Fall greetings all – some of us still here at the lake, and some of us nestled into our winter homes. Likewise, many of our Loons have departed for their winter habitat. Chicks and parents are still here providing viewing entertainment with flight lessons. Chicks are full grown, in some cases, bigger than mom, and parents are beginning their winter molt, making distinguishing chick and adults increasingly difficult. This seasons observations and loon productivity results were outstanding! In the period prior to 2018, nineteen loons had been banded on Little Sebago (1997 – 2015). The three surveys we conducted this year identified ten different banded individuals (53%), all of which were occupying a territory on the lake. Of those ten, five occupied the same territory where they were originally banded. Five others occupied different territory. On August 13 the banded female in Brigg’s Island Cove was recaptured and re-banded. Using an identification number on the old band, we confirmed that she was the female originally banded in the Horse Island territory in 1997. This finding makes her one of the oldest known breeding common loons (approximately 26 years old). From historic record keeping we also know that she has successfully bred on our lake with at least three different males. These are most significant findings in the research community. In 2018, nine loon territories on Little Sebago were occupied by loon pairs. All nine pairs nested (100%), with one pair (Brigg’s Island Cove) nesting a second time after the first nest was lost to predation. One nest (Sand Island) was also lost to predation and did not re-nest. Eight nests hatched a total of eleven chicks. Eight of the eleven survived to fledge (contour feathers in replacing natal down feathers), although one of the eight was lost shortly after fledging. Overall, that makes
Little Sebago’s productivity exceptional, with 0.78 young per territorial pair, as compared to regional averages and the sustainability benchmark at 0.48 (the sustainability index is the rate required to sustain the species). Our success at discovering and identifying banded loons, and the loons breeding success, are both at least partially due to the interest and good practices evidenced by many of our lake dwellers. Observing headway speeds especially near nest sites, protecting nesting pairs by complying with “No Trespass” and/or “Loon Sanctuary” marked sites, and keeping speeds down and being an observant driver (especially during the period when chicks are emerging – mid June to early august), these are the things that we can all easily do. I shall end with a picture of myself holding the “elderly” loon mom I spoke of above. The picture was taken in Hunger Bay late at night. I was with a team of loon specialist that captured, banded, and performed standard health tests on three adult loons. We also captured the three chicks’ resident in the Bay. The adult felt far larger in my lap than I had ever imagined, and the chicks so incredibly soft. Who would have known that cooing to a baby chick would settle it down to sleep just like it does our human babies! A wonderful adventure that I shall never forget.