Saturday, June 25, 2022

Hiking Excursion Results in Rare Find: Loon Family with 3 Eggs

Thunderstorms rumbled all around us the other night and even shut off the TV dish for a while, but we only got a quarter inch of rain that night. One mostly-wet day was Thursday, June 16, but then it was only light rain that fell and didn’t even keep me out of weeding in the garden. The wind has been the big thing, with white caps on most of the big lakes most all week into the weekend. Even some of the smaller ponds were tough to travel on in a small craft like a Hornbeck boat.

My 17- foot canoe had all it wanted on the Cedar River Flow on Friday, June 17, with three-foot swells and white caps, which the wind blew the tops off. I stayed along the north shore, and it wasn’t too bad as the wind was strong out of the NW. I saw an older fella (actually he was younger than me) in his rehabbed canoe he found at the dump out on the flow. He kept close to shore on the north side and made it back to the landing just as I got there on my return trip.

The Loons have nested, and they were complaining about some campers at a site which wasn’t far from their nest site. The female stayed on the nest, and the male was the one complaining. This was a new nesting site, but I guess they didn’t know the camping site was so close by. They will have to deal with it. I did some Boreal Bird Surveys this week before watching Loons the rest of the day. One morning, I was onsite surveying before 6 a.m. and the birds were singing away, and mosquitoes and blackflies were buzzing in my ears. I didn’t put on my bug jacket as it restricts my hearing some, so I just put on some bug dope and swat some.

In each survey there are five stops (ten minutes each with spacing in between stops,) so you don’t hear birds from other stops. I was moving from the first stop to the next one and I had to pass a campsite that was occupied. No one was up when I went by walking the first time, but when I walked by toward my second stop someone was up with a big black lab outside the camper. That dog saw me, and he charged toward me with fire in his eyes. All I had was my clipboard to fend him off to keep him from biting me. His master got his attention before I got bit, and he went back into the site.

The dog was put in the truck and the man apologized, but I was pissed. My camera had dropped out of my pocket onto the road while defending myself and the viewing screen had broken. The camper said, “Is that you, Gary?” and I said, “Yes, but I don’t have time to talk,” and I went along to finish the survey. Many people don’t realize that a dog tame as a kitten normally can change in an instant when they are in an outdoor environment at a campsite or on a trail, and they need to be under control. There may have been a bear around that site during the night and the dog just reacted to defend the site, I don’t know. I did see fresh bear tracks further down the road, but I didn’t look like a bear that morning (or smell like one either.) I sure didn’t want to be bitten at 6:30 a.m. to start off my day.

Bare oak trees. Photo by Ruthann Lee.

The next day, I did another Boreal Bird Survey near Helldiver Pond starting before 6 a.m. at the parking lot and going from there to the pond landing for stop two. There were enough mosquitoes around that they could have held my binoculars, but no moose this morning. I was doing this same survey on 6/16/ 2009 when I walked out on the platform and looked across the pond, there was a big bull moose who later got named Harold. The mosquitoes were thicker that morning, but I got my canoe and photographed the moose for over an hour taking over four hundred shots.

Not this morning, so I moved to stop three by a small bog pond north of Helldiver. Just before getting out in the open, I heard a Merlin and then a Gray Jay. Out by the pond I heard more Gray Jay calls so I Saw Whet Owl-called, and one called back, but I said to myself, that’s a tape call. I said, “Is someone over there with a tape?” and a man answered, “Yes.” My time was up for that stop, and we met from a distance across the bog. He was doing some Atlas birding and he said there was a Gray Jay. At my next stop, I saw a Gray Jay with a couple young ones following along, great find.

Later that day while checking a Loon pond, I found a Loon on a nest and the boat blew around and spooked the Loon off the nest. I was close enough that I could see three eggs in the nest, which is a rare find. I took a quick photo and left the area, and the Loon got back on the nest. It is rare to see a Loon family with three young, and I’ve only seen it once at Cedar Lakes many years ago.

