PORTLAND (AP) — About 900 people on Saturday assisted the Maine Audubon with its 30th annual loon count. Similar counts took place in Vermont and New Hampshire, as well.

Volunteers used binoculars at Maine lakes and ponds to count loons as they have since 1983, with a goal of protecting loons and their habitat. The data will be used by the Maine Audubon and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Susan Gallo, director of the Maine Loon Project, said the number of chicks in the southern half of the state has not changed appreciably since 1983 and that the number actually dropped last year. In 2011, there were 619 chicks, an all-time high. In 2012, however, there were only 178 chicks.

This year’s count will determine if it’s the start of a trend, Gallo said.

“The lack of growth in the number of chicks is alarming when we look at the long-term sustainability of our adult loon population,” she said.

The population of adult loons has showed steady growth. All told, the total number of loons has grown from 1,800 from the first count to 2,977 in the 2012 count.

Gallo said loons hold a special place in the hearts of Mainers.

“Summer would not be the same without hearing their mysterious call on your local lake or pond. We are fortunate to have such a large group of people looking out for their well-being.”

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