The Potato Lake loon nesting program began in 2005 with three aluminum loon rafts donated by the Persinger family. The rafts use a design that evolved from the Big Mantrap Lake loon nesting program.
The raft design consists of two aluminum pontoons with a nesting platform and access ramp between them. The rafts are prepared for nesting each spring with dry natural vegetation including bulrushes, cattails and sedge grass for the nesting ring. The nest ring provides a base to contain the eggs and prevents the natural vegetation from blowing off of the raft.
Loons prefer to enter and exit the nest undetected. Initially, our rafts provided a full canopy to screen the loons from view and to reduce detection by predators. We currently use a minimal amount of screening to make the platform more attractive while providing some wind protection and screening from predators.
The rafts are anchored in shallow water to maintain their position. A large loon nesting regulatory buoy is used with each raft to keep people and boats away from the loon nests. This is especially critical when the loons are incubating eggs and after the chicks have hatched.
Two of our neighbors on the lake have been setting out their own loon platforms over the years and have had plenty of loon activity. The Eggert’s and the Currents both live on the northeast side of Potato Lake. They are using a simple platform design made of PVC pipe. Both loon rafts get used every year. According to Roy Eggert, the loons are normally waiting when they put the platforms out and hop on immediately.
We estimate that Potato Lake has eight to twelve loons that make up about five nesting pairs that each claims a territory of the lake. While in the mating phase they will fight to the death to defend their area. Nesting begins with ice out and chicks begin to show up in mid June. In the three years of our program, we typically see 1-3 baby loons on the lake with one or two chicks surviving to migrate south. On many occasions later in the summer loons from the area will congregate in the large section of Potato Lake. It’s common to see 40 or 50 when they are in this social phase.
We keep records of loon activity and report annually to the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program. We encourage anyone observing unusual loon activity to pass this information on to Bob Berdahl. Anyone interested in working with our loons should also contact Bob.