Thanks to the many people who made the 2020 Loon Count a success for its 37th year!
So many people work well in advance of the actual count day to make it happen. One of those is Conservation Biologist Tracy Hart, who runs the annual count. She’s been working all year to get the online portal up and running, and working with the regional coordinators to make sure as many lakes as possible have counters. Just how many counters did we have this year? Hart says, “We won’t have a final tally until the loon count results are in, but we expect approximately the same as last year, which was just over 1,400 participants. Because of factors like the morning fog in some areas, we also won’t know which lakes were able to be successfully counted until the count results are submitted, but it will be between 350 and 400 lakes counted this year.”
One of the big changes this year was an online portal. Says Hart, “For many, the new digital format is a welcome addition allowing counters to access their own count materials online and enter their data. It has also brought new interest into the count. For others, especially those who are at remote lake camps with spotty Internet coverage, submitting counts digitally is more challenging or even impossible. And some people prefer the traditional format of the count. These counters are welcome to mail their data forms and maps and we then enter the data.”
It takes a few months to collect and verify all the data; count numbers are typically available in December.
Lots of reporters were out on Saturday too, including Hannah Yeshivi from NewsCenterMaine, who rode along with volunteers Sonja Frey and her son Chris on Sebasticook Lake.
Vanessa Paolella, from the Lewiston Sun Journal, along with Sun Journal photographer Andree Kehn, rode with longtime counters Peggy Dorf and Bonnie Eletz who were looking for loons on Thompson Lake.
“Dorf and Eletz have participated in the annual loon count for more than 20 years. Some years their children and grandchildren join them. Other times, they do it themselves. The women became involved years ago as members of the Thompson Lake Environmental Association. To them, the health of the lake is incredibly important, from the quality of the water to the creatures depending on it. Loons in particular are some of their favorites.” Read the full story here…
WABI-TV reporter Brianna Bires went out with David and Patricia Edsall who have been counting loons for many years on Branch Lake. Full story here…
Great reports came in from counters all across the state. Kids at summer camps, people in motor boats, canoes, kayaks, all over Maine–from 7 to 7:30 am, folks looked for loons, listened for their calls, and enjoyed being outdoors.
Tamra Wight saw two right off the bat on her local pond near Turner.
Thanks to all the volunteers, coordinators, scientists, and helpers who make the Loon Count possible. As Tracy Hart says, “The count plays a critical role in raising loon awareness. Our loon counters often choose to become loon ambassadors on their lake or pond, helping to get the word out about fishing lead free to reduce loon lead poisoning, or traveling more slowly near loons and reducing boat wake to reduce collisions with boats or eggs being washed out of nests by wakes. Our loon counters also report loon issues to us and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and help to get dead loons to scientists that can determine cause of death, which is critical for tracking the biggest challenges facing loons in Maine. These roles that loon counters play in loon protection are vital benefits of the count that go well beyond the importance of the loon count data.”
In advance of the count, Maine Audubon Network and Outreach Manager Nick Lund profiled two volunteers who have been part of the count for its entire 37 years. “This Saturday, Peg Susbury of Rumford and William Reid of Skowhegan will take part in a beloved annual tradition. They’ll spend the morning counting loons on their local lakes. Both Susbury and Reid, along with just a handful of other people, have participated in Maine Loon Count for each of its 37 years, and those 37 years have given them some unique insights into Maine’s iconic birds.”
Read the full story here:
What does Maine Audubon do with all the information? According to Hart, “We use the data to track loon population trends over time. If we were to see a dramatic decline, the count results would serve as an important alert. First and foremost the count allows us to track the status of Maine’s loon population in the southern half of the state. Counts are also conducted on lakes in the northern sections of Maine and provide important information about loon numbers on those individual lakes, but to date we do not have enough coverage on lakes in the northern part of the state to generate a reliable estimate. We always welcome people to join the count in hopes that someday we can generate a full state population estimate.”