Leech Lake, Muskoka

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Important Leech Lake Donors

In each of the past two years some magnanimous cottagers have donated funds in the amount of $650.00 to be used for improvement of lake water quality.

Kudos to those donors!!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Invasive Species in Leech Lake

This is the second of four educational reports the Stewards on Leech Lake will be preparing this year.

In the Cottager Survey conducted last fall, people requested more information about invasive species. The Team from Fleming College discovered that we have, what is believed to be, a low level introduction of spiny water fleas in Leech Lake.

The Eurasian spiny water flea came to North America in the ballasts of ships from Russia about 30 years ago. First infestation was in the lower Great Lakes where they are now impacting recreational salmon fishing because they are present in numbers that can tangle fishing equipment. Dr. Norman Yan from York University first found them in Leech Lake in 1995. Fifty lakes in the Muskoka region are known to be infested. The worst case appears to be Harp Lake near Huntsville.

Transmission from lake to lake occurs on fishing line or nets but can also be transmitted in live wells, bait cans, transom wells or engine cooling water.

Research continues and it is still not known what the eventual impact of this creature will be in lakes such as ours. The worst case scenario would be that these creatures prey on smaller zoo plankton reducing their population. A spiny water flea consumes 3 times as many small creatures as native predator species, up to 20 small aquatic animals per day. These small animals are the preferred diet of juvenile fish so there could be an impact on fish populations in the lake. Juvenile fish apparently cannot ingest spiny water fleas so their presence does not provide another source of food. Most larger fish will eat spiny water fleas but cannot successfully digest the one inch long spiny tails. They have been known to kill large fish in other lakes in Muskoka.

In a healthy lake system, small aquatic creatures are capable of filtering all of the water in a lake every 10 days. Spiny water fleas do not filter water. A decline in the population of small aquatic life in the lake would inevitably result in water that is less clear, and potentially more susceptible to algae blooms. Spiny water fleas prey on herbivore zoo plankton which consume vegetation and help to keep algae levels under control. There is no known method of eradication.

So what can we do?

There are several things we can all do to protect Leech Lake from further infestation of these predators.

1. Learn to recognize spiny water fleas. Please see the photograph below.

Spiny Water Fleas (1/3” to 5/8” body)

2. Inspect fishing lines, nets etc and remove any gelatinous material. A photograph of spiny water fleas on fishing line is included below.

Spiny Water Fleas on fishing line.

3. Drain water from bilges, watercraft, engines, live wells or bait containers before leaving a body of water.

4. Never release water, bait, fish or animals into the lake from another body of water. Empty bait buckets on land before leaving another body of water.

5. Wash boats, watercraft, canoes and kayaks with hot water and allow to dry for 5 to 7 days before launching into Leech Lake. Spray with high pressure water if possible. The coin operated car wash on Taylor Rd. is an excellent spot to do all of this. Bleach does not kill spiny water fleas.

We will be posting a sign at the boat launch to inform people launching boats about the issue and steps that should be taken to prevent further infestation.

Trash Talk

Diane O'Hara's Update on Lorne Road

Item 1:

In the Examiner on May 2nd, there was an extensive article with comments by Barb McMurray, our council rep. and Mayor Graydon Smith regarding discards, furniture etc. left at garbage disposals in Oakley.

In fact at the time this article appeared there was a dumping of furniture items at our own garbage disposal area, disappearing when they removed the bins for door to door collection. Please remember that garbage collection pertains to BAGGED GARBAGE ONLY. (no toilets...no barbeques)

Here is the article from the Bracebridge Examiner:

Misuse of dump irks councillor and mayor

Coun. Barb McMurray says she is irked by the improper use of the winter waste transfer station in her ward. McMurray expressed her concerns at a council meeting on April 25, where she said she’s received complaints from a number of residents concerning people who dump more than just household garbage at the Oakley Ward winter transfer station.

