Posts Tagged: new hampshire wildlife

Loon Fight For Territory

Today was another beautiful day to get out to check on the loons. I headed to the pond where the chicks had yet to hatch when I visited Friday. This is the westernmost pond that I’ve been watching, so these birds are the ‘Westons.’

There was a single loon floating by itself near the boat launch, and a long way from the nest. This is the pond that has had intruders challenging the home team for the territory this spring.

A ways down the pond, I found the home team lazily foraging with two chicks.

Out newest loons, one chick riding, the other is tucked under the far wing.
One of the parents attempting to deliver a 10 ounce fish to the three ounce chicks. The fish was uncooperative and the loon dropped it. The loon reached underwater for it, not sure if it caught it or if it was the fish’s lucky day.

Our family drifted out towards the middle of the pond when things got exciting.

The intruding loon surfaced right next to the parent babysitting the chicks and went for them. Loons intent on taking over a territory will try to kill any chicks. Without chicks, the holders of the territory have less to fight for. The loon doing the penguin dance is the home team male, with the intruder in front of him. After the skirmish, the home team loon returned to the family, then turned and yodeled at the intruder hiding at the far end of the pond. Only male loons yodel, so this was most likely a fight between our male and another male who wishes to take over his territory.
The male from the home team rearing up to try to scare the intruder.
The chase is on! The intruder retreats, with our male in hot pursuit. Loons in a heated territory dispute will ‘wing row’ (‘wing oar’ to our friends across the pond) across the water. If the pursuing loon can catch up, they will fight by hitting each other with their wings or their beaks. Fights go until one retreats or gets killed.
“When you strike at a king, you must kill him” – or face the consequences. The intruder tries to get away.
The fight continued up and down the pond.
Coming back for another lap….
Our male gains ground….
Loons wing rowing turn by dipping one wing into the water, the pursuing loon usually matches the move. With the spray, it can be hard to tell what’s going on.
And stay out! After chasing the intruder into the brush at the far end of the pond, our male returned to his mate and chicks. He spent several minutes yodeling in the direction of the intruder and pretty much any critter that moved around the pond. The intruder has retreated, but not left the pond. The fight may not be over.

Loon Chicks At One Week

This morning was a perfect morning to be a loon on an Upper Valley Pond. Well, I can’t know that for sure, but it was a great day to be a loon photographer… The family I visited – I’m going to call them the Eastons – had the chicks hatch Friday and Saturday a week ago.

I’m trying to follow three families again this summer. Last year, I kept trying to sort out which family we were looking at by the number of chicks. That’s not going to work this year, the first two families each hatched two chicks. (The third is due… yesterday.) So, This family, that had the two chicks last year is now the ‘Eastons.’ The second family in the last post is now the ‘Middletons.’ And the family still sitting is now the ‘Westons.’ (I’ve learned the hard way to be circumspect about where I’m working. I’m now getting something like 10,000 visitors a month and not all of them have the loons’ best interest at heart.

Let’s take a quick peek to see how the Westons are doing.

The home team was still sitting on the nest. There were two intruders on the pond, one interacting with one of the home team and another off by itself. I think this is one of the home team. The stretched neck shows the loon is alerted to a danger. In this case, the other loon is hiding and this one is trying to locate it.
This is probably the intruder on the pond. The loon was hiding up against a birch log along the shore. The black and white blended beautifully into the birch bark. Now, did the loon realized the coloring with hide him, or was this just chance? I’m betting loons are smart enough that this was intentional.
Along the way, I found a cedar waxwing gathering material for a nest. Apparently, the female does almost all the work on the first nest of the season. If they have a second brood, dad will help building or rebuilding the nest.
A hairy woodpecker peers out the front door to see what I’m about.

Moving east to this morning’s outing, one of the great blue herons on this pond usually gives me two nice photo ops a year. I think I collected one of them today.

