Saturday, August 13, 2022

That’s a wrap for loon banding season 2022

It was getting very dry as the pond was down three inches from the overflow. Because of the heat, the trout decided to stay in the deep water and not jump the last two nights. I got just about an inch in my rain gauge, which will help. The flowers keep growing, and my cup plant is over seven feet tall now and it just started flowering. I put a six-foot wire fence around it this year to hold it up and it is way over that. The bees and hummers like it, and then the fall warblers like the bugs it attracts, and the seed eaters like the flower seeds.

Ted Hicks and I went to Stillwater on Saturday, August 6, to band hummers but there were not many there. We only caught eight in three hours of trapping, and we missed a few. We missed a juvenile male, and the rest were adult males and females with no recaptures from previous years. There were a few visitors who got to hold a bird for release. We may try again near Labor Day weekend when there might be more juveniles around.


The monarch butterfly has been classified as endangered, but in this area, there seem to be plenty laying eggs and working the milkweed patches. They also like the joe-pye-weed flowers. We stopped at the Long Lake Hotel for supper the other night and there were six monarchs working on the joe-pye-weed there. With all the milkweeds along South Shore Road, the Herkimer County mowing crew should hold off mowing so these butterflies get out of chrysalis and fly west before they mow. Last year, they chopped up several that were about to come out.


The folks in Kentucky are trying to recover from eight inches of water that came in a few hours, causing much flooding and the loss of thirty-seven people. Many of those were washed down rivers in their homes as the rising water came so fast. The fires are still burning out west in several states without much rain in sight for them. Our northern neighbors in Newfoundland and Labrador are also experiencing a bad fire season where many acres are on fire in the Boreal forest. One fire near Grand Falls-Windsor almost doubled on Monday, August 8, and they are hoping for rain to come this week.


We finished banding Loons for this season on the morning of Friday, August 5, as thunderstorms pushed us off Little Clear Pond. We didn’t catch any loons there, but the evening before we were at Piercefield Reservoir just north of Tupper Lake. That body of water has always been tough to catch birds, but not that night. The female and two chicks were right out in the middle, and we caught all of them. We banded and processed the female and took blood from the chicks who were just a little too small to band. Wednesday night (August 3) was visitor night at Clear Pond near Meacham Lake where there was a pair and one chick. The mosquitoes were fierce on shore, but the visitors waited until we caught the chick, which was big enough to band.

loon family

Loon Family reunited at Snowbird Lake by Suzie Meres

It was then a light show on shore as cameras flashed during the banding process. One young visitor got to have the chick on her lap, and now she will have a story to tell when she goes back to school. The adults wouldn’t hold for the lights, so we packed up and headed east across the park to Fern Lake. I had never heard of that lake, but when we arrived loons were calling from all over the lake. There were two pair with chicks, and one of those adults was banded. We just turned on the lights, and there was one family of two adults and two chicks. It wasn’t long and we had the banding boat full of Loons, one adult and two chicks. We processed those birds and had them back in the water.


The capture team went to the far end of the lake where the banded bird had been seen with chicks only a couple days old. They got on the banded bird (a big male) and captured it. I got the bird on my lap and we checked the band colors and number band which was so well worn that one number was missing. Checking the next morning, Nina Schoch found that this bird was banded on Umbagog Lake in New Hampshire on 7/28/03. This was a great catch, and the first out of state bird that had been captured in New York since we’ve been banding from 1998. This bird had been reported on Fern Lake for about five years.


The first night, we went to Cranberry Lake where we hadn’t been in a couple years. There was only one pair with chicks near the middle of the lake. One of our observers, Lance Durfey, who watches that lake went with us and took us right to the birds. They caught the adult female, and we caught the adult male and chick. All birds got bands and were processed. We then traveled to Chaumont Pond where there were two adults and two chicks. We caught one chick that we banded and processed, and had an early night leaving the water at 3 a.m. Just getting home, we heard there was a Loon chick that had gone over the dam at Snowbird Lake and was in the pool there.


Nina Schoch got a capture team together and we got there on Sunday afternoon (August 7). The bird was in the pool and Don Andrews caught it in the landing net as it swam around the pool. Nina processed and banded this bird, and we released it back into the lake where it met up with its family again. Lots of residents of that community love their Loons and were very happy to have the bird back into the lake.


Hearing whip-poor-wills sing, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Cup Plant. 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."

7 Responses

  1. Andy says:

    Great report, thanks for sharing! Curious about one thing- with so many stops in different lakes, how do you handle clean, drain and dry to prevent spread of invasive aquatic species? For example, Piercefield Flow has eurasian watermilfoil.

  2. Boreas says:


    With Monarchs getting a little more press recently, I too would hope we could get road crews to postpone mowing until later in the year. The Fall migration pretty much depends on leaving milkweed stand as long as possible.

  3. Joy Keithline says:

    I do hope you communicate to Herkimer County directly
    to not mow till Oct.
    We need a NO MOW SEPTEMBER-
    HELP SAVE THE MONARCH, campaign.

    Many farmers too act like they couldn’t care
    less with their respective fields and weeds.
    It’s how we got here: (

    Thank you.

  4. Suzie V Meres says:

    Loon Family reunited at Snowbird Lake. Photo submitted by a Snowbird Lake resident
    Hello Gary,
    This is Suzie Meres, Snowbird resident who took this photo. Would like the photo credit.
    Thank you for all you do. We are very passionate about our loons at Snowbird and Don Andrews did a great job, as well as Nina Schoch. Very emotional time and the turn out of the loons being reunited was so positive to see. It’s all about the loons.

  5. How long has this bird banding program been running and who runs it? What is the percentage of banded birds that are subsequently found again after banding? What information is gathered?

  6. David Gibson says:

    Wow. What a tale you tell, Gary. Umbagog Lake loon, on the Maine-NH border, 2003 banded, spending at least five years at Fern Lake, Adirondack Park. 19 years…what this loon has seen, and you, too. Thank you for all you do.

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