Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gulf of Mexico or Bust! Rehabilitating Loons Migrating First Class

When Marge Gibson of the Raptor Education Group Inc. (REGI) received two juvenile loons, they were at the point of starvation. The female came weighing only six pounds, while the male was at seven. After depleting the minnow supply in the Antigo area, Gibson had to rely on an emergency delivery of fresh minnows from Green Bay. The loons were eating 1000 grams of minnows every day, trying to get back in good health and in pre-migration body condition.

Luckily for these loons, they didn’t have to make the long journey from Antigo to the Gulf of Mexico alone. Gibson, her grandson, and the two loons tagged along on a commercial jet flown by Midwest Cement to Alabama. After the trip, we heard that it had been a success! She wrote, “Just got home from Alabama where we left 2 very happy loons. Some Audubon folks helped me find a place where other loons were. Our loons were elated. They came out of the boxes and preened and dove and flapped and called. It was beautiful.”

Marge Gibson and REGI go the extra distance to help loons and other bird species have a second chance on life.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Great Lakes and Botulism E

Below is a link to an article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune describing the die-offs during fall migration this year on the Great Lakes:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Botulism E update - Lake Michigan

Below is an update from Common Coast Research & Conservation about bolulism E deaths along the south shore of Lake Michagen. Check back for more updates as they become available!

Dear Birders,
In response to the recent appearance of many dead birds along the Lake Michigan shoreline, for the past three weeks our research group has been surveying beaches in both the Upper and northern Lower Peninsulas. As of November 18 we have recorded just over 2000 dead birds on 93 miles of shoreline stretching between Peninsula Point in Delta County and Cathead Point in Leelanau County, an average of 21.6 dead birds per mile. As a conservative estimate of the total shoreline distance between these endpoints is roughly 350 miles, 7500 birds have potentially perished within this region alone. It is worth noting that the die-off has been reported further to the west in the Upper Peninsula (Menominee), to the south in the Lower Peninsula (Frankfort), and on islands such as Beaver and the Manitous. The top five species that we have documented are Common Loon [n=508], Long-tailed Duck [n=505], White-winged Scoter [n=207], Red-necked Grebe [n=166] and merganser sp. (primarily Red-breasted) [n=127]. Other recorded species include Red-throated Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, Horned Grebe, and Bald Eagle. The most notable Common Loon among our recoveries was a banded adult from Seney NWR who had been monitored on the refuge for 14 years and during this time had produced 17 chicks - including one this season. His discovery stands as the first evidence that a portion of the very high Common Loon numbers represent birds breeding in Michigan, where the species remains a Threatened Species.
Carcasses from a wide variety of bird species collected along the lake have tested positive for botulism E at the Michigan DNR's Wildlife Disease Lab. This current outbreak on Lake Michigan follows a trend of increasing botulism-related mortality on the Great Lakes; only Lake Superior has thus far remained exempt from the problem. To learn more about botulism E consult the Michigan Sea Grant website at We would be interested in any update on the location and/or density of bird carcasses along the Great Lakes shoreline, and would greatly appreciate being contacted if a banded loon is discovered by any birder. Additionally, birders can submit unusual numbers of dead birds to the DNR's Wildlife Disease Lab a using the following web site:,1607,7-186-25805-75891--,00.html

Joe Kaplan
Common Coast Research & Conservation

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What's up, Arnold?

I've been following with some interest the story of Judd Hanna's resignation from the Californial Wildlife Commission. Its no secret that Hanna supported a ban on lead shot in California condor habitat. Gov. Arnold pulled a terminator trick and asked Hanna to resign when pressured by lobbyists. If you need a reminder, check out the LA Times article.

Today the tables changed. Honestly, I didn't have a lot of hope for the folks in California. The Govenor signed a bill to ban lead shot, a success story that was badly needed.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Drummond Teacher Helps Save Loon

This story of a high school teacher in the Drummond area is a great example of how citizens are working to help wildlife, and also a reminder of how dangerous monofilament is to loons.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Alaska to New Zealand—A Non-Stop Journey

This link is for an amazing story about the migration of a Bar-tailed Godwit.


