For many people, the loon’s eerie call is the quintessential sound of the wilderness. In an effort to protect this primitive and iconic bird (which faces threats such as human disturbance, habitat loss, and climate change), AMC Maine staff and guests, plus hundreds of volunteers statewide, are set to take part in the Maine Audubon Loon Count on July 15.
Guests staying at any of AMC’s three Maine Wilderness Lodges in the 100-Mile Wilderness region—Little Lyford, Gorman Chairback, and Medawisla, which reopens July 1—will have the opportunity to record their loon observations from nearby backcountry ponds. In its first year participating in the event, AMC’s Maine lodges will host guides the night before the event who will give talks on loons and sign guests up to participate in the count.
Maine Audubon has been holding the annual loon count for the past 33 years, tracking populations of adults, chicks, and breeding pairs seen by volunteer spotters on lakes and ponds throughout the state. The event is a cornerstone of the organization’s Maine Loon Project, which performs research and provides conservation and public education on behalf of loons and their habitat.
Katie Yakubowski, a wilderness guide at AMC’s Maine Wilderness Lodges, is coordinating AMC’s participation in the count. “I think promoting more citizen involvement will really help Maine Audubon’s efforts, and this event fits right in with the AMC mission,” says Yakubowski, who has presented educational programs on loons for students in AMC’s A Mountain Classroom program.
Data collected in the count supports conservation and helps identify healthy waters, she says.
In 2016, nearly 900 spotters shared observations from 304 Maine lakes and ponds. Based on their numbers, Maine Audubon estimated the loon population at 2,848 adults and 384 chicks in the southern half of the state. That was very close to the previous year’s estimate of 2,817 adults but about 7 percent lower than the prior five-year average, the organization reports, noting the long-term trend “remains positive.”
Data from northern Maine observations weren’t included in those estimates for several reasons, says Susan Gallo, a Maine Audubon wildlife biologist: smaller sample size; less suitable nesting habitat; and differences in loon behavior in remote locations. She says the organization expects to provide statewide estimates beginning in 2018, when 35 years’ worth of loon count data will be available to distill population estimates.
This year’s statewide count is scheduled for 7 to 7:30 a.m. Official count venues near AMC lodges include First and Second Little Lyford ponds, Long Pond, and Second Roach Pond. Observers will also look for loons on AMC’s recently acquired Silver Lake tract, which Yakubowski calls “important loon-nesting habitat.”
The morning count is only half an hour, Yakubowski notes, so AMC guests can volunteer in the name of conservation and still make it back to the lodges in time for breakfast.