During the early hours of July 27, Rob Crosby, a Turner resident and an avid bird-watcher, kayaker and photographer, was preparing to launch his kayak into the Basin, a popular pond located off Holbrook Road in Auburn, when he noticed a peculiar sight.

Crosby said an adult loon was sitting on land, several feet away from the water, which is an unusual behavior for a loon.

“It’s very rare to see a loon on land,” Crosby said. “Usually, they’re on land if they’re nesting, or if something’s wrong.”

Rob Crosby Submitted Photo

In this case, something was wrong.

Several feet of clear monofilament fishing line was wrapped around the loon’s wings, neck and right foot.

“The loon was completely still, even with me nearby,” Crosby said. “I think he was just exhausted. I think he would’ve been calm for Satan himself.”

Crosby returned to his house to get a knife and cut the line binding its feet and wings. While he was expecting the loon to resist, he said it was so exhausted it didn’t move at all.

“It took about a half-hour to get everything untangled, because the line was really tight in certain areas,” Crosby said. “Even after I finished cutting the line off of the bird, it stayed on the shore, like it was unsure of what to do.”

Crosby said it was especially frustrating to find the loon wrapped up in fishing line given that in 2013, the Auburn Water District had installed a dozen white plastic tubes to serve as receptacles for used fishing line by fishermen.

“People have been good about using the tubes, but it may be time to remind people again that they exist,” he added.

Name: Rob Crosby

Hometown: Turner

Occupation: Retired, formerly a speech and language clinician.

Can you talk about how you came up with the idea to install plastic tubes in the area of Lake Auburn? I first saw the recycling tubes while I was visiting the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Florida. It was the first time I saw anything like that. They looked pretty easy to put together, and when I came back to Maine, I asked the Lake Auburn Watershed Commission if I could build some of them for Lake Auburn. They told me that if I built them, they’d provide the money for me to buy the materials.

About six years ago, I came across a ball of fishing line tangled up in the husk of a birds nest on Lake Shore Drive. There were little bones and feathers of whatever birds had lived in it, and it made me think that the birds there got tangled in the line and couldn’t get out.

Once birds get tangled up in fishing line, they’re grounded and become subject to predators or starvation. When I saw the nest with the line in it, I wanted to make sure that there was a place people could put their discarded line so something like that doesn’t happen again.

For the uninformed, where are the plastic tubes located? Four of the tubes are located in the area of the Basin. There are three near the intersection of North Auburn Road and Lake Shore Drive, and there’s one near a popular fishing spot at the Basin.

There are two more tubes set up on Holbrook Road, also near the Basin, and the rest of the tubes are scattered near popular fishing or rest areas on Lake Shore Drive. The idea was to place them at any place where there might be a lot of foot traffic or people fishing.

You have a lot of experience with birds and differentiating between different types. Can you talk about how long you’ve been into bird-watching and how you got into it? As a young child, I made fun of my “bird-watching” aunt, but she planted some aggressive seeds in me when she gave me a massive volume featuring the birds of North America. I still have it.

In terms of taking photos of birds and other animals, my early childhood memories include my father looking down into the viewfinder of a twin-lens reflex camera to compose family shots and record vacation memories. He taught me how to develop my own photos and I planned to one day build my own dark room. Fortunately, the digital world found me before I got around to it.

You seem to have quite a connection with the loons at the Basin and on Lake Auburn. What is it about loons that captivate you? The loons chose me, not the other way around. They’re large, sociable and beautiful. On most days, they let me drift close enough in my kayak to get good pictures. Some days, they dive under my kayak. On other days, they let me know they’re not up for company by gently swimming away. On those days, I just say, “Goodbye” and look for turtles, beavers or just a pleasant day of paddling and enjoying the scenery.

I know it was pure coincidence the day I found one of my loons hopelessly entangled in discarded fishing line. Still, I welcomed the opportunity to repay their “friendship” of so many seasons.

Other than bird-watching, kayaking, and the other activities you mentioned, what are some other things you do for fun in your free time? Family time and a variety of outdoor activities help to fill my days. I’m still trying to master the guitar and enjoy playing cribbage, chess and reading both fiction and non-fiction books.

I married my wife, Lynn Derderian, in Juneau, Alaska, in June of 1972. Lynn kept her maiden name and many in Auburn will remember her as a classroom teacher. We have two grandsons. Our son and his family live in Vermont and our daughter lives in Colorado with her husband and their son, born recently.

What do you do for work? I’m now retired, but I was most recently employed as a speech and language clinician in the Auburn school district. Prior to that, I worked in automotive sales, as a classroom teacher, and as an area coordinator for Western Maine Older Citizens Council, now known as SeniorsPlus.

Besides that, I served on the executive board of the local Head Start and currently volunteer my time with the Auburn Water and Sewer District. I also serve on the board of the Stanton Bird Club.


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