Monday, September 10, 2007

LoonWatch Accepting Grant Proposals

Below is the Request for Proposals for the 2008 Sigurd T. Olson Loon Research Award. The award amount will again be $2000 and proposals must be received by December 3, 2007.

Please help us spread the word that monies are available for original loon research projects in north America by posting this RFP in your newsletter, website, or through affiliate web postings.

If you have questions about this award program or the proposal requirements, you can find more information on the LoonWatch website at:



College Communications Office
Northland College
1411 Ellis Avenue
Ashland, Wisconsin 54806
(715) 682-1678
(715) 682-1690 (fax)

September 10, 2007
CONTACT: Bob Gross
(715) 682-1347

LoonWatch accepting grant proposals

ASHLAND, Wis. –LoonWatch, a program of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College, is accepting proposals for the 2008 Sigurd T. Olson Loon Research Award. The award is named for biologist Sigurd T. Olson, whose 1952 paper with co-author William H. Marshall, “The Common Loon in Minnesota,” continues to be cited as one of the premier baseline reports on the species.

Since 1986, the loon research award has provided funding for original research that leads to better understanding and management of loon populations. LoonWatch will accept proposals for research conducted in North America on any Gavia species. Research on behavior, breeding ecology, migration, winter ecology, toxicology and evolution will be considered. Proposals addressing human impacts to loons will be given special consideration.

The award will be designated for research that will be conducted during the 2008 calendar year. The maximum grant is $2,000. A portion of the award is funded by the North American Loon Research Endowment. The proposal deadline is December 3, 2007 and the award winner will be notified by January 31, 2008.

Northland College and its Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute are located in Ashland, Wis., near the shores of Lake Superior. The College has been recognized as one of the top colleges in the nation for science and mathematics, as a model environmental campus for the Lake Superior Basin, and as one of Wisconsin's true liberal arts colleges. Founded in 1892, Northland now enrolls 700 students from 38 states, Puerto Rico, and three countries. For more information about Northland College and its Institute, visit our website at

For more information on the award, please go to . To request proposal guidelines contact LoonWatch at: STO Loon Research Award, Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute, Northland College, 1411 Ellis Ave, Ashland WI 54806, e-mail or call 715-682-1220

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Meet the LoonWatch Get the Lead Out Tackle Exchange Coordinator

My name is John French, and I am the Loon Watch summer intern. I will be collecting lead this summer through our ?Get the Lead Out?
initiative. I have been fascinated by nature my entire life, and I grew up in Wisconsin so I have been fishing and talking to the loons ever since I could walk. I am from Fond du Lac Wisconsin, home of Lake Winnebago. Growing up on this lake was a true opportunity to see how people impact the lake ecosystem they belong to. Growing up there were algae blooms that covered the lake like a sheet that were a result of farm run off. After the Walleye Weekend tournament there were always dead walleye floating all over the lake, and now zebra mussels are an abundant part of the ecosystem. It was issues like these that encouraged me at a young age to do whatever was in my power to clean up our lakes. In the past I would try my best to clean up any garbage I saw in or by the lake, but for the most part my impact on lakes has been with fishing. I would only take the fish I ate and made sure to practice proper catch and release techniques and also made sure to educate those fishing with me as to the proper way to handle and release a fish. Over time I found that the more I took care of the lake, the more it took care of me; mind, body, and soul. Now I am faced with another chance to make our lakes a better place on a much larger scale, and I see it as a wonderful opportunity. I am passionate about keeping our lakes healthy, so they can do the same for us in return. The ?Get the Lead Out? program will have a lasting impact on
the lakes and the people who use them. It is a privilege to educate
others on this topic and look forward to seeing you at the next lead tackle exchange.
Tight lines

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Help protect wildlife health by reporting dead birds and other animals

