There is really nothing common about the Adirondack Common Loon. The large aquatic birds can be found on many Adirondack lakes and ponds. We watch them dive at one end of a lake and appear at the other end in a matter of moments. This ability to quickly dive without a splash allows them to catch their fishy meals with ease. It is not often that we’ve been on a lake and heard the loon’s mournful cry.
The loons’ eerie call range from its high-pitched tremolo, yodel, hoot and yell. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times my family spies a majestic loon’s familiar black and white patterned back; we are still in awe of its beauty.
Since 2001 the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been asking citizens to help conduct a Loon Census each year, the third Saturday of July. This collaborative study between WCS and the Biodivesity Research Institute (BRI) Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation takes one hour (8-9 am) on July 18 to monitor one lake for the number of adult and immature loons as well as chicks.
According to Nina Schoch, BRI Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation Program Coordinator, there is not a shut-off date for signing up to participate in the annual Loon Census. In order to not duplicate efforts participants are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org with a request and then a lake/pond will be assigned. Past census results indicate a stable loon population of approximately 2,000 loons in the over 200 lakes monitored each year.
Schoch says, “It is important to have enough people on as many Adirondack lakes so we can follow the trends. Loons are the top of the food chain and representative of the aquatic food web. They depend on clean water, vulnerable to pollution and we can track through them if mercury is in their food source.”
Schoch says that people will be finding a variety of loons on Census Day. Currently there will be birds that successfully hatched chicks; some loons with a failed nest and loons that didn’t nest at all. Observers can track the loons from the shoreline or the water. Binoculars or a spotting scope are recommended.
There are so many opportunities to participate in wildlife conservation. My family can’t participate in everything, but we always welcome these chances to understand natural history through a fun morning outing. Enjoy!
Photo of Common Loon provided by BRI Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation.