Saturday, August 6, 2022

Loon banding is a lot like fishing…you don’t get them all

Fairly typical weather for the Adirondacks with warm days and cool nights with fog over the lakes brought about by the cool air over the warmer lake surface. We again had a couple rainy periods, so I didn’t have to water the garden or the flower beds. The flowers have been going like gang busters, lots of greenery and many blooms. The bee balm is in full flower, and I was just looking out the window before dark and there were six hummers searching out each red bloom and fighting over the next one.


Great Grand Daughter Milly Jade Peterson has been the hit of every party for our family out in the Rochester area. As the photo [below] will show, she is already a real show off. Speaking of hummers, Ted Hicks and I plan on being at Stillwater banding hummers on Saturday, August 6, but that hasn’t been set in stone yet. We usually get there about 7:30 a.m. and band until about 11 a.m., depending on how many birds are around. Right now, they are about at their peak number-wise with the little ones out of the nest, and males still hanging on territory.


Many of the little birds have started to gang up and some have already moved south. I hadn’t seen a Tree or Barn Swallow in a couple of weeks and then on Thursday (July 28) I was checking the Loons on Beaver Lake-Lewis County and a Barn Swallow flew by. They may have had a late nest and it was still feeding young. There sure is a great flying bug supply right now with green drakes coming off the water everywhere. This is good for the Cedar Waxwings who are one of the last birds to nest during this season. They sometimes take apart American Goldfinch nests to build theirs. They don’t make much of a nest on a couple tree branches, lay their eggs, and fourteen days later they have babies.


With this many bugs, the young should have no problem getting out of the nest in about the same amount of days. Then you will see the young hanging out in berry-producing trees and bushes waiting for a piece
of fruit to be passed down to them. It’s going to be about the same time this year when the wild raisin is going to ripen, and they are covered with fruit every place I’ve been. Some folks aren’t having a particularly good week weather-wise with all the flooding in Kentucky and neighboring states. There have been thirty-five confirmed deaths in Kentucky, with several others missing.


More rain is expected this week on top of all the flooding they have. They say this is like a hundred-year flood, but more like a thousand-year flood in that area. Out west they sure could use some of that rain, as many fires are still burning out of control. The McKinney Fire (largest in California so far this year) is at more than 55,000 acres. Two people were found dead in their car in their driveway before they could escape the flames. Over one hundred homes have been burned in this uncontrolled blaze. Our prayers go out to all those who are suffering in these floods and fires.


I’ve spent the last three nights (9 p.m. to 5 a.m.) banding Loons, right in this area on many of the lakes that I monitor weekly. Working out of the ESF Property in Newcomb, we stayed at the Huntington Lodge and cabins. The first night we went right out on Arbutus Lake, where there was a pair with one chick. We started off with a bang, as we caught all three birds and both adults needed bands which they are now wearing. The next morning, the male was shaking his leg out of the water showing us his new bands. There was a Bald Eagle around the lake that had the pair on defense most of the time as they protected their chick.

Great Granddaughter Milly showing off. Photo provided by Gary Lee.


From there we traveled to the Cedar River Flow where we went up the flow with a big boat and a canoe in the fog. A single Loon called to us along the South shore, but it had no chicks. We never found the pair and the chick as they hid in the fog bank. We got off there as the sun was coming up…you don’t get them all. The second night we went to Moss Lake for visitor night where only a few were waiting for us. We went
out and caught the pair and the chick. One adult was unbanded, so it got bands plus having blood and feathers taken. The other adult only had to have blood and feathers taken. We traveled to Nick’s Lake and only saw a single bird in the fog ,and caught none.


We traveled next to Limekiln Lake where we found the pair and chick right off the boat launch. We caught both birds and the chick, and processed them. As we were doing that, the second team went to the island territory, but they didn’t find the pair and two chicks. We were in the fog again as we watched the sun come up another morning. The third night we traveled to Beaver Lake in Lewis County where there was a pair and a chick.


Henry Schaab (who lives right on the lake) met us and told us the pair were up the river at the inlet. So we traveled all the way up and found the female and one chick that was big enough to be banded. This
pair had been caught before. This male was one of our transmitter birds in 2003, and we took out the transmitter in 2004. He and his mate are still nesting in the same nest site as they did back then. We tried
for the chick, but it out foxed us and we went away empty handed.


We went to Francis Lake just down the road and caught the female Loon and the three-week-old chick, and processed them. We then traveled to Twitchell Lake where there are two pairs with chicks. We bumped into the pair with two chicks just up from the landing in the fog. I had the male in the net, but before I could get him into the boat he climbed out of the net. This spooked the chicks and we caught nothing there. The other crew was working the second pair, and their light died. So we went up the lake, but daylight overtook us. They could see us, and we could see them without the light. We didn’t get skunked, but that’s loon
banding…you don’t get them all, just like fishing.


Three more nights of loon banding in the Saranac Lake area, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Star Gazer Lily. 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."

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