As I watch the rain bucketing down outside, the phone is ringing off the hook with calls from anxious people watching their local loon nests slowly sink under rising lake water. Water levels already jumped 10 inches or more last week, and it looks like we have another few days ahead with consistent, and at times heavy, rain. This is a terrible time for rain in Maine, not just for kids in day camp and early vacationers, but for loons who typically sit on their lakeside nests, made from piles of mud and vegetation, from mid-June to mid-July. If water levels rise slowly, they might be able to build up the height of the nest to keep the eggs, if not dry, at least from floating right out from underneath them. But quick rises in water often result in nest abandonment and eggs washing up on people’s beaches.
There are a couple of bright spots in all this. One is that loons can re-nest, and if water levels can get back to normal in the next couple of weeks, they could be back on a nest by early July, still with plenty of time to hatch and raise their chicks. They typically don’t nest again in the exact same location, but will construct a new nest nearby.
We can also make use of abandoned eggs, for our school “Loon Kits” or for analysis of contaminants and mercury by our colleagues at Biodiversity Research Institute. Anyone who finds an abandoned egg should call Maine Audubon Loon Project Director Susan Gallo first to check in and confirm the location, that the eggs is truly abandoned, and that their names are added to our collection permit. Collecting loon eggs, or any other migratory bird egg, without a permit violates the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Susan can be reached at 781-2330 ext. 216 or at [email protected].
And for those concerned about their soggy loon nests, keep watching and hopefully in another week or two you’ll see some new nesting activity and new chicks on the water come the end of July. Visit the Maine Loon Project at Maine Audubon for more information about the loon count, loon education and outreach activities, and other ways you can help loons in Maine.