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Loon Preservation Committee Rescues Iced-in Loons from NH Lakes

MOULTONBOROUGH — On December 8th and 9th, biologists from the Loon Preservation Committee (LPC) rescued two iced-in Common Loons from Chase Pond in Wilmot and Province Lake in Effingham. “Loons are heavy-bodied birds with relatively small wings. Their high ratio of body weight to wing size means that they need a long runway of open water, up to a quarter of a mile on a calm day, in order to take flight,” said Harry Vogel, LPC Senior Biologist/Executive Director. Loons that have not left lakes by the time that ice forms may become trapped, unable to take off if they do not have enough open water. Without intervention, iced-in loons will not survive. They will eventually be forced up on top of the ice, and because loons cannot walk on land, they become an easy target for predators such as eagles. If not predated, iced-in loons will starve or succumb to the elements.

The two rescued loons were examined by Wildlife Rehabilitator Maria Colby of Wings Wildlife Rehabilitation and by veterinary staff at Hopkinton Animal Hospital and VCA Capital Area Veterinary Emergency and Specialty. With no injuries or illnesses detected, the loons were released onto the ocean at Odiorne Point, a common wintering area for Common Loons. Prior to release, LPC biologists gave each loon a unique combination of leg bands, which will allow them to be tracked and identified in the future if they return to New Hampshire lakes to breed.

Most loons migrate to their ocean wintering grounds during the autumn months. Biologists are not yet certain what causes some loons to remain into the winter, but climate change may play a role. “Local temperatures may influence the timing of migration for New Hampshire loons. If we have a warm October and November, some loons may remain on our lakes later than they normally would in order to take advantage of the open water and fishing opportunities. If they are caught off guard by sudden cold snaps, they may become iced-in,” Vogel said. Ice rescues have become a part of the Loon Preservation Committee’s work to restore New Hampshire’s threatened Common Loon population in recent years. In addition to rescues of single loons from small lakes, the organization has also rescued large groups of loons from some of New Hampshire’s larger lakes. In January 2022, they rescued 10 iced-in loons from a frozen Lake Winnipesaukee, and in February 2023, they rescued six iced-in loons from the same lake.

LPC anticipates that as more lakes freeze over in the coming months, additional loons may find themselves in need of a rescue. “From now until our largest lakes freeze over in January or February, we ask the public to keep an eye out for loons that may be in danger of icing-in,” Vogel said. Members of the public are asked to call the Loon Preservation Committee at (603)476-5666 if they see loons confined to small patches of open water on freezing lakes. LPC urges the public not to attempt to rescue loons themselves, as ice rescues can be hazardous to human safety.

The Loon Preservation Committee’s mission is to restore and maintain a healthy population of loons in New Hampshire, to monitor the health and productivity of loon populations as sentinels of environmental quality, and to promote a greater understanding of loons and the natural world. LPC relies almost exclusively on the financial contributions of donors to perform this important work

Source: Carriage Towen News