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Common loon rescued on nearby Adirondack pond

December 29, 2016
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer (jlevine@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

Researchers and rescuers were busy Wednesday morning, Dec. 21, capturing a stranded loon that had become iced in on Follensby Clear Pond near Upper Saranac Lake.

There have been a lot of loon rescues this year, including five in one week last January and numerous fishing-line-related rescues over the summer, according to Dr. Nina Schoch, a veterinarian who is director of the Biodiversity Research Institute's Adirondack loon program.

"In the last month, this is the fourth bird," she said. "It's getting to be quite a record. As the (loon) population grows over time and more people are out, we see more and more."

Article Photos

Nina Schoch, left, holds the rescued loon shortly after it was taken out of the water on Follensby Clear Pond Wednesday, Dec. 21.
(News photo — Justin A. Levine)

The loon population has grown by an estimated 66 percent over the last 30 years, according to the 2015 New York status report on them.

The report went on to say that loons "may soon be utilizing the majority of the suitable available territories."

This loon was in a small patch of open water and had apparently molted late in the season. The bird had not grown back its flight feathers and was in danger of dying in the iced-over pond. The only open water on the pond was where the loon was. Schoch said loons who stay too long can keep a hole in the ice open by diving and resurfacing.

The rescuers banded together to venture about a quarter of a mile onto the ice to capture the bird so it can be released in open water on Lake Champlain.

Schoch said the bird was likely 2 to 3 years old.

"It looks like it still had the juvenile plumage, so we think it's a 2- to 3-year-old male that was getting the black and white feathers on its wings and had molted all its wing feathers so the ones that will come in will be adult," Shoch said.

"It couldn't get off the lake because it couldn't fly, because it only had three primary flight feathers on each wing. So we'll move it to Champlain, where the water's going to be open for a long time. And it'll probably take about a month for those feathers to come in, and the water should be open on Champlain for at least that long hopefully."

Schoch said she would release the bird near Westport, or if the ice was already in there, she would bring it to the Grand Isle ferry, where the water stays open year-round.

"It's in good health, it's in good body condition; quite active and alert," she said. "It has a band on it, so if it ever does turn up dead, hopefully someone will find it and report it."

Using a large net and a canoe for safety, retired forest ranger Gary Lee, who works for the loon program in the summer and came up from Inlet for the rescue, was able to grab the bird from the approximately 10-foot-by-6-foot opening in the ice. Volunteers stood by with cold-water-rescue gear just in case someone went into the water during the rescue.

After a few attempts, Lee was able to net the bird and get it into the canoe. It was then transferred to a box for transport back to the boat launch.

"We usually get a couple birds in the wintertime," said Lee, who has been involved with the loon program since 1999. "(Today's rescue's was) good. It didn't stress him too much.

"When they have a big hole, they can go down so many times. The one on Loon Lake, she had put it down something like 60 times already, and that's really stressing the bird."

On Dec. 21, the loon dove to avoid the net a few times, but the capture only took about 20 minutes.

Once at the launch, Schoch took measurements of the loon's beak and legs, along with its overall weight and a blood sample. She also attached a metal band to one of its legs so the bird can be identified in the future.

Schoch sent one loon that had landed on a road to the Bronx Zoo for further evaluation since it had a droopy wing, but she said that loon was doing better by the time it reached the zoo.

For more information on BRI's Adirondack loon program, visit its storefront at 47 Main St., Saranac Lake, or visit www.briloon.org/adkloon.

 
 

 

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