Outdoor Adventures with Gary Lee – Vol. 12
I’m a little sleep deprived as my 8am to 5pm job changed to a 7pm to 8am job for a few days while loon banding, but someone has got to do it. In the last three days we got to nine different lakes from northern Fulton County to southern Essex County and a couple in Hamilton County. There has been a shortage of loon chicks this year, with all the wet weather. High water has caused much second nesting and some don’t second nest on the smaller lakes. So we did a lot of traveling to find pairs on our forty or so core lakes that had chicks.
The first night we were on Horseshoe Lake just south of Tupper Lake and only caught a chick. We had tried for the adults last year and caught the male, but not the female, and neither were having any part of us this year. We then traveled to Round Lake by Little Tupper Lake, where it was a long paddle in the fog just to get to the lake. The Loons there didn’t cooperate at all. The fog diffuses the lights we use, so we only saw the male loon a couple times and never did see the female or the chick in the dense fog. That night was a long night and a bust.
The second night, we traveled to Mason Lake down north of Speculator and that was a visitor night. A few people showed up, with one being Kurt Gardner taking photos. We only caught the chick there. The male just played keep away, even with the chick on the water. Some parents are glued to their chicks. Others holler and tell them to go hide, then play keep away for an hour or so and won’t call, so you lose them on the lake. They splash dive when your light swings by them and all you see is a ring on the water. About that time is when you quit chasing that bird because you aren’t going to catch it no matter how hard you try.
We traveled about an hour more down to Canada Lakes in Fulton County, where we hadn’t been in a few years. The two lakes are fairly big when seen in the daylight, but in the dark, they don’t seem that big. Kurt traveled along with us to try and get a video of the netting procedure. He was in our boat and it took a while to locate the pair with two chicks, who were a little over a week old. They were right by the shoreline, very close to boats and docks. The female came right at the boat and I got her in the net and into the boat, with Kurt filming behind me. We met up with the other boat for processing and Kurt went with them for more pictures and the release. We searched again for the male and the two chicks, but they played keep away. The other boat went to look for the other pair at the far end of the other lake. We sat for a while, waiting for the loons to make a call, but that didn’t happen. We had done both shorelines, so I said lets just putt down the middle, and there was dad with both chicks on his back. I got them apart and put dad in the boat. The lighter took the net and caught both little chicks. We called the other boat for a meet up. They had taken one adult loon of the other pair, and they were processing it. We met up and got all the birds tagged, feathers and blood taken, weighed and ready for release. We took our male back down to his territory with the two chicks and the female was right there waiting for us, so the family was back together. Then it was the long hour and a half ride back to our camp. Kurt said that was the first all-nighter he had done in a long time, and we had one more to go.
We started the third night on Oliver Pond, getting there right at dark and a thunderstorm booming to our south. We caught both adults and both chicks and had them processed and back on the lake in quick time, as we had lots of help. We moved to Woodruff Lake, behind the Newcomb School, and used my canoe cart to haul all the gear and canoe into the lake. We caught the big chick there, as the adults are never catchable. We got a text that the chicks had hatched on Lake Abanakee, so we headed there for our last lake of the night. We caught the female, but the male hung right with those little chicks and we never did catch him. We saw another beautiful sunrise on the way back to Newcomb. Well some saw it, but not me.
More loon catching this week, but that’s another story. See ya.
Loon trying out its new bands
Releasing a newly-banded loon
Keeping a loon calm while banding
Moving the equipment from lake to lake