Late thaw may cause problems for area's loon population

By: 
Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Photo by Linda Gallagher

Pictured is a pair of Elk River Watershed Common loons. With the late thaw of ice on area lakes, the birds will be nesting much later than usual, according to researchers, which may become a problem later this summer when young chicks unable to swim well or dive will be on the water with heavy summer boating traffic.

 

REGION – For millennia the Common loon has floated the waters of Antrim County's Chain O' Lakes. In recent years, it has been forced into a fight for survival in the face of overwhelming development, pollution, wetlands destruction and human disruption.

This year, the birds have one more obstacle to hurdle – the late thaw of winter ice on the lakes the loons nest on each spring.

As a result of the late thaw, which did not occur on Intermediate Lake until May 1 – the latest anyone living on the lake could recall – the Intermediate Lake Association's Loon Committee, and individuals on other Elk River Watershed lakes, including Lake Bellaire, Clam Lake and Elk Lake, as well as several smaller lakes, were unable to set out the artificial nesting platforms which have proven critical to chick survival until the first weekend in May, several weeks later than usual. Platforms went out a few days earlier in open areas of Lake Bellaire and other lakes.

The artificial nesting islands, made of PVC pipe, have significantly helped nesting loons adjust to high water levels, which often drown natural nests on land, as well as egg predation from land mammals such as raccoons, opossums, skunks and mink.

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