Photograph by Eric Teed
North Country weather has always been a wild ride of ups and downs, and climate change hasn’t made it any easier to predict—just ask the loons. In recent years Dr. Nina Schoch, executive director of the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation (www.adkloon.org), has seen an uptick in loon rescues from iced-over lakes due to what she calls “molt-migration mismatch.” Bigger lakes that used to ice up by late November or December are freezing later, she says, “so migrating birds see the open water and stop there.” If they’re still around in mid-January, when loons start losing their flight feathers, they get trapped if temperatures dip and the lake freezes around them.
Last year nine loons were rescued from Star Lake, Lake George and Lake Champlain—often with the help of what Schoch calls “impromptu volunteers,” including ice fishermen, Nordic ice skaters and members of a fire department. The birds are netted, inspected for injuries and banded, then released on open waters. If you spot a loon that might be iced in, send the location and photos to email@example.com. “Sometimes it’s normal behavior,” says Schoch. “Sometimes we go and monitor. We look at each situation individually.”