Living With Loons

On Little Sebago

Loons, one of North America’s most revered birds, are studied quite a bit, and there is wide belief that loons can’t thrive on lakes and ponds that are heavily developed. People feel that loss of adequate nesting habitat, and recreational disturbance pressures are just too great. They certainly have plenty of examples to demonstrate the validity of this thinking, but I also know the opposite to be true. The biggest key to successful co-habitation is communication and education. I believe a healthy dose of both would go a long way to helping loons breed successfully on Little Sebago, and it’s worth the effort. Your lake has some of the best breeding habitat for loons in the entire state. Before launching into a discussion of remedies, however, let me speak briefly about the concerns I have for loons on Little Sebago. I have been monitoring the breeding activities of these majestic birds on the middle basin for many years, and I am concerned about the pressures loons are facing. There have been far too many instances of human disturbance, both intentional and unintentional, which have caused loons to abandon their nests, or lose a young chick which is too vulnerable to survive if it gets separated from its parents.

If you happen to be reading this article, and you share my concerns, I hope to leave you with faith that fairly simple actions can have very positive results. I do believe that it all starts with greater communication and education of lake residents, their guests and renters, and the public that accesses the lake from the state boat launch. I encourage you to use the communication powers and influence of the lake association and private road associations, etc., to begin the process of educating people about loons.

Here are a few critical pieces of information that you need to disseminate:

  • People need to stay clear of nesting islands during the key period of 5/15-7/15. This includes restraining pets from swimming from their boats to the islands.
     
  • Boaters and people operating personal watercraft need to be alert to loons swimming in the area where they are, especially when they are with young chicks.
     
  • Lead sinkers kill loons. All anglers with lead sinkers in their tackle boxes should be urged to get rid of them, and replace them with steel ones now readily available.

Also, identify the people that are passionate about loons, and get active. Distribute educational flyers to all that own property on the lake, and ask that they post them in a prominent place. Establish teams to adopt and watch over the welfare of individual nests. Create monitoring goals, and publish the results in the newsletter.

Little Sebago Lake is a spectacular resource for both loons and people to enjoy with mutual respect. It’s this authors sincere hope that both may be free to enjoy it for many generations to come.

Lee Attix
BioDiversity Research Institute

* Lee Attix is a wildlife researcher with BioDiversity Research Institute, a 501c3 non-profit group based in Gorham, Maine. If you wish to support their continued efforts of loon monitoring on Little Sebago Lake, why not Adopt A Loon. Visit their website at: www.briloon.org, or call them Toll Free 1-866-749-Loon (5666). Donations are also welcome.