Thursday, September 24, 2009

Eagle Scout Project Gone Loony

I am a high school senior living in a small suburb, Acton, west of Boston. As a Boy Scout, I recently began working on my Eagle Scout Project. After discussing an idea or two with the Natural Resources director of my town, I was given the idea of building loon nesting platforms for Nagog Pond, which lies between Acton and Littleton. This was something that an adult leader in my troop and the Natural Resources director of my town had been discussing for quite some time and were very interested in seeing happen. I also like the idea very much and found a lot of inspiration searching the internet for platforms designs.

My entire project consisted of not only leading fellow Scouts to construct the two platforms, but also researching and creating a plan for the building of the platforms and holding a fundraising effort to raise money for the materials needed. I then placed them on Nagog Pond with the help of Acton’s Natural Resources director and a representative from the Department of Water for Concord in Massachusetts.

The whole idea behind loon nesting platforms is that they float upon the water in lakes where loons are seen but no natural nesting locations exist, often because they have been destroyed by human interference. Thus the loons build their nests and hatch their young upon these platforms, safe from terrestrial predators. The birds must feel safe from other disturbances as well in order to nest on the platforms, so they are placed near the shore, in shallow water, and in areas with little disturbance from humans, sun, or wind. Taking all this into consideration, I also had to build the platforms to last since they would receive little maintenance, being an Eagle Scout Project. Nagog Pond is also a water reservoir, so any materials had to be safe and approved by the representative from the Concord Department of Water.

To best fit these needs, I built the platforms using PVC pipe to create a three-foot square frame, connected to a baseboard. Special modifications using liberal amounts of PVC glue and latex caulk were taken to ensure that the frames would not leak. After fitting the piping together, the frame was painted brown to better camouflage the platforms. The baseboard was constructed of a two-inch thick layer of insulation foam board wrapped in landscape fabric and plastic snow fencing to prevent chunks from breaking off into the water. A special feature of the platform is the chick ramps, which consist of a section of fire hose with one end wrapped around the PVC and the other trailing off into the water nailed to a wooden block for flotation. The chick ramps were designed so that baby loons could easily get back up onto the platforms. Lastly, sod was laid and secured on top of the platforms to provide a more comfortable nesting surface for the loons. When placed in the water, cinderblock anchors tied to the platforms at opposite ends kept them in place.

My hope for this project is that loons will find the platforms a suitable place to hatch their young. Loons have been known to migrate through the area and conserving the bird’s place in the ecosystem is very important. This would boost the ecological diversity of the town which is measured annually and help preserve the relatively natural state of Nagog Pond, a state which is sought by the Concord Department of Water.

For more information about loon artificial nesting platforms please visit

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Hello everyone!
My name is Erin and I am new to Northland College and the Loonwatch Program. I am from Chicago and am very excited to be in Ashland. My plan currently is to major in Natural Resources and minor in Environmental Education and hopefully Outdoor Education as well. I will be posting here so I figured I would introduce myself.

Have a good one!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fireworks on the Fourth of July

This morning I had a visit from a Loon Ranger from north central Wisconsin. As we spoke, I asked if her lake had chicks this year. She reported that the loons abandonded their nest on the Fourth of July when fireworks rippled across the evening sky. Eggs sat dormant in the nest for the next few weeks until something found them.

Every year we hear of loons who are disturbed by fireworks and leave their nest--typically within a week of the eggs hatching. This is very late to attempt a re-nest, which we have only seen on rare occasions.

If you would like to share your point of view on fireworks over lakes, please take less than 5 minutes to complete this survey: