A Loon Rescue, a Bird Attack, and Rare Spottings

The loon rescue using the new airboat
Loon enthusiast and VT State Parks Program Host, Eric Hanson, took part in an exciting loon rescue just before the new year. Eric posted the following story on his blog for Vermont Center for Ecostudies:

A wounded loon could not take flight from his home in Lake Eligo, (Greensboro, VT) when it began to freeze over. This little bird endured a week of less and less open water while fending off bald eagle attacks until his hole finally froze over completely.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife Dept. Game Warden, Russ Shopland, came to the rescue using a newly acquired airboat to scoop up the injured loon. (the rescue team took this opportunity to do a practice run of a thin ice rescue)

The loon during recovery
in Eric's bathtub
After the rescue, Eric nursed the loon in his bathtub, feeding him minnows while his wing was healing and sent us the following update:

The loon had an old break in his wing as an x-ray from Lamoille Valley Vets showed, but the bone was still a bit out of alignment. The loon could fly but only for short bursts, and was fine in the water. He easily could live out his life as long as he didn't have to fly. The ocean was where he needed to be. Eric called some folks who offered to drive the loon to the coast and added that it would be part of their New Year's celebration. They delivered this loon along with a second one (who had crash landed on a road in Morrisville the morning of New Year's Eve, likely disoriented or making last attempt to escape a frozen section of the Lamoille River) to Casco Bay in the early evening a week ago. It all worked out!

An Eastern Screech Owl
In other birding news, reports have come in through UVM's VTBIRD listserv on other interesting bird activity, such as two from Eric Hynes of South Burlington. While out spotting with a friend, Eric watched as a Belted Kingfisher was repeatedly swooped upon by a Peregrine Falcon. Each pass sent the kingfisher plunging into the chilly waters of Lake Champlain. Eventually, the kingfisher managed to get onto shore and into the trees where the peregrine had to give up his bullying attacks.

During this same trip, Hynes reported some of his first sightings for 2012. In D.A.R. State Park, 444 Lesser Scaups, 244 Common Goldeneye, 11 White-winged Scoters, and a Long-tailed duck were all seen. In southern Chittenden County, Hynes also spotted 7 Great Horned Owls and an Eastern Screech Owl! According to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/htm96/cbc622/ra3730.html), it is unusual for Eastern Screech Owls to be in Vermont in the winter months, so for one to be spotted is quite a rare sight. Finally, near Champlain Bridge, Hynes and two birding friends spotted over 1,000 Common Mergansers and over 1,000 Common Goldeneye!

It's a great time of year to get outside and into nature where when you are still and quiet, you might spot more activity than you would think. Many species of bird head south in the winter, but those that stick around can be easier to spot and hear. The lack of foliage makes hiding in the trees not so easy and their calls are less muted by vegetation, so keep an eye and ear out for Vermont's winter birds! Bookmark and Share

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