Saturday, September 10, 2022

Reminiscing about Loon stories, serving on the NY firefighting team in ’89

We got plenty of rain in the last week and it is still falling. One storm brought us over an inch and a half overnight, and the next one gave us nearly two inches in a couple hours. This wet down the woods in good shape, as not much of it ran off. My pond drain is flowing again, and that made the trout happy enough to start feeding again. For a few days they didn’t want to surface into the warmer water for food. Some folks as close as Forestport never got a drop out of the bigger storm. There was very little wind (just rain) so the power didn’t go out, but some folks lost their telephone service. The big storm shut off our dish signal for over half an hour one time, and then on-and-off for the next hour.

I didn’t see what the rain totals were for Georgia, but they had lots of flooding over the weekend. Then out west the temperatures in California were in the triple digits right in the area where the fires were burning. They had to pull out the firefighters because they were falling from heat exhaustion when the temperature went above 108 degrees. Back in 1989, I was on the New York firefighting team that went out to fight fire in Arizona. We got off the plane in Phoenix, and it was 116 degrees on the tarmac. You could fry an egg there, for sure. We went up into the Tonto National Forest east of there to fight a big fire.


It was somewhat cooler up in the mountains, but you could drink four or five bottles of water a day, and never show a drop of sweat as it evaporated into the zero-percent humidity air immediately. There were big Ponderosa Pines (4 and 5 feet at the base) that were over 100 feet tall and taller, most of which had lightning strikes running down their sides. We were told if there was a thunderstorm not to hide under these for protection from the rain. Our last day on the line, one of these storms rolled through, dropping over five inches of rain in a little over an hour. It caused gully washers taking trees, stumps, and other debris down the hillsides washing right by us. It put out the fire, but the lightning was the most intense I had ever been out in (under just a space blanket.) One firefighter on a crew there was killed by a lightning strike, and another was bitten by a rattlesnake, but survived.

Cascade Falls. Photo by Gary Lee.


Some more Loons went over a dam, this time on Palmer Pond over by the Newcomb exit of the Northway. An adult Loon went over that dam and got trapped below the dam earlier this year. It was caught and moved over to Schroon Lake, as it wasn’t one of the pair that lives there. This time it was the two juveniles from the family there that took the big plunge. The Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation got a catch team together on Friday [September 2] afternoon. The pool below the dam is deep and over 100 feet long. Earlier in the year, the Loon was caught in a fish gill net so that was the same thing that was going to be used this time. We set up a net across the end of the pool and drove the first chick into it very quickly.


The second one was a little tougher as it would go under the net and go back and forth in the main pool, catching a breath of air at both ends. After missing it many times, we deployed a second net across the middle of the twelve-foot-deep pool, with a small rock in the middle of the net to get it down to the bottom. Ellie George was on one end, and I was on the other. On the chick’s second trip down the pool, we got a tug on our net, and had the bird. These juvenile Loons were tagged, some blood was taken, and they were moved to a private lake which is full of small fish. The Loons were big enough to feed for themselves, and probably could also fly if they wanted to, which got them into trouble in the first place. Thanks to the team for their effort saving these juvenile Loons.

Loon below the dam. Photo by Ellie George.


Another Loon story…and there are many. Eighth Lake in the Fulton Chain had chicks for the first time. Now, every lake in the chain has nesting Loons, except for Fifth Lake…and that could happen. When the Loon Census was first started several years ago, Joyce Greineder did the Loon Census on Eighth Lake. Joyce was one of the first campers at the Eighth Lake Campsite, and she gave me a picture of her by a fireplace there when she was just four years old. She did the Loon Census for a few years, getting a pair almost every year, but never chicks. Joyce has passed on, but I’m sure she is looking down on her lake and saw those chicks on her lake this year.


The state took the lean-to off the island and camping is not allowed there, giving the loons their own private island to nest on. On Thursday [September 1,] I had lunch with a group of friends from the Hollywood Hills Condos on a party barge, and with the Loon family on Second Lake. The loon family had located a school of small perch. They were catching one on almost every dive, and feeding their young. I got some great shots, as the male of the pair was banded and he showed me his bands many times. They never got upset, and just kept fishing. After that lunch, I walked into Cascade Falls as the nearly two inches of rain we had overnight gave the falls a nice stream. I caught it just as sunbeams came through the trees and gave it a nice rainbow at the bottom.


I’m hearing that some Moose are on the move, and that some have been seen in the Moose River Plains, but that‘s another story. See ya.

Photo at top: Banded loon and chick. 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."

2 Responses

  1. Heidi Pringle says:

    Curious. We visited the Adirondacks at the end of August a couple weeks ago and did not hear loons where we expect to hear them. We were told by someone that this is the case this year. What is your experience this year with loon populations in the Adirondacks?

  2. Jim Fox says:

    Another thank you, Gary; I so enjoy your columns. I am grateful for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation’s rescues and bandings.

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