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Maine Audubon Partners with Turtle Love Co. to Celebrate Loons

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
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Audubon Loon Graphic

Maine Audubon has partnered with Turtle Love Co., a Portland-based jewelry company that specializes in fair-trade and vintage jewelry. They have created a one-of-a-kind loon necklace to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Maine Loon Count.

Made of recycled sterling silver, all profits from the sale of loon necklaces will benefit Maine Audubon’s work to conserve wildlife and wildlife habitat. Get your necklace today!

Turtle Love Co.’s philosophy:

We know that jewelry is actually about personal connections, about physical reminders of the people we cherish and the stories that make up our lives. Being a tiny part of your personal story is our greatest honor.


Out in the Field: Carol Gestwicki, Loon Counter for 30 Years

Carol Photo 2Location: Five Kezar Ponds, White Mountains Foothills

Years participating in loon count: 30

Why did you choose to become a Maine Audubon loon counter?

We have always loved our loon family! We have had loons on the lake since the horsepower restriction of motorboats was reduced (10 HP) – that was in 1974.

What do you hope your volunteer work will accomplish?

I hope that our dedication to the loons will add to the statewide knowledge base so that loons will continue to flourish in Maine.

What has been your favorite moment as a loon counter?

I think all the surprises – the loons keep us on our toes! Some years we think their nest has been flooded because of the high water levels, but then one morning we will see a whole family swimming along. Loons are tough.

Carol Photo 1

What’s your favorite place in Maine?

Absolutely the Five Kezar Ponds. It is a very special place where my family and I have been fortunate enough to spend more than 40 summers.

Anything else you want to share?

Let’s all keep up the good work – when we work to protect the loons, we also protect the lakes and ponds, the mountains and our entire state – being aware makes all the difference.


Out in the Field: Dale Gardner, Loon Counter

Dale Gardner - Close UpLocation: Bennett Pond, Parkman

Years participating in loon count: 10

How did you first hear about the loon count?

I first learned about the count when I read an article in the Bangor Daily News I thought it sounded interesting – there are not a lot of people on Bennett Pond in the warmer months, so I wanted to step up and provide helpful information as a public service.

Why did you choose to become a Maine Audubon loon counter?

Well, it sounded like lots of fun – and it is! I love being out on the pond in the early morning. I enjoy seeing them on the water and knowing the location of their nests. I keep a special eye on the nests, as the pond is high in the spring and it tends to drop rapidly as the summer wears on, which can affect their nests.

Bennett Pond, Parkman, Maine

Bennett Pond, Parkman, Maine

What has been your favorite moment as a loon counter?

I have been watching loons on various lakes and ponds for the past thirty years, so it’s hard to say – just this year, I saw the loon mating ritual for the first time. The dances they perform are amazing to watch. I also remember a time in the late ‘80s when I was fishing – a loon kept swimming near my canoe and ended up grabbing the end of the rod in its bill. I’m not sure why, but it was on Fort Machias Lake, where the anglers used to toss live bait and he may have thought I was teasing him with lunch!

But I think my favorite experience with the loons is when they serenade us at night with their calls. It is the nicest thing to fall asleep to the call of the loon – it is very peaceful. Camp would be a pretty different place without loons.

Loon - Dale Gardner 2

Photo by: Dale Gardner

Anything else you want to share?

I think it’s important we remember that loons are the original inhabitants of our Maine lakes and ponds – respect for them can go a long way. A few years ago, I encountered some people in a motorboat harassing some loons. People need to be aware that loons, like people, need their space! You can help protect them by enjoying them from a distance. On Bennett Pond, we let the loons approach us, we don’t approach them.

Dale by Water


Maine Audubon Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Maine Loon Count


For Immediate Release

July 9, 2013

Contact: Michelle Smith, Communications & Marketing Manager
[email protected]
(207) 781-2330 x209
Mobile: (207) 838-0511

Maine Audubon Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Maine Loon Count
Recently passed legislation to protect loons from lead poisoning

Loon - Kerry Woodbury

Photo: Kerry Woodbury

StatewideSince 1983, dedicated Maine Audubon volunteers have descended on their local lakes and ponds with a pair of binoculars and a shared passion – protecting the Maine loon and its habitat. The 30th annual loon count takes place at 7 am on Saturday, July 20. Over 900 loon counters will participate in the annual project that gathers valuable data for Maine Audubon and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) about the status of loons in the state. Volunteers interested in participating in this year’s loon count can contact Susan Gallo at [email protected] or call (207) 781-6180 x216.


