It’s high time I updated the Loon Survey I did for Bird Studies Canada this past summer. You can read about the survey, and see pictures of the eggs, fledglings, and adult loons, on my previous posts: Loon Survey, Part One, and Loon Survey, Part Two.
In late August I returned to Leisure Lake, near Bragg Creek, to check on the Common Loon family. The purpose of the third visit, late in the season, is to see if the young loons have survived. Like all birds, loons have a high rate of mortality among fledglings.
I was happy to find that the two young, still in their brown plumage, were doing well. They were starting to look like adults. (Click on any picture to enlarge it.)
Juvenile Common Loon, about two months old.
The two juveniles with an adult.
However, despite making a long slow circuit of the entire lake, I only saw one of the parent loons. I thought that perhaps one of the adults was hiding on shore somewhere, but I’ve been told that loons are so ungainly on land that they only go ashore to incubate their eggs. It’s possible that it was in the reeds somewhere and I missed it, but that seems unlikely. Perhaps one of the adults departed for the wintering grounds earlier than the other adult and the young. I don’t know if they normally do that or if they all leave together. The other possibility is that the missing adult succumbed to disease or a predator. It will be interesting to see what happens there next spring.
If you want to participate in the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey, there are plenty of unmonitored lakes with loons on them. Contact Bird Studies Canada for more information. Here is a link to the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey page.
Last month I reported on my trip to Leisure Lake, southwest of Calgary, to monitor the breeding Common Loons there (see the blog post, Loon Survey, Part One). On June 14 there was a breeding pair of loons, with two eggs in the nest. I returned to the lake on July 10 to see if the young loons had fledged.
Leisure Lake, in the Bragg Creek/Priddis area, southwest of Calgary.
I soon saw the loons, the two young birds following their parents around the lake. The newly fledged loons were already quite large, and seemed to be doing well.
Two young loons following their parents.
One of the young loons in its brownish plumage.
The next step in the loon survey was to return to check on the loons in August, to see if the young have survived their first few weeks of life. I’ll report on that in Part 3.
This year I decided to take part in another Citizen Science project, the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey, conducted by Bird Studies Canada. The basic requirements are quite simple: visit the lake once in each of June, July, and August to see if there is a breeding pair of Loons present, if they fledge young, and if the young survive. Each visit should be at least two hours, but of course you can spend more time and may visit the lake more often if you like. You also keep track of other birds associated with the body of water. I knew of a small lake southwest of Calgary in the Bragg Creek area that has been occupied by loons for a few years, so I checked with BSC to see if it was being monitored. It hadn’t, so I registered to monitor the lake.
We arrived at the lake in the afternoon and soon spotted a lone Loon.
There are two islands in the lake, and I knew that the loons had built a nest on the south island in each of the past three years. We climbed into the local rowboat which is always on the shore, and headed out into the water.
We tried to keep clear of the south island so as not to get too close to a nest if there was one, although I did want to see how many eggs were present if possible. We went between the two islands, keeping close to the north one, and checking the south one through binoculars for a nest. There had also been a cow moose who calves on the south island every year, and if she was there, we didn’t want to disturb her either. To our delight ,we soon saw the Moose and her calf through the dense foliage. I got a quick picture of the cow, but not the calf, and didn’t linger near the island – Moose can swim very well!
We soon noticed that there were in fact two Loons on the lake, a breeding pair.
The Loons were acting strangely, diving and then surfacing very close to the boat, and diving again with a noisy splash, only to come up again on the other side.
We were getting some great close-up views, but then I realized why the Loons were so agitated: their nest was on the north island, and we were only a few feet away from it.
There were two eggs on the nest! We quickly retreated, and were relieved to see one of the Loons take its position on the nest. They are probably quite used to people being around – there were the remains of a campfire on their island – but we certainly hadn’t intended on disturbing them.
When we returned in the evening for another look at the Loons, we came across the cow Moose which was feeding on the path to the lake. Luckily, since the calf was still on the island, she was not aggressive.
Doing the survey is a great opportunity to contribute to our knowledge of Common Loons, and you get to witness scenes like this:
I will post Part Two of the Loon Survey later, after I return to the lake in late July and see if the chicks have successfully fledged.
If you are interested in taking part in the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey, contact Bird Studies Canada. Here is a link to their website . You can also contact Kathy Jones at email@example.com or by phone at 1-888-448-2473 ext. 124, or register online. The CLLS is a self-supporting program, so you must hold an active BSC membership to participate. For more information, select this link to view the program brochure, or to view a map of available Canadian lakes and their most recent survey year, select this link. (Above information taken from the Nature Calgary website )