The Life and Times of the Common Loon November 6/19

Mark Peck, Manager of the Schad Gallery of Biodiversity at the Royal Ontario Museum, spoke to the Orillia Naturalists’ Club on November 6, at the Orillia Museum of Art and History. He started at the ROM in 1993, but has been active in many other projects, all connected to his passion for birds.
His subject was The Life and Times of the Canadian Loon. Apparently, everybody loves this Iconic species of Ontario cottage country, since many visitors joined the members of the Orillia Naturalists’ Club, many with stories of their pair of loons on their lake at their cottage.
Although he has travelled extensively in search of birds, 5 years ago he and his wife decided they wanted a cottage. They chose one on a small lake, with a pair of loons, north west of Bancroft (more affordable than southern sites), and remote enough for a dark sky.
Early every weekend morning from the beginning of May to the end of August he was able to set out alone in a kayak with a 500 mm lens and watch and record the actions of his pair of Common loons.
The pair arrive as soon as the ice breaks up in May, but do not start nesting until the beginning of June. Since most birds start nesting on arrival, he attributes the delay to the black flies. He showed videos of the black flies in masses, around the head and neck, where they can bury in. He also had videos of the loons diving, the head covered with black flies, then surfacing with the head still covered with these black flies, which seemed to be able to wait it out under water. These black flies are species specific to the Common loon and can sense something, maybe oils, which attracts them.
He told us how they lay a clutch of 2 eggs, but often only one nestling survives to adulthood, how the pair share the duties – 50/50 to start, then later, 70/30 with the males guarding territory. After 28 days the eggs hatch. At 9 weeks the nestlings start to use their wings, but it is 12-13 weeks before they can fly.
He played a variety of loon calls, including the Yodel, especially used to establish territory, the Tremulo, which is an agitated call or a flight call, and the Hoot which is a single note to keep in contact.
He encouraged us all to participate in Citizen Science, coordinated by Birds Canada. This includes recording data on e-bird, or joining the Canada Lakes Loon Survey (a commitment to check loons on a lake 4 times a year). There are an incredible number of electronic resources now.
A clear presentation, beautiful photos and videos with sound, made for a relaxed enjoyable evening, and when he finished, we realized how much we had learned.

                                                     Thanks to Marilyn Clark for the photos.

Geordie Ray,  Mark Peck, Joanne Stronks, Lloyd Harrison Mark Peck 
The Orillia Naturalists’ Club paid for two students from Patrick Fogarty High school to attend the Ontario Nature Youth Summit at Geneva Park this fall . The students, Emerson Garces and Abby Bozek presented an animated multimedia report of their experiences there. They are shown with their teacher and mentor Jeff Cole.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *