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Afterloon Delight

Posted on by Discover Power of Parks SCA Interpreters

Written by Rachael Esh, Interpretive Ranger at White Lake State Park

As a girl coming from the flat plains of Illinois, I was not used to seeing mountains or some of the unique wildlife New England has to offer. Upon arriving to White Lake, I immediately became fascinated by the beautiful scenery, but most of all, a mysterious creature…the loon.

My first look at the mountains from White Lake, including (from left to right) Passaconaway, Paugus, Chocorua and the 3 Sisters.

My first look at the mountains from White Lake, including (from left to right): Passaconaway, Paugus, Chocorua and the 3 Sisters.

A creature that can easily dive 100 feet under water, White Lake’s deepest depth of 44 feet is no match for the loons. Since loons typically lay one or two eggs near the beginning of June, and they hatch 4 weeks later in July, I had arrived at White Lake just in the nick of time! My excitement led me riding off into the woods on my bike to catch a glimpse of a loon’s nest. Unfortunately, this bike might have been made in the 70s, the tires not in their prime, aiding in my sudden collision with a tree. With all the commotion, I looked up from the bushes to see a cautious loon staring back at me.

After my collision, this loon’s outstretched neck indicates he is not too pleased with my presence. I skedaddled right after snapping this picture.

After my collision, this loon’s outstretched neck indicates he is not pleased with my presence. I skedaddled right after snapping this picture.

My loud and clumsy behavior was clearly unwanted, so I took a quick picture and scurried off. After I survived my bike ride around the lake, I decided to learn what loon calls mean. You can remember the basics with the four letter acronym: WHYT.

Due to their legs being so far back on their bodies, loons are great swimmers, but lousy walkers

Because their legs are so far back on their bodies, loons are great swimmers, but lousy walkers.

Wail: A long, haunting call used between loons to find where his or her partner is. They will call back and forth as they move closer together.

Hoot: A soft, short call to let another loon know where it is. Often used between a chick and its parent.

Yodel: High pitched, repetitive, and loud call made by only male loons. Each has a unique call they use to defend their territory.

Tremolo: Also known as the crazy loon laugh. This could mean a loon is alarmed or excited. Be sure to back away from a loon if you hear this call.

Oh uh! These folks are getting a little too close to the loons.

Oh uh! These folks are getting a little too close to the loons.

The video below is the tremolo call I recorded after seeing some people get too close in canoes. If you hear this call, or see signs a loon is distressed, increase the distance between you and the loon.

This website from the Loon Preservation Committee can help you hear and compare all of the different loon calls. http://www.loon.org/voice-loon.php

After becoming an expert on loon calls, I waited patiently throughout June for one or two little chicks to hatch in White Lake’s waters. Okay, I lied. I waited impatiently. One week into July, and I was getting restless! Where were these baby chicks?! I tried to forget about it and distract myself by blueberry pickin’ a few days later.  While I was out, I heard subtle “hoots” that I had not heard much of before. I peeked through the trees, and much to my afterloon delight, I stumbled upon this new family of 3!

My first glimpse of these proud parents with their baby chick!

My first glimpse of these proud parents with their baby chick.

The chick is now about two or three weeks old and you just might see them along the trail if you visit White Lake this summer. If you are intrigued by these birds and want to know how YOU can protect the threatened species in New Hampshire, here are a few tips:

1) Switch to non-lead jigs and sinkers (steel, bismuth/tin, and tungsten). Lead fishing tackle is responsible for 49% of documented New Hampshire adult loon mortalities from 1989-2011, according to the Loon Preservation Committee.

2) Increase distance between you and the loon if you notice unusual behaviors, including:

  • Bird ‘dances’ upright on the water, while flapping wings.
  • Bird’s neck and body are stretched out low on nest (or on water).
  • Bird makes a ‘tremolo’ (laughing sound) or ‘yodel’ call.

3) Spread the word to friends and family about what you’ve learned!

Hear how the loon came to be and make your own craft at Afterloon Stories this August!

Hear how the loon came to be, more loon facts, and then make your own craft at Afterloon Stories this August!

4) Come to White Lake State Park to see and hear the loons! Don’t forget to come to Afterloon Stories and other Interpretive Programs offered this August.

 

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About Discover Power of Parks SCA Interpreters

Discover the Power of Parks is presented by New Hampshire State Parks in collaboration with the Student Conservation Association and made possible by generous financial support from Public Service of New Hampshire. The program offers a look into the natural world through hands-on programming. Interpretive programs focus on connecting participants with nature and building appreciation for New Hampshire's unmatched natural heritage. Programs include guided hikes, interpretive tours, and imaginative environmental workshops for children and families. Programs are offered free to guests with paid park admission fee. No pre-registration is required. View all posts by Discover Power of Parks SCA Interpreters →
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