Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Celebrate Loons at the Paul Smith’s VIC

There is something quite mystical about hearing a loon. Whether it’s the haunting wail that echoes across lakes or the territorial male yodel, the loon’s calls can silence everyone around it as people search for the source of the sound.

I was recently paddling a nearby Adirondack pond and was followed by a common loon.  It gave that shrill laughing sound called tremolo that is used to signal alarm. I can only assume that we were too close to its chicks. It seemed that no matter where we went, it didn’t want to share the waterway with us. We finally just sat and drifted and the loon dove underwater, reappearing on a far shore.

There are many things to understand about the loon and the Biodiversity Research Institute’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation and the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) have joined forces for a full day of loon related activities to educate and inform all of us about this iconic bird. This free event will be held from 9 am – 5 pm on Sunday, October 13 at the VIC.

“Loons are a great indicator species of mercury pollution,” says Dr. Nina Schoch, Wildlife Veterinarian at the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) and coordinator of BRI’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation in Ray Brook. “They are territorial and come back to nest in the same locations. Since they are the top of the food chain and eat fish that eat other fish, we are able to see if toxics are present. Some loons can live between 20-30 years so we can research if toxics are accumulating.”

According to Dr. Schoch in additional to using loons as an indicator species for mercury pollution and acid rain, research is focusing on specific problems like birds getting caught in fishing lines or when its okay to approach the species and when not to.

The Adirondack Loon Celebration is scheduled to be a fun-filled day of family activities with an underlying quest to inform the public about the importance of loons to the Adirondack ecosystem. Live music with Jamie Savage and the Rustic Riders, a loon calling contest, face-painting and Merriloons the Clown are just part of the program.

“We have a field trip planned to Black Pond,” says Schoch. “ There will also be a scavenger hunt. Each stop will teach about the stages of a loon’s life. Children will learn something different and at the end they will receive a prize with the chance to enter their name to win a bigger prize.”

While at the VIC, buy raffle tickets for a handmade queen-sized loon quilt, or purchase the Adirondack Interpretive Center’s rubber loons and silent auction items to benefit loon conservation. Registration for the field trip can be made at the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation.

“This is a day for the whole family,” says Schoch. “I’m fascinated with wildlife and natural history. I like all sorts of animals. I want to introduce people to these birds and let them know what we are doing to protect this iconic species.”


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Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities guidebook series, Adirondack Family Time. She writes about ways to foster imaginative play through fun-filled events and activities in the Adirondack region.

From her home in Saranac Lake, Diane also writes a weekly family-oriented newspaper column for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and keeps her own blog Adirondack Family Time. Her writing and photography has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, marketing companies and advertising agencies.

She even finds time to assist her husband with Adirondack Expeditions guiding families and young adults in the High Peaks.

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