“People keep dumping chairs and chesterfields and you name it. I don’t know how that can be sorted out, but somehow they’ve got to learn it’s for household garbage and for that only,” she said.

Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith echoed McMurray’s sentiments, and shared his own experiences with the issue when he passed by the same transfer station just days earlier.

“It was absolutely disgusting and I was very disappointed in the condition of it, and disappointed that residents of the community would feel that level of excessive dumping is acceptable. It’s not acceptable,” he said. “I took exceptional offence to it because it was on Earth Day that I saw it. I was really very disheartened.”

Smith urges residents to take greater ownership of their community when it comes to handling waste.

“If we could send a message at all to our residents, it’s that they need to properly use the landfill facilities we provide for them, that they pay tax dollars investing into them, and to keep their community looking as lovely as possible,” he said.

Item 2:

I drove over to the Town offices, Public Works Department, to inquire re Lorne Road repairs.

A date has not been set, but it is anticipated the ditching of Lorne Road will not occur until late summer.

Last year three members expressed interest in obtaining the ditching material. Thus I obtained 4 forms of application titled 'Release of Liability'. In summary it states "that this material may contain traces of oil, rubber from tires, antifreeze, metals or other unknown contaminants".

The problem with the ditching material, then, is that the contaminants may affect our lake water. You may want to consult with the Lake

Stewardship Committee, Chair Larry Jacobs, prior to taking this 'unsafe' earth. Another deterrent is that they will not deliver the ditching material directly to us as our roads are private. Again this is a liability issue.

Diane O'Hara

Monday, May 21, 2012

Beware - Loons Nesting

It is nesting time for loons so we all must give these precious visitors space . We hope there will be another baby loon for the third year in succession.

As you can see from the pictures warning signs have been posted on the two islands in the north and west sections of the lake.

Please heed the signs and give the loons plenty of space.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Loons On Leech Lake

We are a few weeks away from the ice break up on Leech Lake. Our loons normally return to Leech Lake within hours or days of the ice going out.

It is a possibility that no loons will return to Leech Lake in 2012. We hope not, but we can’t be sure so we wanted to sensitize all residents and cottagers to the issues and ask for your help.

You are no doubt aware we lost an adult loon in 2010 and again in 2011. The 2011 death was a male. We are not certain of the gender of the adult which passed away in 2010, but we believe it was a female. In both cases, the loons had swallowed fishing lures and hooks. An examination of the male loon that died in 2011 indicated that the loon died as a result of lead poisoning. At the end of the 2011 season, Leech Lake had just one adult loon, a female. We hope this female returns to Leech Lake this year and finds a new mate. It had been assumed that loons mate for life, however there is recent evidence challenging this theory.. The belief now is that loons may be as attached to the nesting lake as they are to their mates.

Twenty years ago we had four loons on Leech Lake until one died in the mid 90’s by getting tangled in fishing line. For many years we had three adult loons on the lake with one nesting pair.

In 2010 and again in 2011, one chick survived to grow into adolescence. One or both of these may return to Leech Lake, but that will not occur until 2013. Young loons, if they survive the journey south, do not return north until 3 years of age. So it is possible that we may have only one loon on Leech Lake in 2012, if any. Nature is amazing, so perhaps this is a process of renewal. Older loons die off so that younger ones can inherit the lake.

We are asking for your assistance to help ensure that loons thrive on Leech Lake. We will be posting signs on the nesting island asking people to be sensitive to the delicate process of breeding and nurturing loon eggs and chicks. We recommend the use of lead free sinkers. Loon Watch recommends that fishing within 100 meters of the nesting island should be discouraged. They also recommend that fishing should not be done within 100 meters when loons are present. Loon Watch has loon-friendly fishing kits available from their website. Try, wherever possible, to retrieve snagged hooks or lures. In particular, if a small fish is caught which has swallowed a hook, please encourage everyone around your cottage not to clip the line and throw the fish back. These fish are easily caught bye loons and swallowed.