MADISON – Wildlife officials working to assure healthy wildlife in Wisconsin are asking people to report unusual die-offs of wild birds, especially waterfowl and other water birds, to aid in wildlife disease surveillance. Die-offs of birds should be reported to the statewide Dead Bird Hotline 1-(800)-433-1610.
Death of a number of birds in one area is a strong indicator that disease may be present or there is a poisoning problem. Any number of dead crows, blue jays or ravens should also be reported as these species are the most likely to die from West Nile Virus (WNV), which can be transmitted to humans through mosquito bites.
“From a disease monitoring viewpoint a report of a number dead birds – rather than a single bird -- in a small area such as around a pothole, slough, bay, or section of lakeshore or within your neighborhood is a stronger indicator that a significant disease such as Avian Influenza may be present. Knowing our wildlife are healthy helps assure people remain healthy too,” said Julie Langenberg, VMD and leader of the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Health Team.
Biologists are also interested in knowing about dead mammals -- other than road kills -- that are not badly decomposed or scavenged, and any wild animals displaying abnormal behavior or showing outward signs of illness such as weight loss, disorientation, or lack of fear. These can be reported to a DNR Service Center or a DNR wildlife biologist. The DNR Wildlife Health Team routinely performs necropsies on many wild species as part of its statewide disease surveillance efforts.
Wildlife health experts say people should handle dead animals in the following manner:
Wear gloves, or a plastic bag inverted over your hand; place the carcass in a sealable plastic bag.
Avoid direct skin contact with the carcass and wash your hands thoroughly after sealing the plastic bag.
Refrigerate the specimen or place it on ice (keep it cool but do not freeze) and call the Dead Bird Hotline or DNR staff for further instructions on what to do with the carcass.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Get the Lead Out! with LoonWatch and Wisconsin Clean Sweep

What’s in Your Tackle Box? You can Get the Lead Out! at select locations in northern Wisconsin throughout the summer. Anglers will now have the opportunity to drop off their old lead tackle and jigs at 20 recognized Wisconsin Clean Sweep locations. These lead tackle drop off opportunities are made possible through a partnership of Wisconsin Clean Sweep and the LoonWatch Program at Northland College’s Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute in Ashland, Wis. It takes just one lead sinker to kill an adult loon. Other birds affected by lead include the State Endangered Trumpeter Swan and our national symbol, the Bald Eagle. Luckily, there are alternatives to lead tackle. Instead of using toxic lead sinkers and jigs, anglers can use options made from tin, bismuth, steel, tungsten, or ceramic. “When anglers choose to use non-lead tackle, they are helping to eliminate the risk of wildlife fatalities through lead tackle ingestion,” said Stacy Schaefer, LoonWatch coordinator. “Dropping off lead tackle might seem like a small act, but it’s something we can all do that will help preserve our wild heritage.”Wisconsin Clean Sweep Program and the established collection locations made the partnership with the LoonWatch Get the Lead Out! initiative a natural fit. Everyone who drops off their lead tackle will receive a free sample pack of non-lead tackle, a Loon poster, and information about the Get the Lead Out! campaign. “I’m thrilled that we can work together with the Wisconsin Clean Sweep Program to protect northern Wisconsin’s wildlife,” Schaefer says.Below is the northwest Wisconsin Clean Sweep/LoonWatch partner collection dates and locations. For more information about each location or Wisconsin Clean Sweep, call (608) 224-4545. ·

Butternut, August 2, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm, Butternut School·

Grantsburg, June 19, 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm, Grantsburg Fairgrounds·

Hayward, August 4, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, County Highway Shop·

Iron River, July 28, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm, County Highway Garage·

Maple, June 13, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm, Maple Community Center·

Mellen, August 2, 3:20 pm – 5:30 pm, City Garage·

Minong, June 19, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, Transfer Station·

Park Falls, July 13, 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm, St. Croix Rods·

Phillips, July 14, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, County Garage·

Prentice, July 13, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm, Prentice School·

Roosevelt/Lublin, July 19, 1:30 pm – 3:15 pm, Town Hall·

Round Lake, July 16, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm, Round Lake Town Hall·

Shell Lake, June 19, 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm, Shell Lake School·

Solon Springs, June 13, 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm, Transfer Station·

