Many of you have probably heard that dead loons (and many other kinds of diving birds) have been washing up on Lake Michigan shores in recent days. The evening news says three-hundred loons so far have been recovered. Avian botulism is the suspected killer and is found in a variety of sources most interestingly the goby, a bottom-dwelling invasive fish imported along with zebra mussels from the general area of the Caspian Sea and dumped from shipping ballasts into our Great Lakes waters. There is now in place a Michigan law that forbids this activity, however, John Byrd, Governor Snyder’s assistant told me that there is a ‘disagreement’ between the three government agencies as to which one should take the ‘responsibility’ of enforcing this law the primary excuse (my word) being ‘lack of money’. Mr. Byrd also stated to me that because Canada strictly enforces ballast dumping these ships regularly cross over into Michigan waters to dump and they know this because of the difference in the weight of the ships when returning to Canadian waters.
As to the loons. Yesterday one of our members reported that a dead loon had washed up on her frontage on the east side at the south end of Six Mile Lake. There was no band and it appeared to be smaller but in full black and white plumage, maybe 4-5 years old, judging from the sizes of the Six Mile Lake loons that were banded last August. Until an autopsy is performed we won’t know what happened. Please keep a close watch on the lake. This could be one of several that may wash in. I have heard that this could be a bad year. Gary and Kathy Batka found many dead birds along the beach just north of Charlevoix so loons are not the only birds affected by avian botulism. This loon will be turned over to the Loon Network and we will let you know what the results are. What to do should this happen to you? Put on gloves or use a rake to pull the loon out of the water, wrap in a garbage bag and then call Kelly or me at 231-544-2781 and leave a message. We will be out to pick up the loon. From there we will turn the loon over to the Loon Network.
Just so you know, the Chain-O-Lakes Watershed loons have been entered into a ten-year study which will reveal much we don’t know yet about these birds. Banding is critical to this effort. My first reaction to the dead loon found on Six Mile Lake was to discover whether it was banded. I was fearful that it might be one of our First Family even though I knew they had left several weeks ago. This bird was not banded. Where was it from? How old was it? A band would have told us. And what if we, on Six Mile Lake, would NOT have banded our loons? What if we wouldn’t have gotten to see them up close and personal? Without that experience, without the bands, we would never be 100% sure this dead loon wasn’t from the original four. Everyone knows that our female was not banded, however, this loon was much smaller than the mother of our babies (especially the bill) and we also know that our female left in late summer so hopefully she is already down on the Gulf or Coast somewhere.
Please consider donating to the loon banding for this year, next year and on into the future. We are hoping that Blue 88, our big male loon, will return again next year and raise a new family. We have been told over and over again that we had ‘beginner’s luck’. At the last loon ranger meeting, I discovered just how hard it is for loons to fledge chicks on these lakes with the snapping turtle and eagle predation among other things. However, I think the Six Mile Lake loons had a big edge because of the concern and watchful eyes of our loon scouts and members who participated in the miracle of the Six Mile Lake loons. I can’t say this enough….thanks and thanks again to each and everyone of you for what you have done for the Six Mile Lake loon program!!!