Saturday, August 19, 2023

More loon chicks killed/injured by human predators, witnesses urged to report incidents

Giant swallowtail

Last week had to be the week of rain for the summer. Some [areas got] six and seven inches in just a few hours which washed out trails, roads, and the railroad to Tupper Lake. I talked with one lady up at Twitchell Lake who said the water there came up over her dock and ten feet up on her property. It did some washing out of shoulders along the new paved road to the lake by the outlet. Some culverts were washed out on the snowmobile trail system north of Old Forge, so the system was closed to travel.

The railroad suffered a real hit north of Big Moose where 180 feet of track is just hanging over an open hole. There is a small washout by Little Safford Pond which they plan to fix soon, so travel on the tracks can go to Big Moose, but no further. Stillwater Road was washed out in a few places and shoulders were also undercut in many places. The road has been patched and some new culverts have been put in…it is rough in many places, but passable. Use caution, as they are still working on the washout sections.


My daughter, Erin, and I went over to the Seventh Lake Lookout on Saturday night [August 12] to watch for meteors in the night sky. When we got there, it was mostly clear with the Big Dipper very clear right to our north and the Milky Way very bright right overhead. The loons on the lake were upset over something, and they gave us quite a chorus of songs. There were some campfires burning along the north shore of the lake at campsites there. Erin took some shots of the Big Dipper with her cell phone, but I got nothing with my camera.

big dipper

Big Dipper. Photo by Erin Bills.

We saw a few meteors flash across the night sky, a few airplanes fly by, and some satellites go silently overhead. Some of the meteors lit up the sky and we both saw them with their long tails. Others were just a flash and that was it. The clouds moved in from all directions, fading out the Milky Way…and then most of the stars. We called it quits [at] about 11:30 p.m. The peak [time] for more meteors was 4 a.m. Sunday morning [August 13.] I got up at 3:30 a.m., put my clothes back on, and went down to the dam on the pond. I could see some stars in places, but they were soon gone as fog rolled in. I watched for about fifteen minutes, but would only catch a star or planet now and then. So, I gave up and went back to bed.


[While I was] out watching the Loons again, I put my binoculars up looking for the pair and chicks on Sixth Lake and this thing flew into my view. At first, I thought it was a bat…then it came to me. I had seen the same thing on Sand Lake [at] the ALC [Adirondack League Club] a few years ago. It was a big butterfly…a giant black swallowtail. I followed it, and it landed in a tree on the small island there, [so] I got its picture. I have seen several since, [including] a couple over at Crown Point while banding birds. The one at Sixth Lake went into the bushes onshore, and I never saw it again. Ellie George just sent me a photo of one she saw in her travels over near Paradox Lake.


Speaking again of Loons, lots of chicks have come up missing. Some [have been] found dead, and some [have been] injured, which I believe were boat or jet ski hits. When they are killed by eagles, they take [them] for food. [However,] the ones that are killed or injured by human predators are left on the water. Just last week, we picked up one dead by Alger Island on Fourth Lake and the other chick from that loon pair had been killed (but not recovered) earlier in the year by some of these human predators.


These folks seem to think it’s a game as to how many ducks, geese, gulls, or loons they can flush off the water (or hit) if they don’t get away or dive in time. It is against the law to harass or kill wildlife just for the fun of it, and they can be given a ticket if caught. So, if you see someone out on the water harassing these birds, get their boat or jet ski number and turn them in to 911. The same day the one was picked up on Fourth Lake, another Loon chick was found injured on Golden Beach on Raquette Lake. This bird was caught and sent to rehab, but it didn’t recover, and it was put down.


One pair on Limekiln Lake (with the male who had the fishing plug) lost their chick this week. I followed them around most of their territory as they fished, and they had no chick with them. Checking the Loon families only once a week, we don’t get to see what happens many times. [However,] we see the results when the chicks are gone and not found. The parents do grieve with their calls, but they go unanswered. They will stay with a dead chick on the water for a long time, hoping it will swim again…there is that attachment.


Hummer banding at Stillwater Restaurant again this weekend, [this morning] Saturday [August 19 from] 8 to 11 a.m., but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Giant swallowtail butterfly. Photo by Ellie George.

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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. Dan Vitale says:

    I’d like to see jet skis banned in the Adirondacks.

  2. Charlie Stehlin says:

    I’m surprised they even allow jet skis on Adirondack waters in the first place. And to think that some loons are dying because of them!

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