The Highland Lake Loons Have Returned

By Donna Baker-Hartwell
The wide, rocky shoreline due to Highland Lake draw-down, could be a challenge for our loons as they prepare to nest.

The Highland Lake loons arrived back after an early ice-out on March 17th. I was able to confirm in early May that the nesting pair- banded a few years back – are in fact the pair occupying the territory. Both have blue over silver bands on the right leg. He has green on the left – she has yellow over red on her left. This does not mean that other loons won’t be seen coming and going on the lake. It does mean that this pair will most likely nest. 

I reported my findings to John Cooley, Senior Loon Biologist and asked him if he had any idea how old “our” male loon might be. Here is John’s reply, “The male was banded in 2011 and was at least 3 – probably at least 6 years old (average age at first breeding), so he now would be at least 16-19 years old. 

There is a female loon on Lake Umbagog that was banded as an adult in 1993 and has been sighted each year since, she is in her mid-30s. The average lifespan is probably more like 13-15 years.” The former female on Highland Lake that was banded in 2011 alongside the present male did not reappear after 2019. 

Our loons are facing a challenging summer for two reasons:

First, the water level is very low at this time with a wide rocky exposed shoreline.  The low water is because the fire department needed to repair the hydrant and pipes across from the station. 

It has been the trend/ habit for our pair to start nesting the first week in June. The level of the lake is concerning as loons nest just above the water line. If they should start nesting before the water level is back to normal, the risk of the nest ending up under water is probable.

Secondly, there is an active bald eagle nest atop a tall pine on the island. It is exciting to see the bald eagle however, they pose a serious threat to baby loons.

I heard via Larry Chase and Linda Grant that loons are back on Bradley Lake. Heide Johnson reported seeing a pair on Hopkins Pond and Eve Hiatt reported two loons on Tucker Pond in Salisbury. As always, if you see anything on the lake worth sharing, please feel free to send me an email at . If you aren’t already receiving LOON NEWS, let me know and we will get you on the group email list.