Stone Lake, July 16, 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm, Sand Lake Town Hall· S

Superior, June 16, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, Head of the Lakes Fairgrounds·

Washburn, July 28, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, County Highway Garage·

Webster, June 19, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, Webster Fairgrounds·

Westboro, July 19, 9:15 am – 11:15 am, Town Shop·

Winter, July 16, 9:30 am – 10:30 am, County Highway Shop

For more Get the Lead Out! information, contact Stacy Schaefer, the LoonWatch coordinator at Northland College’s Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute, at (715) 682-1220 or

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

LIVE Loon Footage

This year I know of two loon camera projects to film the incubation and hatching of loon eggs. One is through the Conserve School and is done as a class project, and the other is being coordinated by Larry Backland. Larry's website features the camera, which anyone can view.

Incubation usually takes 26-31 days. You may see the loon rotating the eggs, the male and female switching from feeding to egg sitting, and may even observe the origins of the word loon, from the Scandinavian word lumme, meaning clumsy, as the loon awkwardly maneuvers on land.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Conservation Congresss: The Results are In!

For those of you who follow the current legislative efforts to ban lead shot and tackle, a small but notable recommendation was passed at the Conservation Congress hearings last week to require the use of non-toxic shot for dove hunting. Lead shot is prohibited for waterfowl hunting, but it is still legal in other hunting situations on Wisconsin’s state managed properties. Dove hunting and waterfowl hunting often occur in the same areas, but dove hunters could use lead ammunition that is proven to be harmful to game and non-game species. There are 26 states that have non-toxic shot requirements that are more restrictive than federal rules including all of Wisconsin’s neighboring states.
You can find the complete questionnaire and results at the WDNR's spring hearing results website. Thanks to all of those who took the time to vote on this and other natural resource issues in Wisconsin.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Migration Update from Loon Ranger

Loon Rangers across the state are sending in phenology updates. If you would like me to post your updates, simply email

From: Pat Schwai

Wanted to update you on spring ice out and loon arrival for Cochran Lake, Price County.
1st ice out:3/31/07
1 loon arrived 4/2/07 (mailed postcard to you at this point)
lake fully iced over 4/8/07
2nd ice out was 4/12/07
1 loon arrived 4/16/07

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Migration Update

I see migration as a natural way for us animals to revolve around a changing environment in a way that suits our needs. Sigurd Olson writes often of a timeless and ancestral connection that one can obtain by spending time in wild places. Perhaps the urge to travel in spring is linked to the transitions of our ancestors, when nomadic living was essential to survival. For me, its an urge to travel to waterfalls and rivers in high water. What is your spring migration?

LoonWatch assistant Chris Bujak put together the following update on loon migration. The northern winds have halted the migration of many birds, and journey north reports that
most migrants are confined to the Gulf coast and unable to make it any farther north.

Before the 29th of February, the common loon was sighted mostly in the lower to middle South Eastern and Eastern part of the United States. Although in the time range of February 29th to March 13, th the first loon was spotted in Illinois, the majority of the population started migrating North through Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky from March 14th to March 27th. Currently, loons have been sighted in Wisconsin, with one report of a loon unable to fly away after the lake froze around it. The a large percentage of the eastern population is migrating East through Upper Pennsylvania and New York, with the farthest loon sighted at the North Western tip of New Jersey. Many of the comments coming back on the loon arrival cards indicate that the loons arrived earlier than any other year in their northern breeding grounds.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Journey North

Snow is in the forecast for northern Wisconsin, but spring is already evident in the budding aspen trees, in the slowing of the sap run, and ice out on many lakes and rivers. Peg Wiggins wrote in this morning that loons landed in Polk county over the weekend on Ward Lake. Journey North, a global migratory education website, has a map of the loon sightings recorded so far. The public is invited to participate by recording their observations on the website. Loon Rangers, don't forget to return your observation cards! We will keep you posted as the loons begin arriving all over the northland.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Surviving Lead

Marge Gibson, one of the newest members of the LoonWatch Council, just sent me this great article about the a successful rehabilitation of a swan at Raptor Education Group Inc. (REGI).

