Common Loons Nest on Madge Lake

 A Partnership to Create Loon Awareness at Madge Lake

A local birding organization, The Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trails Association (YFBTA), Nature Saskatchewan and Duck Mountain Provincial Park have partnered to promote awareness of nesting loons on Madge Lake.  The objectives of the partnership are to celebrate the presence of Common Loons on Madge Lake, to inform and to educate.  The partners are working to encourage park visitors to adopt attitudes and behaviours that will result in Madge Lake becoming a loon-friendly lake. 

Problems Faced by Loons as Human Activity Increases on Madge Lake

  loss of suitable habitat for small fish due to shoreling alteration.  A reduction in the numbers of small fish is a reduction in food supply.

  displacement of nesting sites, foraging areas and protective cover areas due to shoreline alteration

  increase in nest predator populations (gulls, raccoons, rats, skunks, feral cats) due to increased food sources in human garbage

  increase in number of disturbances due to boating activities.  Distracted parent birds are less able to defend their eggs and chicks from predators, are stressed more frequently and have less time to capture food for their young.  Reduction in foraging time has been shown to be correlated with reduction in chick survival in loon studies.

  detrimental wave activity during critical nesting and chick-rearing time (mid-June to mid-July).  Loons often nest against the shore because they are ungainly on land.  Nests are loosely constructed and eggs may be washed from the nest by large wakes close to shore.  Loon chicks begin to hatch in late June.  During the first week (around July 01) the small chicks are extremely vulnerable to becoming separated from their parents, especially if panic is created within the adult birds.  To make matters worse, young chicks are difficult to see and cannot dive as well as their parents.

birds being struck by fast-moving water craft.  Recent research suggests that loons, especially young, are particularly vulnerable to being struck after dark.  They do not appear to have a natural inclination to avoid on coming boats which they cannot see

  dangers associated with fishing gear.  Loons occasionally become entangled in discarded fishing line or lost tackle.  Loons and other birds ingest small pebbles to help grind and digest their food.  On occasion loons will swallow lost or discarded lead sinkers and/or jigs.  Lead poisoning has been found to have been the cause of death of Common Loons and other wildlife.  

Eight Steps to Help Make Madge Lake a Loon-Friendly Lake 

Note:  The first three steps are especially important in the CRITICAL PERIOD from mid-June to mid-July. 

1.                  Keep an eye out for loons and other water birds while you are on the lake.  Give loons lots of space; steer clear of them if you can.  If you canít at least SLOW DOWN to give the loons a chance to respond to your approach. 

2.                  If on the water, steer away from the shoreline and, if you have to approach it,, slow down and keep your wake to a minimum to prevent the flooding of nests and to prevent the possibility of washing eggs out of the nest. 

3.                  If on foot, AVOID locations where loons nest and keep family pets on leashes. 

4.                  Keep it wild!  Protect the wild parts of your lake.  Keep your shoreline natural.  Cabin owners can consider allowing a PORTION of their shoreline to re-vegetate naturally.  Vegetated shorelines provide shelter for both fish and loons.  

5.                  Donít mess with natureís food chain.  Donít inadvertently feed nest predators such as raccoons, wild cats, rats, gulls, or skunks.  Dispose of garbage in a responsible fashion.  Support efforts to improve landfill practices.   

6.                  Donít discard.  Dispose of broken lines and hooks appropriately.  Pick up any discarded fishing tackle or fishing garbage that you find. 

7.                  Use lead-free fishing sinkers and jigs when you fish.  Support businesses that sell non-lead fishing products. 

8.                  Become a citizen scientist.  You can join the Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trails Association (YFBTA).  The YFBTA has been paying the costs of conducting the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey (CLLS) on Madge Lake for the past two years and is doing so again in 2007.  Contact YFBTA to become an observer of loons on Madge Lake.  Report your observations to YFBTA. YFBTA will, in turn, incorporate your observations into its annual report to CLLS.  Enroll other water bodies in the CLLS.  Participate in the parkís educational programs.  Cooperate with park authorities in their efforts to protect the fish, the loons and the habitat.  Keep yourself, your family and your friends informed about the nesting success of loons on Madge Lake.  Take the necessary time to notice the loons, listen to their calls, share your interest and your enjoyment with others.  Be a loon advocate.  Enjoy, respect and appreciate the geography, flora and fauna of Duck Mountain Provincial Park and its principal lake, Madge Lake.

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