We cannot be certain that the fishing gear swallowed by loons actually occurred on Leech Lake. But we should all pull together to be as sure as possible that we are not contributing to the problem.

We will also be posting a sign at the boat launch encouraging cottagers and guests to lend a hand to the preservation of our most valued natural neighbor.

Some other interesting loon facts:

• There are an estimated 65,000 pairs of loons in Ontario

• Loons can dive to a depth of 70 meters and remain submerged for up to 3 minutes

• An average dive is 40-45 seconds and 5 meters in depth

• Nesting takes place in May & June

• A productive nest will have 2 eggs taking 28 days to incubate

• Chicks emerge from the egg ready to swim within an hour

• Less than 50% of lakes produce young loons each year

• 25% of loon mortality in breeding season are caused by fishing weights (MNR)

• Loons can live up to 30 years

• Average wingspan is 1.2 meters

• Average length is 80 cm’s

• Males, on average weigh 5.5 kg’s / females about 4.5 kg’s on average

• Nesting pairs take turns on the eggs

• In winter, loons turn a dull grey colour

• A loon will put its head down in water and flatten body to signal that intruders are too close to the nest

• A penguin type dance on the water indicates you are too close

• A startled loon may accidentally kick eggs out of nest

• Loons begin to gather in small groups prior to fall migration. Loons which did not breed gather first

• Migration is actually done singularly or in small groups rather than flocks

• Adults migrate first leaving youngster to fly south on their own

• Loons are protected by the Migratory Bird Act(U.S)

• Unattached loons may visit a lake with a territorial pair 2-5 times / day

• Regular evictions of territorial males or females apparently occur

• Lakes which have produced chicks are highly attractive to “floaters”

• 1/3rd of fights between males result in death and can last up to 45 minutes

• Loon beaks are powerful and can pierce the breast of an opponent

• If a nesting site is unsuccessful a new site will be chosen by the male

• Young adults of 3-4 years of age will almost always try to establish territory on vacant lakes

• The loon “hoot” acknowledges contact as loons approach one another

• The tremolo is a danger or distress signal to move to safety

• The “yodel” is done by males and is a territorial signal

• The “wail” indicates a willingness to interact, somewhat like a wolf call

• A pair of adults with two youngsters require an astounding ton of food during the nesting season

• Loons will sometimes spend up to 10 minutes orienting a caught fish to be swallowed head first

• Eggs weigh around 3.5% of the females’ body weight and require the exertion of a tremendous amount of energy. All the more reason to stay clear so they do not have to be concerned about intruders

• Eggs are laid up to 3 days apart because of the amount of energy it consumes

Follow Up on Our Loons

We have good news X 2

You know all about good news / bad news.  We have good news and even better news to report.

At least 2 adult loons have been spotted on Leech Lake as of the end of April.  Everyone we have spoken with believes that at least one of these loons is new to the lake.  There was apparently a territorial battle in mid April and it certainly appears that the new male on the lake is quite virile.  Watch for him displaying on the Lake when you are at the cottage.  He is a magnificent specimen.

This is a natural process of renewal.  An older male dies off and is replaced by a stronger one.

That’s the good news!

Even Better News

The even better news (at least for us geeks who worry about this kind of thing), is that new loons on the Lake will continue to occupy their role in maintaining the balance in the food web on the Lake. 

As we pointed out in the earlier report on loon deaths on the lake, loons consume an astounding amount of fish during the summer season.  A summer without loons, or fewer loons, on the lake could have resulted in a dramatic change in the entire food web.  That is, the number of fish in the lake competing for available nutrition would have gotten out of balance.  That would have had an impact on fish which are the top feeders in the Lake’s food system. 

Loons are a big part of maintaining the natural balance in the food system in the lake.  With new loons on the Lake, thankfully, that should not happen.

Report by: Shirley Rolin