Loons have been present each summer on Star Lake as far back as anyone can remember. Usually families with chicks are observed, but some summers without chicks have gone by. There is a tradition that loons nest on "Loon Island" the smallest of the five islands on the lake, which is basically a single bush surrounded by reeds. I have, however, never observed a loon nest there, nor anywhere on the lake I am aware of.
Loons migrate south each year to various ocean habitats. Loon Watch (of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute of Northland College in Ashland) in 2021 posted the following information:
"[In September some] loons have begun their migration south to the Gulf of Mexico. The first to leave are the floaters, then the loon parents, and finally the chicks are the last to migrate.
"Research involving satellite tagging [Common Loon Migration Study] of adult and juvenile loons has revealed a lot about their migrations. Adults leave their territorial lakes and spend 2-4 weeks in the Great Lakes. Traveling at speeds of 65 mph, loons make their way down to the Gulf of Mexico in several long distance spurts of 350 to 600 miles.
"Juvenile loons do not return to Wisconsin for 3 years, but the satellite tagging study has revealed that they likely do not stay in the Gulf of Mexico for the entire time either. Juveniles in this study made their way up to the Gulf of St Lawrence during late spring and returned to the Gulf of Mexico in the winter."
From Tremolo, Fall, 2007, published by Loon Watch: "Loon chicks. . .will migrate to the ocean and stay there for up to five years. At about three years of age they will get their adult plumage, and may return north, but typically won't begin nesting until they are five years old. Loons that were banded as chicks have shown that some return to the lake or to the region where they were born."
A short entry in the Environment Section of National Geographic (2009) suggests that mercury may be affecting loons: causing "loony" behavior, smaller eggs, not chicks, and less ability to care for the chicks. The is a result of the fact that loons eat fish, and the fish at the top of the food chain accumulate toxic levels of mercury. (Mercurial Loons)
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FEWER CHICKS IN 2011
The LoonWatch Annual Report for 2011 indicated fewer checks per adult pair in 2011 and attributed this to two causes: (1) the stress of more loons competing for the same limited territory and (2) "an infestation of black flies that caused loons to leave their nests to rid themselves of the pesky insects." See: Tremolo, McIntyre, and Weinandt.