• The Caretakers: Reflections from 40 Years of Loon Volunteers

    Rescue on Shadow Lake | © Elinor Osborn

    Loon conservation in Vermont is as much a story of people as it is of birds. From the most disheartening days of the state’s loon census in the 1980s through the incredible recovery we’re witnessing today, VCE volunteers on the Vermont Loon Conservation Project have been the beating heart of the stewardship effort. We hope you’ll enjoy these short reflections from some of our longest-standing volunteers.

    “My wife, Cathy Murphy, and I looked forward to hiking the mile to Hardwood Pond every LoonWatch Day (starting in 1980) in hope of spotting those noble, handsome, bold creatures. We felt honored beyond words that those beautiful birds chose Hardwood.”
    — Jon Gailmor, Hardwood Pond

    “I retrieved an unhatched egg for the Vermont Loon Conservation Project. How often does one get to hold a loon egg? We, on the pond, are honored to have one of the oldest recorded loons (banded as an adult in 1998 and sadly passed away in 2023).”
    — Libby Welch, Newark Pond

    “Even though the Vermont loon story is one of recovery, each loon and loon pair are individuals. As
    a volunteer following their lives, I wonder at and worry about the ones I know. They are more than a statistic, and I feel very grateful to be a part of their stories. And grateful to Eric for being there with his knowledge, experience, skills, and very responsive support.”
    — Ann Creaven, Glover area

    “In 2002, my husband and I watched Eric rescue a loon on Shadow Lake in Concord, VT (above). We snuck up while Eric teetered over the boat’s side, waiting until he could swing a big salmon net under the loon. He threw a towel over the loon’s beak and began carefully cutting the fishing line tightly wrapped around its bill. To be that close to a loon was magic. We were very happy knowing that it could fish again.”
    — Elinor Osborn, Great Hosmer Pond

    “Usually, it was a no-reward trip around Lake Dunmore (in the late 80s and 90s), but one day we spotted a loon in immature plumage by the spillway. Amazement is an understatement.”
    — Sue Wetmore, Lake Dunmore area

    “As efforts to bring loons back to Vermont continued to gain success, we embarked on LoonWatch day with some hope. We knew we would encounter some loons, and the question became, “How many?” After many years of loon expansion, we were delighted to report the first nesting pair on Lake Morey in 2022. In recent years, our grandchildren have enthusiastically joined us on the third Saturday of July as we lift our binoculars with high expectations.”
    — Bill Minard, Lake Morey

    “After surveying Shadow Lake and Caspian Lake for many years, Eric suggested I take on Flagg Pond. I was initially disappointed because it is a small, shallow body of water, and I thought there was no way loons could sustain themselves there. Little did I know. An early morning paddle in a sparsely populated area is a paradise for the loons and the paddler. I have seen a pair of loons there every year for the last six years.”
    — Alice Fleer, Flagg Pond

    “I look forward to the return of our lake loons every spring. Their calls, be they beautiful or haunting, are unrivaled in the warming air. I receive so much joy seeing chicks on their parents’ backs, especially when you consider what the parents must go through to get to this point. They must defend an area, find a suitable nest, and keep the eggs warm through all kinds of spring weather. And then there are the predators, boats, kayaks, and even other loons. Today, April 16, 2023, the loons found a spot in the opening water amongst the darkening ice on Seymour Lake. They are back to grace our lake again.”
    — Denis Fortin, Lake Seymour

    Thank you to everyone who has participated in and contributed to the Vermont Loon Conservation Project. Your help makes Vermont’s loons’ story a successful one.

    You can support VCE’s loon conservation and other projects by making a gift. If you’re interested in volunteering with the Vermont Loon Conservation Project, please visit our participation page.

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