By Jacob Mathias
Officials from the Central Wisconsin Environmental Station say a pair of loons have nested and hatched chicks on Sunset Lake for the first time in years.
“I’m not sure if they’ve ever nested on Sunset…I’ve been here 10 and a half years,” said CWES Director Scott Johnson.
Johnson said that two loon chicks hatched just two weeks ago.
“There were two chicks that hatched and there’s one chick remaining right now,” he said. “We’re assuming a predator ate that other chick.”
A loon nesting platform was constructed in the middle of Sunset Lake in 2009. The platform was built by CWES, the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point College of Natural Resources students and volunteers who live around the lake.
“Sunset Lake doesn’t have any islands or steady structures they can get on,” said Johnson. “They don’t nest on land because predators can come and eat their eggs. They need an island out in the middle of the lake or a floating bog or something like that to nest on.”
Loons have in the past nested on the nearby Minister Lake east of Sunset.
“For two years they’ve nested in this area. The loons have always been here fishing. So they’ve flown over here to eat and feed and then they fly back over to wherever they were nesting,” said Johnson.
The Stevens Point Area is at the southern range of the loon’s nesting habitat.
Johnson said that that the loon pair is very curious and don’t mind people taking a look from kayaks and canoes but he warned that the animals are territorial.
“People should give the loons plenty of distance so that they can feed and teach their young,” said Johnson. “If people are getting too close while they’re on their eggs, it could cause the loons to abandon their nest and just leave the eggs there and then no chicks would hatch.”
He said the loons are territorial and will defend their nest.
CWES is a 200-acre teaching and learning center located about 17 miles east of Stevens Point on Sunset Lake. They offer environmental and outdoor education school programs and summer camps as well as housing the Tomorrow River Community Charter School.
Sunset Lake and CWES is located at 10186 County Rd MM in Amherst Junction.