Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Common Loon

Last week we had an Upstate Master Naturalist Meeting at Devil’s Fork State Park. Brooks and Kay Wade talked about the Common Loon. I love the topic because my maiden name is Loon! Here are the notes that I took.

1.     Scientific name: (Gavia immer)
2.     Most studied bird in North America
3.     Breed commonly in the north
4.     Sentinel species/bio-indicator
5.     Magic of their presence
6.     Most primitive birds on earth
7.     Long lived species up to at least 35 years
8.     3 years to reach breeding maturity
9.     1to 2 chicks
10.  Dive at least 200 ft. Deep
11.  Stay down 5+ minutes
12.  Least wing surface in proportion to their body weight of any flying Water bird
13.  Research project on Lake Jocassee -First ever study of loons in winter in a freshwater environment
14.  A paucity of information about their life history in winter
15.  5 months in breeding ground
16.  4 months in winter
17.  3 months migration
18.  Why here at Lake Jocassee
a.     Clean clear water
b.    Good food supply
c.     Remote- few humans
d.    Looks like home
e.     For study - a relatively small reservoir
19.  Arrive late November
20.  Molt twice a year
21.  Prenuptial molt in January at Jocassee
22.  Grow new flight feathers once a year to prepare to return to their breeding ground
23.  Departure begins early March   Most left by mid-April
24.  Lake Jocassee is a resting point for migrating loons in April and May.
25.  Baseline data collection
a.     When do they arrive?
b.    When does spring molt beg?when does departure begin and end?
c.     When do migrating loons from the south arrive
d.    Are loons currently molting?
e.     Are there indications of flight feathers molting?
f.      How many on the lake?
g.     Where are they?
h.     Do the loons remain site loyal, or move around the lake?
i.      Percentage of juveniles vs. percentage of matures?
j.      How much time do loons spend feeding? Preening? Resting? Locomoting?
k.     How many feeding as a group?
26.  Conclusions thus far:
a.     Lake life is easy
b.    Low winter mortality
c.     Good weight/ no emaciation
d.    Reduced time foraging
e.     Increased time socializing
f.      Increased time flock foraging
g.     Winter site fidelity, confirmed
27.  Unknown
a.     Do some loons display pairing before departure?
b.    Do first year birds have a sense of where they are going?
c.     Do loons from the same brood migrate together?
28.  Misconceptions:
a.     mate for life
b.    Only winter on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts
c.     Eyes turn brown
d.    Use their wings while swimming underwater
e.     Eat their weight in fish every day
29.  Other birds on Jocassee:
a.     Ring billed gulls
b.    Horned grebes
c.     Bald eagle

It was a great meeting and I learned a lot about The Common Loon that I didn’t know about!

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