August 18 – 24, 2023Vol. 25, No. 10

Saving a Loon Chick on Long Pond

Lee holding the rescued chick.

by Dick Greenan

Well, we scored another first yesterday morning while heading out on upper Long Pond with Belgrade Lake Association’s illustrious Loon Project crew, consisting of loon expert Lee Attix, Colby College interns Kate Jaffe and Brynne Robbins, and yours truly. We were not 50 yards from the dock when Lee observed one of our two Tracy Cove chicks up against the shore approximately 100 yards away. We motored over and within three to four minutes, there were numerous splashes and our chick disappeared! Less than 30 seconds later, an adult popped up but still no chick. Where did this adult come from? What happened to our chick? MASS PANIC SET IN!! As the adult swam maybe 5 yards away, we noticed the chick washed up against the shore.

The rescued chick goes for a “cooler ride.”

The only adult that should have been this deep in the territory with a lone chick should have been one of the two recently banded parents, but this adult loon was an un-banded intruder that came in to dispatch the chick!!! The intruder then went over to the chick and pecked its head with the chick appearing dead. Didn’t move a feather! We brought the boat right in to the chick, and as Lee attempted to pick up the chick with a jacket, the chick came alive!!!

It was feigning dead, even as this intruder pecked its head. We felt our only alternative was to capture the chick to protect it from this intruder and hopefully reunite it with his/her sibling and parent(s). We placed the chick, wrapped in a towel, into a cooler and set out to find the rest of the family.

The ungrateful rescued chick tries to get another piece of Lee!

Approximately a mile down the lake we located the sibling and banded female, the “mother”. YEAH!!!! Now the interesting part!! Lee reached over the bow to release our rescued chick and he/she immediately spun around and not once, not twice, but three times, trying to get a piece of Lee!!! So much for gratitude!! With Lee running for cover (not really!), the chick dove and swam over to join his/her sibling and mother.

Our “rescuee” immediately tried to intervene in the feeding. The mother ignored him for the first ten minutes or so, but finally relented. She appeared totally uninterested, as if she were asking, “Where did you come from??!!”

You’ve got to have thick skin to be a BLA Loon Volunteer! But it is incredibly rewarding! If you have a particular question regarding our Belgrade loon population, please email and we will try to answer your question either in this column or via email.

The mother pulls away from nagging rescued chick. Note the heavy molting — not the most attractive period of their lives!
The two reunited chicks are still together the next day!

Dick Greenan is chairman of the Belgrade Lakes Association’s Loon Preservation Project.

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