Enjoy and happy first week of spring!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Animal Behavior

We’ve all heard of the age old conundrum: why did the chicken cross the road? Last summer Loon Rangers Ron and Karen Schoephoester had to ask why and how did the loon chicks that they were monitoring cross the road between Bobidosh Lake and White Sand Lake in Vilas County, Wisconsin. For the second year in a row, they reported that loon chicks have migrated over land from one lake to another before they could fly. This is not an isolated incident, there are at least three recordings of similar behavior in the last twelve years, but it is extremely rare.

With the exception of nesting on the water’s edge, loons have adapted to life exclusively in the water. They cannot take off into flight from land, nor can an adult travel any distance by foot. “At nine weeks, the resident adults were able to call one of the chicks over to White Sand Lake, a journey of at least five-hundred feet uphill, through the woods, and across a road,” the Shoephoester’s reported. “Five days later, the second chick followed.” Photos from the Schoephoester’s neighbor remind us why this is so unlikely. The loon chicks scraped along using their wings and awkward, large, webbed feet. In this case and others, onlookers worried about their slow progress across the road and have assisted with the crossing, but other reports show that loon chicks have covered unimaginable distances by themselves.
LoonWatch would like to collect as many reports of this phenomenon as possible to look for commonalities. If you have seen or heard of a loon that crossed the road or overland terrain, please call or email us with your stories. In a later article, we will discuss our findings and hopefully answer the question, why did the loon cross the road?

I know what you're thinking, what does the moose picture have to do with all of this? This moose that was born among horses and is horse trained at this point--another example of behavior you don't see every day. For the full story, email me.

Friday, March 9, 2007

LEADgislature Work Weighed Down in Midwest

As LoonWatch moves into the 2007 spring and summer season, more and more requests for Get the Lead Out information and displays are arriving daily. As I'm swamped in the logistics of making this happen, I came across Wednesday's article in the Duluth News Tribune describing efforts by Duluth Senator Yvonne Prettner-Solon to pass a bill banning the sale of small lead fishing weights and jigs in Minnesota. Lead is a hot issue around the Midwest, but the urgency and immediacy of lead poisoning seems to cool down quick when it gets to the legislative body.

Even if legislation was passed in the near future, it can take at least two years to go into effect. The question I've been asking myself is: how do we continue to make a difference with only voluntary action? Please post comments about what is being done elsewhere and what efforts are currently underway. In the mean time, you may find this article from the American Sportfishing Association about their stance on lead in fishing tackle. It’s good to see all sides of the issues and where priorities fall.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New Identity: Blogger

Many have confessed to me honestly that they've never blogged before. I, too, am new at this. Blogebrity, blogosphere, blogroll--I couldn't keep up with all those new nouns! So while I prefer the term escribitionist, I've come to terms with being a 'blogger' and I hope this site opens up a new window for all you to interact with online journaling. If you have any questions about getting started, email me at

The above photo of LoonWatch intern Adam Yates (2002-2004) appeared in the Ontario based Simcoe Reformer's article about the 2007 Sigurd T. Olson Loon Research Award recipient, Dr. Scott Petrie. Congratulations to Adam for making the front page of a Canadian newspaper, and congratulations to Dr. Petrie and Long Point Waterfowl and Wetland Research Fund. Good luck on your project: Common Loon Contaminant Burdens and Condition during Fall Migration through the Lower Great Lakes.

Thank you to our Loon Research Award Review Panel for the time spent deliberating over proposals. If you know someone doing a loon research project, encourage them to apply to the 2008 Loon Research Award. Information will be forthcoming.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Why Blog?

Dear Readers,

This blog is intended to be a depot for the latest news, articles, and commentary that relates to the world of loons and their associated habitats, but also other issues of global signifigance that I'd like to draw awareness to.

My goal is that this can be a toolbox for educators, researchers,
and everyone inbetween who would like to create a more
informed citizenry of the north. Enjoy!

Recent Article of Potential Interst
Article Sole surviving whooping crane found in Florida
Photo by Len Backus