About Lake Habitat
Eastman’s favorite residents are its loons. This sub-committee is responsible for educating the community about lake habitat, including loons, through publications and educational events. Examples: Loon Lites and Species Spotlight columns in the Eastman Living quarterly. Lakes & Streams members work to protect loons and nest sites in cooperation with loon biologists at the Loon Center in Moultonborough.
Rock Bass has been found in Eastman Lake. This fish is considered a "pest fish". It should be harvested and should not be released back into the lake. It has the ability to take over a habitat and seriously threaten the diversity of fish in our lake.
Description: The rock bass is originally a resident of the Mississippi Valley, Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. Its range has expanded into New Hampshire waters. Rock bass can be found along rocky shores in lakes and rocky streams - some of the same habitat of the smallmouth bass - and can compete heavily with the smallie for food. The rock bass is a member of the sunfish family but is easily distinguished from its smaller cousin by the horizontal stripes on its side and large blood red eye. Rock bass can be caught with a variety of tackle. Small lures, flies and jigs work well. Small bass lures are also effective. The rock bass is a strong and determined fighter when hooked. Rock bass rarely exceed 12 inches and the average weight is about a half pound. (New Hampshire Freshwater Finsing Guide, 2004)
By Milt Weinstein
June, 2009 - Nesting on Eastman Lake usually occurs during the week before or after the 1st of June. The loons choose a suitable nesting site, protected from terrestrial predators and from water-level fluctuations. Islands are best for protection from predators, and from human (and canine) disturbance. Finding a nesting site that is safe from flooding is tricky, because loons are not particularly adept at walking on land. They prefer to nest on an island with a moderately steep slope up from the water. If the grade is too steep, they have difficulty negotiating the climb several times a day; if it is too flat, the nest is susceptible to flooding. As of May 23, the loon pair was seen checking out real estate on Loon Island, near North Cove. They did not approach the raft provided by Lakes and Streams; we'll soon find out if they make an offer on that property, or a spot on Loon Island, or elsewhere. Incubation lasts about 28-30 days, during which time the parents take turns sitting on the eggs.
May, 2009 - Loons seem to arrive on Eastman Lake the instant after ice out each year, and this year is apparently no exception. Whether the loons that have been spotted will ultimately spend the summer to nest here remains to be seen. If it's the same pair that nested successfully on Heron Island last year, chances are they will stay. Because of nesting failures due to predation and high water in 2006 and 2007, last year the Lakes and Streams Committee, with help from the Loon Preservation Committee of New Hampshire, placed an artificial nesting island, or raft, in the North Cove area to offer the loons a safe place to build a nest. Last summer, Mr. and Mrs. Loon politely declined our offer and built their nest on Heron Island. This year, we will again offer the loons the option of nesting on an artificial island, the location of which remains to be decided. Please, PLEASE, be respectful of the loons, especially during breeding season. Stay away from the raft, stay away from the nesting site once it is established, and keep your distance from chicks. Watch for signs marking the nesting site, and if it's on one of the natural islands (Loon Island or Heron Island), keep your dogs off.
December, 2008 - With winter setting in and ice forming on the surface of the lake, Eastman's loons have departed for coastal waters. The "baby", now a fully grown "immature" bird, was last seen in the lake (near West Cove) on Tuesday, December 2, evidently delaying its departure until the last possible instant. It was not seen after that, and can be presumed to have made a safe getaway before the solid ice set in. On a more somber note, the Loon Preservation Committee reported that 2008 was one of the worst years for loon breeding on record in New Hampshire. Despite a large number of nesting pairs (160), only 97 chicks survived until mid-August, compared to 103 chicks from 147 nesting pairs in 2007. Eastman Lake had relatively good results; three of New Hampshire's largest and historically most loon-friendly lakes - Squam, Winnepesaukee, and Umbagog - had a total of only 7 chicks combined, the lowest since 1975. Lead fishing sinkers were identified as a major source of loon mortality, and if either parent doesn't survive most of the summer, neither can the chick. (Quiz: How many species of loons are there? Is there any species other than the Common Loon that can be found often in New Hampshire waters? ) (Answers: There are 5 species of loons: common loon, red-throated loon, yellow-billed loon, Arctic loon, and Pacific loon. Red-throated loons and common loons can both be found in winter off the New England Coast, including New Hampshire.)
