A Lost Loon and a Roadside Rescue

Everybody loves loons. Listening to their yodeling call on a summer evening at a remote northern lake is truly a memorable experience. Since the Common Loon was removed from the Vermont Endangered Species List in 2005, the loon population has steadily expanded and breeding success has improved. In 2015 Vermont's loons enjoyed their best breeding season ever with 87 breeding pairs producing 67 chicks.

But every chick counts. This idea was on her mind in August when GMAS Board member, Ali Wagner, came upon a lost loon chick cowering at the edge of busy route 105 in the Northeast Kingdom just east of Island Pond. How the chick found its way to this spot was a mystery. Regardless, it was in a precarious situation and Ali promptly went into rescue mode. Her companion, Tom Berriman, longtime NEK Audubon Board member, drove to the Silvio Conte NWR to access the VINS hotline, obtain permission to move the chick, and contact Eric Hanson, the conservation biologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies who spearheads VCE's Loon Recovery Project, while Ali tended the chick.

Coached by Eric Hynes on the phone, Ali carefully wrapped the loon chick in a towel to protect its wings and legs. Later she and Tom transported the chick to nearby Spectacle Pond and released it. The chick swam toward two adult loons on the pond, but all was not well. Loons are notoriously territorial and this couple had their own chick to worry about. Later that day the rejected chick, affectionately named Little Guy, was found hiding in the reeds by Eric Hanson, who had appeared on the scene to check out the situation. Eric scooped up the chick and headed for shore. Rescued again!

After another unsuccessful attempt to release the chick at a different location, Eric decided to take the bird to his home for a minnow dinner. The next day he transported the chick to a rehabilitation facility in Maine. Amazingly, this fortunate bird thrived in rehab and six weeks later it was released to the wild. This loon should be renamed. Instead of Little Guy, perhaps we should call this loon Lucky Guy.

Ali wrote a wonderful story about this rescue, which appears on the Vermont Center for Ecostudies blog at http:vtecostudies.org/blog/. To read this story and the later updates go to the VCE blog and scroll down to the entries for August 25, August 31, and October 13.

On Tuesday, December 8, Eric Hanson joined the members of the GMAS at the Richmond Free Library to present a program entitled The Natural (and Unnatural) History of the Common Loon. We  heard more details about this rescue from Eric and Ali and learned more about the Common Loon Recovery Project in Vermont and how we can become involved.