When preparing their nest, Loons are extremely casual, exhibiting the lack of fussiness often found in water birds. A bit of flat ground on the shoreline, some debris caught in the branches of a fallen tree, almost anywhere will do. So, when mother nature decides to create a suitable nesting site, she takes it in her stride and simply blows down a tree. But, when humans decide to get involved, things get a little more complicated.
The board of the Friends of Bridge Lake recently decided to manufacture a small number of loon nesting platforms in the hopes of combating the decline of these beautiful birds on our lake. Extensive research revealed several different designs and we settled on one that seemed to offer durability and ease of manufacture in a lightweight package.
It costs about $200.00 to build a single platform so local vendors were approached for assistance. The incredibly generous folks at TIM-BR Mart in 100 Mile House provided materials for the construction of four platforms at no cost to the society (I am sure that everyone associated with the Friends of Bridge Lake or who is concerned about the Loons will join me in thanking TIM-BR Mart for their generosity and make every effort to patronize their fine store). Materials for a fifth platform were purchased from Interlakes Building Supplies and Paul Brown, the owner, gave us a discount of $100.00 which was greatly appreciated.
Having taken delivery of the materials, a date was set and the construction crew met at Karl's house to start the process. The plans were produced and the first step was to cut four foot sections of poly pipe and fill them with insulating foam. Simple! We cut up the pipes, stood them on end, and filled them all with the sticky yellow foam before retiring to Karl's deck to admire our handiwork and enjoy some coffee and cake while the foam set. If only it were that easy. The foam started to expand and was soon bubbling out of the tops of the pipes. Frantically, we scurried about, scraping the excess foam away and scanning the directions on the cans where we learned that the foam would take 24 hours to cure. It was a slightly disheartened, but still determined group that broke up and headed home to try and remove the incredibly sticky foam residue from hands, clothes, shoes, and yes, even hair.
The following day, we all returned to discover that the foam had continued to bubble away at the top of the pipes but had, at last, hardened. Encouraged, Karl lifted a pipe from the ground, only for the contents to slither out all over his lawn. It seems that insulating foam requires ready access to air in order to set properly. It was a disaster. Every pipe was the same and, not only had we wasted a day and several cans of insulating foam, but the pipes were covered in sticky residue and still needed stuffing with foam to aid buoyancy. Dejected but not beaten, Karl stuffed the pipes with bits of solid foam insulation, and we got to work on the construction which was fairly straightforward, if time consuming.
The platforms are basically four foot squares of four inch poly pipe with a four inch thick sheet of foam insulation in the middle. This is wrapped in chicken wire and then the whole contraption is wrapped in snow fencing to provide a framework for plants to root themselves. The platforms are anchored with concrete blocks. The plans can be found here <LINK>.
Over the next few days, five platforms were created. Two were taken to Bridge Lake, planted with reeds and swamp grasses, and towed out to their final destinations, while one was placed on Henley Lake. I managed to avoid being involved in this stage of the process but Karl insisted I help with the final two, and despite my best attempts to avoid it, yesterday I joined him and Doug to plant and install the remaining platforms on Bridge Lake...during a snow storm.
We met at the Greenall Road access, added soil to the platform and planted a motley collection of swamp grasses. Anchor ropes were attached, the platforms were secured to the stern of my little fishing boat, and cold, wet, covered in Chironomids, and with very little Loon love in my heart, we set out to place the platforms. At this point I am wondering what wine would pair well with roast Loon - there you go, it's certainly weak but it's a wine connection. Perhaps I should post this under "Wine and Food".
Previous scouting trips had revealed possible locations (sheltered from prevailing winds, unlikely to attract human interference, and offering multiple escape routes) and they turned out to be ideal. We placed them both without incident, in each instance watched by the very loons we were hoping to attract, and headed home, a job well done.
The Loon is our national bird and is protected by law. Unfortunately, its numbers are declining and we need to do whatever we can to prevent their disappearance. The success of efforts to preserve the Bald Eagle is a testament to our ability, not only to bring a species to its knees but, more importantly, our ability to bring it back from the edge. The Loon is not yet classed as an endangered species in British Columbia, but it still needs our help. It is my sincere hope that Loons will nest in some or all of the platforms and that they will prove more secure than those sites so casually and easily provided by Mother Nature.Hide Entry