With its black and white markings, haunting call, and bright red eyes, the Common Loon is one the most recognizable animals in the Adirondacks. As a top aquatic predator, the loon is also an indicator of a healthy ecosystem. This year marks the 17th annual Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Loon Census, which has helped track environmental toxins, disease, climate change, and habitat loss by monitoring these iconic birds.
Though Saturday’s Loon Census is organized by WCS, the organization relies on volunteer citizen scientists to help with field work. Individuals are encouraged to sign up to monitor a specific lake by canoe or by foot to count the loons and chicks on July 15 between 8-9 am. This event, as with other Citizen Scientist projects, puts important data in front of scientists while allowing participants to learn more about loons.
According to The Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation Executive Director Nina Schoch, the Loon Census is just one arm that completes the picture of the health of the Adirondack water system.
“The Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation has just relocated to our new office at 15 Broadway in Saranac Lake,” says Schoch. “We collaborate with WCS and help promote the Loon Census. We are a recently formed non-profit and decided to celebrate with an open house at our new location.”
Whether people are able to be out in the field for the Loon Census or not, the doors will be open July 15-16 from 10 am – 4 pm at the Saranac Lake Adirondack Center for Loon Conservancy (Adirondack Loon Center) to provide additional information regarding these aquatic predators.
“We hope people will stop in to meet us and learn about what we are doing here,” says Schoch. “We continue to conduct long-term loon monitoring and the effects of mercury pollution. We monitor trail cameras at nesting sites around the Park. We place signs at boat launches so people won’t disturb the nesting areas causing the loons to abandon their nests. A large part of our job is loon rescue.”
Schoch and her staff look forward to adding museum quality exhibits on loon natural history and habitat to their space while continuing their research. The Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation evolved from research conducted through the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) in 1998. The study helped track the impact of coal-fired power plants role in environmental mercury pollution and its impact on aquatic systems through North America.
“We banded loons in 1998 and have a good history of their reproductive success,” says Schoch. “We’ve taken feather samples to monitor long-term mercury exposure as well as blood samples to track mercury in recent meals. Mercury contamination in our water system effects everyone.”
Volunteers for Saturday’s Loon Census may call 518-891-8874, x 106 for more information or to find out additional ways to help with WCS Citizen Scientist projects. The Adirondack Loon Center’s Open House is free and takes place on Saturday and Sunday.
Photo provided by the Adirondack Loon Center