with a few firsts for the Vermont Loon Recovery Project. This afternoon a young loon was rescued from Lake Eligo in Greensboro, VT by several local fire departments and VFWD game warden Russ Shopland using a newly acquired airboat. The local fire department used the experience as a practice run for their first thin ice rescue. I was a little overwhelmed when I showed up to flashing lights, 15 plus vehicles, and the rescue squad emergency van. The loon had been in a small opening of water for the past week until the hole froze up Thursday night. I drove down with a friend's dry suit, ice auger, and a long rope ready to venture out with my dad assisting, but luckily the local rescue squads were eager to help out. The loon was picked up without any chases, although the rescue boat was temporarily stuck in place for a short time.
The loon was likely a bit traumatized as a mature bald eagle had been pacing along his hole 2 days ago, had taken some dives at it while it was in the water, and today actually picked up the loon with it's talons for a few seconds before dropping it. Local lake residents, Mary and Aaron Babbidge, have been watching the loon for the past 2 weeks as the ice formed on the lake. We've been waiting for hole to freeze over before taking action, and action we saw.
I now have the loon in my bathtub (another first) and am feeding it bait fish that I bought from the local fishing store in Morrisville. The loon might have an injured wing but I will know more after tomorrow's visit with the Lamoille Valley Vet Service in Hyde Park. I hope to be able to release the loon on Lake Champlain on Saturday, but that depends if there are any serious injuries. The loon was observed taking a short flight earlier in the week, thus I have some hope that it's wing is o.k. Right now, the loon appears content, especially when I put minnows in the tub.
This is the third loon that we have monitored closely as ice closed in around them. Luckily, the other two had just enough water to get airborne during the recent rain events. Thanks to the Spencer's on Lake Groton and the Barber's on Memphremagog for keeping tabs on those loons. Happy New Year! Eric Hanson