The VLRP biologist and volunteers obtain critical information on loon distribution and abundance, nesting success, and chick survival by closely monitoring Vermont’s lakes and ponds. This information forms a scientific basis for protective management. Early identification of territorial activity allows the VLRP biologist to immediately contact landowners, lake associations, and hydro-electric operators to develop appropriate outreach and management programs for each loon pair.
Loonwatch “adopt-a-lake” volunteers contribute over 2,000 hours annually with monitoring, nest site protection, outreach, and loon rescues. Loonwatch Day volunteers survey 130-160 lakes during the annual statewide survey in July.
Frequency of monitoring:
1) Territorial pairs: 1 to 4 times per month.
2) Lakes with high levels of loon activity: at least twice a month in early summer.
3) Statewide loonwatch day census: annually on the third Saturday of July.
The VLRP can make the difference between nest failure and nest success by working closely with landowners. Most loon pairs in Vermont nest on private lands. Early detection of new or potential nesting pairs is critical to allow the VLRP biologist to contact landowners before a disturbance event occurs.
If the nest is located sufficiently out of the way, just letting the landowner and neighbors know where to reduce their activity may suffice. If the nest is located in a human “traffic” zone, other management and outreach efforts might be necessary.
Stabilization of Water Levels
The VLRP and VFWD work closely with hydroelectric operators and towns that control dams for drinking water to reduce flooding and stranding of loon nests. Most groups voluntarily control water levels during the nesting period.
Nest Warning Signs
Floating nest warning signs have proven effective at giving loons a chance to nest successfully on our busy lakes. The signs might initially draw attention to the nest site, but they reduce the number of accidental disturbances causing loons to leave the nest.
Informed lake-users and loon volunteers help protect loon nests by educating their neighbors and visitors to the lake to respect loon nest sites. Signs are usually removed within a week of the eggs hatching or after a failed nest. Volunteers have become important managers of this important tool for loon recovery.
Nesting rafts provide artificial islands on lakes and reservoirs that have fluctuating water levels. Rafts are also used when natural shoreline nests continually fail due to shoreline predators (e.g., raccoons, mink) or natural habitat on a lake is too developed or used by people.
Nesting rafts are anchored by two cables and cement blocks and float in 2 to 5 feet of water usually 10 to 30 feet from shore. We place rafts in wind-protected areas away from boat traffic if possible. Many volunteersadopt a raft to maintain and place, and youth groups often assist with the building of them.
Since 2005, the VLRP has removed many rafts where natural habitat is present (islands and marshes) and has adopted the policy to primarily only use nesting rafts in territories that have repeatedly failed over several years. There are many lakes in Vermont that provide good resting and feeding habitat for non-breeding loons (and visiting breeders), and it may be that we should not promote nesting on these lakes and ponds that have no islands or marshes where loons tend to nest.
Informed lake-users are vital to the long-term conservation of Vermont’s loons. Public outreach initiatives focus on:
Loon-safe boating practices (i.e., respecting nesting areas, keep an eye out for loons while boating, and watch loons from a distance);
Using non-lead fishing gear;
Reeling in when loons are diving nearby;
Protecting our watersheds from erosion, pollutants, and exotics;
Implementing lakeshore conservation practices;
Properly disposing of products with mercury; and
Loon natural history, highlighting their fascinating behaviors.
Some of our outreach efforts include:
Signage at boat access areas.
Loon Fact sheets. We encourage cottage owners to keep the fact sheet visible for visiting family, friends, and especially renters, who might not be familiar with loon conservation.
Annual Loon Caller newsletter and VCE’s biannual Field Notes. These publications contain stories about Vermont’s loons, loon conservation, natural history, and current research.
Public programs and discussions, “the Natural and Unnatural History of the Common Loon.”
Volunteer and biologist personal contact on the lake.
Scheduling a Program
Contact Eric Hanson, VLRP Biologist at (802) 586-8064 if you are interested in a slideshow program and/or discussion at your school, library, lake association, business, etc. For a slideshow program, the regular fee is $125 plus mileage (from Craftsbury, VT). We do have a sliding scale fee program.