The Spongy Moth caterpillars are doing a lot of damage again this year all across the state. Years ago, the State DEC had a pest control program where they sprayed for these pests with airplanes to try and control them. They put down a lot of chemicals into the woods, but never got them under control. In places, the towns had to sand the roads. There were so many dead caterpillars it was making the roads slippery as ice. I don’t know if that is being done in some areas this year or not. My brother, who lives on Willsboro Point over on Lake Champlain, said his driveway is green just from the poop from these caterpillars. His wife, Ruthann, sent me pictures today, June 19, of the bare oaks in their yard. These same trees were defoliated last year.

Missed the Strawberry Full Moon, but the planets are lining up just before sunrise in the SE skies, but that’s another story. See ya.

Photo at top: Three Loon eggs in the nest. Photo by Gary Lee. 

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."




4 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    It’s illegal to disturb Loon nest and this incident should be reported.
    For future reference:
    https://www.northcountrynow.com/news/dec-police-crack-down-those-harassing-harming-loons-hamilton-franklin-counties-05843

    • Boreas says:

      I am not sure which incident you mean. The way I interpreted the account, the campers were in a marked campsite, which at some point, the loons unknowingly built their nest too close to it. Once the site was inhabited, then the loons objected. But if the campers knowingly built an impromptu camp site, too close to a nest, then they would have been in the wrong.

      Or do you refer to Gary accidentally scaring a loon off its nest? Accidents can happen to anyone when people use wild lands.

  2. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Hi Gary……………. I just loved reading your story above! You are descriptive in what you experienced, there is eloquence in your words, I like your doses of humor, etc., and I hope you keep it up. I can only imagine what your journals are like! (I imagine that you are journaling.) Most of all I am grateful that you are out there with your eyes and ears, especially knowing your concerns for the wild kind. The world is a much better place with you in it, especially regards your skills and talents relative to the natural world. We need more of your kind!

  3. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “It’s illegal to disturb Loon nests and this incident should be reported.”

    I went to your link Mike & read just a snippet, enough to be reminded of what we’re up against so far as protection of species, which is a very sensitive issue to many of us. This one bit struck me the most:

    “On June 12, the BioDiversity Research Institute’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation informed DEC that its staff had witnessed two young boys approach a loon nest and frighten off the adult loon on 6th Lake of the Fulton Chain, in Inlet (Hamilton County). One of the boys then struck the nest with a canoe paddle, breaking one of the eggs…..”

    How sad! This is just one mere example of why it is important to keep humans away from as many places as possible in the Adirondacks, or any sensitive ecosystem. Maybe they should keep certain camps closed until after nesting season! A $250. fine is not near enough of a penalty for the above offense. A mere pittance! $1000. would be more justifiable! And more! That’ll learn them! Maybe! Another thing is….if parents are going to bring their dysfunctional children to the woods they should be learnt on proper wildlife manners, but I suppose the parents would have to be endowed with such themselves in order to do so! Just when you think you’ve heard enough horrible news……

    I’m glad they’re reporting these things! Maybe we should rethink the curriculum in our educational institutions. Like per instance maybe they should educate (and stress) the scholars on respect for all living things versus learning them how to make a living when they grow up working for this or that corporation! I mean really stress it! Let them know, sure, money is important so as to put a roof over our heads, eat healthy, etc.. but there’s just some things money cannot buy! (many things money cannot buy!) It might take a generation, or two, but it would be well worth it as we are losing species on a grand scale which I expect will only increase as more and more money is put into wars, etc……and less on education.

    I know I’m being a wishful thinker in what I say above, and that it will never happen as we are far past this stage in the game, which is all it is – a game of competition and rules that benefit only humans, and then some much more than most! In the end we all lose! But dreams are good to feed the mind, to give one a sense of hope, even if it is a false sense.

    It used to be this way believe it or not. It used to be that in this country of ours, 200 years ago, there was an enlightened system of common school education up here in New York, New England. There was managed funds and general concerns about educational institutions. All’s one has to do is read the history and there it will be. We’ve slipped away from this, now it is basically ‘economy’, about money, jobs, more than all things else…………………… I know it seems as if I am going off on a tangent again, which I am getting better at doing, as there is so much to go off on a tangent about…….. but this is all relative to the above, and which hardly anybody is talking about! Is why kids go smashing loon eggs in a wilderness in the first place, and other!

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