Maine is home to the highest number of loons in the region and it is nesting season.
The Maine Loon Restoration Project is a five-year effort to limit threats to the breeding chances and survival of loons. They place loon nesting rafts on Maine lakes where breeding pairs haven’t hatched chicks in three years. The goal is to place 100 rafts by 2026.
Earl Johnson, loon restoration biologist for Maine Audubon, said loons are sensitive to disturbance, especially during nesting season.
“It can be a really, really stressful time in a loon’s life, and getting close to them on a boat or in the water doesn’t help the loons at all,” Johnson explained. “They are sensitive to disturbance and truly amazing to observe, but from a safe distance is better for everyone.”
He added that they are starting a “Loon Rangers” program to educate and raise awareness about loon nesting grounds, so people can avoid these areas by boat or personal watercraft. The project also includes Fish Lead Free programs to reduce the use of lead tackle, a common cause of death among loons.
In 2003, a spill leaked 98,000 gallons of oil into Buzzards Bay, killing hundreds of loons over the next few years.
Jill Marianacci, another loon restoration biologist for Maine Audubon, said Mainers love loons and communities enthusiastically got involved in the project, funded by the 2017 settlement following the spill.
“It’s nesting season right now,” Marianacci pointed out. “All the lakes and ponds that we’ve put rafts on, we’re starting to see what pairs are going to those rafts, and hopefully in a couple of weeks we’ll see if they’re successful in hatching chicks, which is very exciting.”
Maine Audubon leads the Loon Restoration Project in partnership with the Penobscot Nation, Maine Lakes and Lakes Environmental Association.
They are looking for volunteers to help with outreach, education and statewide management. Bird watchers can take part in the annual loon count on Saturday, July 16.
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