The great blue heron wading through the fog shortly before dawn.
One adult was baby sitting while the other was off foraging as the sun rose. We’ve got on chick on back and one under the far wing.
Our chick woke up with a big yawn….
Our second adult soon appeared to serve up breakfast. Today’s menu was mostly fish – and all small enough for a chick – along with a few insect nymphs.
Both adults were soon busy foraging for the chicks.
This looks to be another insect nymph. Our chicks have greatly improved their skills at taking the handoff from their parents. Last week, they fumbled the handoff more than not, today they were on their game.
And another fish.
After a time, everyone settled in for a quick nap.
The adults were floating about 25 feet apart, each with one chick.
One of the birds on the pond last year was banded. Today was the first time I got a good look this season. Our banded bird has returned. The Loon Preservation Committee banded this bird over on Lee’s Pond in Moultonborough, NH in 2015. They were unable to determine the sex.
One of our chicks gives a foot wave. Lot’s of growing to do before that foot fits. Foot waving is thought to be a way for the bird to cool down.
After a bit of feeding, the chicks started to ride the babysitter’s back while the other adult continued to bring food for them.
Another shot of a chick riding.
One of our adults stretching.
And one of our chicks giving a stretch.

And a few more stretching shots, just because they’re fun…

Local Wildlife

Many of the birds around the marsh are nesting, there are lots of parents hauling groceries back their nests, others still sitting on their eggs. The Canada geese have mostly moved on, making the local ponds much quieter places. Let’s see who was out and about this past week.

With several nice days, painted turtles were out in force basking around the local ponds and streams.
Turtles are out laying eggs around the Upper Valley. She”ll lay between 20 and 40 eggs. The eggs will take something like 80 to 90 days to hatch. The hatchling turtles may spend the winter in the hole she dug before venturing out in the spring.
Dragonflies and damselflies are abundant this time of year. They’re great mosquito hunters and prey for many of the birds around the marsh.
Eastern kingbirds are common around the marsh. They hunt insects, including the dragonflies and damselflies. Kingbirds will often perch on stumps or brush just above the water, darting out when a meal comes in range.
An eastern kingbird hunting insects over the water in the marsh.
Eastern kingbirds nest in trees along the edge of the marsh or fields. The female will incubate the eggs and both will work to raise the chicks.
Our loons are still sitting on their eggs in the Upper Valley. They should hatch within the next few days. Please don’t approach the nest or chicks, this was taken with an 800mm lens and cropped.
Another one of the local loons sitting on the nest.

And, of course, no visit to the pond is complete without a couple photos of the loon stretching.

This loon has just finished a shift of nest sitting and gives a good stretch.

A Peaceful Morning With The Loons, et al, June 8, 2022

Monday morning was a beautiful spring morning to visit the loons and friends. Provided one doesn’t object to paddling about in 42° weather. Let’s see what I found.

The Adirondack Loon Center is raffling off a Hornbeck Canoe to raise funds for loon preservation in the Adirondacks. Hornbeck boats are beautiful, very light weight boats, worth taking a look.

One of our pair of loons was patrolling the pond and foraging as the sun rose.
A few minutes later, the loon departed on an errand. The pond is surrounded by hills. Often departing loons have to circle the pond to gain enough altitude to clear the hills, giving me an extra change to get in flight shots.
A song sparrow went through his repertoire to greet the morning.
Mr. Oriole was busy hauling groceries to his nest.
A couple mergansers promenaded around the pond.
Even Mrs. Kingfisher was generous enough to hold still for a photo – quite the rare occurrence.
Our loon on nest duty took a break to stretch, preen, forage and nap after a time.
Streeeetttttcccchhhh…..
On the surface between foraging dives.
Settled in for a midmorning nap.

Loons Are Nesting, May 31, 2022

Many of the loons around the area have laid their eggs and are sitting on their nests. I’ve been out on several ponds this last week, checking on them and in some cases, putting out the loon nesting signs. Let’s see what I saw along the way.

Just a reminder to let the loons be. You may have the best intentions, but the loons don’t know what you’re up to and approaching them may stress them. And, while it may be harmless for you to approach the nest to have a quick peek, remember you could be the 20th person getting close enough to stress the loons. All the photos of the loons on or near their nest were shot with a 800mm lens and cropped – I’m back well over 100′.

