The common loon. Jay “Mac” Davis

 

The Common Loon’s (photo by Jay “Mac” Davis) range once extended through every state in New England except Rhode Island. Hunting, along with habitat destruction, pushed loons out of some parts of New England like Southern Massachusetts. A Portland, ME based organization is trying to change this. Restore the Call is a relocation program operated by scientists and conservationists with the Biodiversity Research Institute. This project takes loon chicks from areas where they are abundant and raises them until adulthood on a lake where they once thrived.

Since loons are highly loyal to the ponds where they are raised, they will return to the same location every spring to raise their young. This trait, which is fairly common, paves the way for re-establishing birds in places where they once thrived but have now disappeared. Maine’s own Stephen Kress pioneered this technique in the 1970s by re-establishing the Atlantic Puffin along the coast of Maine. Until Kress proved it could be done, Puffin colonies had been all but wiped out by the start of the 20th century. Today, this technique is a vital tool to protect birds that are otherwise losing ground and are in danger of becoming extinct due to human activity.

Using the same technique, conservationists from Restore the Call successfully relocated a male loon chick from upstate New York to Southeastern Massachusetts. In 2020, this now mature loon and its mate successfully raised a chick in Fall River, MA.

Although its unfortunate that we have to resort to these drastic methods, I, for one, am glad that dedicated conservationists work to reverse the impact we have had on animal and bird populations. It gives me hope and challenges me. Although loon populations are stable in Maine, there are no guarantees, and it will take the commitment of all of us, along with researchers and scientists, to ensure clean waters and ample habitat are available for creatures like the Common Loon.

CORRECTION: Thank you to Michaela for pointing out that in the September 17th issue titled Old Sam Peabody, I wrote about a sparrow with a changing song. Unfortunately, I described and named the sparrow the White Crowned Sparrow and even went so far as to show the picture of a White Crowned Sparrow. In fact, the bird I was writing about was the White Throated Sparrow. I’m sorry for this confusing error. Please study both of these delightful birds and look for them, the last of which are moving through our area now.

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME. To learn more visit www.mahoosuc.org. To contact James, send your emails to [email protected]

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