MOULTONBOROUGH, N.H. (AP) — In an annual rite of spring, nesting loons have begun showing up across New Hampshire.
The season’s first pair of nesting loons was recorded May 11 on Pleasant Lake in New London, according to The Loon Preservation Committee, an organization that works to restore and maintain the state’s loon population. Since then, other pairs of the birds have been observed incubating eggs.
Last year, biologists recorded 188 pairs of nesting loons. But they also recorded 99 nests that failed, many of them due to human disturbance, water-level changes or problems with predators.
The LPC says the peak hatching of loon chicks generally occurs around the Fourth of July holiday. That’s when loon pairs are vulnerable to more disturbances as human activities increase on New Hampshire’s lakes.
Loons are a threatened species in New Hampshire and are protected by state and federal laws from hunting or harassment.
People wishing to observe a pair of loons on the nest can contact The Loon Center in Moultonborough. Each year, the committee floats a nesting raft that can be seen from the Markus Wildlife Sanctuary trail overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee.
The committee says loons are nesting on the raft at present, and chicks are due to hatch in late June.
New Hampshire’s loon population has increased from just over 100 paired adults in 1975 to more than 500 in recent years. The next loon survey is scheduled for late July, with similar loon counts held in Maine and Vermont.
Maine’s loon population is estimated at about 3,000, the highest count in the Northeast. Vermont has an estimated 280 adult loons, which is double what it had a decade ago.
In New Hampshire, a bill that would ban a type of lead fishing tackle blamed for killing loons is headed to Gov. Maggie Hassan after the Senate passed the measure on Thursday night. The bill would prohibit the use of lead-weighted hooks known as jigs that weigh an ounce or less. Current law prohibits lead jigs that are an inch long or less.
The Loon Preservation Committee says 49 percent of adult loons die as a result of ingesting lead fishing tackle, and that half of those deaths are from tackle that’s now legal.