On Saturday, July 16, Maine Audubon will conduct its 33rd annual Loon Count. Over 900 Mainers have volunteered to survey lakes and ponds across the state, collecting valuable scientific data that informs and supports conservation efforts.
This year’s count takes place between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. Counters are assigned areas to count from shore or by boat, and regional coordinators will compile the results and send them to Maine Audubon for analysis.
“Loons need lakes with clean, clear water and lots of fish, so they are good indicators of lake health,” said Susan Gallo, director of the Maine Loon Project. “A lake that’s good for loons is good or all kinds of other wildlife — and good for people, too.”
“The annual count has helped build support for laws that keep our lakes and loons healthy, including regulations around lead free tackle, shoreline development, and invasive plants. It’s also been a great way to get people outside, learning about where loons are, where they nest, and how easy it is to share a lake with a loon family,” Gallo said.
The 2015 Loon Count enlisted 850 volunteers to survey 290 Maine lakes and ponds. Despite the challenges posed by torrential rain that day, Maine Audubon calculated the loon population in the southern half of Maine to be 2,818 adult loons and 218 chicks. While this number is down about 10% for adults compared to the 2014 estimate, the long-term trend remains positive and the 2015 number is twice what the very first estimate of 1,416 adults was in 1984. The estimate for chicks has consistently gone up and down over the last 32 years, with the 2016 estimate falling just below the 32-year average of 267.
The loon count is the centerpiece of Maine Audubon’s Maine Loon Project. Through the project, Maine Audubon actively engages people in conservation, educates the public about loon biology and conservation, and collects the scientific data needed to advocate for legislation that benefits loons and the lakes where they live.
Lake visitors and boaters play an important role in letting loons thrive, by keeping boat speed down and by watching loons and their chicks from a distance.
“Loon nests are very sensitive to changes in water levels,” said Gallo. “A heavy rainstorm, or wake from a boat going too fast too close to shore, can flood their nests, and eggs literally wash away. We’re coming into the busiest time of year on lakes, so it’s important for people to give loons room and follow Maine’s headway speed law when they are within 200 feet of shore.”
This year, loon counters and others interested in loon conservation also have the opportunity to get involved with two new projects that have developed in partnership with Maine Audubon:
- The Signs of the Seasons phenology program is looking for volunteers to monitor loons and their chicks throughout the summer.
- The Maine Lakes Society has created a Loon Smart Award for homeowners enrolled in their Lake Smart program.
Visit www.maineaudubon.org/loons for more information on these opportunities and how Mainers can help loons. You may also sign up for the 2017 loon count there.
For more information about the Maine Loon Project or volunteering, please contact Susan Gallo at (207) 781-2330, ext. 216, or firstname.lastname@example.org.