Saturday, January 13, 2024

Juvenile loon frees itself from Old Forge Pond

Iced-in loon on Old Forge Pond

It is finally white outside, but with possible warmer weather [and] rain and snow coming this week, it may not last very long. Last Thursday night the temperature plummeted to near zero [degrees] with the stars and moon shining bright most of the night with no wind. All lakes in this area froze that night with a coating of ice. Not very thick, but they were mostly ice covered. [The ice is not thick] enough to walk on (and certainly not [thick] enough to snowmobile on.) Check any ice [thickness and conditions] before you travel on any iced-over, snow-covered lakes.

One juvenile Loon didn’t get the message and thought it would stay the winter in the open waters of [the] Old Forge Pond. Some people saw him out there before dark on Thursday night [January 4]. Come Friday morning, the Loon was frozen in a small hole off the bathing beach with no place to go. The iced-in Loon was reported to the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation (ACLC) in Saranac Lake. I got a call that afternoon about this Loon and went down to look at the situation. Don Andrews was also called, and he was taking pictures on the scene when I arrived. The Loon was about sixty yards from shore in a twelve by six-foot hole in the ice.


It was a juvenile Loon that probably was one of the five chicks raised on First Lake or Second Lake this summer. The bird was big enough to fly, but just forgot to leave as the other chicks did that were born there. I took a few pictures and talked to the Loon with a few hoots. It answered me with a few calls in its juvenile voice. Don had seen it get out of the hole a few times onto the ice for a few feet away from the hole and then get back in. We checked the ice, and it was only a half-inch thick, which would not hold a person trying to get out to the hole. Nina Schoch from the [ACLC] called, and they were looking at another Loon frozen in the ice up near Tupper Lake, [so] they would not be down tonight.


So, we were to check on this Loon in the morning [as] there might be a little more ice to get out to the bird and catch it. Don stayed around taking some more pictures and a video showing the Loon trying to take off, but [failing] again. An hour before dark, he left his camera and walked down the beach only to see the Loon run across the hole out onto the ice (just like it was on water) and get airborne. It made a loop in front of Rivett’s Marina and off it went into the wild blue yonder. Where it will find open water in its travels? Who knows…but we didn’t have to catch it.


Juvenile Loons can do this, but adults don’t seem to be able to get out when frozen in. This time of year, the adults are (or should be) in the ocean or water to the south that doesn’t freeze. They molt their flight feathers about this time, so if they stay around, they can’t fly like adult geese in early summer around here. Lately, some adults have stayed too long and they were unable to fly out. Some were trapped in the ice of Lake George and Lake Champlain, and they had to be captured and taken to open water…or Bald Eagles would have had them for dinner.

Turkeys in a yard

Turkeys in the yard. Photo by Gary Lee.

I have a flock of twenty-three turkeys that come each day for some corn. I didn’t put the corn out today [January 8], as they didn’t come until late afternoon. Sitting in her chair upstairs, Karen saw them coming down the ski trail on the run. I didn’t get right out there, and they walked away after cleaning up the fallen bird seed. I went out as they were going up the driveway and called to them like they were my pets. They came running back, half flying on the run, and cleaned up the corn. They went to bed with a little food in their crops.


I did some more clearing of the debris out of the Moss Lake Trail during the week before the snow came, but didn’t get all the way around. Some hikers on the trail said there were a couple small trees across the trail that I didn’t get to. One hill on the north side of the lake had a deep washout right down the middle of the trail. A water bar made at the top had plugged during that last big rainfall. I cleaned out two water bars that were plugged and filled in the washout with stuff from the edges that will make it a smoother ski this winter.


Once a Forest Ranger, always a Forest Ranger. After the Indians left Moss Lake, I put in a bridge across the creek by the road where a culvert had washed out, so you could make the complete loop around the lake hiking and skiing. It was a horse trail when the kids’ camp was there. There are some rough spots now, but with more snow, it should be [ready for] skiing and snowshoeing.


Coming up from [Jan. 13 – 21] is the annual waterfowl count here in New York State, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Loon frozen in Old Forge Pond. 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."

One Response

  1. Harry Rissetto says:

    What an interesting story. You are indomitable Gary

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