Last night, our two Colby College interns, Professor Catherine Bevier, loon expert Lee Attix, and two of Biodiversity Research Institute’s renowned biologists, had a very successful evening of banding six adult loons in Great Pond. Along with our two previous evening banding sessions over the past two weeks, our team has banded sixteen adults and one large chick, which is a credit to their logistics and expertise!
Loons are captured for determination of age, sex, and overall health by assessing weight, leg and beak lengths, blood and feather analyses for heavy metals contaminants and banding for easier recognition on future surveys and to track successful nesting pairs.
By first surveying the territories earlier the day of the banding, the team search for the specific adult pair with at least one chick. They then return in the dark and approach the territory with a spotlight and a binocular equipped observer.
Once the adult(s) and chick are spotted and held in contact with the spotlight, they are carefully and very slowly approached while calling the birds in with a chick call. While following the light and call, the adults generally swim right up to the boat. Once alongside, they are scooped up with a large net and secured by other crew whose responsibilities are to secure that head and deadly beak with a towel and tucking under the arm pit of the volunteer holding the loon in his/her lap. Remarkably the loon has a respiration rate similar to ours and can be quite docile in the arms of the crew but can also in an instant, and without warning, kick out those powerful legs and wings in a raucous escape attempt!
It takes about thirty minutes to obtain two vials of blood, three feather samples, and the numerous measurements. During this period the chick(s) is either secured in a blanket lined box or held by a crewmember, which is a sobering experience enjoyed by all.
These evening captures (and release!), measurements and bandings allow the Belgrade Lakes Association and others to not only better assess the health of our loon population and breeding results, but better assess these collective trends so that we do not get flat-footed if and when our loon population becomes further threatened.
If you have a particular question regarding our Belgrade loon population, please email your inquiry to email@example.com, and we will try to answer your question either in this column or via email.
Dick Greenan is chairman of the Belgrade Lakes Association’s Loon Preservation Project.
©2023 by Summertime in the Belgrades. All rights reserved.