BAR HARBOR—As signs of spring emerge, loons return from their wintering grounds to start raising families across Maine’s lake landscapes. That’s also a sign for Maine Audubon to begin gearing up for one of its signature events—the Maine Annual Loon Count.
Scheduled for Saturday, July 17, from 7–7:30 a.m., this event has engaged more than a thousand volunteers for nearly four decades in a yearly census of Maine’s common loon population. Participants head out in skiffs, kayaks and pontoon boats to tally the loons they sight on more than 300 lakes across the state.
Last year, even with the pandemic, 1,347 volunteers and 48 regional coordinators were able to safely carry on this outdoor tradition. But more volunteers are needed to help find out how Maine’s loon population is faring. Tracy Hart, director of the Maine Loon Project who leads the annual count for Maine Audubon, says, “We are fortunate to have a lot of spots filled, but are still looking for people to count loons on some lakes this year.” Participants from all areas are welcome, but Maine Audubon is specifically seeking more help in Hancock County for lakes in Orland, Bucksport, Sullivan and Gouldsboro. For the complete list, visit maineaudubon.org/looncount.
Loon counters include all ages, from those under 5 to those well into their 90s. Some have been a part of the loon count since it began nearly four decades ago.
Maine Audubon uses the statewide snapshot to estimate the annual population and track population trends across the decades. The information helps biologists, state officials and Maine lake users understand more about the loons’ status and the health of Maine’s lakes.
Maine is fortunate to house the largest common loon population in the Northeast and the Annual Loon Count is a vital part of Maine’s efforts to safeguard this population. “The count gives us a window into the status and changes in the statewide population over time,” says Hart. Currently, Maine’s loon population is going strong. Since the loon count’s inception in 1983, the number of adult loons in the southern half of the state has essentially doubled, from an initial estimate of fewer than 1,500 to nearly 3,000 in 2020.
Maine Audubon’s Living in Loon Territory brochure is available for those who want more information. To learn more about Maine’s loons and to find out how to get involved with the loon count, visit www.maineaudubon.org/loons or email [email protected].