Eau Claire Lakes are Alive With Baby Loons, Once More

Jim Bakken, Loon Ranger for Upper Eau Claire, reports June 30, 2015, that this year’s first loon chick on Upper Eau Claire Lake was born a few days ago on an artificial nesting platform in Upper Eau Claire Lake across from Deer Grove Resort on wetland property owned by Sue & Ron Jansen.The nest is located across from the cabin of  Bob Cochrane and Denny Scharlemann in easy view of his spotting scope. The incubating loons have been watched and monitored, eagerly awaiting the hatching.

loon w chick on back Upper

Loon with Chick, Upper ECL. Photo by Jim Bakken June 28, 2015. Olympus Camedia 10X zoom.

From Jim, we learn that he “located the chick Friday June 26 and found it again Sunday June 28 taking a ride on one of its parent’s back. It hatched sometime between Sunday June 20 and Friday June 26. While observing the chick, it slid off the nest into the water and performed a few short dives.”

“While there, a couple of bald eagles flew over, causing the parent to sound an alarm. After that the chick was basically attached to the side of the adult. The adult loon seemed quite content to hang around my pontoon boat; maybe it felt some protection by the pontoon since eagles were in the area.”
Two artificial loon nesting platforms were built for Upper Eau Claire Lake two or so years ago by Greg Martin and the Eau Claire Lakes Conservation Club. They were placed at the south shore by Bob Cochrane and on the island at the north end by Greg Martin and loons have been nesting on them producing chicks. The platforms remain in place over winter to avoid disturbing walleye spring spawning beds which could occur if platforms were removed in the fall and put in place in April each year. Conservation Club members Greg Martin and Bob Cochrane repair the platforms annually, having to replace broken white poles placed there to deter the swooping bald eagles from killing the chicks, to repair damage caused by other animals and, as happened this year, to fix and secure mooring when one broke away from the island and floated to the opposite shoreline.Last year Upper’s loon pairs were driven off their nest eggs on both platforms by swarms of black flies, abandoning their eggs. Loons laid a second egg clutch on the platform at the north end and two chicks survived until the lake iced over last year.
In June, the usual Mooney Bay nesting loons were not seen and a nest with eggs not found, the old one being hidden and partly overgrown with vegetation. On July 4, Buzz and his daughter discovered a new loon nest near the beaver lodge, a new site this year. The loon was incubating eggs.
The bay had been silent with rare to no loon vocalizations for what seemed like weeks. The night of July 4 loon calls were heard again and the next day loons with chicks on the Bay, off the nest were seen. On July 5 the loons and two chicks were first seen on the waters of Mooney Bay with nearby kayaks, canoes and pontoons periodically through the day. One was likely hatched July 4 and the other shortly before.Both chicks, featureless little fuzzballs with a pointed head, were happily on their mom’s back, one more forward, more visible and usually motionless and the other often protected under her right wing but clearly more active, on and off mom and in the water most July 5.The partner loon was often nearby and spotted offering a shiny little minnow to the aft chick who was lured from under mom’s wing, while the other sat motionless in full view nearer to her neck. Papa loon dipped the minnow several times under water before apparently releasing it to the chick who was also in the water.Ted Eastland reported that he couldn’t tell if the chick was being taught to pick it up in the water or was presented the minnow directly to its beak. As the pair moved away very close to each other and the loons on the mom’s back ,Ted saw a turtle head moving along within 15 feet of them. He has not seen bald eagles in the area and hope this continues since. In 2012 and in 2013, the chicks were killed by a bald eagle.

Thom Storm, Loon Ranger for Sweet Lake, reports that there are currently two chicks with their parents on Sweet Lake and that they hatched on Sunday June 14 .Ingemar Ekstrom reported that Sandbar Lake has no nesting pair but that the lake depth is improving over the years and habitat is again developing so there is hope for the future.Patti Joswick of Tomahawk Lake reports that on June 11 two eggs were on the one nest on the lake and they were being incubated. Subsequently, a loon was seen on the lake but chicks have not been seen. She assumes that the eggs may have been swamped by a passing speed boat observed around June 12 pulling people in a tube or eggs or chicks lost by predation or other reason. No chicks have been seen.

Loon Rangers are volunteers who are assigned to a specific lake to monitor the numbers of loons, nesting pairs, chick production, chick mortality and outcome, visiting loons, dates of first arrivals in the spring and migration departure to the Caribbean in the fall. The volunteer Loon Ranger for Upper ECL is Jim Bakken, for Middle ECL is Lee Wiesner, and for Lower ECL is Ted Eastlund, recently joined retired, Loon Ranger Buzz Pickering who was a Loon Ranger for three decades but is still following the loons, their nest and chicks. The Loon Ranger for Sandbar Lake is Ingemar Eckstrom, for Tomahawk Lake is Patti Joswick. For Sweet Lake the Loon Rangers are Cindy & Thom Storm.
Loon Rangers report their data every year to Loon Watch, Northland College, Ashland, Wisconsin, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to protecting loons and conducting loon research in Northern Wisconsin
Periodic reports and news about the loons and their chicks on the Eau Claire Lakes Chain of Lakes will be posted on this website. If you wish to join a group of interested persons, lake cabin owners and neighbors who receive email notification of our local loon news and are called the “Loon News Junkies” contact tedeast@centurylink.net to be placed on the Loon News Junkies email list.