Highland Lake Loon Chicks Thriving in Spite of Predators

They'll be five weeks old around September 1

By Donna Baker-Hartwell, Beacon Volunteer
Ally Betters Resch snapped this photo of the loon chicks at 10 days old staying very close to a parent.

By the time the September issue of the Beacon arrives at your door, the Highland Lake loon chicks will be five weeks old. They hatched on July 27 after 28 days of incubation. As I write this update, they are 17 days old and thriving. They are now too big for both chicks to sit together on a parent’s back.

Their parents take turns staying with them. While one parent eats and fishes for the chicks, the other parent stands guard. There is a lot to guard against. The most obvious is the bald eagle that perches most days on the island, looking down on them from a high tree top. The loons are very much aware of its presence and will vocalize a warning call when it flies overhead.

One morning, I found both chicks floating by themselves for almost a half hour. Seeing them alone without the protection of a parent was unsettling. I soon discovered the reason they were left alone. Across the lake, their parents were trying to distract and redirect four rogue adult loons that had arrived. 

Young adult loons that are not paired up with a mate and/or adult loons that do not have a nesting territory or mate will roam around. They pose a threat to loon families as single adult loons will try to steal mates by fighting. They also threaten chicks. Fortunately, our adult parents were able to send the visitors off in a different direction and return to the chicks.

I have received many reports of ospreys being sighted near the lake. Peter Agoos (lake resident near the inlet of Tilton Brook) has seen osprey fledglings and believes that the nest is close by. Belted kingfishers are frequently sighted residents, as are mallards, Canada geese, great blue herons, and cormorants. Despite the unusually rainy summer, waterfowl have enjoyed the lake.

In the weeks ahead, we hope that our loon chicks will continue to thrive. They will begin shallow diving and gain in weight and size. It is important to give them a lot of space so they can keep their attention on the bald eagle and other threats.

If you would like to be on our Loon News email list, please send a message to donnabh@nulltds.net.