A 21-year-old Common Loon with ties to Walker Lake was recently saved from the entanglement of a net in Idaho by McCall Idaho Fish and Game management crews on Oct. 19.
In 2000, a study headed up by Larry Neel, Mike Sevon and Mike Yates from Nevada Department of Wildlife had conducted a Walker Lake loon capture and the then three year old loon recently saved loon had been banded during that study.
Besides being banded, this bird – among others, had been fitted with a satellite transmitter which allowed a Maine research team to track the birds over a four year period to their nesting ground at the Churchill Lake area of Saskatchewan, Canada.
The testing included physical examination of the bird, blood tests and measurement of wing span. It was concluded that many of these Common Loons flew non-stop from Walker Lake to the waters of Idaho and others to the waters of Utah.
“The distances these migratory birds flew each year during their north/south flights were a testament to their fortitude,” Marlene Bunch with Walker Lake Working Group explained.
As Walker Lake began to lose food stock for the loons, the birds flew to other waterways where they could refuel for the long flight.
“This effort was initiated to demonstrate the importance of Walker Lake as a migratory refueling stop for Common Loons; alas we lost the fish in the lake to declining lake levels and water quality. This incident, however, is heartening evidence that at least some of the 1,500 loons that stopped at Walker Lake before toxification were able to make the adjustments in their migratory pattern sufficient to survive. Nature finds a way,” explained Neel, who stated that it had warmed his heart to be a part of the original capture.
In years past, the annual Walker Lake Loon Tour would be conducted in April, where visitors were able to tour the lake and spot the migratory birds. It would not be uncommon to see between 700 and 1,500 of the birds who feasted on the Tui Chub and Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.
The oldest Common Loon recorded is 25 years old. “This bird will be featured on the annual Walker Lake Working Group calendar which will be available at the Catholic Ladies Bazaar,” concluded Bunch.