When an unexpected cold snap hits, we bundle up and head indoors. But for some creatures, a quick drop in temperature can have far more grave consequences.
In early January, when the weather turned cold and snowy in Upstate New York’s Adirondack Park, five loons had to be rescued by the Biodiversity Research Institute’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation.
While three of the loons got stuck in icy water as the lakes froze over, two others found themselves in different but equally precarious situations.
According to reports, “one was blown down by a storm onto a road and couldn’t take off, and one was trapped after getting wrapped up in fishing line.”
Most of the loons involved in the rescues were juvenile, meaning they were likely left alone to gather into flocks on northern lakes when their parents migrated south. While the young birds will generally head south a few weeks later, for some reason, the cold temperatures and freezing lakes didn’t spur these ones to migrate.
The rescuers first dealt with the loon trapped in fishing line. They had attempted to rescue the same bird in the fall, but were unsuccessful. With the lake now frozen over, it was easier to catch and remove the lure tied around its wing. The bird was transferred to the Tuffs Wildlife Clinic, where it recovered and was later released.
The same day, the rescuers encountered the loon stranded on the road. According to syracuse.com the bird was likely blown to the ground during a storm the night before. Since loons require open water to get airborne, it was unable to fly off. It was, however, in good health and the rescuers were able to release it to open water.
Later in the week, the rescuers were called to one loon completely iced-in on Fourth Lake, and two others who were swimming in small puddle-sized openings surrounded by ice. They were all rescued and are now sporting bands to help the centre monitor and study the loons’ activity moving forward.
“These rescues and our summer field work are strong reminders of why we do the work we do. We are deeply grateful to the highly experienced rescuers who made saving these loons possible,” Nina Schoch, coordinator of the centre, told syracuse.com.
But she was sure to point out that these situations can be as dangerous for the rescuers as they are for the loons, which is why she says these rescues should only be attempted by people with both ice rescue and loon-handling experience.
Not only did the those involved in the rescues have to walk across extremely thin ice to reach the loons, but the startled birds also bit the rescuers when they attempted to help.
“It was a cold and very busy week,” Schoch said. “But definitely well worth it, seeing those birds swim off into open water instead of becoming an eagle’s lunch.”