August 11, 2013

Bird counters crazy about their loons

Volunteers, an integral part of protecting Maine's loons, have driven the state's loon count for 30 years.

By Deirdre Fleming
Staff Writer

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Maine is home to more nesting loons than all other New England states, partly because we have more than 6,000 bodies of water. But Maine also has a dedicated group of volunteers who may not be experts, but have a deep appreciation for the iconic birds.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Jeri Kahl, who has lived on Lake Cobbosseecontee for 37 years, has been the director of the lake’s loon count for seven years. “There always have been a lot of loons all the time we’ve lived here,” she said.

Deirdre Fleming/Staff Writer

Additional Photos Below


Obey no-wake law within 200 feet of shore.\

Use lead-free tackle.

Dispose of fishing line so it does not get tangled in a loon’s feet or bill.

If you live on a lake, use phosphorus-free fertilizer and plant shrubs as a buffer along the shoreline to reduce run-off.

If you see a loon on a nest, keep your distance.

– Source: Maine Audubon

For a quarter of a century, Burns has helped count them on Moosehead, and they've been plentiful, she said. Most years one-day count tallies on the lake are between 70 and 100.

"We did it before anyone was doing it. We'd send it directly to Audubon. We just did it and sent stuff to Audubon," Burns said. "I don't see a significant difference. They seem about the same. We are never worried saying, 'Oh, where are the loons? We hear them calling every night."

The most faithful of loon counters, Burns admits she knows little about the loons, even though she attends lectures. The loons on Moosehead are ever-present but still something of a mystery.

"They're usually in pairs. But the other day we saw one by himself or herself. That was interesting. The males will fight for another female but we've never seen it. We hear them, though. One will call right out in front of us and another will call off in the distance. But I don't know why they're calling," Burns said.

Burns said she will direct Moosehead's loon count until she turns 75 next year. After that she'll likely still get in her canoe with her husband, John, and count them.

"I'll do it as long as I can. People are excited about them. I like the enthusiasm," Burns said.

Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

Twitter: Flemingpph


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Additional Photos

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Observers say Maine’s loons, noted for their dramatic appearance and haunting cries, seem to be thriving.

Deirdre Fleming/Staff Writer


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