Climate change seems to be on everyone’s mind lately. All over the world, more people are talking about problems related to the weather and how it is affecting where they live. Drought, oppressive heat, fires, storms and flooding rains are all in the news. Weather effects our daily lives but have you ever given thought to how it effects our wildlife. In Maine, the rising lake levels may have effected the nests of loons…click to listen to their haunting cry.
Never has a year at Long Lake started out as unusual as this one. An extremely mild winter meant that the lake level was the lowest in decades. Then record rainfall brought the lake over its’ banks. Docks were underwater or pulled up and floating away, historic boathouses were flooded but in the distance I could hear the mesmerizing cry of the loon.
Loons are great swimmers and divers so the rising waters would not effect them much. But they are very awkward on land because their feet are so far back on their body. For that reason, they build their nests at the water’s edge so their chicks can just slip right into the water. This usually happens in the months of May and June. The rising waters may have washed their nests and eggs away.
The loon is a symbol of Maine’s wilderness and is one of the most recognized and revered birds in the state. Long Lake covers 5,295 acres and is home to 12 loons according to the last count conducted in association with the Audubon Society of Maine in 2011. It has learned to coexist on our lake with development, tourism, boaters and fishermen.
The state promotes a good habitat for the loons through regulations that safeguard the quality of the water by prohibiting any new building on lakefront property closer than 100 feet from the water’s edge to guard against water pollution. Native plants along the shoreline are protected in undeveloped areas.
The loon is a large beautiful aquatic bird about 24 inches long and is similar in size to a small goose. There are several species in North America, Europe and Asia. The one found in northern New England is called the common loon. Seeing it up close, I would never describe it as common. This bird looks like it is dressed for a formal party with its’ black head with piercing red eyes, what looks like a necklace around its black neck, a white chest and black and white checkerboard feathers on its back.
Tourists that visit the lakes region of Maine and have access to the water are often rewarded with seeing the beautiful bird. Others may be sitting by an outdoor campfire enjoying the starry night sky and hear its mournful call echoing across the lake. More than one child has been awakened from slumber while staying at one of the many summer camps, thinking that they have heard a ghost. No ghosts…just the cry of the loon.
The shoreline of Long Lake was covered with four feet of water at its highest point during the flooding. Hopefully the loons had yet to build their nests.
The water retreated over a period of several weeks and is back to seasonal levels. Life along the lake has returned to normal for the residents and vacationers.
I’m hoping that the same thing can be said for the wildlife. I looking forward to spotting a loon on our lake carrying a little chick on it’s back then I will know all is well at the lake.