For the Birds column: Get the lead out for loons

Photo by Chris Bosak A Common Loon swims on a lake in northern New Hampshire with two young loons.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Common Loon swims on a lake in northern New Hampshire with two young loons.

Here’s my latest For the Birds column from The Hour (Norwalk, CT) and Keene (NH) Sentinel.

***

Bad news trickled down from up north this week as the Loon Preservation Committee announced that necropsy results confirmed the first-of-the-year Common Loon death due to lead poisoning.

The loon was found on the shores and Lake Winnipesaukee in central New Hampshire. Loons face a slew of challenges in their northern breeding grounds. The biggest challenge, of course, is habitat loss. What else is new? But other factors such as collisions with boats (especially young loon), heavy rain washing away nests, and lead sinkers take a toll as well.

Then there are the predators, such as raccoons and foxes, that prey upon the eggs. Now I hear of another potential predator of loons. Of course, the comeback of the Bald Eagle is to be celebrated, but

Click here for the rest of the column.

Hard to watch ducks when Long Island Sound is frozen

 

Photo by Chris Bosak Long Island Sound is mostly frozen on Feb. 21, 2015, as shown by this scene from Weed Beach in Darien, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Long Island Sound is mostly frozen on Feb. 21, 2015, as shown by this scene from Weed Beach in Darien, Conn.

Birdwatching makes New England winters that much more bearable for me. I love the winter ducks that come down from the Arctic, Canada and northern New England and overwinter on Long Island Sound: Long-tailed Ducks, Bufflehead, Hooded Mergansers, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Goldeneye and the like. Not to mention the other fowl like loons and grebes.

But it’s a little hard to watch ducks like this …

In my 16 years living near the coast of Connecticut I’ve never seen Long Island Sound be frozen. I’ve heard stories from oldtimers about Long Island Sound freezing over, but I’ve never seen it. Until now.

This morning (Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015) I brought my spotting scope down to Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., to check out the ducks. I didn’t even have to get the scope out of the car. Long Island Sound was frozen. Where kids swim in the summer and ducks swim in the winter, it was completely frozen. Ice as far as I could see. A small pool of water connecting Darien and Stamford and feeding Holly Pond was unfrozen and held a few Bufflehead and Red-breasted Mergansers, but that was it. The rest was ice.

Saturday was warm (relatively speaking, about 30 degrees) and Sunday is supposed to be even warmer (around 40), but Monday we are right back into single digits. We’ll see how the Sound reacts. I’d sure like to see my ducks again.

 

Not a turkey, but a nice Thanksgiving sighting

Photo by Chris Bosak A Common Loon swims in Long Island Sound in Darien on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 27), 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Common Loon swims in Long Island Sound in Darien on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 27), 2014.

I took my boys Andrew and Will on our annual Thanksgiving Duck Hunt (actually a watch) on Thursday. Time was short this year so we hit only a few of our regular spots and no true freshwater ponds, so the number of duck species we found was way down. Our goal each year is 10 different species. This we only got five: Hooded Merganser; American Wigeon; Black Duck; Mallard; and Bufflehead. It was our worst effort in the eight years we’ve been doing it, but again, time was short and the time spent together is the main goal. So mission accomplished in that regard.

We did get a nice surprise at Weed Beach in Darien when a Common Loon made an appearance much closer to shore than usual. Loons are much more drab in the winter than they are in summer, but it’s a thrill to see this iconic bird regardless of the season.

Here are a few shots of the loon — a big, powerful bird — taken on a very gray day.

Oh, by the way, we did see a flock of turkeys on someone’s front yard.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Common Loon swims in Long Island Sound on Thanksgiving Day, (Nov. 27), 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Common Loon swims in Long Island Sound on Thanksgiving Day, (Nov. 27), 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Common Loon swims in Long Island Sound on Thanksgiving Day, (Nov. 27), 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Common Loon swims in Long Island Sound on Thanksgiving Day, (Nov. 27), 2014.

 

Latest For the Birds column: Loons in the fall

Photo by Chris Bosak A Common Loon in transitional plumage swims on a pond in northern New Hampshire in early October 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Common Loon in transitional plumage swims on a pond in northern New Hampshire in early October 2014.

I recently took my annual trip to northern New England in the hopes of seeing moose and few boreal bird species. The moose were scarce _ I saw a grand total of zero _ and Gray Jays were the only real boreal species of birds I saw. Nonetheless I did see plenty of Common Loons, which makes for a successful trip in my book. My latest For the Birds column addresses loons and their summer and winter plumage (and in-between plumage).
The full column may be seen here. 

Over the next several days I’ll post photos from the trip, which included stops in central Maine and northern New Hampshire.