November, 2008 - Quick Facts
- The common loon is the state bird of Minnesota (1961).
- The loon is thought to be one of the oldest surviving birds, dating back 50million years!
- The Inuit are still permitted to hunt loons and take in the area of 4500 per year.
- The loon can fly at speeds up to 80 MPH at a height of 3000 - 5000 feet! Since they are heavy birds, with solid bones, they cannot glide and have to flap their wings continuously in flight.
- Loons may eat 2 pounds of fish a day.
October, 2008 - As winter approaches, adult common loons lose their black-and-white breeding feathers and don their drab winter gray attire. At times they may seem preoccupied with the molting process, without which they would not be able to fly to their winter homes offshore. Meanwhile Eastman's "baby" - 4 months old as of the end of October -- is getting ready to fly to its own saltwater winter home, where it will probably stay for 2-3 winters (if it survives) before seeking the love of its life on some northern lake. Typically the parents will leave before the juvenile, which is now able to fend for itself. Watch also for common mergansers on Eastman Lake in autumn. Often confused with loons, both the males and females have a sporty rust-colored crest and a gray-and-white body in autumn. (Answer to last month's quiz: The adult male loon is larger than the female, and its brow has a more defined angle. Many observers can see these differences when the two adults are together, but even experts have trouble telling which is which when seeing one alone.)
September, 2008 - Eastman's baby loon, who was born around June 29, is growing up! The baby, which is easily identified by its gray plumage, in contrast to the black and white summer plumage of its parents, has been seen diving for its own food. Adults can dive for about 45 seconds, and baby has been clocked by this observer at 35 seconds. The next big step will be for baby to learn to fly; watch for its practice take-offs any time now. On Grafton Pond (in Grafton, NH), a precocious loon chick was seen practicing flight maneuvers during the last week of August!
July, 2008 - Eastman's resident loons had a baby! The nest was established on the northwest shore of the big island shortly after the first of June, and the chick was first seen with its parents on June 29th. Although the loons decided not to use the artificial nesting island (raft) positioned near North Cove, they did just fine in their location of choice, despite the risk of human disturbance. Baby loon was seen making shallow dives on July 5th, at the age of 6 days! It is possible that 2 chicks actually hatched, but that only one survived, as has been the case in past years. (More about this in a future column.) If anyone saw two chicks together this year, or took a photograph that shows two chicks, please e-mail it to Milt Weinstein (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to Ron Carr (email@example.com). Please keep a respectful distance when viewing the loons from your boat.
May, 2008 - You may have seen a raft covered with leaves and mud floating in the lake near North Cove. This is our new artificial nesting island, intended to offer our loons an alternative nesting site that doesn't have the risk of flooding in heavy rains and high water. The pair of loons, who arrived in Eastman just after ice out, may choose to nest on the raft, or they may opt for one of Eastman's 3 natural islands. Typically loons in Eastman Lake establish their nest during May or early June, and incubate the eggs for an average of 28-30 days. Wherever they establish their nest, boaters and swimmers are asked to stay away from the raft and the nest site until the chicks are hatched. After that, please keep a respectful distance from the chicks, and continue to stay away from the raft, in case the loons make a second nesting attempt.
March, 2008 - Have you ever wondered where Eastman's loons go during the winter? Contrary to popular belief, they do not fly south, like geese. No, they head for coastal waters, most likely off the New England coast. The adults stay offshore only for the winter, but the juveniles usually spend 2-3 winters there before seeking a nesting venue on a lake. The adults wear their drab winter plumage until they just before the spring migration, when they don their flashy black and white "courting" attire. Watch for the return of the loons shortly after ice out. They usually make their initial touch down in West Cove, which tends to provide the first available liquid runway. We hope they will find their way to our new raft and prepare for nesting.
