Mainers love their loons. We watch them swim across our lakes and ponds. We get angry when we see boaters stray too close to them. And we love to hear their plaintive wail — to me, the perfect soundtrack to a Maine summer evening.
If you like loons, and you want to help out Maine Audubon, you’ll get that chance on Saturday: The organization is staging its 29th annual loon count on lakes across the state. The count will take place from 7 until 7:30 a.m.
According to a Maine Audbon press release, there are no special requirements for those who are looking to get a little loony. You don’t have to have a background in biology. You don’t have to know much about birds (save, of course, what a loon looks like). All you need is a pair of sharp eyes (or binoculars), and the ability to record what you’re seeing.
Oh. You also need an assignment from Maine Audubon, which will tell you what lake or pond they need you to scout.
According to Maine Audubon, the 2011 loon estimate topped 3,300 adults and 600 chicks in the southern half of the state, where the large birds are more populous. That total was the highest recorded since the count began in 1983; the 600 chicks marked a 30 percent increase over the previous high set in 2007.
Biologists credit a dry June and nice weather on the day of the count for the 2011 results.
Biologists are a bit more concerned this year, according to Maine Audubon: Maine had a rainy late spring and many regions got as much as five inches of rain in a single June storm. High water can affect loon nests and eggs can float away.
Maine Audubon is also paying particular attention to a new Maine phenomenon this year: Fireworks.
This is year is the first in which Mainers could legally have access to some kinds of fireworks. Maine Audubon says that effects of fireworks on loons and other wildlife are hard to quantify, but their effects on water quality in states where fireworks have long been legal have been better documented, the press release states.
Maine Audubon volunteers will offer reports on loon behavior during prolonged fireworks displays with an eye toward assessing any potential impact.
If you’re interested in taking part in this year’s count, contact Susan Gallo before Wednesday for a pond assignment. You can reach her at 781-6180 or by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Then get ready to get loony!