The Maine Loon Project was launched 30 years ago as a joint effort with the MDIFW to assess the status of loons in Maine. At that time, very little was known about the iconic bird, but repeated reports of fewer and fewer birds on Maine’s lakes and ponds spurred the development of a state-wide protocol to conduct a standard count. Over the past thirty years, that count, along with projects like habitat assessment and loon mortality studies, have given Maine Audubon much needed insight into the loon population and the many challenges the loons face, including habitat degradation and disturbance, motorized boats, predators and lead poisoning from lead-based fishing tackle.

While the population of adult loons in the southern half of the state has slowly and steadily increased, from about 1,800 at the start of the count to just under 3,000 in 2012, chick numbers are worrisome. Susan Gallo, director of the Maine Loon Project at Maine Audubon, noted that the number of chicks in the southern half of Maine has fluctuated slightly up and down from year to year, but has not significantly changed since 1983. “Adult loons can live 25 to 30 years and they don’t usually breed until they are at least seven years old. The lack of growth in the number of chicks is alarming when we look at the long-term sustainability of our adult loon population.”

The 2012 loon count estimated there were 2977 loons in Maine (down from 3300 in 2011). Gallo noted that this is normal. “What is more concerning,” she said, “is the drastic decrease in number of chicks last year.” In 2011, there were 619 chicks, an all-time high in the 30-year history of the project. In 2012, however, there were only 178 chicks. “This is a significant decrease – over 70 percent – and is cause for alarm,” noted Gallo. “Right now, it is unclear why the numbers are so low. This year’s loon count numbers will help us determine if this is the start of a trend, or if 2011 was an off year.” Results from the 2013 loon count will be available this fall.

Dale Gardner - Close Up

Read Dale’s story at

The volunteer work performed by loon counters has also helped move forward important legislation that reduces loon mortality caused by lead poisoning from lead-based fishing jigs and sinkers. In 2002, the Maine State Legislature passed a law that banned the sale of lead fishing sinkers one-half ounce or less. The law, along with an extensive outreach campaign and multi-year lead-tackle exchange program, helped increase both the availability of nontoxic alternatives at retailers and also anglers’ willingness to try these new products. This past June, the Legislature passed another law that bans the sale and use of lead sinkers one ounce or less, as well as bare lead-headed jigs 2.5” long or less. The law is phased in, and will not go into effect until 2016.

“This is a great moment for loons and their community of supporters,” noted Gallo. “Our research over the past ten years has found that lead poisoning from lead-headed jigs and lead sinkers is the largest single cause of loon mortality in Maine, accounting for almost one-third of the documented loon deaths.”

“Loons are very special to Mainers,” noted Gallo. “Summer would not be the same without hearing their mysterious call on your local lake or pond. We are fortunate to have such a large group of people looking out for their well-being.”

Volunteers interested in participating in this year’s loon count can contact Susan Gallo at [email protected] or call (207) 781-6180 x216.

Maine Audubon will be celebrating loons throughout the month of July. Please visit to learn more about the Maine Loon Project, read profiles of loon volunteers and learn about our loon necklace partnership with Portland-based jewelry company, Turtle Love Company. All proceeds from the sale of loon necklaces will benefit Maine Audubon’s wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation work in the state.

Tips for Protecting Loons 

  • Obey no-wake law within 200 feet of shore
  • Use lead-free tackle; alternatives are made of steel, tin and bismuth
  • Dispose of fishing line so it does not get tangled in a loons’ feet or bill
  • If you live on a lake, use phosphorus-free fertilizer and plant shrubs as a buffer along the shoreline to reduce run-off
  • If you see a loon on a nest, keep your distance and watch with binoculars
  • Keep garbage out of reach of loon egg predators like skunks and raccoons.


About Maine Audubon

Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization in the state, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife. For everyone.

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