Where does Larry the Loon go in Winter--you would be surprised perhaps.
" In an effort to beat the Holiday Rush, Larry the Loon flew south early only to find his loon friends just fly to the ocean on the East Coast for winter."
Loons certainly are my favorite. I see them come early in spring even when the ice has not fully melted. A was there when a pair showed up on Swains Lake in Barrington with ice patches still floating about. I saw twelve come flying in to the edge of the ice melt in a cove on Jenness Pond in Northwood and later I witnessed the day 2 loon chicks born on a man-made protective floating nest platform on Jenness Pond, and then create 2 chicks in spring with each sharing time to sit on the eggs. I saw 24 together on Little Bow in Northwood, and a record 24 loons on Ayers Lake in Barrington.
But I live in New Hampshire and see droves of people-and birds-flock south in winter. I mean why not. But have you seen a loon try to fly. It takes half a lake to take off.
So where do loons actually go and why?
Well according to satellite tracking performed by the Loon Preservation Committees the loon makes its way to the Atlantic Ocean between Maine and Rhode Island. Loons must adapt to life in the salt water. They have salt glands in their skull between their eyes that remove the salt from the water and the fish they eat and then remove it from ducts in their beak--how do they know this stuff I am now sure.
The reasons are unique as well. For one the salt water doesn't freeze, and a loon's livelihood is in the water the oceans provide deep and clear waters to dive and fish in. The adult loons leave their chicks behind until their feathers become long enough to support their own weight. It is also time for the young ones to become mature and strong enough to be independent and capable of surviving on their own before taking the trip to the ocean.
For two, the warmer waters bring all kinds of different predators like Alligators plus the water actually is too warm for them to dive. I think maybe the long trip is just too much of an effort.
Life on the ocean isn't easy. They have to get use to a totally new diet, and then there are much bigger waves they are not use to on smaller lakes, and rougher weather, marine pollution and nasty parasites not seen on their fresh water homes. One of a loons biggest challenges has to do with molting and getting their feathers ready to make the trip back to their birth lakes in New Hampshire. It takes 2 to 3 weeks to molt during which that time they are not able to fly and face a lot of dangers lurking. As hyou can imagine, this becomes a stressful time in their lives. Yet I am told that they mate for life so maybe, perhaps their solid relationships help to deal with hard times.
In New Hampshire ice out is a big mystery for us humans to know the moment when the ice that has covered Lake Winnipesaukee for the winter will melt enough for the iconic M/S Mount Washington cruise ship to navigate between all of its ports in Alton Bay, Center Harbor, Weirs Beach, Meredith and Wolfeboro. Yet somehow the loon has the ability to pretty much pretty much Loons will typically arrive on New Hampshire’s lakes and ponds just after ice-out, sometimes on the very next day!
For me the loon was first introduced to me in the iconic movie "On Golden Pond" staring Kathryn Hepburn and Jane and real father Henry Fonda which happens to be filmed in Squam Lake and Lake Winnipesaukee here. The screen play written by NH resident Ernest Thompson.
I have lived on a lake in New Hampshire ever since leaving Michigan, NYC, and Boston and look forward to the distinctive haunting call of the loon. It is the beginning of summer when I hear them.
For more information on these incredible loons check out the Loon Preservation Committee’s at www.loon.org and the N.H. Lakes Association at www.nhlakes.org.
Below is a story on a pair of loons on Jenness Pond in Northwood NH who have come every year for over a decade making a family.