January, 2008 - The Lakes and Streams Committee is happy to report that our application for a loon nesting raft has been approved by the Loon Preservation Committee of New Hampshire. Those of you who have followed Eastman Lake's loons know that 3 of the past 4 nesting attempts have failed, twice due to high water on the small island off North Cove and once apparently due to a predator disturbance on the large island. Loon rafts (also called "artificial nesting islands") contribute to nesting success because they rise and fall with the water level and are removed from terrestrial predators. Watch this space for more information about our progress in building and siting the raft for nesting in the spring of 2008.
Eastman's Fourth Island
By Milt Weinstein
The voice of a loon is one of the most haunting sounds in nature. Every spring, common loons (gavia immer) return to Eastman Lake, and we are fortunate to be able to observe and listen to these extraordinary birds as they court, mate, nest, and raise their young. There's nothing like a summer afternoon in a kayak just watching loons being loons. In 2006, a loon pair hatched 2 eggs on the small island off of North Cove, and many Eastmanites followed the growth of the surviving chick.
Unfortunately, 2007 was not a good year for "our" loons. A nesting attempt on the west side of the "big island" near West Cove failed, apparently due to a predator. Not giving up easily, Mr. and Ms. Loon tried a second time, on the "little island" off North Cove. I was fortunate to be in my kayak, in the rain, as they settled into this newly built nest late in the afternoon of July 7. The eggs never hatched. The cause of the second nest failure remains uncertain, but the most likely cause was a rise in the lake's water level.
According to data compiled by the Loon Preservation Committee of New Hampshire (LPC, www.loon.org ), nests on Eastman Lake have succeeded in 15 of the 27 years since 1981. In addition to the 2 nest failures in 2007, recent failures occurred in 2005 (due to high water in the spring) and in 2000 (due to human disturbance). According to data complied jointly by LPC and the BioDiversity Institute (BDI), Eastman's rate of nesting success (56%) is comparable to the success rate observed on other lakes in New Hampshire and Maine (55%), but the failure of 3 of the last 4 nests raises concerns.
Loon nests have to be close enough to the water to enable these ambulation-challenged birds to waddle to and from the nest, but high enough to be safe from rising water. They also have to be protected from terrestrial predators, which is why islands are preferred nesting sites.
Eastman Lake has 3 islands. This summer, thanks to John Cooley, Staff Biologist at LPC, Ron Carr, Chairman of Eastman's Lakes and Streams Committee, Eastman Recreation staff, and several Eastman volunteers, we will add a 4th "island". Artificial nesting islands, or loon rafts, have been deployed successfully on many lakes since the 1970s. These rafts (photo) are typically placed in shallow water, a safe distance from land. Because they float on the surface, water level fluctuations are not a concern, and terrestrial predators pose little risk. According to the LPC-BDI study, lakes that have deployed rafts have seen a 73% nesting success rate (versus 55% with natural nests).
A team of volunteers will position Eastman Lake's loon raft, probably in early May. Only about 50% of new rafts are occupied in the first year, but over 90% are used by the third year.
Artificial nesting islands have risks. Additional nesting options may attract invading loons or other loons seeking nest sites. Experience shows that Eastman Lake's food supply can support one chick comfortably, but cannot dependably support even the 2 chicks that typically hatch from a single pair.
We can all contribute to the reproductive well-being of our "loons" by staying away from the nest. Boaters and swimmers (human and canine) should stay outside the perimeter marked by the floating signs.
Eastman Lake is one of the southernmost nesting areas for loons, and warming could threaten its suitability as a loon habitat. Still, with over 500 adult loons and over 100 chicks observed in 2007, New Hampshire's loons are thriving. We humans are their greatest threat, so offering them a safe nesting place is the least we can do.