Citizen Science

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