Fly With the Loons?
Thanks to Kevin Kenow of the U.S. Geological Survey in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, there's a new chance at discovering some answers. In the fall of 1998, Kevin and co-investigators Michael Meyer, Peter Reaman, David Evers, David Douglas, and Jeff Hines accomplished a historic first. They used radio telemetry to track Common Loons during fall migration. These scientists have generously chosen to share data from one of the radiomarked loons with Journey North so YOU can be among the first to know about this groundbreaking research! It's almost as good as flying with a loon!
Imagine you are a scientist studying loon migration. What burning questions would you have? For starters, Kevin said he wondered: "What is the relationship between breeding lakes and staging areas, and between breeding lakes and wintering grounds? How is the timing of migration influenced by weather patterns? What are the habitat requirements of loons during migration? How long does migration from breeding to wintering areas take?"
Kevin took advantage of recent technology whereby loons fitted with radio transmitters could be tracked by satellite. Once tagged with a PTT (platform transmitter terminal), a loon can be tracked from a computer using orbiting satellites. Now Kevin's questions have some answers. Meet one loon that helped!
A Closer Look at Loon #2539's Fall Migration
Using the satellite data Kevin provided (see link below), can you answer the following questions?
Tracking a Loon: Challenge Questions #3, #4, #5
In our next report we'll include a map, and Kevin Kenow will tell us what surprised him the most about Loon #2539's fall migration. Which leads us to ask:
What other questions can you think of as you look at the data? Make a list!
Freshwater to Saltwater: Discussion of Challenge Question #1
You can imagine how hungry loons may be after a long flight when they first reach the ocean. Suddenly the only things to eat and drink are salty fish and salty water. Their bodies must be able to handle salt right off the bat! Luckily, loons have a built-in adaptation: salt glands in their skull between their eyes.
Dr. Judith McIntyre, an authority on the Common Loon, found that "even young chicks, no more than two weeks old, are competent to remove salt if they are fed saline (salty) solutions." (In the photo, the skull on the left shows the depression where the salt glands were removed.)
Photo Quiz: Response to Challenge Question #2
This picture shows a loon in summer or fall. The two clues are the loon's black-and-white breeding plumage--and its red eyes! "Loons only have red eyes during the summer," says biologist Dave Evers. In winter, while they are in their grayish plumage, their eyes are not red but gray.
Sometimes an answer leads to another question! Dave Evers continues, "Maybe their red eyes are part of attracting mates. Or, perhaps loons have red eyes because any other color would be a disadvantage in deep water. You see, visible light really has many colors (like a rainbow) and red is one of the first colors of the rainbow to be filtered out by water. In other words, beyond a certain depth (like 15 feet) the red part of the light is no longer there. (Blue and indigo colored light travels deepest and that's why you see blue water reflected back to your eyes.) This suggests red eyes might help loons see under water, but then why don't the loons retain their red eyes in the winter when they need to dive in deep ocean water? Also, why don't other diving water birds have red eyes? (Exceptions are birds called grebes.)" What do YOU think?
It's Time to Watch for Loons!
Please remember to report any loon sightings to Journey North!
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:
Please answer ONLY ONE question in each e-mail message!
1. Address an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #3 (OR #4 OR #5)
3. In the body of your message, give your answer to ONE question.
The Next Loon Migration Update Will be Posted on March 23, 2000
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