The Loons

Swamp loon with two chicks

Swamp loon with two chicks

Watchic Lake is fortunate to have one or two loon families on the lake each year (specifically “Common Loons”). After spending the winter on the Maine coast, they usually arrive the day after ice out and generally nest on one of the islands or in the swamp. Each year they parade their chicks for us to enjoy. See annual updates below.

The common loon, Gavia Immer, is found throughout Maine except along the coast and in extreme southwestern Maine. The common loon displays distinctive plumage with black head and neck and white necklace; the eyes are red. The approximate size of a goose, the loon is long-bodied with a thin, short neck and black dagger like beak. In fall, adult loons become gray with white underparts while their eyes change to brown.

Loons are skillful swimmers and divers and can stay underwater for long periods of time. Loons are strong fliers although often needing hundreds of feet of take off and landing space. Loon landings have often been described as “controlled crashes.” Because they are so vulnerable on land, loons build their nests on the water’s edge usually leaving them unconcealed. Loons prefer quiet lakes or estuary’s on which to live and enjoy a diet of fish, frogs, leeches, and shellfish. It is believed that loons mate for life.

Loons are perhaps most noted for their distinctly haunting calls; four main types of loon calls exist. Wails keep loons in contact with each other; only males produce yodels when defending territory. Tremolos are used when loons feel threatened or are defending their chicks; hoots are intimate calls between a pair or a parent and chicks. [Source Maine.gov]

Too listen to the loon calls, try this video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Or check out this information from the Loon Preservation Committee “the Voice of the Loon” which describes the various loon calls and their meanings.

Loons are one of the things that make Watchic Lake so enjoyable. If loons do not find a lake habitable, they will not return. Help keep the loons coming back:

  • Loons dive deep and for minutes at time in search for food. They can pop up anywhere at any time. PLEASE keep an eye out for them and respect their space when boating.
  • Use lead-free tackle. Good alternatives are made of steel, tin and bismuth.
  • Dispose of fishing line so it does not get tangled up in a loon’s feet or bill.
  • Help maintain water quality to keep fish in the lake –  use only phosphorus-free fertilizer and maintain your shoreline buffer-zone to reduce run-off.
  • If you see a loon on a nest, keep your distance and watch with binoculars.
  • Keep garbage out of reach of loon egg predators like skunks and raccoons.

More loon information and how to become a volunteer loon counter can be found at Maine Audubon Society – The Loon Project.

And for information you can provide visitors and very cool loon calendar, check out this loon poster from Maine Audubon.

Have you seen loons and their chicks?  Contact Us to learn how best submit your pictures and sightings.

Loon Update Summer 2020

2020 Loon and two chicks

Our Watchic Lake Loons are doing well – Update from Kim and Steve Lajoie.

There are quite a few loons on the lake this year (10 to 12), perhaps due to the death of female loon last year. We had two loon chicks hatched on Saturday, July 18. These are the only babies on the lake this year so please be extra careful at the North West end of the lake, the chicks are very small and cannot dive to get out of the path of boats.  Also, please remember to stay 200 yards away from the loons and the chicks, be sure to bring binoculars when out on the lake to get a close-up view.

The annual Audubon Loon count was also held Saturday, July 18 and with the help of volunteers Martha Drew, Don Drew, and their daughter Jennifer, Dave Maus, his friend Simeon, Cathy Watson, Wendy Rodrigueza and Matt Beaucroft we were able to count 12 loons, plus the two chicks on the lake!

And don’t forget, the leading cause of loon deaths in Maine is boat hits – please be vigilant when boating and watch out for diving loons!

Loon Update Summer 2019

Our Watchic Lake Loons are doing well – Update from Kim and Steve Lajoie.

There has been much loon activity on the lake this spring and summer!  We had one nesting pair on Middle Island and one nesting pair on Blueberry Island.  The Middle Island baby was born on July 3rd and that is the baby we are now seeing on the lake.  Unfortunately, the Blueberry Island baby has not survived.  The Middle Island baby appears to be healthy and well taken care of by its parents.  It is shallow diving at this point so its more important to be on the lookout (especially on the west side of the lake in the area north of Kiwanis Beach) as it is vulnerable to boats and boat propellers until early October, .

