Spring Skiing and Loons

April 20. As I walked out to the PistenBully Saturday morning to groom the 1 km loop, two Common Loons flew overhead. Pretty cool. As some of you know, in winter I’m one of the ski trail groomers (and shovelers). But in the summer I coordinate the Vermont Loon Recovery Project, a program of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. I coordinate nearly 300 volunteers in helping protect loon nesting sites, work with landowners of nest sites, monitor all the nesting pairs in the state, and several other tasks related to this once state endangered species. Loons are doing well today with over 70 nesting pairs in Vermont during each of the past three years. In the early 1980’s, there were less than 10 nesting pairs in the state.

On this morning, the loon pair was likely flying over to see if they could occupy their territory on Big Hosmer Pond. That wouldn’t happen on the 20th, as the pond was still frozen over until the 23rd. Loons are very vigilant, and when Big Hosmer opens, the loons will beat the scullers to open water.

As any sculler from 2012 knows, there were often 2-6 loons on the pond much of the summer and the established pair did not nest. It is likely the established pair, which had nested successfully for the previous three years, was being challenged by one or more other loons. We call this a territorial takeover attempt. The pair spent so much time defending the lake that they did not nest. There were a few sightings of two loons at the north end and two at the south at the same time, thus there is a chance we might see a second pair on the pond. This is rare for a pond of a 140 acres, but Big Hosmer is so long and the north end is visually separate from the south end that it could happen. On a round 140 acre lake, we would only see one pair. We’ll see what happens this year.

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