Lake Fairlee Loons Nest for the Fourth Year

The pair of loons who have frequented Lake Fairlee for four consecutive years returned in late April while skims of ice were still visible on parts of the lake. These are presumably the same loons who successfully hatched chicks starting in 2016. They seemed right at home and pleased to find their nesting raft freshly refoliated and waiting for them in the cove between the northern end of Treasure Island and the Tifft/MacAdam property’s wet meadow.

After some back and forth conflicts with marauding geese, our loons began nesting full time on May 14. It was the earliest confirmed report of nesting loons in Vermont this year, according to Eric Hanson, head of the Vermont Loon Conservation Project. With a gestation period of 28 days, the eggs will yield one or two loons chicks by June 10 if all goes well. The nesting raft was set up by Eric and local volunteers in 2017 and is visible from Route 244 at the base of the hill before the Treasure Island entrance. Five warning buoys furnished by the Loon Conservation Project are arrayed around the cove warning boaters to keep their distance.

Loon sitting on nest with sign in the background: "Loon nesting area. Please stay away."

Nesting loon on May 17, 2019. Photo by Ben McLaughlin.


This past year, the Fairlee loons hatched two chicks, much to the delight of lake residents who phoned in regular reports of their rapid growth under the watchful eye and tutelage of the loon parents. There were only 97 loon chicks reported in Vermont (73 surviving to late August) from 66 successful hatches out of 91 nest attempts in 2018. In 2017, there were 97 nesting pairs of loons with 92 chicks surviving, which was something of a banner year.

The Fairlee loons first nested in 2016 on the sandbar at the mouth of Blood Brook and were fully documented by local naturalist and photographer Tig Tillinghast. He placed a remote camera on the shore across from their nest that captured an image every 10 seconds as part of a study to monitor both wildlife and human interaction with the vulnerable loons. They hatched a single chick that year.

The following year, with lake levels higher, the loons returned but could not nest on the submerged sandbar. They instead established a nest on the island portion of Treasure Island, but it appears a raccoon made off with the eggs. Alerted to this by local observers, Eric and his interns quickly determined that a second nesting attempt might still be possible by positioning a specially designed raft off the northern shore. This artificial assistance is only offered when a nesting pair has shown itself successful without human help. The nesting raft worked and the Fairlee loons produced another chick that summer of 2017.

While most of the credit goes to our dauntless loon parents, the watchful care of Lake Fairlee residents also deserves recognition. Every year more and more  reports come in showing how observant and protective we are towards our loons. Our lake was not considered an ideal loon nesting lake because preferred nesting sites (islands and marshes) are near where people like to be — such as Treasure Island — and the marshes are not full of hummocks for potential nest sites. Lake Fairlee is also very busy during the summer months. However, through the placement of the nesting raft in the most out-of-the way place and lots of outreach, we have shown that loons and people can co-exist with a little help.

Eric has posted a “wish list” for this season’s work:
1.) blue foam blocks such as those used under floats and docks are needed to be placed under nesting rafts each year as they become waterlogged;
2.) a 12-foot fishing boat for loon rescues that Eric could transport in the back of his truck and attach a trolling motor to.
If you can help with either of these items, contact Doug Tifft (dtifft.redwing@gmail.com) or Eric Hanson (ehanson@vtecostudies.org).

Submitted by Doug Tifft.
 

Success! We have one loon chick.

This morning I observed an adult loon near the nesting raft swimming with a single loon chick. As I observed, the chick swam behind the adult and then tucked in under a lifted wing. The adult then swam a little ahead and the chick quickly caught up again. Unless there was another chick still in the nest or perhaps under the other wing, it would appear that we have just one chick from this year’s efforts. We have kept an eye on the nesting loons several times each day and this is the first sighting of a chick. At all other times there was a loon on the nest while the other one was either down the lake or swimming nearby. The only change in behavior during the past couple days is that the loon on the nest was more often sitting upright and turning its head back and forth in a more vigilant manner (as opposed to the usual posture of hunkering down low with its head parallel to the water). Also, yesterday evening the second loon was lingering very close to the nesting raft rather than venturing off. This suggested to us that something was different.

The nesting raft worked wonderfully (even during the recent high water following the floods this past weekend) and this particular corner of the north end was well protected and easy to cordon off with the six warning buoys you gave us. I observed a variety of boats in the area but they always respected the signs. The vegetation on the raft provided good shelter and shade on hot days. Good work!

(above is a letter from a nearby resident to the scientist from Vermont Center for Ecostudies who has been so helpful)

Pictures of our Loon Chick

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Photo by Tig Tillinghast

Finally some photos of our lake’s newest resident.  S/he has been seen at many locations on the lake, in the company of one or both parents.

The juveniles are able to catch their own fish within two months and take flight at about 11 weeks. They are fully on their own at 12 weeks, when the parents begin migration in the fall. At this time, the young form flocks on northern lakes and follow suit a few weeks later. Once they reach the coastal ocean waters, the loons remain there for two years, returning in the third to the northern lakes where they were born to live a routine adult life.

The following photos were supplied by Jim and Sharon Morgan, taken from their dock, on August 24th.   The chick is probably about four weeks old.

With both parents

With both parents

 

They are clearly beginning flight training and the chick now dives for 10 - 15 seconds

They are clearly beginning flight training and the chick now dives for 10 – 15 seconds

 

Loon Update

The following was received from a LFA member who lives on the lake near the Loons’ nest:

“We can confirm that the two loons nesting on Lake Fairlee have hatched a single baby chick. I watched it swimming between the parents this evening in the vicinity of the sandbar where it was hatched. The parents are very attentive. Apparently they made all sorts of interesting calls throughout the night. We will keep a close eye on our lake’s newest resident!”

August 3, 2016 at 7:48:14 PM EDT

More Information on the Nesting Loons

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We are glad to direct you to an informative article written by our friend/neighbor/photographer who captured the photos on our earlier post.  Read it HERE.

We are hoping soon to post a photo of the newly hatched baby loons.  But we need your help, and are declaring a no-contest.  Please send your entries to ben@fesone.com.  No-prizes will be awarded.

Nesting Loons on the Lake

This year for the first time in many years our resident loons have successfully built a nest and are expecting.

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One of the prospective parents sitting on the nest.

Their nest is located in the mouth of Blood Brook.

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The loon stretches its neck and lowers its head while fishermen are nearby

As of a few days ago there are no hatchlings as yet, but the parents are tending the eggs in shifts and we are hopeful.

Please respect their privacy and give the area a wide berth.

The Vermont Center for Ecostudies operates the Vermont Loon Conservation Project.  Lots more information at their website.