Along the Natchez Trace

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Loon Survey

A lot of you know about the Christmas Bird Count, but yesterday, up here in Maine, there was a statewide Loon Survey being conducted.

It was held July 18th, from 7:00 to 7:30 am with the purpose to get an idea of how many loons are living and nesting on the ponds and lakes in Maine.  Our refuge manager asked if Bill & I would canvass E. Loring Lake, here at Aroostook NWR.  Of course we were happy to, and we were provided with very specific instructions on what to do.

You could conduct your survey either on land or by boat.  We chose to take the flat-bottom boat out on the lake so we could cover more area.

The water was like a sheet of glass...
No wind at all and temps in the lower 60's.

This lake was built by the Air Force during the 1950's.  The bunkers that housed the nuclear bombs were built above ground, but earth was needed to cover them up so they'd be camoflauged as seen from the air.  By using the soil, the lake was created and provided a recreational area for the servicemen stationed here.  The lake is fed by Butterfield Brook, but the beaver population pretty much controls the water level these days.

We already knew what to expect in the way of loons here...
 There is only one pair of resident loons.  In all my years volunteering here we've never seen more than the 1 pair, and we've never seen baby loons.  Sometimes we'll see a lone loon fly in and hang around with the pair, as we did today.....  but we knew we weren't exactly going to be overwhelmed with trying to count birds.

We started our survey at 7:00, as specified.  At 7:02 we spotted the pair down by the old boardwalk, which the beavers use as the backside of their dam.  Bill rowed the boat towards the upper end of the lake to see if by chance any other loons were around.

We didn't see any, but it was interesting to see one of my favorite spots from a different angle...
This photo blind was an Eagle Scout project.  I painted it a couple years ago...  Bill chose this spot up on the bank of the lake and placed it there.  It's not far off the road, but you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere... surrounded totally by the outdoors.  There are all kinds of songbirds in the surrounding trees, and I frequently see Cedar Waxwings or Kingfishers hanging out on those snags at the water's edge.

And, speaking of Kingfishers...
We saw a family of Kingfishers...  looked like the baby had fledged recently.  That's the baby and parent in both photos.  He was doing the quivering, fluttering thing baby birds do...  and his parent flew in to feed him (on the right).  I always love watching kingfishers... especially when they dive into the water for food.

This young Bull Moose emerged out of the woods and wandered down to the water's edge.
He checked us out but proceeded to browse through the grasses and water for his breakfast.

The fireweed is just starting to bloom up here...
It's just beautiful...  especially when you come across huge areas of it.  

The third loon came flying in at 7:20 am.  He/she landed in the water close to the pair that were already there, but there did not appear to be any interaction between the pair and the lone one.  We watched them for quite a while and one of them performed some kind of posturing or something...  kind of standing up and running back and forth across the water....  calling very loudly.  

While the survey ended at 7:30, we stayed on the lake until 8:00 or so...  when we left the pair of loons were still down by the beaver dam and we'd lost track of the loner.  I know our count of 3 loons seems rather meager...  but the fact that there were only 3, that there were no babies, and no signs of nests is still data.  

The day got colder and drearier as it progressed... finally the rains started in the afternoon.  I'm glad the survey was conducted while it was still fairly nice outside.

The End

That's All For Today!


  1. I kind of miss not doing the loon survey this year up at Tamarac. I've got quite the bunch of Pacific loons off of the overlook here at Harris Beach.

  2. Really nice post!! Is that worrisome regarding the Loon population?? I saw one Loon over at the lake here a couple days ago. Really nice photos you posted.

  3. You saw a lot, though little looney.

  4. It has been many, many years since I have seen and heard a loon. According to the map of where loons can be found, it shows the Gulf coast of Texas, but I have never seen any around here.

  5. Love the call of the loons and there was many in Algonquin Park where we camped for years.
    One time while canoeing we passed within 20 feet of one on a nest.
    It was huge, did not realize they were that large.

  6. It looks like you had a great morning for your survey. It looks so peaceful and calm out on the water.

  7. I wonder how many total were counted that day in Maine, have you heard?