Because we have only one parental pair on the west end of the lake and no loon defending the east end, the lake has seen a lot of teen loons (up to 10) fishing on the east side of the lake.  These teen loons stay together for support, protection and company until they are mature enough to take a mate.  Typically, they are forced by defending loons to “lake hop” but they have taken up residence safely in our lake this year.  If we have a pair successfully nest in the east end of the lake next year we will most likely not see groups in this number again. It continues to be true that  if they migrate into the defending territory they will be chased away by the parents.

Our lake participated in the Annual Maine loon count on July 20th. Three boats participated in the count and 10 adult loons and 1 baby were reported seen. The state collects and tracks this data for research and information for maintaining a healthy loon population in the state.

Please Look Out For Loons!

Loon Update Fall 2017

Teen and adult loons on Watchic Lake October 2017Our Watchic Lake Loons are doing well – Update from Kim and Steve Lajoie

Nature is such a changing, dynamic, dramatic, shifting piece in our lives whether or not we are noticing it.  Years ago we decided to forgo TV at our camp in exchange for looking out our window and observing the loons and more.  We spent our time watching the sky change, the wind on the water, the myriad of birds who visit the lake and, of course, the lives of our incredible loons.

This year, two baby loons were born on the east end of the lake.  We are happy to report that the two chicks are successfully finding food on their own, look healthy and are exploring the entire lake.

The island loons did build and sit on a nest but, the fate of the one baby is unknown.  We suspect that the parents abandoned the nest because of too much human interaction, but only they know for sure.  This led to many gatherings of teen loons and lots of squabbling between them and the four adults for territory (see photo of four teens and two adults).  It is a spectacular thing to see seven or eight loons together. They are social, smart, loyal, engaging, and persistent.  And while we’ve missed watching a baby from early in its life to its eventual fly away to the ocean in November, the experience of witnessing the life of the teen loon was gratifying.

This year, we participated in the annual Audubon Loon Count in July and on that day we reported seven loons on the lake; five adults and two babies; good signs of a healthy lake. We look forward to participating again next year.

As always, please contact us with updates, questions or concerns regarding the loons and always “Watch Out for Loons”.

Sincerely, Kim and Steve Lajoie

Loon Update Fall 2016

Another wonderful report from Kim and Steve Lajoie on our loons…

Unbeknownst to us when we bought our camp in December 2011, we had bought a house directly across from the loon nesting site on Middle Island. This meant that in early June when the chicks are born and mom and dad start exercising their babies in preparation for the November flight, they bring them to the quiet cove between our house and the Kiwanis Beach. This has given us the miraculous experience of seeing the babies grow and watching the amazing parenting of two adult loons.  Every year we watch, bond, celebrate milestones (first dive!), and grieve when we lose one or like in 2105, lose the only one born on the lake.  We are so happy to say that this year 3 babies were born on the lake and at this writing all three are thriving and preparing for their first flight.

We think it’s worth noting that while the summer lake activities are winding down there is an abundance of miracles still taking place.  Just today we saw six (!) migrating eagles fly over the lake!  On a recent kayak outing an adult loon and two babies sought us out and played around us for over 20 minutes.  We’ve been “talking” to the loons since they were babies and they seemed to know our voices based on the comfort they had swimming around the kayak, the comfort of mom with the babies right up against us, swimming under the boat and clearly interacting with us. Again, a miracle in motion.  The photos below were taken on that day.

They are so precious and we are so lucky to have these amazing beings in our front yards.

In the Spring, we will continue to welcome back both Biodiversity Research and Maine Audubon researching, tracking and educating us once again.  In the meantime, please always keep an eye out for our loons. Remember that lead sinkers and boat collisions are the two leading causes of loon death. Remember as well that keeping our water quality clean and in A+ LakeSmart condition keeps our loons returning and thriving, our house values high and our swimming quality magnificent.

Watchic-Lake-Loon-Gliding-Sept-2016

Watchic-Lake-Loon-Staring-Sept-2016

Watchic-Lake-Loon-On-Surface-Sept-2016

 

Earlier Loon Updates