A pileated woodpecker gives me a flyby over one of the local ponds.
An eastern kingbird poses nicely not far from one of the loon nests.
There’s a beaver lodge that I have to pass to visit the loons on one of the ponds. The beavers are sure to greet me as I pass.
When I last checked on the loons on this pond, they were still exploring real estate. The swim along the shoreline – usually on an island or check out the hummocks in the marsh. They vocalize softly while hunting for a spot. The male will eventually pick a spot. If a pair was successful hatching chicks the year before, they’re likely to pick the same spot again – if it is still available.
On my most recent visit, the loons had selected a spot near where last year’s nest was and were sitting on egg(s).
Loons’ legs are very far back on their body, making walking difficult. They’ll nest within a couple of feet of the water. This loon is climbing out of the water to take a shift sitting on the egg(s).
Both parents take turns sitting on the eggs. Females are more likely to take the night shift and spend more time sitting as incubation ends. During the day, the pair will do a handful of nest exchanges – a shift change for sitting. Often when the off duty loon returns to the area around the nest, the loons will dip their heads with the tip their bills in the water. I suspect it is a greeting, but haven’t found any documentation to back that up.
Loons coming off a shift of nest sitting will often stretch and preen a bit before heading out to forage. I think is is the loon version of a yawn, with full neck stretch.
An early morning departure for one of the loons on a local pond.
Another loon sitting on a nest. The loons on this pond were successful in raising two chicks last year, the laid their eggs in the same spot. All those black specks are black flies. It is a very good year for the flies.
Here’s the same loon leaving the nest for shift change. This shot gives you a good view of how far back their legs are.

Loons lay one or two eggs in a simple nest.
Here’s the same nest late in the day. I returned to the pond with their sign to try to keep people away from the nest. Loons will pant like dogs when they’re hot. This loon has been in direct sun for several hours and is trying to cool down.
This loon is very stressed – an otter surfaced not far from the nest while I was watching. If a loon flattens out like this when you approach, you’re too close and are bothering the loon.
If you’re sitting quietly, loons will sometimes surface close to your boat.
Of course, we’re all looking for the shot of a loon stretching…

I hope to follow a couple of loon families for the rest of the summer again. Sign up for post updates to keep up with how they’re doing.

You can learn more about loons and conservation efforts on their behalf on the Loon Preservation Committee’s site, the Vermont Center for Ecostudies site or the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation site.

We Say Goodbye To Our Chicks, May 24, 2022

The four chicks that stayed in the box yesterday held out until after lunch today. Just before 1:00, three of the four departed one after the other. The fourth left within the hour. They’re hiding in the shrubs by the deck. In years past, the parents moved them off to the brush along the side of the yard within a few hours. We’ll likely see them foraging around the yard for much of the summer. If the parents try for a new brood, these chicks may help feed the next ones.

First Chick Fledged, May 23, 2022

The first brave little chick left the nest box just before dawn this morning. By the time I realized it, the chick was hunkered down on the deck under the railing. It was easy to image it may have been wondering if it had made a mistake… The other chicks are busy looking out, but haven’t made the jump yet. Mom and dad are perched near the box calling to them. They’ve cut back on delivering food to the chicks still in the box to encourage them to get going.

We’re watching eastern bluebirds in a nest box that has a camera built in to let us watch without disturbing the birds.

Looking Out The Window, May 22, 2022

We’re having a hot day, about 90°F, today. The chicks are taking turns looking out the window of their box. Mom and dad are perched nearby calling for the chicks to come out. They’re likely to wait until at least tomorrow (Monday May 23) before heading out, but we’re watching.

We’re watching eastern bluebirds in a nesting box with a camera built in to let us watch without disturbing the birds.

Bluebird Chicks Curious About The World, May 21, 2022

Today is day 15 for our bluebird chicks. They’re stretching their wings, jockeying for position in an ever tighter space and they’re beginning to peek out of the door of the box to see what’s in store for them. They could fledge as soon as Monday.

We’re watching eastern bluebirds in a nest box with a camera installed to let us watch without disturbing the birds.

Bluebird Chicks Testing Their Wings, May 20, 2022

Today is day 14 for our baby bluebirds. They’re active, fidgeting in the nest and testing their wings. Haven’t seen mom around the yard today, but dad has been working overtime hauling in groceries. The chicks are getting loud. Their box is mounted on the deck at the front of the house, they’re easily heard in my office at the back of the house.

A pair of tree swallows explored the second box on the deck, but a third swallow objected.

We’re watching eastern bluebirds in a box with a camera built in to let us watch without disturbing the birds.

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