Upper Saranac Lake Loons

Do you like viewing wildlife while you kayak or canoe? Would you like to see loons or ducks? There are many lakes and ponds in the northern Adirondacks where you can see wildlife. One such lake is Upper Saranac Lake.

How to access

The lake is near the towns of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Upper Saranac Lake can be accessed on the north end off State Route 30 via a parking lot and boat launch. Parking and launching at this site is free. The boat launch is one of the better ones I have experienced in the Adirondacks. It is paved, so if you have a motor boat it is ideal. It was also easier for me to use it to get into my kayak. I prefer boat launches to dock entries. They also have a free boat wash to clean off your kayak. This helps reduce the chance of carrying invasive species between lakes.

Merganser Ducks
I only saw this duck and its baby for a short while. I did not get many pictures of it. I believe this may be a female merganser duck.

The day I went it was supposed to rain and storm. I went to another lake in early morning and went to this lake later in the morning for a few hours. It did rain a few times slightly while a paddled. The first wildlife I encountered were what appeared to be Merganser ducks. I am thinking a female and a baby.

Loons
You almost wonder if while they were paused on the lake the mother was warning the babies of the dangers of boats.

I paddled across the lake and around some islands. I heard a loon call a few times from the other side of the lake. The weather was looking iffy so I decided to head back. While heading back towards the boat launch I ran into a loon family with two babies. I kept my distance and they were fine with me being around.

Whose turn is it?

I got to watch the parent loons take turns going under the water to find fish for their two babies. The babies popped their heads under water to look and at times disappeared in pursuit of something. Since the parents were bringing up a lot of fish I think the babies are not so successful at it yet. These parents were handing off fish to the babies above water.

The hand off

The weather was not ideal for photos , but I am happy I was able to witness a loon family with two babies. I am also happy I got to witness them feeding them . Sometimes kayaking or canoeing is not just about the physical benefits you get from it, it is about what you see along the way.

Loons

The sound I associate with hanging out on a lake or pond in the evening in the Adirondacks is the loon. The sounds they make to me are peaceful. I was lucky enough to see loons on two Adirondack lakes in June.

I took this picture from a tour boat during a rain storm.
Location

Where do you find loons? They prefer wooded lakes and ponds with large populations of small fish. They prefer lakes with islands and coves for protection. Both lakes I found them on I would not have spotted them from shore. During the day I found them fishing in the middle of the lakes. One one lake I kayaked around for almost an hour before I caught sight of a pair. On the other lake I was on a tour boat when we spotted one. The Great Lakes region has between 5,000- 7,200 pairs while New England and New York have around 2,250 pairs. Well known for having loons are the New York Adirondacks, Maine, and Minnesota, although other states also have them.

Great Fishermen

Loons are expert at fishing. They can dive as deep as 60 m or 200 feet. They normally dive 4 to 10 meters (13- 33 feet). They swallow their prey underwater. They have powerful back legs that propel them in fast chases underwater.

Loon with one of its powerful back legs in the air. Loons have webbed feet.
Nests

Loons breed in spring and summer. Their nests are shorelines. I heard one loon calling as it got dark from what appeared to be the property of a wealthy person. I respect property and would not trespass. I did kayak by the property on another day, but could not get a good view from the lake to see if there was indeed a nest there.

Sounds

To hear a loon click on the following link. The site is from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ENNzjy8QjU

Here are some other sounds loons make from Birds Inc: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2PVTZwap-Q

If you are lucky enough to camp or stay right on a lake in the Adirondacks that has loons, you may be lucky enough to hear them right after the sun goes down. They are an iconic sound of the Adirondacks.