Every couple years we have found a loon on the ice in Northern New England, sometimes dead and sometimes alive. This year we found about 19. There are a couple of possible explanations. The month late start to the ice season in the Champlain Valley allowed them to stay until their molting feathers left them flightless. And/Or they may have also been trapped by ice building around them, cutting them off from the 80+feet of water they need to take off.
The holes that they kept open by swimming and diving were oval shaped and had a wide splashout rim with a few feathers and other bird bits on them. They had an area of roughly 150 square feet per bird during warm spells and they partially froze during cold periods.
By far the biggest group was nine birds found on Lake Champlain in late February. I expect the lack of any meaningful snowstorms let them survive this far into the winter. Blowing snow would have quickly filled in their hole leading to starvation or predation by coyotes or eagles. The often windy and rough breakup of the large expance of ice where the birds were found was also though to present a signifiant risk to the birds.
This has been the warmest winter on record and one of the most snowless in the Champlain Valley. It seems likely that this is an example of the many effects of anthromorphic warming and one more reason why we must get a grip on our carbon addiction.
Click here for an excellent article about the rescue of effort for the nine birds written by Phyl Newbeck that appeared in the Burlington Free Press on March 14th, 2016.