The haunting call of the Common Loon (Gavia immer) is one of the joys of paddling, fishing, or camping on Spoonwood Pond — a wilderness pond deep in the heart of the SuperSanctuary, accessible only via canoe or kayak from Nubanusit Lake. For the last few summers, loons have nested on Harris Center-conserved land along the Spoonwood shoreline, in close proximity to the Harris Center’s most popular remote campsite. Unfortunately, all of these nesting attempts ended with the eggs being eaten by land-based predators.
This summer, the Spoonwood loons may stand a better chance, thanks to the efforts of the Loon Preservation Committee (LPC) and a group of dedicated volunteers who installed a nest raft on the pond in May. Nest rafts provide an alternative for loons who have been displaced from traditional nesting sites by shoreline development, recreation, changing water levels, or — as in this case — increased predation. They offer protection from raccoons and other terrestrial scavengers, and have covers to help protect against predation by eagles and crows, as well as overheating.
A loon nest on the shoreline of Spoonwood Pond in 2018. Unfortunately, this nesting attempt -- and several others -- failed due to egg predation by land-based predators. This photo was taken with a long lens; it is important to always keep your distance from loons, especially when they're on the nest! (photo © Brian Beihlo)
This summer, the Spoonwood loons may stand a better chance, thanks to the efforts of the LPC and a group of dedicated volunteers who constructed and floated a nest raft on the pond in May. Here, volunteer Janet Yardley paddles out to the raft to install cinderblock anchors and native plants to serve as cover. (photo © John Cooley, Jr.)
The Spoonwood nest raft is the result of a months-long effort by the LPC and local volunteers: LPC Senior Biologist John Cooley, Jr. transported the raft in pieces from LPC headquarters in Moultonborough last fall, and helped with its installation; Janet Yardley and Kathy Schillemat put the raft together on land with tools provided by Dave Birchenough; Brian Patnode, Dave, John, and Janet helped transport the raft and its cinderblock anchors by truck, ATV, and ultimately kayak and paddleboard to its location on the pond; and Janet provided low-bush blueberries and swamp milkweed to plant as natural cover on the raft. Now, we wait and see if the loons take up residence!
Loons are a state-threatened species in New Hampshire. Although efforts by the LPC, partner organizations (including the Harris Center), and hundreds of volunteers have resulted in an overall increase in loon populations in the Granite State over the last 40 years, these iconic birds still face many threats. You can help by using only non-lead fishing tackle, boating slowly within 200 feet of the shoreline so as not to create a wake that could swamp loon nests, reporting loons in distress, and keeping your distance from loons and nest rafts.